Don't confuse the movie version of Mamma Mia!, released in 2008, with the stage play.
Many film critics consider the movie, despite a cast that includes Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, to be, well, meh. The stage play, as presented by Arkansas Repertory Theatre, is anything but.
A preview performance practically blew the doors off the theater with a spectacularly talented cast delivering a spontaneous-feeling interpretation of this addictive musical comedy, set to an ear-burrowing soundtrack of 1970s-'80s songs by Swedish pop group ABBA.
The lyrics, which sometimes sound like they were written by an English as Second Language program graduate, don't always fit the cheerfully contorted story, but that doesn't take away from the production's entertainment value.
Adorable 20-year-old Sophie (Sarah Daniels) is about to be married on a small Greek island where she lives with her mother Donna (Erin Mosher), an innkeeper who was once a lead singer of a 1970s pop band. Sophie desperately wants to be walked down the aisle by her dad. But she doesn't know who he is. And Mom, who had a rowdy summer of love the requisite number of months before Sophie was born, isn't telling. The most likely suspects: architect Sam (Cooper Grodin), adventure writer Bill (T.J. Mannix) and London banker Harry (Peter Simon Hilton).
Just to be on the safe side, Sophie invites all three to the nuptials, sure that she'll recognize her dad when she meets him. Fat chance.
Director John Miller-Stephany starts the action slowly. Then the turbo-chargers kick in, fueled by super-powered yet natural-sounding vocals dominated by Mosher, along with April Nixon as stiletto-strutting temptress (and Donna's former backup singer) Tanya, whose seductive scene with dazzled young local Pepper (Avery Royal) is beyond saucy.
Creative costuming by Mathew J. DeFebvre tosses in sky-high platform shoes, sequins, beach-bum attire and hyper-colored wedding wear, all adding to the production's hypnotic flow. Then there are the exuberant dance scenes, realistically choreographed by Joe Chvala and executed dynamically by an ensemble that adds grace, muscle and good humor to the toughest moves.
About 20 years ago, says former headbanger Harry about Donna, "She knew my wild side." Now, with this production, we all do.
Mamma Mia! runs through April 15 at The Rep, 601 Main St., Little Rock. Running time is around two hours, plus intermission. For showtimes and ticket information, call (501) 378-0405 or visit the website, therep.org.
Metro on 03/17/2018
Print Headline: Rep's Mamma Mia! dynamic, enjoyable