Review: This ‘Mamma Mia!’ at Nederlander Theatre comes with the Donna of all Donnas

I’ve reviewed the same original production of “Mamma Mia!” 14 times from London to Las Vegas (although not to Monaco) and New York to Chicago, using up every last ABBA Easter egg in my writer’s quiver of mixed metaphors. I’ve had many. I’m a huge ABBA fan.

This time, I had the soul-chilling experience of staring out from Row J at a Sophie (the charming Alisa Melendez) who I suspect was not yet born when I first rolled into the Prince Edward Theatre in London in 1999 to watch this clever new idea of inserting pop songs into a fresh narrative, only to find I was watching something with a snorkel fetish that sent an audience into delirium. It would go on to spinoff multiple movies, a dystopian U.K. attraction called “Mamma Mia The Party,” and a total gross in excess of the GNP of many smaller nations.

“Mamma Mia!,” not unlike this critic, is perpetually stuck in 1999, otherwise none of its internal dates work. If they tried to update it, Donna the Dynamo — doing the “dot, dot, dot” in 1979 with who-knows-who and spawning Sophie — would now be 70. Although I have to say, and, as one who appreciates the performative value of experience, I note this with affectionate and admiration, the three potential dads in the new touring company (Rob Marnell, Jim Newman and Victor Wallace) are, ahem, more mature than used to be the case.

So what, you may wonder, took me back to the Nederlander Theatre on Thursday night? Sure, it’s important to check on the quality of these shows so that longtime fans who now want to introduce this show to their teenagers (which many were doing Thursday) can feel secure that the “Mamma Mia!” experience has not shrunk like its signature bell-bottoms. In one of my favorite news items of all time, it was revealed in 2023 that ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus (he of the private island) and Sir Ian McKellen would be knitting, yes knitting, stagewear for Kylie Minogue for her concert residency at The Venetian Las Vegas. When you’ve created the greatest Euro pop catalog of all time, future challenges are hard to find.

Anyway, the show has a fresh cast, an especially fine supporting pair of comic personalities in Jalynn Steele and Carly Sakolove as Tanya and Rosie and all its union contracts in place. Given how well I know this show, I entertain myself by listening to see how much freedom the performers are given to vary a note or a line reading: only here and there. But they choose well.

None of that was why I went, though. I rolled in primarily to hear Christine Sherrill (as Donna) sing “The Winner Takes it All,” the ABBA breakup song that they recorded as an uptempo disco-influenced arrangement, but that this show brilliantly turned into a an eleven o’clock power ballad.

And, dear reader, I did not leave disappointed.

Chicago theater fans know that Sherrill long was one of our own, appearing in venues large and small with her outsized talent shining wheresoever she played, prior to her getting a big break in the last tour of “Les Miserables.” Now in her vocal prime, Sherrill is a superb musical theater star with a fabulous voice and a Chicago-style intensity to her scene-work. Yes, even in “Mamma Mia!” This Donna dove deep, and I don’t mean into the Aegean Sea.

Sherrill’s Donna was a Donna of Donnas. (Did I mention 14 times? I know whereof I speak.) When she sings “the gods may throw a dice, their minds as cold as ice,” there’s a darn thunderclap inside the theater. It’s like Björn and Benny, Agnetha and Anni-Frid have flown from Sweden in some great chariot and descended onto Randolph Street to witness the sublime.

It all begs a question, Why has Christine Sherrill not yet had a major leading role on Broadway?

Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.

Review: “Mamma Mia!” (3 stars)

When: Through May 19

Where: Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randoph St.

Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Tickets: $52.50-$137.50 at