Sunday, July 27, 2008
Mom's Night Out
The plan for this month's Mom's Night Out: Mamma Mia. Now I'm up for anything to get an evening out with girlfriends - even if the reviews were solidly average and the two-page ad in Entertainment Weekly seemed sadly desperate. Here's a line from the energetically glowing review quoted in the EW ad: "The scene is set for songs, dancing and romance, all staged brilliantly, with many energetic and colorful performers, and beautifully shot." Now that's just embarrassing. It sounds like a bad translation from the Japanese.
Not that any ABBA songs, the sole reason for Mamma Mia the play and now this movie adaptation, are any more fluent. I always got the impression that the Swedish singers learned the English lyrics phonetically; and I never could understand the chorus of "Dancing Queen" - "You can dance, you can die, having the time of your life?"
So there I am, sitting in the theater (sober!) and I'm overcome. I'm laughing, so is the mid-sized Thursday night crowd, and even applauding after especially fun numbers. And on cue, I even tear up. Because it is a musical after all, the most poignant of art forms. Because "Dancing Queen," a song in a minor key that begs to be slowed down and sung as a plaintive ballad, is not a song for teenagers. Because as Meryl leaps in the air and dances in slow motion and a crowd of Greek housewives and grandmothers throw off their brooms and burdens to join the parade, it becomes a song about remembering being seventeen, about letting that infectious beat fool your tired body into feeling like a pretty girl again.
Make no mistake, this is the silliest of stories, an airy confection of nonsense built around some great music. After Meryl and co. perform "Super Trouper," I leaned over and asked Brenda "What is that even about?" She shrugged. ''Tonight the Super Trouper lights are gonna find me, shining like the sun! Smiling, having fun! Feeling like a number one!" I think the title phrase serves no deeper purpose that adding the right number of syllables to the pounding beat.
The choreography is a little too much wiggle and too little actual dancing. The trio of Donna and the Dynamos could have learned much from the joyous choreography of this version of "Waterloo."
Pierce Brosnan is a super trouper. His strained voice on the unforgiving "SOS" made me burst in laughter, but he plunged into it and swam through, making all those OO7 stunts seem so many pieces of cake. Comedy is hard. Singing is harder. And you love him for trying.