My mom and her best friend Joan were in town and we wanted to see a show. We chose *Mamma Mia*! for three reasons: my mom saw it in Chicago years ago and loved it, Joan thought it sounded like fun, and I have a friend in the chorus. I’ll explain who he is, but we have to travel back in time to last summer…
[wavy lines to indicate flashback]
I read in the summer of 2012 that the Williamstown Theatre Festival was doing a musical version of *Far From Heaven*, the movie with Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Dennis Haysbert. I was a fan of the movie and was thrilled to see that the songs for the show were by the same team that did *Grey Gardens*, which I loved. And they put a cherry on the sundae by casting Kelli O’Hara in the lead. I started stalking the internet to see when the show was coming to New York. I found it at Playwrights Horizons and then started stalking their website for when the tickets went on sale. I was looking at their website one day and going through the cast list, to see if I knew anyone else in the show. One name, Victor Wallace, rang a bell with me. I brought up his bio and picture and the face didn’t ring a bell, neither did any of his credits. I went about my work (of course I was at work when I was doing this). Twenty minutes later I startled by coworkers by shouting out “Victor Wallace!” I know him from my hometown. He’s five or six years younger than me, so we were never in school together, but I knew who he was.
I wrote him a letter, care of the show, and reminded him of who I was. I said I was coming to see the show with my husband and a few friends and would love to see him afterwards. He wrote me back and said that he had made his career in musical theatre, and the first show he ever did was a production of *Alice in Wonderland* when he was in third grade, and I had written the music. How cute is that? Then I started remembering a little more - - he was a beautiful little boy, such a sweetheart.
We saw *Far From Heaven*, which I liked very much. Victor walked out onstage and holy moly, that little boy is all grown up. Drop dead gorgeous and built. He is a looker. He met us after the show and couldn’t have been sweeter. He told me he was on leave from *Mamma Mia!*, so I made a mental note of that. I checked online when Mom and Joan were planning their trip, and they jumped at the chance to see “a Delavan boy” on the Broadway stage.
Now about the show. I love ABBA, I’m crazy for them. First class pop music, as good as it gets. I saw the movie of *Mamma Mia!* with Richard and Karen and we all hated it. HATED it! There was a moment at the end when Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Julie Walters are doing a number in their 70s get-ups. Meryl is laughing, laughing, laughing and she lunges towards the camera and says, “Do you want to hear another one?” Richard and Karen and I all shouted, “NO! Please, make it stop!”
I will say this about the show - - Catherine Johnson wrote the book, and it’s brilliant how she was able to take these individual pop songs and craft a story around them. It works surprisingly well. The problem with the show (and the movie) is the tone: it’s shrill. There’s a scene in the first act when the mother’s two friends are trying to cheer her up by (what else?) singing her a song. One of the gals takes a couple of bunches of fake grapes and twirls them in front of her boobs - - what a riot! That sort of desperation happened way too often for my taste. It’s my same old complaint: the director isn’t treating the audience like they have brains in their heads. But it’s been running for over twelve years and audiences love it, so hey, why the hell not.
We had a plan to meet Victor at the stage door after the show. He gave us a free upgrade: he brought us onto the stage! Mom and Joan were frothing at the mouth, they were so excited. Just imagine, this was Joan’s first Broadway show, and not only did she meet someone in the cast, but she went onto the stage. He talked with us for a good long time, for about twenty minutes. We talked about teachers and relatives and mutual friends back in Delavan. He is the sweetest guy ever! Some guy on the crew was mopping the floor and he finally came over to us and said, “You’re gonna have to move.” That was our cue to exit stage right!
Victor is in the chorus and is understudying the guy who ends up with the mom at the end of the show. He’s going on in that role for a week in August when that actor is on vacation. So (heavy sigh) I might have to go see the it again.