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REVIEW: Tulip Festival's 'Mamma Mia!' sprouts plenty of fun

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ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- Unfolding this week as the Tulip Festival’s Night Show, “Mamma Mia!” features more ABBA hits than you can remember and several performances that you won’t forget.

It’s a simple little musical, but thanks to an incredible orchestra and some very fun direction by Todd Vande Griend, it zips along and gets you ready for a three-song encore that will pull you into the dance party.

As jukebox musicals go, “Mamma Mia’s” plot is thinner than most. A bride-to-be wants her father at her wedding but she doesn’t know who he is. Because her mother never identified the man, she invites the three most likely suspects and watches as the chips fall where they may. Her mother, meanwhile, has two of her best friends in tow and a chance to relive moments of glory and regret.

Angela Riedeman as the tight-lipped mom, Donna, makes the mystery worthwhile, singing a host of songs associated with the Swedish group. She never falters and has great moments with her two pals, Tanya (Jenness Wolgen) and Rosie (Amanda Lemke).

Lemke gets the night biggest laughs (and Becky Donahue’s best choreography) when she plays musical chairs with Don King’s Bill to “Take a Chance on Me.”

While the title song, “Dancing Queen,” “The Winner Takes it All” and “I Do, I Do, I Do” belong in a show like this, there are others that could easily be axed and it wouldn’t suffer in the least.

Turning the Orange City Town Hall stage into an inn in Greece was no small feat, but the set designers and builders manage to make it as relaxing as a four-night, five-day spa. The large cast moves around it effortlessly and has fun letting one platform shoe drop after another.

The three potential dads (Brandon Miller, Clint Badberg and King) get their moments, too (and flashy jumpsuits – don’t leave too soon) and numbers that try to reveal how they could potentially be father of the bride. Badberg has the best voice and uses it to great effect on “S.O.S.”

Selena Munson and Jonathan Foster are underused as the soon-to-be-newlyweds but Thai Hua seizes every moment he’s on stage. He’s so funny as Pepper, you’ll cheer when he manages 10 splits in the air. He has loads of fun with Wolgen and isn’t afraid to play the most adult content the Night Shows have ever offered.

While some of those Act II songs could have used fewer verses, they all come together to remind us of a kinder, gentler time. “Mamma Mia!” could be mined for lessons about relationships, but they’d just get the way of the energy that’s pouring off the stage.

Concerned about the show's adult content? Don't worry. Thanks to the Night Show's performers, it’s one of the safest bets you could make all week.

“Mamma Mia!” runs through May 21 at the Orange City Town Hall, 125 Central Ave.


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