There was the time my blouse popped open showing off my cheetah print bra to the good people of the Biloxi Little Theatre. I could die of shame all over again just thinking about that. I love live theatre though and I jump on any chance to see a production, no matter how small or how local it is. I know for a fact that some fabulous talent comes from local theatre groups like the New Depot Players and the Oxford Singing Children. The shows produced by both groups are just top notch. We’re lucky to have such talent in our communities.
When a touring company comes through Atlanta, I get all gussied up and go traipsing into town. I don’t get to Broadway very often these days (read: never), so the Fabulous Fox Theatre is my Southern Great White Way. I’ve seen "Wicked" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" there and loved, loved, LOVED everything about the productions. Both shows are crowd pleasing romps and I’m just a simple girl at heart, no matter how much book learning and theatre I have under my belt. Snappy tunes and pretty costumes kinda dazzle me into a euphoric trance.
When my friend, who also writes for the Covington News, offered me a girls’ night out to see "Mamma Mia," I was totally in before she even got to the part about the tickets being free. It was Press Night at the Fox and they were giving the Covington News tickets. Seriously? I get to see live theatre at the prettiest venue in town, it’s free, and I’m considered “Press?” Woot, woot.
I’ve seen the movie version of the musical and, even though Pierce Brosnan sings (ish), I was down for a night of campy fun with spandex based costumes and ABBA tunes blaring. Who wouldn’t be, right? I put on my face, got my hair did, and drove into Atlanta early for a fabulous meal featuring a Greek salad that was to die for at Broadway Diner. We giggled our way into the theatre, taking in the people who were catching Mamma Mia during the middle of the week and spotting some local weather guy for Channel Whatever out of Atlanta. I was with my friend and ready to enjoy a fun musical for free because I’m a member of The Press.
Oh, friends. It. Was. So. Bad.
Worse than booming chess pieces and cheetah print bras. Worse than Pierce Brosnan singing "SOS." I kept waiting for it to get better. I’d lean toward the stage, willing the actors to dazzle me and… they just didn’t. I could have sat through moderately bad singing. Remember, I’ve been around theatre for a while now and I know how to focus on the positive. The costumes, for example, or the orchestra.
I can even sneak peeks at the audience around me as they experience the show. The audience is a show all on its own. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen an otherwise austere looking gray haired woman, tipsy from too much over priced skunky wine, getting’ her dance on to some ABBA while her adult children look on in horror.
I could have sat through it if it weren’t for the shoddy set design and the technical difficulties. An ill placed mirror in the bedroom set literally blinded the orchestra section every time a particular stage light hit it. I’m no professional set designer, but don’t they make some kind of a filmy cover to prevent that kind of thing from happening?
The only thing I could figure was that the mirror was strategically placed to distract the audience from the clumsy execution of the choreography. And this is coming from a woman who knocked over an entire chess set on stage. Here’s the thing though. I was on stage in my high school gym. These folks are professional actors on stage at The Fox. The microphone that kept going on and off was the final nail in "Mamma Mia’s" coffin.
At intermission, we debated whether or not to call it a night. After quickly running through the list of Reasons Why This Show Sucks, my friend said it was my call to make. It was a tough one. We were two mamas, out on the town sans our children and husbands (who would have spontaneously combusted after the first number had they been present). The show was free, after all. I thought about staying and silently mocking the cast. I know it will come as a surprise, but my friend and I can be pretty snarky.
When a show falls short of campy, it has no choice to but to land smack dab in the middle of a steaming pile of poo. "Mamma Mia" stunk to high heaven, y’all. If I couldn’t sit through a free show at the Fox, you know it had to be bad. Maybe they should have knocked over that mirror and popped open a blouse or two. Nah, even a cheetah print bra wouldn’t have saved that show.
Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be emailed at mamabee@OneFabulousMama.com.