Last week I was fortunate enough to attend one of the final shows of the farewell tour of Mamma Mia!. I know that some of you are inwardly groaning because not only is it a musical, it's ABBA's music and while people pretend they don't like disco and don't like ABBA everyone secretly loves them. Don't try and tell me they don't. They do. You do too, whether you want to admit it or not.
I took my Mom and my Aunt as their collective Mother's Day and Birthday presents. I don't know if I'll be able to keep up this tradition but this is the second year I've done their gifts like this. Mom's birthday is in April and my Aunt's birthday is in July and with Mother's Day in between it just seemed like the thing to do. Last year we went to see Cirque Du Soleil, this year, Mamma Mia! Mamma Mia is one of the only movies I remember seeing in a theater with my Aunt so I already knew she'd love it.
I have to say, trying to keep something like this a surprise is incredibly difficult. Partially because I get too excited and feel like I want to tell one of them and partly because in this case, it was a local show and there were other factors. Literally within two hours of me purchasing the tickets, before I even had a chance to tell them to block off the day? My Mom was texting and asking if I wanted to go and that my cousin wanted to take her daughter and make a thing of it. Oops. I had to spill the beans and spoil the surprise. Then unknown to me, my Aunt found out that we were going because she, too, had heard that the show would be in town and did we want to go. My Mom told her what we were doing.
Despite the moderate disappointment of a ruined surprise the show was of course, pretty fantastic. One thing that I love about theater in general is their ability to convey different locations without much set dressing. In this case, the set was two walls on swivel. Set dressings of furniture rotated as necessary to convey bedrooms, courtyards, and the like.
The basic plot is that Donna was a tad promiscuous in the late 70s and produced a daughter Sophie. She has since lived on an island in Greece. Sophie is getting married and has determined that she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. She figures out that her father is one of three men and invites them to her wedding in an effort to find out which one is. Things get weird from there.
I'm endlessly fascinated by the people who can hear the songs of an artist like ABBA (or Greenday) and find a story throughout them. I've always wanted to do something like that. The ability to create art from art inspires me.
The performances themselves were of course wonderful. I was left wondering if maybe there was an issue with the sound system because it didn't always pick up every note. Most of the humor in the show was physical humor and was portrayed by the background characters. Watching the bachelor party dance around in wetsuits, face masks, and flippers was endlessly entertaining.
I still think they could have worked the song Fernando in there, I feel like it's a missed opportunity. I laughed during Take a Chance on Me and cried through Slipping Through My Fingers. One of the things I really loved was the encore. The cast had already taken their bows and then the background players started dancing while the main cast changed outfits. Then for a couple of songs it was just a big disco party with an entire auditorium of people dancing and clapping. It had a concert quality about it that is hard to replicate. I'm incredibly glad that I had an opportunity to see the show before it stopped touring.
Friday night I went to see Andrew McMahon, Night Riots, and Atlas Genius put on a show at the House of Blues in Orlando. House of Blues is one of my favorite venues, it's small and moderately intimate but large enough to where you don't end up feeling like you're sandwiched in.
I really enjoy Disney Springs in general, they've done a great job setting everything up to where parking puts you directly into where you want to be instead of making you walk miles to where you want to go. I park my car and I'm basically at my concert.
The show opened with Night Riots and I was glad that I had listened to a few of their more popular songs on YouTube, otherwise I would have only recognized Contagious. This was especially apparent when Atlas Genius came out to play afterwards. I had heard their name, but recognized none of their music. Unfortunately for me I was also in the direct eye line of one of their lights. During two songs I was getting blinded by the lighting so it was kind of hard to enjoy it.
Then of course came the main act.
I was first introduced to Andrew McMahon about a year and a half ago. I had never heard of him, Jack's Mannequin, or Something Corporate. I had never heard of his fight with cancer, or the Dear Jack campaign. After that first show, having only ever heard Cecilia prior, I spent a good deal of time absorbing everything I could find about the artist and his foundation. There is an incredible documentary about McMahon and his journey through cancer called Dear Jack. It's no longer streaming on Netflix but it is available via the Netflix DVD and on Amazon.
One of the things that I grew to love about McMahon is his earnestness and honesty. When he gets on stage, you can feel that he feels the music with you. He almost seems as though he'd rather sing in the middle of the crowd away from the piano, he goes into the audience quite often. When he is at the piano though, he moves in a way reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis. He is constantly moving while playing which isn't terribly common. He also takes time to stop and just talk to the audience sans music and tell a story or two about himself, or how a song came about.
With this being the third show of his that I have now seen, I was a tiny bit disappointed to see the parachute come out again. He talks a little bit about playing with the parachutes as kids and how nice it was to forget about troubles and such. It's a nice sentiment but having seen it for the third time now, it didn't feel as fresh. What WAS fresh and entertaining was the crowd surfing he did on the giant inflatable Rubber Ducky and Pegasus. At one point he fell off the Pegasus and the crowd just lifted him back up onto it.
As with his other shows I laughed and I teared up. I love his music and I'm glad that I was introduced to him. I've linked to the Dear Jack Foundation below. If you're reading this and have a little to spare, I would highly recommend a donation to this worthy cause. McMahon is one of the few celebrities who is impassioned for a cause through personal experience and I find that to be incredibly noble.