THEATRE – Mamma Mia – Festival Theatre – 4K

By Peter Maddern

Adelaide seems blessed this year with the number of fine musicals that have come to town – well beyond our usual allocation of one per annum – and it’s nice to see hetero-sexuality once again front and centre on stage.

Based on the songs of ABBA, (or more correctly by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus), Mamma Mia was created by Judy Craymer for an initial season in London and 20 years on it still travels the world going strongly. Given the quality of the compositions being worked with there is no obvious reason why this sing-a-long juggernaut will come to an end any time soon.

When Sophie (Sarah Morrison) invites three potential fathers (based on her mother’s raunchy diary) to her wedding to Sky (Stephen Mahy) on a Greek Isle where her mother Donna (Natalie O’Donnell) has worked tirelessly without partner for the past twenty years, all manner of chaos breaks out. As a pretext for a musical designed to fit already recorded material, it’s sufficiently credible even if some of the songs start out a bit corny and contrived. Still, there are also many other twists and turns required for the music that are done remarkably well.

Mamma Mia’s two strong leads will make this show attractive to women, as was in full evidence at opening night. Indeed, the men are mostly relegated to dancing around, with the groom almost totally ignored, with only a strong performance by Ian Stenlake as Sam, one of the three prospective fathers, to carry the flag for the Y chromosome. The other stand out is Jayde Westaby as Tanya the marrying-men weary friend of Donna who’s performance in Take A Chance on Me in the second half was perhaps the stand out solo of the night.

Comparisons with Priscilla are inevitable given the similarity in time its material is drawn from. Somehow the intimacy of the videos that accompanied these ABBA songs when they were first released make seeing them on stage seem distant – how can Mamma Mia be anything but those slightly crooked teeth switching pagination for the camera?  – while the disco material of Priscilla was always defined exactly by those dens.

Still three rollicking finales will paper over any shortcomings especially when executed by an ensemble who were made to work, perhaps in contrast to some of the solos and duo pieces that seemed a touched nailed to the floor.

If you like the music you will much enjoy this production. The ones with the tickets are the winners who take it all.

Kryztoff Rating  4K

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