Sunday, January 4, 2009

My 'Mamma Mia!' Mea Culpa

I've finally caught Miles' dreadful cold -- this is Day 3, which evidently is Hock Big Green Loogies Day -- but I'm going to soldier on tonight and get over to the finale of Mamma Mia! at Mandalay Bay.

In honor of that closure, allow me a Mamma Mia! mea culpa of sorts. At the media opening for the show in 2003, uberpublicist Dave Kirvin walked up behind me and said, gamely, "'One Hot Mamma'...question mark? How about 'One Hot Mamma'...exclamation point?" He was referring to this:

That's the headline for my Newsweek piece published six years ago next week about Vegas' first big swerve towards musical theater. You can read it by clicking here.

Kirvin, always genial, was needling me about the doubt engendered in that headline. I, of course, hid behind the fact that I don't write headlines, and the piece itself was a balanced -- and really short -- look at the fact that Mamma Mia! was going against established Vegas norms, that there was nothing in Vegas show history to say that it would.

Well, we all know now how that turned out. Mike Weatherford has an interesting tribute in today's Review-Journal in which he says that the ABBA-scored show was never a Cirque-like hit but marched on triumphantly week after week, month after month, emboldening all the other Broadway fare that arrived thereafter to fancy itself Strip material.

If I regret anything, it's that I failed to understand for a very long time the real emotional pull of what I referred to in that Newsweek piece as a "plot [that] is easy to ignore." The more times I've seen this show, the more numbers in it have affected me. "Knowing You, Knowing Me" reduced me to tears during the period after the end of my first marriage. "Slipping Through My Fingers" is poignant to me now as my Little Brother, once 6 and now somehow 18?!?, ships off to Air Force boot camp in three weeks. And "Winner Takes It All," before being utterly destroyed in the cinema by Meryl Streep, made me comprehend what a Sarah Brightman-caliber treasure Las Vegas had in Tina Walsh, the original Vegas Donna who now plays Madame Giry in "Phantom."

So, Mr. Kirvin and the rest of you, congratulations and, of course, thank you for the music. And to my readers, I do hope you'll join us on "The Strip" on Tuesday night at LVRocks.Com for a live interview with the only two members of the "Mamma Mia!' company who made it through the whole six-year run.