BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! Brings The Sunshine to Melbourne This Winter!
Mamma Mia has brought sunshine and denim shorts to Melbourne this winter, along with a bevy of well known, reimagined, classic ABBA songs.
As far as the jukebox musical goes, Mamma Mia is tried and tested. Returning 17 years after the original production opened, and having had professional tours in over 13 countries around the world, the show tells the story of Sophie, just before her wedding, trying to identify her father using only her mother's 20 year old diary entries as guide.
Gary Young's direction of the revival production keeps the show fast paced and full of fun. Perfectly complementing the vibrancy of the direction is Tom Hodgson's choreography and Suzy Strout's costume design. If you're looking for show stopping numbers, then look no further than the male ensemble in "Lay All Your Love On Me", the female ensemble in "Gimme Gimme Gimme", and both contingents in "Does Your Mother Know".
Stephen Amos' musical supervision of the show is seamless and smooth, which is no surprise as he was musical supervisor of the original Australian tour of Mamma Mia! as well. While Michael Waters' sound design is mostly wonderful throughout the show, there were a handful of moments where the two lead females were hard to hear.
Set designer Linda Bewick has created a perfectly versatile yet authentic set which stays stationary for the entire show. Transitioning from scene to scene seamlessly, the Greek island is a character itself. Partnered with Gavan Swift's clever lighting design, a single song can transition from solo to ensemble number and back again in a beat.
Natalie O'Donnell returns to Mamma Mia, having starred as Sophie in the original 2001 production. Now as Donna, Sophie's mother, O'Donnell is full of gumption and energy. She's the perfect centre to the narrative while she swings from strong matriarch to heartbroken lover and back again with ease. Sarah Morrison as Sophie, the young bride to be, is well cast as the daughter of Natalie O'Donnell's Donna - they carry the same gumption and strength. Stephen Mahy gives a wonderful loving and mature presence as Sky, the young groom, but his stiff British accent didn't quite work.
Ian Stenlake, Phillip Lowe, and Josef Ber as the three potential fathers are a charming motley crew as they navigate the pre-wedding chaos. Stenlake is smooth as the linen-clad architect Sam Carmichael, and his sombre singing moments soften his otherwise "too cool for school" bravado. Lowe is perfectly awkward as the rocker-turned-proper Harry Bright. His commitment to the pernickety character of Harry throughout the show is wonderfully entertaining and his reflective moment in "Our Last Summer" is simply lovely. Rounding out the trio and bringing the energy is Ber as adventurer Bill Austin. Ber's gritty and gregarious eccentricity is the perfect approach to the commitment-phobe character of Bill.
Alicia Gardiner is a ton of fun as the outrageous Rosie, perfectly intense opposite Josef Ber as Bill, and Jayde Westaby is an absolute riot as Donna's friend Tanya, with perfect comic timing and stage presence for days. The other standout deserving of mention is Alex Gibson-Giorgio as dry-humoured Eddie.
Mamma Mia! is the definition of fun for the whole family - an entertaining night of song & dance wrapped up with a nice little heart-warming story.
Mamma Mia! plays at Princess Theatre, Melbourne until 30 September 2018 before touring to Adelaide 9 October - 11 November 2018.
Photos: James Morgan