THEATER REVIEW: “Mamma Mia!” @ Mac-Haydn [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Barbara Waldinger
The local go-to venue for big, splashy summer musicals is usually Chatham’s Mac-Haydn Theatre. The tiny stage is characteristically populated with dozens of talented young singers/dancers/actors, energetic and beautifully costumed. However, the latest production, Mamma Mia!, despite showcasing all the usual ingredients, is largely a disappointment.
Part of the problem may be temporary. The opening matinee was delayed by 20 minutes because of a glitch in the sound system, which plagued the production throughout. Those of us seated in the back of the nosebleed section missed much of what the actors were saying because the amplification malfunctioned or the orchestra, supposedly playing under their dialogue, overpowered them. There were other times when even the singers were difficult to hear as the music overwhelmed their voices. Clearly something was amiss, and one can assume a fix will be found.
But there were other difficulties that are not so easily corrected. The direction and choreography (by Bryan Knowlton) tends to be repetitive, bordering on tiresome, as the speaking performers face away from each other, and the dancers continually gyrate in concentric circles. At random moments the chorus comes running in from the aisles to add a dance to a scene that feels as though it would have been more effective if it had been a personal interaction between the main characters. Or we hear the chorus singing offstage, either live or perhaps recorded, supporting the singers onstage – which defies credulity.