Drury Lane's 'Mamma Mia!' a tuneful, warm-weather getaway
"Mamma Mia!" -- ★ ★ ★
You have to hand it Drury Lane Theatre for wisely producing "Mamma Mia!" at the tail-end of winter. Oakbrook Terrace audiences get to experience a temporary warm-weather getaway thanks to this globally successful 1999 jukebox musical showcasing the pop hits of ABBA.
The heat pulsates off the picture-perfect stage thanks to a rustic Greek island taverna set by designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec, the sunny and shimmery lighting of designer Lee Fiskness, and the scantily-clad cast sporting '70s-revival resort wear by the cadre of costumers Lynda Myers, Nicole Boyland and Marianne Custer.
"Mamma Mia!" also delivers an unrelenting trip of nostalgia. All of the ABBA tunes become joyously infectious earworms that transport you back to the 1970s, when the Swedish quartet of Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus conquered the pop world.
A hokey paternity plot is at the heart of "Mamma Mia!" Bride-to-be Sophie (Rebecca Hurd) invites three potential fathers (Jeff Parker as Sam, Michael Accardo as Bill and Stef Tovar as Harry) to her wedding, but she does so without telling her fiercely independent mother, Donna (touring "Mamma Mia!" veteran Susie McMonagle).
Thankfully Donna's longtime friends, Tanya (McKinley Carter) and Rosie (Elizabeth Ledo), also make the trip. So the women not only provide support for each other, but they also reunite for dream karaoke sets of songs like "Super Trooper," "Dancing Queen" and "Waterloo" by the end.
Director William Osetek has assembled a top-notch "Mamma Mia!" cast for the area's third professional regional production. The performers not only powerfully belt out the songs, they also dance up a storm to Jane Lanier's silly choreography involving scuba flippers and outré lamé get-ups.
The ensemble also injects a genuine amount of gravitas and humor into their roles. It's a welcome surprise, especially since "Mamma Mia!" is notorious for its flimsy plot conceived by Judy Craymer and realized by book writer Catherine Johnson. More often than not, it bends over backward to shoehorn in the prepackaged pop songs.
A scathing 2009 Comic Relief sketch broadcast on the BBC spoof precisely nailed what made "Mamma Mia!" such a success. The musical was billed as: "The genius of ABBA, with words in-between."
Other than some sound balance issues (the offstage chorus sometimes overpowers the onstage vocalists), Drury Lane is due many kudos for lavishing so much talent and attention on "Mamma Mia!" It's definitely a welcome respite from a harsh Midwestern winter.
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Location: Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, (630) 530-0111 or drurylanetheatre.com
Showtimes: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday; through April 14
Running time: About 2 hours 30 minutes with intermission
Tickets: $55-$70; senior discounts and dinner-and-show packages also available
Parking: Adjacent parking garage and valet service available
Rating: Mild profanity and lots of flirty and frank sex talk and pelvic thrusts