Review: ‘Mamma Mia!’ at Theatre Aspen

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times

If You Go …

What: ‘Mamma Mia!’ presented by Theatre Aspen

Where: Hurst Theatre, Rio Grande Park

When: Through Aug. 20; This weekend Friday 7:30 p.m.; Saturday 3 & 8 p.m.; Monday 6:30 p.m.

How much: $29-$100

Tickets:; 970-300-4474

Theatre Aspen’s “Mamma Mia!” is a big, rowdy, Lycra-clad wad of cotton-candy escapism propelled by a disco ball, tap-dancing in scuba flippers and 20-plus thumping ABBA earworms.

Think you’re too high-brow? You’re wrong. Resistance is futile. You will be on your feet. And you will be dancing along to “Waterloo” during the boisterous encore.

The musical, which opened Tuesday and runs through Aug. 20 at the Hurst Theatre, sucks you into its abandon like the dance floor at a great wedding reception and leaves you sated in the same kind of warm-hearted exhaustion.

The young Sophie (played with a sweet, soft-voiced restraint by Cristina Oeschger) is set to be married at a taverna in the Greek Isles, owned by her mother, Donna (Anne Brummel), who led a rocking disco-era trio back in the day: Donna and the Dynamos. Hoping for her father to give her away, but not knowing who her father is, Sophie invites three men from her mother’s bohemian past to the wedding: Harry the banker (Mark Price), Bill the globe-trotting writer (Dane Agostinis) and Sam the lovable rogue who got away (Jim Ballard). They’re none the wiser to the Sophie’s plot and are met at the tavern by Donna’s aging disco-diva besties — Tanya (Elise Kinnon) and Rosie (Margot Moreland).

The action plays out on a Swiss Army knife of a set — decked out in the Aegean blues and stone whites of the Greek isles ­— that revolves to become a bedroom, a beach and the taverna.

It’s an ensemble-driven show where just about everybody in the cast of 20 gets their time to shine, but Donna and her Dynamos shine brightest on showstoppers like “Super Trouper” and “Dancing Queen,” with Moreland taking center stage on “Take a Chance on Me” and Kinnon doing so for “Does Your Mother Know.” Brummel brings down the house with an emotive “The Winner Takes It All” and a tender, relatively subdued duet with Price on “Our Last Summer.”

The sitcom premise and jukebox musical setup (and all that ABBA) might be a recipe for a forgettable diversion of a musical, but Brummel brings emotional heft to her Donna. Her introspective performance and the pain in her face through much of the second act bring to the surface Donna’s single-mom stress, the anguish of seeing her daughter leave the nest and the emotional confusion of rekindling a decadesold romance or three. This might seem ridiculous for a regional production of “Mamma Mia!” but this is what often makes the tiny Hurst Theatre a fascinating home for a Broadway musical — no matter where you’re sitting in the less than 200 seats around the thrust stage, you’re seeing the story play out in extreme close-up, which makes for some extreme emotional immediacy. So, between the sequins and the slapstick of this good-time show that no doubt earns the exclamation point in its title, this “Mamma Mia!” also gets poignant.

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