Anyone seeing “Mamma Mia!,” now playing at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre through April 8, truly has ice water in their veins if they don’t enjoy this delectable theatrical confection. It’s as sunny and bright as the Greek island it is set in and without a doubt, one of the best shows I have seen at Beef & Boards during all the years I have covered it.
“Mamma Mia!” is a heartwarming musical written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, which premiered in London in 1999. It is based on the songs of ABBA, composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, along with former members of the band, and other songs they wrote with Stig Anderson. The musical includes such hits as “Super Troupe,” “Dancing Queen,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” Thank You For The Music,” “SOS,” the title track “Mamma Mia” and many more of their hits. A film adaption starring Meryl Streep was released in 2008.
The show’s story centers on Sophie, a young woman who lives on an idyllic Greek island. She wants the perfect wedding and hopes her father will give her away. The problem is she doesn’t know who he is. Her mother Donna, who runs a hotel on the island, is the former lead singer of a 70s pop group Donna and the Dynamos. She refuses to talk about the past, so Sophie decides to do some sleuthing. She finds her mother’s old diaries and discovers three possible fathers: Sam, Bill, and Harry. Convinced she’ll know her father when she sees him, Sophie secretly invites all three men to her wedding. But when all they all turn up, she realizes her plan wasn’t as simple as she thought it would be.
While watching the show, I enjoyed matching the action onstage with the lyrics of songs chosen from the ABBA catalogue to advance the plot. It also occurred to me how much times have changed since the halcyon days of Broadway musicals. Who could have predicted that one day a jukebox musical would focus on the wedding of a young woman born illegitimate, much less one set to the disco-era pop music of a Swedish band and enjoyed by a dinner theatre audience with many families in attendance?
The show’s leads include Amy Bodnar as Donna, Rachelle Rose Clark as Sophie, Lanene Charters as Rosie, Jalynn Steele as Tanya, Mark Epperson as Sam, Jeff Stockberger as Bill, Don Farrell as Harry and Will Leonard as Sky—veteran performers all, played well against each other, with each artist showing comic flair and impeccable timing.
I saw a national touring company of this frothy musical a few years back when it played at Murat Theatre, but don’t recall it having nearly as much high-octane energy as this Beef & Boards version, directed and choreographed superbly by Ron Morgan. The high-spirited nature of the show may have had to do with the the attractive ensemble consisting of mostly 20 and 30-something singers-actors-dancers whose love for their craft was reflected in the passion and joy reflected in their performances.
For an evening or afternoon of unbridled entertainment and plenty of nostalgia, especially if you love ABBA, rest assured that “Mama Mia” is an ideal diversion for those wishing to escape those proverbial winter blues.
“Mamma Mia!” tickets range from $44 to $69, and include Beef & Board’s Chef Odell Ward’s dinner buffet, fruit & salad bar, unlimited coffee, tea and lemonade. For reservations, call the box office at (317) 872-9664 anytime between 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays. For more info visit beefandboards.com.