Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mamma Mia!


Music and Lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus; Book by Catherine Johnson; Directed by Phyllida Lloyd; Choreography by Anthony Van Last

Yet another B-! The crop of reviews available for Mamma Mia! are uniform, and uniformly strange. Even the positive reviews (with the notable and perhaps embarrassing exception of Clive Barnes') acknowledge that the musical is a shallow, commercial, forgetting bit of piffle, but somehow still admire the craftsmanship that went into it. It seems the critics are at the end of the day overwhelmed by the show's ability to make money and the crowd's reactions to it rather than its value as a work of art. It must be strange indeed to be a reviewer in a show that's forgettable at best watching a crowd dancing in the aisles with joy.

NYPost A
(Clive Barnes-- not available online) The show is in pristine shape... Virtually the whole resplendent cast of this marvellously effervescent musical is new, and yet it continues to champagne-pop! The ABBA hits are wondrously and seamlessly enfolded into a book musical by playwright Catherine Johnson and the staging by Phyllida Lloyd is brilliant. Mamma Mia! is still one of the great feel-good musicals on Broadway.

NY1 B+
(Roma Torre) Audiences should come prepared to check their cynicism at the door and become dancing queens, boogying giddily into the night.

NYTimes B
(Ben Brantley) A giant singing Hostess cupcake... 'Mamma, Mia!,' which opened (and continues to run) in London more than two years ago, is bland, hokey, corny, stilted, self-conscious and -- let's not mince words -- square. But in the hands of the director Phyllida Lloyd and her remarkably consistent crew and performers, these traits are turned into virtues, creating what is surely the canniest exercise in klutziness to hit Broadway.

(John Simon) Johnson, hired by the producer Judy Craymer to build a show around these songs so many have grown up on, came up with this improbable and lackluster musical book. It is rather like the case of someone who finds a button in the street and has a suit made to match. With the difference, though, that a button allows much more freedom to the tailor than twenty-odd Abba songs allow the bookwriter.

TimeOut NY C
(David Cote) As theater, Mamma Mia! is forgettable. As a delivery system for pop-culture nostalgia, it’s ruthless.

NY Daily News D
(Howard Kissel) If... your attachment to ABBA is only tangential or, as in my case, nonexistent, you might want to think twice about it.... By the end of the evening, I confess, I felt a smidgen of nostalgia for "Cats."

NYPost A 13; NY1 B+ 11; NYTimes B 10; TONY C 7; NYmag C 7; NYDaily News D 4; TOTAL = 52 / 6 = 8.67 B-

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