ABBA Tunes Fuel Blockbuster Mamma Mia! Season Opener at Wick

The Wick Theatre in Boca Raton kicks off its eighth season with the kicky, colorful, tune-filled romantic comedy, Mamma Mia! the musical blockbuster propelled with tunes by iconic Swedish rock group ABBA. The show that runs through Nov. 14 has truly earned the exclamation point in its title.

“We have dreamed of producing this fabulous and heartwarming show for several years, and now we are joyously bringing it to life,” effused Marilynn Wick, managing executive director of the North Federal Highway showplace.

Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, inspired by the songs of ABBA composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, the two male members of the four-person band that includes Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. 

The title of the musical comes from the group’s 1975 chart-topper, “Mamma Mia.” The ABBA melody repertoire became grist for the show that hit the stage in 1999 and begat a pair of theatrical films, 2008’s “Mamma Mia” and a sequel, “Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again,” in 2018.

While the show may be built on a simple plot, the ABBA tunes fill any gaps in the action – which are few. Marilynn Wick and director Larry Raben have coaxed a bevy of incredibly talented dancers and vocalists to the Wick Theatre stage, which has gotten only scant use during the coronavirus pandemic that has curtailed virtually all forms of stage entertainment across the world.

The Wick’s production team has crafted a top-notch version of the show that pays tribute to ABBA by featuring more than a dozen of its songs, interspersed within the likeable story of 20-year-old girl, Sophie (Meg Frost), daughter of Donna (Jodie Langel), a single mom who was once part of a 1970s-era rock trio, Donna and the Dynamos. She gave up the life to settle down on a Greek island and operate a seaside bed and breakfast.

Sophie, who never knew her father, wants to know who he is so he can give her away at her upcoming wedding. She finds her mom’s diary and, based on its contents, Sophie has narrowed the paternity field to three – Sam (Sean McDermott), Harry (Doug Chitel) or Bill (Robert Koutras). Unknown to mom, her daughter invites the trio to the nuptials, anticipating she’ll ferret out her real pop by the time the ring is on her finger.

Meg Frost and Jeremy Beloate in Mamma Mia!, now at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)

But her well-developed plan sort of goes awry, causing her already stressed mom even more anxiety – and forces Sophie to face some tough decisions. 

Thankfully, Donna’s former musical partners – Tanya (Aaron Bower), a rich woman, three times married and divorced, and Rosie (Britte Steele), an unmarried, carefree lady, arrive to assist. While talking with her buddies, Donna laments the struggles of raising a child alone, running the B&B singlehandedly and the heavy bills she faces (“Money, Money, Money”). 

The complex action that follows not only befuddles the potential dads, but also rekindles feelings from the past – not all of them good. Sort of left in the cold during the runup to the wedding is the groom, Sky (Jeremy Beloate). 

Sean McDermott portrays Sam Carmichael in Mamma Mia!, now at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)

As the plot thickens, Tanya and Rosie try to convince Donna that she can still be the girl she once was (“Dancing Queen”). In fact, at a party later, the trio reunites and sings the ABBA anthem, “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight”).

We’re not at liberty to divulge specifics about the ending, but the finale does include a wedding. In fact, the conclusion is one of the most moving and entertaining segments, particularly since the last on-stage scene is set, appropriately, to the ABBA rock hit, “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.” 

The show then slips seamlessly and colorfully into a three-song encore with the full cast on stage, decked out in brightly hued costumes recalling 1970s togs. The three “Dynamos” lead the songs, with the “dads” joining in and ensemble members rounding out a conclusion that brought a handclapping, foot-stomping audience to its feet for a rousing standing ovation.

The cast of Mamma Mia!, now at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)

The musical includes other ABBA hits such as ‘Super Trouper,” “Lay All Your Love on Me,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Thank You For the Music,” “The Winner Takes It All,” “Voulez-Vous,” “SOS” and the title song, “Mamma Mia!”

A few continuity tunes are added by Stig Anderson.

Marilynn and Larry have slipped a little Broadway into this Boca Raton-based show. Langel brings her powerful voice, honed on the Great White Way and during show tours, which slides together perfectly with Steele – also trained in New York – and Bower, who has toured, performed at local venues and appears periodically with the 1940’s-era musical group, “The Victory Dolls.” 

Langel, Bower and Steele certainly do justice to the lush vocals and exceptional orchestrations of ABBA’s pop tunes.

The “dads” offer equal quantities of vocal and acting abilities, as does Frost, whose song style is fine, but could use a shade more maturation.

The show includes a lot of dancing, and it’s terrific. Stephen Casey, who last contributed to the footwork in the Wick’s version of Evita, is back. Dance captain and ensemble member Elijah Word sets the steps for all the guys while BB Stone, in her first round at Wick, keeps the ladies moving in stride.

The cast is blessed with an elegant set with special illumination by seasoned lighting designere Jose Santiago. Projection designer/motion graphic artist Josieu T. Jean adds special touches – like a shoreline background with water that appears to ripple against the shore.

Mamma Mia! continues through Nov. 14 at the Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Tickets are available by calling 561-995-2333 or going to www.thewick.org

Marilynn Wick emphasizes that the performance hall has undergone extensive COVID sanitation, and audience members must wear masks. Cast members are checked for coronavirus three times a week.

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