The other night I viewed a rehearsal run of Mamma Mia!, opening this week at Globe Theatre in Regina. As directed by Stephanie Graham, the show offers more than a staging of ABBA ear-worm material. (But there be worms, nevertheless.) That is, the songs are presented as revelations of character, in keeping with most musical theatre practice these last few decades.
As songs that are acted as well as sung, they tend to be slightly slower in tempo than we might remember, more thoughtful in delivery. The ABBA sing-along fans I observed in the audience might be disappointed by this approach, feeling that their unbridled enthusiasm for the music has been, well, bridled.
It might be a concession to such a view that prompted the play's creator, Judy Craymer and company, to give us two ABBA hits, "Dancing Queen" and "Waterloo" (over to you, dear reader, with the ear-worm), after the story of the play has concluded. No holding back of tempo or tone here. ABBA fans can leap to their feet and turn them loose.
I took a notebook to the run, ready to jot down anything I thought I learned. In this case, I'm reminded of yet another Sondheim nugget--that the best songs are those that give the singer something to act. Pros that they are, these Globe actors can make the songs envelope us, even sweep us away.
Now I turn back to Oak Floors! with an eye to what its songs must do.