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Mamma Mia! at Chanhassen Dinner Theater

MAMMA MIA! HERE I GO AGAIN! THIS IS! THE SECOND TIME I’VE SEEN THIS PLAY! And frankly it’s shocking that I’ve only seen twice because I absolutely freaking loooove Mamma Mia! I first saw this on Broadway (nbd) when I was like 12 years old, and I genuinely think it’s shaped the person I am today. I am a massive fan of ABBA, even beyond the songs that are in the play. Their music just makes me happy, and I think listening to it growing up made me a happier, more carefree person. Who cares if things aren’t going as well as you’d hoped? Just dance around singing Waterloo! Problems solved!

I missed Mamma Mia! when it was at the Ordway last summer; I was an Americorps VISTA making $800/month, plus I had just splurged on tickets to see The Book of Mormon. My budget quite literally could not handle me going to see another big show. So when I found out it was playing at Chanhassen this year, I was very set on seeing it. Of course, then life got in the way, and it took me a stupidly long time to actually get there. But last month was my boyfriend’s and mine year and a half anniversary, and I’m a big believer in celebrating relationships as often as possible. It’s now been two weeks since we saw Mamma Mia! and, although it’s taken me a while to write this review, you should definitely not sleep on going to see it.

Going to Chanhassen is just generally super fun. It’s an excuse to dress up a little, have a nice dinner (which of course isn’t free, but it kinda feels free because it’s included in the price of your ticket that you probably bought weeks ago), and feel like a fancy lil adult seeing a show while sipping wine amongst other more established adults. To those who think anything that’s not literally Broadway isn’t quality enough to justify seeing, you are completely wrong. I know this is a thing that a lot of people my age think. If it’s not literally Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen, it’s not worth their time. But believe me, that mentality is keeping you from some genuinely fantastic and thoroughly entertaining theater.

Chanhassen’s production of Mamma Mia! is nearly flawless. It’s funny, heartfelt, colorful, and engaging from start to finish. Jessica Frederickson (you’ve probably seen her face on dozens of cars and busses over the past year) was a beautifully innocent Sophie, desperate to find out who she really is and naively optimistic that, although she has three possible fathers, she’ll just intuitively know her true dad when she meets him. Obviously, that doesn’t happen, and shenanigans ensue. But Frederickson is really the strong center of the play, holding it all together with her consistent energy and fierce loyalty to the people she loves.

Frankly, the entire cast was fantastic. Bill (Jay Albright) had the audience in stitches all night, and the ensemble dancing in the aisles was the perfect touch to get everyone in on the fun. The two standouts for me were Sam (John-Michael Zuerlein) and Donna (Kersten Rodau). To be totally honest, I’d be impressed by anyone other than Pierce Brosnan playing Sam. (Pierce is a great actor and, according to my mother, quite the heartthrob, but man, singing is just not his strong suit.) Even so, Zuerlein knocked my socks off. He actually played Sam in the national tour of Mamma Mia!, and whenever he took the stage I felt like I had somehow cheated the system for not having spent more money to see him perform. The same goes for Rodau. Donna Sheridan is one of my favorite musical characters of all time, and Rodau did not disappoint. To me, the mark of a great Donna is someone who can deliver a fun, youthful “Dancing Queen,” a poignant and heartbreaking “Slipping Through My Fingers,” and a strong, belting, YAS QUEEN moment in “The Winner Takes it All.” Rodau nailed all of it. Her Donna was the epitome of a woman: intelligent, hardworking, fun, bold, headstrong, loving, vulnerable, and stubborn. It’s been over ten years since I saw this show on Broadway, so my memory of it isn’t super crisp. But I can’t imagine that the Donna I saw then had anything that Rodau didn’t. She truly stole the show.

Mamma Mia! is infectiously fun, and Chanhassen’s adaptation holds up perfectly. It’s a great date night or girls night out. Or guy’s night out! The guy sitting next to us told his girlfriend that he doesn’t like musicals literally two or three minutes before the play started, and at the end of the night, he was surprised at how much he enjoyed Mamma Mia! So. Round up your bros. Go see it. Playing until February 22.


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