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Mamma Mia! Here we go again

ABBA-inspired musical keeps audience on its feet

You dont have to be a dancing queen or only 17 to get your jive on at this Broadway Across Canada touring production of Mamma Mia! The opening night audienceranging in age from youngsters with their grandparents right through to boomers who grew up on ABBAwas so pumped right from the start that it didnt take much to get them clapping, woo-hooing and doing the wave. At least one young couple was dancing in the aisle. Sweet.

Mamma Mia! (later a film) was the brainchild of British producer Judy Craymer who commissioned Catherine Johnson in 1997 to write the book for a romantic musical based on ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeuss music and lyrics. Its an ingenious concoction that threads almost two dozen ABBA hits along a storyline that is so 70s its bound to take you backif you were around and still have sufficient brain cells left to remember those high times.

When you do the math, character Donna Sheridan is 37 when her 20-year-old daughter Sophie is about to get married. Young and sweet at 17 and having the time of her life, Donna found herself pregnant and uncertain as to whom the father might be. Upon finding her mothers old diary, Sophie discovers her father is one of three guys Donna was hanging out with and which led, as the diary reads, to ... Without telling her mother, Sophie invites all three men to the wedding thinking she will recognize her real father who can then lead her down the aisle. Predictably, it doesnt work out that way.

This is a big show with 30 energetic singers and dancers. The sound is bigat rock concert decibelsand the dancing is crisp, sharp and delivered with everything the performers have, and more. You could lose five pounds just watching them. Lights swirl and flash.

Set piecesa small white taverna somewhere on a Greek islandget whisked on and off. And the costumes are bright and flashy, especially the silver spandex outfits Donna and her friends Rosie and Tanya wear when they reprise their old rock group Donna and the Dynamos as an entertainment for Sophie and her girlfriends.

The star of this show is undoubtedly Kaye Tuckerman as Donna. Tuckerman is lean, tomboyish, looks like she could have a black belt in karate and has a huge voice that threatens the QE rafters in songs like The Winner Takes It All and Money, Money, Money. But shes given a run for her money by Alison Ewing who, as cougar Tanya, absolutely sizzles when teaching Eddie (Ethan Le Phong) a thing or three about sex. Was it hot in there or what?

Mary Callanan, as Rosie, is a bit of a sleeper as a character until Take A Chance On Me where she gets to flex her musical and comedic chops.

Chloe Tuckers Sophie is sweet and Happy Mahaneys Sky is cute and buff, but the story is really Donnas. In spite of good performances by Tony Clements (as Sam), Paul DeBoy (Harry) and John-Michael Zuerlein (Bill)Sophies possible dadsMamma Mia! is really more about the gals than the guys.

The show is directed by Phyllida Lloyd (who directed the 1998 premiere) and the orchestra is conducted by a woman, too. For a show that, at its centre, has a strong-willed, determined but passionate woman, it seems fitting.

Youll need some Money, Money, Money to see Mamma Mia! but this production gives plenty of bang for your buck. You will come out singing ABBA and, once home, digging through old CDs. I picked up an ABBA Gold in a junk store in Enderby and almost broke into Gimme, Gimme, Gimme as I handed over one whole loonie. What a bargain.

Mamma Mia!

At Queen Elizabeth Theatre until Aug. 21

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