Erik Kabik / Retna / ErikKabik.com
Tuesday, May 20, 2014 | 2 a.m.
“Mamma Mia!” is ABBA’s fun, feel-good, forget-your-troubles smash-hit musical, and it’s back rocking the Strip. After watching it in London, New York and Las Vegas since it began its global trek 15 years ago in my old home country, I’ve finally figured out its secret to success.
If you proposed the idea of taking syrupy pop songs from four Swedish spandex-clad musicians and weaving them to form a story about a wedding day search for the father of a bride from three possible lotharios, security would call for men in white jackets.
If you took the world’s leading accountants and bet the vaults of the Bank of England saying more than 50 million people would watch that wacky premise and pay more than $2 billion at the box office for the privilege, you’d be locked up faster than you could shout “Money, Money, Money.”
If you said “Take a Chance on Me,” “I Have a Dream,” the sophisticates on Broadway or in London’s West End would definitely “Thank You for the Music,” but add you are not “One of Us.”
If you were “Mamma Mia!” producer Judy Craymer, you would persist because “The Name of the Game” is “The Winner Takes It All.” And she has, defying naysayers with 39 productions of the musical in 14 languages around the globe.
It took the weekend’s Las Vegas premiere at the Tropicana for me to fully understand its magic, the real key to why the happy-go-lucky songs and the heart-tugging love story mesh so well. There are two reasons:
1) In a day and age of violence, zero value of human life, brutal crime and random brutality, this is a musical that lets you completely forget about our dispassionate world for more than two hours. Inside the theater, you are cocooned in a fantasy world of trouble-free absurdity.
You don’t think about politics or Putin. You get so caught up in the songs and the story, you think of absolutely nothing other than the good times rolling on the stage. It’s a hypnotic drug in a headline-free zone that takes over your brain and deadens the ugly and sad parts of the real world.
2) The enthusiastic, high-energy cast is enjoying it as much as we are. It’s as big a kick to them as it is to us. The three bachelor boys Trey Ellett as Harry, Steve Judkins as Bill and Sean Krill as Sam join this talented cast of powerful-voiced Christine Sherrill as Donna Sheridan and adorable Kimbre Lancaster as daughter Sophie with Alison Ewing as perfectly promiscuous Tanya and Mary Callanan as the madly mischievous Rosie.
What a tight, terrifically talented team they are singing their hearts out to the full and dancing their backsides off to the best — and former UNLV theater student Jordan Bondurant, who graduated last May, gets a giant shout-out as wonderful in his role as the about-to-be-married Sky. Our thanks to Erik Kabik of Retna for his photo gallery from opening night.
This might be heresy, but I think that as a theatrical ensemble, they have more excitement, passion and fervor than the previous cast of the musical when it ran at Mandalay Bay from February 2003 to January 2009 — and they were at the top of their game throughout that run! No wonder this cast and band with Las Vegas star music coordinator Keith Thompson received cheers, applause and a lengthy standing ovation from the first-night audience.
Those notable names included “Mamma Mia!” creator and global producer Judy, Tropicana head honcho Alex Yemenidjian, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, pro BMX rider Ricardo Laguna, Frank Marino (“Divas Las Vegas”), Jaymes Vaughan (Chippendales), comedy juggler Jeff Civillico (The Quad) and cast members of “Sister Wives,” “Rock of Ages,” Jabbawockeez, “Jersey Boys,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” “The Australian Bee Gees” and magician Murray Sawchuck.
Welcome back once again as the Strip’s “Super Trouper”!
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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Tropicana Las Vegas sits on the south-east corner of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard, an intersection which has the most adjacent hotel rooms in the world, also making it one of the most busy. The hotel has 1,658 rooms, three restaurants, a 62,011-square foot casino and a spa.