Mamma Mia! is not the most sophisticated show ever written, but it is an undeniable crowd-pleaser. Last week the two-year-old Broadway production hit the 900-performance mark. How does a show sustain that kind of drawing power? Simple: word of mouth. People like it.
It's easy to see (or rather hear) why, because Mamma Mia! is as slickly formulaic as A-B-C. Actually, you can drop the C. Just stick with ABBA, as in the '70s disco-pop group that was yesterday's memory until someone came up with the apparently inspired notion to cobble 22 of its songs around a sliver of a plot about a young girl who wants to know which of her mother's three former lovers is her true father.
At times the show assumes the aura of a glorified karaoke concert. But when the story actually serves the music -- as, for instance, when the mother strokes her daughter's hair before the wedding and tenderly sings "Slipping Through My Fingers" -- it's fascinating to realize how many emotions are lurking in those 25-year-old disco lyrics. But the real fun starts after the small, sunny musical (it's set on a Greek isle) wraps up its sentimental tale, and that New Year's Eve of a curtain call comes on like gangbusters.
This effervescent disco concert is guaranteed to send audiences out of the old Fox Theatre and into the new year on a nostalgic high.