Monday, April 6, 2009

Musical Instruments

Mamma Mia is Musical at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas



Mamma Mia is Musical at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas

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MAMMA MIA! is currently the most successful musical in the world with a total of eleven global productions, eight resident productions and three tours. Ticket sales generate $8,000,000 a week, and four more productions are scheduled to open this year. What is it that makes MAMMA MIA! so successful? Is it the music of ABBA? Is it the story? Or is it just hype?

To find the answer to that question I saw MAMMA MIA! at the Mandalay Bay Theater at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on February, 2004. The show had just celebrated its one year anniversary and had been voted the #1 Show in Las Vegas by local news pundits. So much positive press along with kudos from friends made the show sound almost too good to be true.

The theater is new and beautiful with comfortable, unobstructed seating. The curtain for MAMMA MIA! has an overlay of undulating blue and purple light that evokes memories of a psychedelic era when lava lamps were in vogue. It sets the tone for the play which is set on a tiny Greek island where a wedding is about to take place. As the advertisements proclaim: It is a story about a mom, a daughter, and three possible dads.

Producer Judy Craymer is credited with having the vision to take ABBA's music and find the right people to construct a musical. She says, "I knew from the outset that MAMMA MIA! had to be much more than just an ABBA compilation or tribute show. The story had to be as infectious as the music and provide a strong feel-good factor." It was while working as Executive Producer on the West End production of CHESS that she met Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. This was the team's first post-ABBA venture and the show was not a hit.

After the ill-fated Broadway production of CHESS, Bjorn is quoted as saying, "What I understand after CHESS is that story is number 1, number 2 and number 3, as they say on Broadway. A lyric should take a story forward, and a lot of pop songs are static — they have no drama in them whatsoever."

Playwright Catherine Johnson was assigned the task of coming up with a solid story that would incorporate Andersson and Ulvaeus' music. MAMMA MIA! is a cheerful show with poignant moments. There are more than twenty ABBA songs in the production, many of them — Dancing Queen — so familiar that audience members leaving singing. Even the little skiff is named "Waterloo".

Mark Thompson's sparse white set with an intense blue sky sets the tone for a holiday on a tiny Greek island. As they sing "It's a rich man's world" the bar/restaurant is cleverly lit — doors are highlighted with bold purple spots and the floor is illuminated with what appear to be red rocks. Anthony Van Laast's choreography is simple and efficient. Phyllida Lloyd's direction is what smoothes the seams between the scenes and the songs. As producer Craymer insisted, the music is a natural extension of the action.

Twenty-one years ago Donna Sheridan played by seasoned actress Tina Walsh, had her own little holiday. The diary her daughter Sophie finds opens Pandora's box. Sophie, the young bride-to-be is played by Suzie Jacobsen Balser, a refreshing new talent. Sophie forces her mother to reexamine the past so that she can discover who she is and what she's really all about. "Slipping Through my Fingers" is a touching mother-daughter duet.

The supporting cast is also first rate. Donna's two band members from Donna and the Dynamos turn up for Sophie's white wedding. Played by Reyna Von Vett and Jennifer Perry they provide comic relief, wisdom, and as always, a few memorable musical numbers.

Sophie's fiancĂ© Sky, played by Victor Wallace has a chorus of male friends who are eager to celebrate the last hours of bachelorhood. When Act II rolls around there are so many questions. Which one of the three men Donna knew rather briefly — at a time when brief relationships were in vogue — is Sophie's father? There are clues and there are songs, the most personal of which is "Mamma Mia!".

To read this entire feature FREE with photos cut and paste this link:
http://www.jetsettersmagazine.com/archive/jetezine/shows/vegas/mama/mia.html

Linda Lane, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent – Read Jetsetters Magazine at www.jetsettersmagazine.com To book travel visit Jetstreams.com at www.jetstreams.com and for Beach Resorts visit Beach Booker at www.beachbooker.com

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About the Author


Linda Lane, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at www.jetsettersmagazine.com Leave your email next to the logo for FREE e travel newsletter
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