REVIEW: Join the party with “Mamma Mia!” ... A fun time at DPAC

May. 31, 2014 @ 05:17 PM

The national tour of “Mamma Mia!” is back in Durham and ready to party.

The Broadway hit that combines the music of ABBA with humor, fun and poignancy first came to the Durham Performing Arts Center in 2010 and is back this weekend for a short run. Opening night on Friday played to a lively, jubilant crowd who didn’t need to wait for the final curtain to let out a whistle and excited applause.

The story, if you haven’t seen the musical or film, is about a young woman, Sophie (Chelsea Williams), who is about to get married on a Greek island. The setting and costumes have lots of cool blues and whites, with a sunset finish. Raised by her mother, Donna (Georgia Kate Haege), she doesn’t know who her father is, so she invites the three men her mom dated 21 years ago. They come to town, unbeknownst to Donna, and, well, hilarity ensues. And lots of ABBA. But the real comedy is thanks to Donna’s two longtime friends, Tanya and Rosie, played by Gabrielle Mirabella and Carly Sakolove, respectively.

In the first act on Friday night, the music was a little bit louder than some of the voices, but then again the music of ABBA can be larger than life. The featured songs include fan favorites like “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia” and the awesome “Take A Chance On Me.” In the second act, Haege’s Donna sings “The Winner Takes It All” and nails it.

In the audience were several groups of women friends, and indeed “Mamma Mia!” is a perfect friend musical. Seeing Donna, Tanya and Rosie get together and fall back into that easy joy of old friendship reminds you of your own friendships, and also how much fun it is to let it go and dance around and sing.

“Mamma Mia!” makes you want to sing along, and undoubtedly audiences went home and played some more ABBA. This production is so happy and fun, it makes you want to join the party. Williams is a fantastic Sophie, and her dads and fiancé all do their jobs well. The rest of the cast also brings their best, and the dancing of the ensemble is so much fun, especially in wetsuits to “Lay All Your Love on Me.” Pay attention to ensemble member Tyler McKenzie, who went to high school in Charlotte and is a 2013 graduate of Western Carolina University. He has just been cast in the Broadway production, so will be in New York City for “Mamma Mia!” this summer, and who knows where that will lead.

If you missed “Mamma Mia!” at DPAC four years ago, take a chance on it again, at performances through Sunday night. You’ll have a good time.

On Twitter: @dawnbvaughan


WHAT: “Mamma Mia!”
WHEN: Through Sunday, June 1
WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St., Durham