Review: 'Mamma Mia' -- it's back! 

Although a simple DNA test would solve Sophie Sheridan’s dilemma, it’s much more fun to watch the 20-year-old as she tries to determine just who is her dad in the musical phenomenon known as "Mamma Mia." Currently there are 10 productions of the show running worldwide.

Now back in San Francisco for the fourth time (the 1999 London hit had its celebrated pre-Broadway tryout at the Orpheum in 2000), the show remains thoroughly fun and satisfying — on a number of levels.

Of course, there are the catchy songs by the Swedish pop band ABBA, including more than a few that weren’t necessarily hits in the band’s heyday.

There’s also its delightful camp factor in the book by Catherine Johnson , which so cleverly weaves Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’ memorable tunes and lyrics into the cute story, the tale of a young woman, about to be married, wondering about her identity and that of her unknown father.

Meanwhile, as her single, middle-aged mom is forced to come to terms with her own past, there manages to be just barely enough emotional punch among the kitsch and blatant over-the-top performances to give the show a modicum of depth.

Still, "Mamma Mia" is all about nostalgia, about remembering your own past as the show’s older characters remember theirs, while the soundtrack of the 1970s evokes warm, fuzzy and funny memories.

The performers seem to be enjoying the production as much as the audience does. Vicki Noon is cute and sweet as Sophie, who, after reading her mom’s diary, invites three men who might be her dad — Sam (Sean Allan Krill), Bill (Milo Shandel) and Harry (Ian Simpson) — to the Greek island where she grew up, with the hope that one will give her away at her wedding. Each guy has his moment of truth with both Sophie and her mom.

Yet the show truly belongs to Sophie’s mom, Donna (Mary Jayne Raleigh) and her friends Tanya (Christine Sherrill) and Rose (Allison Briner), who, among other things, reminisce about their wild past with a wacky rendition of "Dancing Queen."

Pick your favorite Abba tune: with the exception of "Waterloo" (which is done as zippy post-curtain-call disco encore) and "Fernando," all are there, from the poignancy of "The Winner Takes All," when Donna confronts the man who left her, to the silly surprise factor of the title tune, when Donna sees her former flames for the first time in two decades.

Then there’s the wedding scene "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do," which seems to be the sentiment experienced by the enthusiastic audience, including many whom, on the second night of the San Francisco run, appeared to be repeat patrons enjoying the experience for yet another time.

IF YOU GO

Mamma Mia

Where: The Orpheum, 1192 Market St., San Francisco

When 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays; closes Sept. 22

Tickets: $35 to $99

Contact: (415) 512-7770; www.ticketmaster.com

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Leslie Katz

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