BWW Review: Gimme, Gimme, Gimme More of Theatre Under The Stars' Production of MAMMA MIA!
Imagine this: you are sitting underneath the beautiful Vancouver sky on a warm summer night. Surrounding you is a warm and inviting venue filled with people of all ages who are beaming with the excitement for the spectacle that is about to take the stage. Looking ahead to the set, you see a small Greek island where a hotel owned by Donna Sheridan stands. Vines envelop the white walls of the hotel that include faded wooden doors at the entrances and exits. You stare at the set in awe as the orchestra starts to play and the musical: MAMMA MIA begins.
MAMMA MIA presented by Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) is currently playing at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park until August 16th. It stars Keira Jang as Sophie Sheridan and Caitriona Murphy as her mom, Donna Sheridan. The story revolves around the preparations for Sophie's wedding and all of the drama and excitement that is stirred up when Sophie's 3 possible dads show up. Featuring the extremely catchy songs by ABBA such as "Dancing Queen," "The Winner Takes It All," and "Lay All Your Love On Me," this show will have you singing along all night! Directed by Shel Piercy, I think that TUTS did a great job with their version of this well-loved musical.
The first thing that I noticed about this production was that they had a diverse cast. In the program, I found it really interesting how they listed where each member of the cast was from (Greece, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, and more!). The representation of people from many different places in the world really made this show different from other versions of MAMMA MIA I've seen in the past! Another part of the show that also intrigued me was the set designed by Francesca Albertazzi. As mentioned earlier, the set stood out for me because of its intricacies and dimensions. The use of high and low staging by having the buildings act as secondary stages allowed the actors to use the additional space for the show. The set also featured many nook and crannies that the cast made good use of. During dialogue heavy parts or large numbers, multiple doors and hideaway areas were used for background acting by the ensemble. This made the production exciting to watch as there was always something going on during the show.
The costumes in this production were very modern but still retained the beachy, summery look that MAMMA MIA is recognized for. Costume designer Christina Sinosich also added a new take on the costumes as the cast was colour coordinated in pink formal wear for the wedding scene. I thought that this colour coordination was a unique touch to the show that made it stand out from other productions. The choreography by Shelley Stewart Hunt was amazing as well. Every single number was full of energy and involved many members of the cast. Some of my favorite choreographed numbers were "Super Trooper" and "Voulez Vous." For "Voulez Vous," a type of partner dance was used and I thought it was very unique. I was also very impressed by the sound design by Brad Danyluk. The overall sound quality was the best I've experienced! I had no problem hearing each cast member and the orchestra-vocal balance of sound was very good.
My favorite number in the production was "Take A Chance On Me" featuring Sheryl Anne Wheaton as Rosie and Matt Ramer as Bill Austin. I loved this number because of the humor and evolution of playfulness Bill experiences. It was super fun, well choreographed, and hilarious to watch. I was also intrigued by the after-intermission number "Sophie's Dream" featuring the song "Under Attack." I won't give too much away about it, but I can say that it was an enthralling way to portray what was going on in Sophie's head.
My only issue I had with this production was the lack of chemistry between some characters. I felt a bit of disconnect between Sophie and Skye. I felt they didn't have as much chemistry as the mother-daughter relationship Sophie and Donna had. In addition, I also felt a lack of connection between Donna and Sam. Their story didn't seem to connect until later in the show and their chemistry didn't reach full throttle till the end of the show. Despite my opinion on these relationships, I really enjoyed watching the friendship connection between Donna and her 2 pals: Tanya and Rosie. You could really feel how close they were in the show and it was delightful to hear the witty banter between them during their conversations.
The two characters that stood out for me were Sophie played by Keira Jang and Donna played by Caitriona Murphy. Jang had one of the most dazzling voices I've ever heard. When she opened the show singing "I Have A Dream," I was immediately drawn to her stage presence. She carried herself with poise and charisma on stage that made her perfect for the role of Sophie. I loved Murphy for her motherly vibe combined with her carefree personality in the show. During the second act, Murphy sang "The Winner Takes It All" and it had the audience in complete admiration. When you see the show, make sure to pay full attention to when she hits her endnote, it will blow you away!
Theatre Under The Stars' production of MAMMA MIA was an overall marvelous spectacle. It's very talented cast, stunning choreography, and awesome set made this show a definite must- watch for the summer. Appropriate for the entire family; definitely make your way to the Stanley Park Malkin Bowl to see it! Theatre Under The Stars: "Thank You For The Music" and for your amazing production of Mamma Mia!
MAMMA MIA is currently playing at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park until August 16th. Tickets are available at https://tuts.ca/shows-and-tickets/tickets/ or by calling 604-631-2877 (additional $5 per order for phone orders).
Photo credit: Lindsay Elliott, 2019