Mamma Mia! tells the tale of a girl, Sophie, who lives on a Greek Island with her mother, Donna. Sophie is about to get married and her one dream is to have her dad walk her down the aisle, however one problem prevents this. Three different men could be her father! Mix in the music from the seventies pop sensation ABBA and you have a sure hit on your hands.
The score, written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, manages to provoke feelings of nostalgia. The music is the catalyst of the show and enables the audience to be drawn into the story and characters as they tap and sing along (in their heads hopefully so as not to annoy fellow audience members) to Mamma Mia!; Chiquitita; Money, Money, Money; Super Trouper and 18 other ABBA chart toppers.
The three leading ladies Natalie O’Donnell, Alicia Gardiner and Jayde Westaby steal the show with their stand out voices and comedic timing as they dance around with hair dyers, grapes, feather boas and an assortment of other props dressed in lycra.
Gardiner as Rosie appears to enjoy every minute of her performance as she playfully bounds around the stage with a huge smile on her face. Westaby as Tanya does a great job flirting with Pepper (Sam Hooper) in the number Does Your Mother Know.
Natalie O’Donnell as Sophie’s mother, Donna Sheridan turns full circle in this production having played Sophie in the 2001 Australian Tour. She does a fine job of playing the single hard working mum, however when it comes to claiming her victory over the dads in The Winner Takes it All, O’Donnell lacks the necessary fire in her belly to exude the anger and triumph of the moment.
The three perspective dads Sam Carmichael, Harry Bright and Bill Austin played by Ian Stenlake, Phillip Lowe and Josef Ber respectively do a refined job of shining during their solo moments and act as comical side kicks to the leading ladies.
Sarah Morrison as Sophie Sheridan and Stephen Mahy as Sky, her fiancé, have a wonderful chemistry on stage as young lovers looking forward to their upcoming nuptials. Mahy manages to deliver a convincing British accent throughout his performance while Morrison portrays her character with a sweetness and innocence and she tries to discover who she is by solving the mystery of who is her dad.
The set designed by Linda Bewick has been updated from the original production and includes a jetty that juts out into the first rows of the theatre. This enables cast to enter the set via front of stage. The villa is a major feature of the set on which the cast perform, sing, dance and frolic during the performance.
The script has also been updated to drag Donna into the modern era of emails, internet and floating casinos while local Perth suburbs that represent a certain cultural stereotype are used for comedic entertainment. Choreography by Tom Hodgson is sharp and tight and executed with precision by members of the cast.
Lighting design by Gavan Swift missed the opportunity to wash the stage in the vibrant blues of the ocean, yellows of the Greek sunsets and a colourful party atmosphere. The absence of UV lighting, during certain scenes, failed to highlight the flamboyant lycra costumes which instead blended into the ensembles costuming.
Having seen the original Australian productions some six times there are some magical moments I missed from this new Australian tour. One such scene is Sophie’s dream sequence which in previous productions saw the ensemble dressed in wet suites, flippers, goggles and snorkel dancing around the set. In the newest production Sophie is surrounded by cast members in a scene and costumes similar to one in Wicked.
By the end of the night the production will have you up dancing and singing along to Dancing Queen and Mamma Mia! It’s a time to forget the worries of life for just a brief moment, and enjoy life. Mamma Mia! is a feel good musical that will have you feeling uplifted and Fan ‘ABBA’ tastic long after you leave the theatre.
Crown Theatre Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood
Performance: Thursday 17 May 2018 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 1 July 2018
Princess Theatre, 163 Spring Street, Melbourne
Season: 10 July 2018 – 16 September 2018
Festival Theatre – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Street, Adelaide
Season: 9 October – 11 November 2018
For more information, visit: www.mammamiathemusical.com.au for details.
Image: Alicia Gardiner, Natalie O’Donnell, and Jayde Westaby star in Mamma Mia! – photo by James Morgan
Review: Craig Dalglish