“Mamma Mia” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ May 19, 2011


Broadway Across America, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

The entertaining “Mamma Mia” has those rollickingly Abba songs and a lightweight but charming story about Donna, a hardworking woman with a rundown inn on a small but exotic Greek island. Sophie, her daughter, is about to be married but she wants to figure out which one of three guys is her father. She invites them to her wedding and the fun begins. Two of Donna’s lifelong friends join the festivities as do a bunch of islanders. There are splashy musical numbers using two dozen popular tunes that are jazzed up in Phyllida Lloyd’s breezy staging and in Anthony Van Laast’s bouncy dances. Not a great musical to be sure but it sure is harmless fun.

“Mamma Mia” has played here before in pristine stagings that duplicate the original production. The latest tour to stop here this week isn’t quite as sharp as previous ones. Scaled back sets lack the swirling revolve that moved them around effortlessly. Here stripped down pieces are pulled and tugged into place. It’s not the same but it doesn’t destroy the show’s pizzazz.

What pulls this production down are the two female leads. Donna should have a dynamic personality, dominate the show. Her voice should be pulsating and sing the tunes with gusto. Kaye Tuckerman is a pale and lame Donna. She has no personality, attracts no audience focus, and sings only passably. The big tunes need so much more vocal power and adrenalin. Chloe Tucker’s Sophie starts the show terribly with a lackluster “Honey, Honey” that fails to get you fascinated about her idea to discover her father.

Fortunately, Donna’s two friends, Tanya, played smashingly by Alison Ewing, is quite a man chaser, and Rosie, an overweight slug played with lusty gusto by Mary Callanan, wants a man. Both are wonderfully entertaining. They milk their songs beautifully as they draw the audience into the action. The three guys, Paul Deboy’s sensitive Harry, John-Michael Zuerlein’s tough but lovable Bill, and John Bisom’s in charge Sam are spunky as they bring boundless joy to their songs. The capable ensemble is full of energy, and executes the pulsating dances with verve while the excellent orchestra pounds out the Abba tunes zestfully.

Too bad this “Mamma Mia” isn’t a flawless re-creation of the dynamic original but it’s still fun, relaxing, and entertaining but it could be so much sharper. If you don’t have seats, they are scarce through the May 22 closing at ASU Gammage. For tickets, call the ASU Gammage box office at 1-800-982-2787 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: C


3 Responses to ““Mamma Mia” – ASU Gammage”

  1. bethanny norman said:

    May 20, 11 at 14:34

    You’ve been reviewing since l968? Perhaps it’s time for your retirement. Don’t feel bad, everyone has to sooner or later. We just saw Mamma Mia in Houston where it played to sold out audiences for its entire run. It was, BY FAR, not only the best cast EVER for this production (NYC included), but also the best touring show Houston has had in many years! Kaye Tuckerman and Chloe Tucker brought most of the those watching to tears. They are the talents ALONG with the entire group of talented performers, both in small parts and larger. To discriminate against the two female leads is telling. I’m sure most would agree. Get a new life, a new challenge. I’m sure you’ll enjoy gardening.

  2. goatboy said:

    May 23, 11 at 11:59

    You forgot to mention the little person with a hunchback playing Sophia… The bar has now been lowered.

  3. Kristin C said:

    May 25, 11 at 10:59

    Chris, I totally agree with your review. This was my 6th time seeing the show…and I love ABBA and the music. I have seen much better Donna’s and Sophie’s. That was my only complaint…and the staging. I saw the show in Boston years ago and when Sophie & Sky walk away at the end it was over a bridge with a big moon in the background. It made for a much more dramatic ending before the music begins. A strong Donna makes the show and a Sophie with a great voice that can actually dance. I felt like Sophie wasn’t as good as a dancer as I have seen in the past. While always enjoyable…I’d also give this production a C.