BWW Review: MAMMA MIA! Brings A Refreshing New Look To A Classic Musical
With its well-known songs such as "Honey Honey" and "Dancing Queen," the beloved story of Sophie Sheridan, her mother Donna, and Sophie's 3 possible fathers: Sam, Harry, and Bill brought many laughs and warmed the hearts of audience members during MAMMA MIA's opening night at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage in Vancouver. The hit musical featuring the songs of ABBA will continue its run until August 12th. As many are familiar with the movie adaptation of the musical from 2008 starring Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep and are excited for the movie's sequel, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, this stage production of MAMMA MIA from the Vancouver Arts Club couldn't have come at a better time.
Directed and choreographed by Valerie Easton, this production of MAMMA MIA sets itself apart from other versions through its unique portrayal of the characters and its interesting set design by David Roberts. Whether you were familiar with the Broadway musical or not, the entire production brings a refreshing new look to the stage while also holding onto the aspects of the show that distinguish MAMMA MIA from other musicals.
Unlike a lot of shows nowadays that incorporate digital media into their set design, this production of MAMMA MIA had less digital oriented sets, which allowed the cast's singing and acting to shine with no distraction. Robert's beautiful set really captured the true essence of Greece (where the show takes place) and the moveable staging made the transitions between scenes at Donna's hotel to places such as Donna's bedroom or Sophie's bachelorette party amazingly smooth not disrupting the flow of the show. At times, the music was sometimes louder than the performer's voices making it hard to hear each cast member; however, the overall vocal and musical talent from the cast and musicians was excellent.
In this production of MAMMA MIA, each cast member brought something new and unique to his or her character, which made the show stand out compared to how the characters were portrayed in the movie and in Broadway production of the musical. A well-loved part of the show was the musical number "Lay All Your Love On Me" featuring the bachelor party of men dressed in scuba diving gear similar to a scene from the movie. Easton's choreography and Alison Green's costumes for the number provided a refreshing take on a classic song.
An integral part of the show was Sophie Sheridan portrayed by Michelle Bardach. As the first member of the cast to enter the stage and one of the last to leave, her performance tied the entire show together. Bardach's impeccable vocals and genuine connection with her on-stage mother Donna (Stephanie Roth) and fiancé Sky (Stuart Barkley) made her performance memorable and worthy of a standing ovation.
Another outstanding performance was Stephanie Roth as Donna Sheridan. Roth's exquisite stage presence and sweet vocals mixed with her high energy during numbers such as "Mamma Mia" brought excitement to the show. A highlight was the 'Donna and the Dynamos' number where Donna and her two best friends Tanya and Rosie (played by Irene Kara Loeper and Cathy Wilmont) performed "Super Trooper" during Sophie's bachelorette party. The trio's matching bodysuits and synchronized dance moves made the show fun to watch. Furthermore, Cathy Wilmont as Rosie was definitely a crowd-favourite. Wilmont's frequent subtle antics throughout the show, outstanding dancing, and enthusiasm resulted in many laughs from the audience giving the production an extra spark.
Arts Club's production of MAMMA MIA is definitely worth the watch due to it's incredibly talented cast, entertaining musical numbers, and songs that will make you want to sing along. As this show is great for the entire family, it will greatly exceed your expectations and will leave you wanting more!
MAMMA MIA is currently playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage in Vancouver from May 10th to August 12th. Ticket prices start at $29 and are available at the Arts Club Website or by calling the box office at 604-687-1644.
Photo credit: David Cooper, 2018