New Year's Eve will last a little longer than usual this year. At the Fox Theatre, the festivities will be continuing for two weeks -- that's how long Mamma Mia! will be encamped on this return visit. This is the same touring company that played the Fox last year, with essentially the same cast, sets and costumes. The show might even play to a lot of the same audiences; some people just can't get enough of this feel-good musical.
Mamma Mia! is not the most sophisticated show ever written, but it is an undeniable crowd-pleaser. Last week the two-year-old Broadway production hit the 900-performance mark. How does a show sustain that kind of drawing power? Simple: word of mouth. People like it.
It's easy to see (or rather hear) why, because Mamma Mia! is as slickly formulaic as A-B-C. Actually, you can drop the C. Just stick with ABBA, as in the '70s disco-pop group that was yesterday's memory until someone came up with the apparently inspired notion to cobble 22 of its songs around a sliver of a plot about a young girl who wants to know which of her mother's three former lovers is her true father.
At times the show assumes the aura of a glorified karaoke concert. But when the story actually serves the music -- as, for instance, when the mother strokes her daughter's hair before the wedding and tenderly sings "Slipping Through My Fingers" -- it's fascinating to realize how many emotions are lurking in those 25-year-old disco lyrics. But the real fun starts after the small, sunny musical (it's set on a Greek isle) wraps up its sentimental tale, and that New Year's Eve of a curtain call comes on like gangbusters.
This effervescent disco concert is guaranteed to send audiences out of the old Fox Theatre and into the new year on a nostalgic high.