Arts, Music, On Campus

Musical Theatre Wing Recreates Modern Musical Classic ‘Mamma Mia!’

The Musical Theatre Wing presented Mamma Mia! In Concert on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Performed in O’Connell House on Upper Campus, the show was composed of 19 songs from Mamma Mia! Nick Swancott, MCAS ’19, directed the show while Conor Ancharski, MCAS ’20, directed the pit, made up of a piano, drums, guitar, and a bass.

Mamma Mia! was adapted as a musical from the songs of ABBA when an English theatre producer heard their song “Winner Takes It All,” and recruited playwright Catherine Johnson to write the book that would one day become a play that has been performed internationally. The musical follows the story of Sophie (Lauren Strauss, MCAS ’18), a young soon-to-be bride who invites three men, whom she read about in her mother’s diary, to her wedding on the Greek island of Kalokairi in the hopes of figuring out which one is her father.

The show opens with “I Have a Dream,” a delicate song performed by Strauss before she leads into the exciting and playful “Honey, Honey,” with Ali (Adrienne Vanderhooft, MCAS ’20) and Lisa (Natalie Marsan, CSON ’21). The pace picks up with the entrance of Donna (Erica Fallon, CSOM ’18) as she gripes to her old friends Tanya (Alexa Serowik, MCAS ’21) and Rosie (Marissa Caraballo, MCAS ’20) about the struggles of being a woman without the support of a wealthy man in “Money, Money Money.”  

While the show is mainly centered around the performance of songs, the characters did interact enough in between numbers to provide context and plot development for audience members not familiar with the hit musical and movie. When deciding between shows to perform in concert, Swancott initially dismissed Mamma Mia!, believing it to be a story “haphazardly thrown together” around the musical numbers. After looking a bit closer, he realized that he had misjudged the light-hearted, but thoughtfully crafted, musical hit.

“The particular thing that really draws me to this show is the emphasis on strong women,” Swancott said in his Director’s Note. “Each woman in this piece, whether that be Sophie, Donna, Tanya, or Rosie, knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to pursue it.”

This is especially clear in Tanya, Donna’s former bandmate and best friend, who entertains the advances of a young man on the island just long enough to have a laugh, without breaking her rules on dating younger.  

This spirited rendition of “Does Your Mother Know” was particularly well performed—where some of the other songs lost the sound of the vocals as the performers danced away from the six standing microphones at the front, Serowik was able to capture the lively, and somewhat mischievous, spirit of Tanya while maintaining the quality of the sound. This number was the first of the particularly captivating numbers at the end of the show. The performers heated up along with the storyline.

At this point in the show, the three men that Sophie invited have realized their reason for being there, and they begin to call on Donna to remember the fun they had 21 years ago. “Our Last Summer” captures Donna calling out Harry’s (Kyle Ronkin, MCAS ’21) complete lifestyle change—he went from being a rockstar nicknamed “Head Banger” to “Working in a bank/ The family man/ A football fan.” Ronkin captures the essence of Harry perfectly: good-natured, a little impish, and willing to laugh at the absurdity of the normalness of the life he left Greece for.

Possibly the most true-to-character performance came from Caraballo in “Take a Chance on Me.” Her singing carried as a conversation, her sidelong glances to Bill (Tommy Boyce, CSOM ’21) were perfectly cast, and her hopeful dancing had the audience in stitches as she tried to convince Bill that she is what he’s looking for.  

While the show lacked the big-stage scale of other Boston College performances, the cast of Mamma Mia! In Concert managed to bring the tropical magic of Kalokairi to Massachusetts with their witty performances and focus on vocals rather than acting. They proved that this story’s plot can lie entirely within its songs, as any good musical’s should.  

Featured Image by Wikipedia

February 25, 2018