There was action aplenty at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre on the opening night of Mamma Mia! The Musical.
On stage the cast sang and danced up a storm while the audience happily joined in cheering and clapping loudly and wherever possible bopping away to many of the 22 ABBA songs featured in the production. Everyone seemed energised and happy.
And that’s the joy of Mamma Mia! It’s great fun and doesn’t take itself seriously which probably explains why it has been so successful since its debut in the West End in 1999.
The show now playing at the Princess Theatre is a re-staging of the highly successful and critically acclaimed 2017 Australian production which features the work of a local creative team. As such there are several Australian references although, as per the original show, Mamma Mia! is set on a Greek Island.
With a script inspired by ABBA songs, Mamma Mia! centres around the planned marriage of 20-year-old Sophie (Sarah Krndija) to Sky (Lewis Francis). Sophie has never known the identify of her father but the discovery of her mother Donna’s (Elise McCann) diary gives some clues.
It seems Donna had a relationship with three men around the same time – Sam (Martin Crewes), Harry (Drew Livingston) and Bill (Tim Wright).
Unbeknown to Donna, Sophie has asked all three to her wedding with the hope she’ll discover who her father is and have him walk her down the aisle.
Needless to say Donna is shocked to find the three men at the taverna she has run on her own for many years, a task she is finding increasingly demanding. Her daughter marrying at such a young age is adding to her worries.
Also arriving for the wedding are her two best friends Rosie (Bianca Bruce) and Tanya (Deone Zanotto) and Sophie’s bridesmaids Ali (Nina Carmen) and Lisa (Kadesa Honeyhill).
What follows is all the fun and occasional drama associated with old friends re-uniting, new friendships being made, long-lost lovers re-connecting and marriage, told mostly through the songs that ABBA is renowned for.
Each of the leads is given a chance to shine and all take full advantage of this. Through her acting and the singing of songs such as One of Us and SOS, McCann effectively portrays the confident, independent but tired and worried Donna.
Her performance of Super Trouper with Bruce and Zanotto was one of many show stopping numbers. Zanotto’s and Jordan Tomljenovic’s presentation of Does Your Mother Know understandably got some of the biggest cheers of the night thanks in no small part to Tomljenovic’s energetic and acrobatic performance.
Bruce’s and Wright’s rendition of Take A Chance on Me resulted in some of the loudest laughs.
Krndija also gives a strong performance as the young bride desperate to find her father. Scenes featuring McCann, Francis and ‘her fathers’ showcased her musical and acting talents.
Crewes was also given plenty of chances to shine with songs such as Knowing Me, Knowing You providing the perfect vehicle for his talents.
Supporting the leads was a hard-working, energetic and talented ensemble who danced and sang enthusiastically. Their presentation with Francis of the flipper dance in Lay All Your Love on Me was another of the show’s highlights.
The concert style curtain call ending to the show, which features some of ABBA’s most loved songs, further added to the party atmosphere.
Mamma Mia! The Musical has never, and probably never will, appeal to the serious theatre goer. However, if you’re looking for a fun night out with some strong performances, nostalgic songs, memorable dancing and choreography and a great vibe it ticks all the boxes.
Mamma Mia! The Musical is playing at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre until December 10. Visit the Mamma Mia! website for tickets and more information.
- live shows, Melbourne, reviews
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