Mamma Mia!, Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre. Last seen here in the spring of 2001, this Broadway-bound musical delivered an ABBA retrospective by stringing 23 of the Swedish songsters’ sugarcoated classics through Catherine Johnson’s serviceable story about a daughter learning to accept her free-spirited mother and the three possible fathers she never knew. Childhood favorites send a shock through the audience when they suddenly turn literal, as “I Do I Do I Do” does when it’s made part of a topsy-turvy marriage ceremony. The real payoff is a megamix finale in which the four principals appear, dolled up in disco glitter as if ABBA had never broken up. Here the musical is honest enough to become what it always wanted to be–a slow-motion reunion concert.
Returning on a national tour, Mamma Mia! seems more insistent, if not crude, as it cunningly contrasts salacious innuendo and family-friendly friskiness. The night I saw it, the show clearly meant different things to the six-year-old merrily mouthing all the lyrics and the middle-aged matrons who transformed themselves into delighted disco bunnies. The supercharged cast includes Dee Hoty, who earns the title role as a dancing queen who has a dream where she knows the name of the game in which the winner takes all.