A Brit, a Yank, and an Aussie walk into a bar.
Doesn't that just sound like the makings of a bad joke? It's really the latest offering from Dallas Summer Musicals as they bring the hit musical Mamma Mia! back to Dallas at the Music Hall at Fair Park. Since its debut in 1999, the performance has painted stages the world over with the colors of ABBA, whose catchy tunes by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus are the center of this show written by Catherine Johnson.
Because of its ubiquitous run plus a motion picture adaptation, many have already seen the production. So, it should go without saying that the joke is actually the plot, which is just a string of spoken words connecting a never-ending line of disco pop songs. Just in case you've been hiding under a rock (which is not necessarily a bad place), here's the low-down.
Sophie (Chloe Tucker), the daughter of single mom Donna (Kaye Tuckerman), takes the opposite path of her feminist mother and is getting married at the sweet young age of 20. Desperate to make her life complete by having her dad walk her down the aisle, she invites three men to the wedding: Harry (Paul Deboy, the aforementioned Brit), Bill (John-Michael Zuerlein, the Aussie), and Sam (Jeff Applegate, the Yank). Neither Sophie nor her mother know who is the father because all three men had, ahem, "relations" with Donna within reasonable proximity of Sophie's birth. The mother's best friends from years past, Tanya (Alison Ewing) and Rosie (Mary Callanan), also come to celebrate the nuptials, and the party becomes one big trip down memory lane. Thoughtful, huh? But who actually sees a musical for the plot?
Especially one where a good portion of the audience can sing along to every song in the movie. Those who may not know the words, though, are not immune to the classic head bop. The candy-coated, infectious light pop permeates the auditorium effectively glossing over some of the annoyances of the show.
Such as the transitions into each song, most of which are way too contrived and abrupt. One of the big exceptions is the lead-in to "Take a Chance on Me" in Act II featuring Callanan and Zuerlein. Not only is the set-up hilarious and somewhat organic (all things considered), but it provides a relief from the parade of melancholy melodies which begin to drag down the act.
Despite the fact that ABBA's biggest song "Dancing Queen" appears in the show, the complex patterns of rhythmic movement found in many musicals is somewhat absent here beyond a little hip-shaking. The young men of the company, however, conjure some laughs and cheers as they don scuba gear and impressively hop around the stage in flippers for "Lay All Your Love on Me." Much of the other choreography, however, looks like a bad jazz dance found in studio recitals.
Many of the actors have a few shining moments on stage, most notably Tuckerman in "The Winner Takes All." Applegate (an understudy who went on for Chris Whelan on Tuesday night) has an admirable voice, but his sound doesn't mix well with Tuckerman's or the performance in general. Callanan not only belts it in "Take a Chance" but her singing encompasses a wide range throughout the performance.
Overall, the show is cute, but not great. It could make a charming girls night out, but it's probably not for everyone. Millions of fans around the world, however, have disagreed. After all, the production does invite you to (dare I say it) "Take a chance on me." If you do, you might find yourself seeing it a second time saying, "Here I go again. My, my, how can I resist you?"
Okay, that really was a bad joke. Maybe I'll just stick with the Brit, the Yank and the Aussie.