The holiday shows are over, and the winter theater season is now under way. Keep reading for capsule reviews of two shows now on local stages.
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Mamma Mia! This musical exists to string together the biggest hits of ABBA — songs by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus that include the title number, “The Winner Takes It All,” as well as “S.O.S.” and “Knowing Me Knowing You.” There's not much plot: Sophie, a young woman about to marry, doesn’t know who her father is; she peeks into her mother's diary, then invites the three men recorded as one-time lovers to her wedding without telling Donna, her mother. The men arrive. Donna’s upset, and Sophie’s strategem also angers Sophie’s fiance, Sky. Yet all three of Donna’s ex-lovers are keen to be named father and walk Sophie down the aisle. A lot of dancing, singing and general futzing around in neon-bright costumes ensues. Many good musicals have even dopier plot lines, but they compensate with comedy, wit and memorable songs. All of this is lacking in Mamma Mia!. Still, there are bright spots to this BDT Stage production: The choreography is sharp and all the dancing tight and well-synchronized, with the performers giving off a joy and energy that reverberate through the theater. It’s lovely to see Tracy Warren given a chance to show off her considerable warmth and charm, along with a lovely singing voice, in the role of man magnet Donna. Most entertaining of all are Joanie Brousseau-Rubald and Alicia K. Meyers as Rosie and Tanya, respectively, the old pals who once were part of a girl group with Donna. Meyers is always fun to watch, and posturing, purring, thrice-married Tanya is a perfect fit for her. Brousseau-Rubald manages to be both utterly farcical and flesh-and-blood womanly at the same time. Mamma Mia! is a sugar rush, a giant hot fudge sundae that’s more whipped cream and colored sprinkles than anything else. It's fun, but not super-satisfying. Presented by BDT Stage through February 22, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, bdtstage.com. Read the full review of Mamma Mia!
The Secretary. In The Secretary, now in a regional premiere at Curious, Kyle John Schmidt has somehow managed to write a parody that’s funny without being preachy, blind, obvious or insensitive. Ruby, the owner of a gun-manufacturing factory, is searching for a secretary, but the current applicant, a self-righteous gun-control advocate named April, doesn’t seem suitable — even though she’s office manager Janelle’s half-sister. Eventually, the job goes to Lorrie, who clearly has a screw loose. As the action begins, there’s just been a shooting at the local school, where sweetly empathetic secretary Shirley shot an armed student. This not only makes her a hero, but means that Ruby will see a huge upsurge in sales. Cheerfully, Ruby comes out with a new weapon that she dubs The Secretary. But Brandy, mother of the slain student, doesn’t see things in quite the same cheerful light. Although almost every character has some characteristic that strikes us as familiar, even stereotypical, Schmidt gives all these people life and contour. Candy-dispensing Shirley may be the nurturer that students think she is, but doesn’t she harbor just the tiniest homicidal streak as well? Perhaps April, stalked by her husband, should think seriously about doing the one thing she steadfastly refuses to do: arm herself. Finally, it’s surely significant that gun profiteer Ruby is the sanest, strongest and most likable person in the play, almost always the voice of calm and reason. This production, directed by Christy Montour Larsen, is a must-see not just for the strong script, but because it provides the opportunity to watch three of Denver’s most exciting actors — Kathleen M. Brady (Ruby), Emma Messenger (Lorrie) and Leslie O’Carroll (Shirley) — interacting on a stage together. Presented by Curious Theatre Company through February 22, 1080 Acoma Street, 303-623-0524, curioustheatre.org. Read the full review of The Secretary.