Mamma Mia! What is showing at the PAC?

Ceilidh Mar

Ellen Harvey, Monique Lund, and Robin Baxter flaunt whatever they&ve got in the musical Mamma Mia!, now showing at the Performing Arts Center. (Mamma Mia! press kit)

The seventies nostalgia show Mamma Mia! shines with a light of its own, though one must admit it might just be the glare from the large number of silver and gold sequins adorning the costumes. This light-hearted musical combines a cute and uncomplicated plot with musical variations of 22 ABBA songs, as well as about as many brightly colored, slightly garish costumes as possible. Unbelievably, the combination produces a uniquely enjoyable effect.

Yes, I hear the skeptics sigh of disbelief and not long ago I was a member of your ranks. Before the performance I wasn’t sure what to expect of a two hour long, pasted together performance of unfamiliar seventies songs, despite its good reviews while on Broadway. But when presented with the opportunity to review it I couldn’t resist.

For those of us too young to remember the era of ABBA and their oh-so shimmering costumes, here’s a brief history of the group.

The group started in Sweden in the early 1970s. Largely unknown to the world, they finally gained success with their song “Waterloo,” which won the EuroVision song contest in 1974.

Their name, ABBA, is derived from the first initials of the group’s four members: Agnetha Faltskog, Bj”rn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The group stayed together until 1983 when they released their last album, Thank You for the Music. To date, they have sold over 350 million albums and still hold the hearts of many devoted fans.

After the group broke up Benny Andersson and Bj”rn Ulvaeus stayed together as a musical team and moved into the genre of musical theater, including the Broadway hit Chess with writer Tim Rice. Their newest production, Mamma Mia!, works as a combination of their previous group efforts and the newer Broadway style.

Mamma Mia! takes place on a small Greek island, and its plot revolves around Sophie Sheridan and her mother Donna.

Sophie, who is about to be married, is on a mission to find her father before her marriage. Unsure of which of her mother’s ex-boyfriends is really her father, she invites all three of them to the wedding.

The integration of ABBA songs actually works fairly well with the plot. Songs that, when set by themselves, seemed a bit emotionally syrupy combined with the basic plot to create an emotional flow that I found surprising and charming.

The energy required to pull off the nostalgic feeling needed for the songs actually increased as the show went on, ending with a concert-like performance during the closing bows which pulled the audience off their seats and almost elicited waving lighters and screaming fans. It was quite an experience and though I entered the theater with a sinking feeling in my stomach, I left with an unexpected smile on my face.

The downside to the performance is not a performance-related detail. Unfortunately, there will not be student rush tickets available for the performance, so ticket prices can seem exorbitant, especially for the average college student. Prices range from $41.50-$75.50 depending the night and seat.

Mamma Mia! will be showing at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center Jan. 21-Feb. 2. For tickets, contact Ticketmaster at (920) 731-5000 or you can purchase them online:

http://www.foxcitiespac.com.

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