Well, at least there was no Pierce Brosnan...

by - Monday, June 13, 2011

Last night, the boy and I had a super date night and actually crossed something off of our couple's bucket list. Is a couple's bucket list actually a thing? I'm pretty sure not, and this is definitely the only thing I can think of that is actually possible to do (because joining up with Captain Planet or making a commercial for Chicken Fries with Anna Nicole Smith are probably not going to happen).

Anyway, we went and saw Mamma Mia live. When we were mere youths, when Pierce Brosnan was still James Bond, we listened to Abba's greatest hits over and over. We called Dancing Queen the boy's song when he actually was 17. On our first ever Pymatuming day (the yearly date where we feed carp stale bread... no it really is that awesome) we sang the songs out the window at construction workers who were spiffing up the spillway. I am sure they were very impressed. Not to mention, my engineer straight-faced, generally-hides-his-silliness- kind-of-fellow Grampa has a ridiculous and committed love for them (and Jessica Alba). So our love for Abba runs deep, and this is a dream we knew we had to realize.

Sadly, between now and then, the movie came out. And we watched on a loop (probably 5 or 6 times) in a single day on New Year's Eve after that Christmas where every lady over 40 got that movie as a gift. So now my reading is seriously dampered by the lack of the super gay guy with the afro who is supposed to have had sex with Christine Baranski (though we did learn in the show that the character has a name- Pepper). Also, since my life has revolved around musicals lately, I couldn't help but think about how the camera helped/ hurt the theatrical masterpiece (I will say that the show ends with two of the main characters dressed like ghostbusters and a priest dancing... you can't really top that).

Firstly, the performances have a lot more space to breathe and build on the stage. A lot of the character actors (like everyone but the leads) are more well-rounded and funnier. On the other hand, the main two ladies, Sophie and Donna, become all the more intolerable with more time. Plus, the actress playing Donna had a limited register and absolutely no fun. Their dialogue is mostly stressing about the upcoming conflict that eventually leads to nothing, so if you aren't tempering it with almost constant Abba cheer.

Secondly, the camera, even a really bizarro one, makes things seem more exciting/ intimate. Again, part of this is because the lead really dropped the ball, but the Dynamo's performance in the film both showed off how much fun everyone was having, how exciting the moment was (even in its boomerific nostalgia), and how it had an emotional resonance between mother and daughter. On stage, it was a showcase number. And not even a particularly fun one without the costumes. The moving camera helps to build the frenetic energy the movie has, but the show cannot keep up.

Thirdly, either way, that bachelorette party looks super fun. Going to this show makes me really regret not throwing someone a disco-themed bachelorette party at a roller skating rink. This is not sarcasm; I truly think that it looks like fun.

Forth, they turn up the boomer rhetoric. The movie will always be from one particular moment, so maybe they didn't feel the need to push it. But the movie wants you to know SHE WAS CONCEIVED IN 79!!! Can we do the math for you one more time? Can we point out this is set in 1999, even though clearly we still feel close enough to the time to not be particularly thoughtful about costuming? The dudes get more numbers (no one misses them in the movie... though the weirdest number in the show is "Thank you for the Music" which makes no sense), which gives them more time to talk about the good old times. Sophie gets more numbers, but almost all in the first act. The second act belongs to the boomers. They "solve" the problems she sets up in the first act. And there is nothing more annoying than old people's love problems.

Also, the boy says they needed a larger stronger chorus and a stronger Donna. We really didn't like that lady, though in her bio she said she was in the second and third Matrix movies. So she's even worse. In general, I am all for shows, and I was actually struck at how doable this one is. The Barrow could totally pull it off, and it mostly features women, which is great for any community theater (though now that I think about it, its like the whole show bemoans how it couldn't pass the Bechdel test, because boy are men crazy). So, all in all it really wasn't horrible, and the flexibility in the performances was really refreshing, but only when the stage performers knew what they were doing. I also think it is tricky because the film has definitely become as dependable as an Abba song, so people show up to see it that way (kind of like the Sound of Music or something). All the same, it was a wonderful date night, as we got dressed up and then sat between small kids (who were adorable, but bored). Now we can get on to trying to get Celine Dion to sing at our wedding while Extreme pushes me around in a wheelbarrow. Big dreams.

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