Dig out those platform pumps and tug on that glitzy jumpsuit. The national tour of "Mamma Mia!" is back for a second run at the Paramount.
You'll be hard-pressed to resist the campy enthusiasm of this unlikely blockbuster. In fact, it spearheaded the trend of "jukebox musicals" on Broadway and introduced ABBA's songs to a whole new generation.
In case you don't know, the Swedish group ABBA ripped through the '70s pop scene and dominated the top-40s charts. Some 30 years later, someone got the bright idea to fashion Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus' hit tunes into musical theater. New York theater critics were scandalized when the show opened in 2001, but audiences embraced it lock, stock and Spandex. Four years later, fans are still flocking to Broadway, as well as to theaters around the world. And producers are raking in the dough.
"Mamma Mia!" features a hit parade of 22 ABBA favorites, including "Waterloo," "The Winner Takes It All," "Chiquitita," "Super Trooper," "S.O.S.," "Knowing Me, Knowing You," "Take a Chance on Me," "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!," the pulpy, peppy tune "Mamma Mia!" and everyone's all-time favorite, "Dancing Queen." If you don't know or remember the lyrics, the person sitting next to you may be mouthing the words.
Phyllida Lloyd directs, with choreography by Anthony Van Laast and a book by British playwright Catherine Johnson. Although you've probably never heard of any of the cast members, most of them have regional or national tour credits, if not New York theater time. And .. they can all sing above the orchestra.
Johnson's storyline borrows from this and that for its who's-your-daddy? plot. Think back to the 1968 film "Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell," starring Gina Lollobrigida as an Italian woman who isn't sure which of three World War II soldiers fathered her child. And there are remnants of "Shirley Valentine," a play first, then a film, about a woman who hopped off to Greece to find herself. Or the Australian "Muriel's Wedding," the ugly-duckling-wants-a-wedding film fantasy set to ABBA tunes that introduced Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths to U.S. audiences.
"Mamma Mia!" the musical unfolds on a Greek island where Donna, a '70s ex-hippie pop star, runs a small taverna. As things get underway, her 18-year-old daughter Sophie is planning her wedding to a guy named Sky, and she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. If only she knew who he was. So Sophie sneaks a peek at Mom's tell-all diary, comes up with three contenders for daddy dearest and, without telling Mom, invites the trio to her wedding. Much to her delight, all three sperm-elects show up: Harry, a prissy, obsessive/compulsive banker-type; Bill, a khaki-clad, Down Under crocodile-hunter/writer; and Sam, an enthusiastic, warm-hearted architect and devoted family man. They all have two things in common: warm and fuzzy memories of Donna and the Greek island where they sowed their wild oats. But not a clue that one of them has fathered her daughter.
They're not the only island visitors. Donna's two best friends and former musical sidekicks have flown in to lend emotional support to the mother of the bride - and to provide comedy relief. The aging femme fatale Tanya has had more husbands than Cher's had facelifts, and her wisecracking pal Rosie, more weight than boyfriends. In addition to all the middle-age frivolity, the younger set gets their share of onstage action, including an absurdly amusing snorkel-and-flipper tap dance.
Don't look for elitist entertainment from this retro musical journey. This isn't fodder for Sondheim sophisticates. Far from it, "Mamma Mia!" is often silly and always corny. The plot's highly improbable, the orchestra unbelievably loud, the sets incredibly minimal and the costumes, over-the-top disco couture. But combined, the elements should provide a feel-good evening for everyone from Gen-X'ers to grandmas.
One hint: Don't rush out of the theater during curtain call. The ensemble delivers three ABBA encores, including a gender-bender version of "Dancing Queen." Plus, the aisle doubles for a dance floor. For this show, it's a tradition.