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Mamma Mia!

"Mamma Mia!" is the title of one of the rock group Abba’s many hits and it’s also the title of the musical at the IU Auditorium this week.

The quartet’s string of dance fueled singles dominated the pop charts from 1974 to their breakup in 1982. One critic noted that for at least of a few of those year’s they were second only to Volvo as Sweden’s biggest export earners.

The story in "Mamma Mia!" is a loose one of Sophie, a young girl, trying to find her father. She searches by inviting three men mentioned in her mother’s twenty-year-old diary to her wedding, hoping that one of them will be the right man to give her away. "Mamma Mia!" is built around twenty-two of Abba’s hits and as the evening went on part of the fun for fans was guessing which of them would fit in next and who might be singing it. Abba was always strongest in their dance fueled numbers and less so in their reflective ones. This did play out in the show.

The production at the IU Auditorium is bright, brash and brassy. It’s not for the faint of ear. The surprise chords of the opening to the second act are loud enough to practically take your breath away. There’s plenty of action and athletic dancing. I think that "Mamma Mia!" is probably your only chance to see a ballet with a group wearing frog flippers and snorkels.

Laurie Wells played the resolute single mother, Donna. Her voice seemed the fullest and most expressive of the cast though there were strong offerings from the exquisitely leggy Lisa Mandel and the comic Julia Cook as girl friends, pathos and pluck from Carrie Manolakos as her fatherless daughter, and a variety of work from Ian Simpson, Milo Shandel and Sean Allan Krill as her three possible dads. It was good to see recent IU graduate Colin Donnell in the cast.

At the beginning of the evening, Auditorium manager Doug Booher told the audience that "Mamma Mia!" is the musical that more people come back to see a second time than any the tours. There was a family of four enjoying the evening next to me. They happily said that this was their second chance to see the show.

"Mamma Mia!" at the IU Auditorium plays at eight o’clock each evening this week and there are additional performances at two and eight on Saturday and Sunday.

George Walker

After completing an M.A.T. degree in English at Indiana University, George Walker began announcing for WFIU in 1967. Along with regularly hosting classical music shows, he interviews artists and reviews plays and operas.

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