Review: Mamma Mia! The Musical

Princess Theatre
Until 10 December

Featuring 22 tracks from ABBA, Mamma Mia! The Musical is bright, breezy, energetic and heaps of good-natured fun.

Whenever it returns, it always goes down a treat and I never tire of seeing it.

The show premiered in Oz on the 9th June 2001 and played for four years to more than 2.2 million people in eight cities across four countries. That included New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Of course, it was subsequently made into a successful movie musical (2008). Its stars included Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Colin Firth and Julie Walters.

Photos by David Hooley and James D. Morgan

With music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Mama Mia! The Musical was inspired by many of ABBA’s hit songs.

British writer Catherine Johnson’s story of family and friendship unfolds on the fictitious, idyllic Greek island of Kalokairi.

Twenty-year-old Sophie Sheridan is about to marry the man of her dreams, Sky, there. It is where her mother, Donna, owns and operate a taverna.

Sophie would like to invite her father to the wedding, so that he can walk her down the aisle.

But as her mother has never revealed his name and doesn’t speak about him, Sophie doesn’t know who he is.

A chance discovery of her mum’s old diary though points to three men about whom Donna wrote fondly 21 years ago.

So, without telling anyone, including her mother or her fiancé, Sophie decides to invite each of them to her nuptials … at the behest of her mum.

With the arrival of Sam Carmichael, Bill Austin and Harry Bright, hijinks abound.

The lead up to the big day also involves two of Donna’s fellow singers from decades back, when they performed as Donna and the Dynamos.

Mamma Mia! The Musical is such an uplifting experience. It has such a positive vibe to it and the music is sensational.

For starters, here are just some of the songs.

Money, Money, Money, Thank You for the Music, Chiquitita, Dancing Queen, Lay All Your Love on Me, Super Trouper, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).

I have only covered part of the first act.

After interval, you get SOS, Does Your Moher Know, Knowing Me, Knowing You, The Winner Takes It All, Take a Chance on Me and I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.

The three-song encore is also a beauty.

The show has a plethora of highlights as the scenes have emotional resonance, buoyed by an enthusiastic and talented cast.

Whenever he opens his mouth Harry is a crowd pleaser, “the boys” in flippers are a sight for sore eyes, as is the girl group in onesies singing Super Trouper.

In fact, the musical high points continue to mount.

The often sultry voiced Elise McCann is the consummate entertainer as mother Donna.

Sarah Krndija’s pure vocalisation and dynamism endear her as Sophie.

There is so much humour in the script and that is brought to the fore by Sophie’s three dads and Donna’s two bandmates. Their collective musical prowess isn’t lost either.

I speak of Martin Crewes as architect Sam, Drew Livingston as charming banker Brit Harry and Tim Wright as intrepid traveller Bill.

Bianca Bruce excels as Rosie, while Deone Zanotto revels in her role as maneater Tanya.

Donna’s bar staff – Etuate Lutui as Eddie and Jordan Tomljenovic as Pepper – also make the most of their time in their spotlight. Both are highly engaging.

The show features no shortage of corny but beaut one liners.

Apart from the strength in the individual performances that I have just referenced, the chorus numbers delight. The ensemble and band are terrific.

The choreography is magnificent, the set design is simple but effective, while the lighting and sound elevate the spectacle.

Mamma Mia! The Musical is an absolute joy, an ear and eye pleasing mood lifter that continues to resonate.

It is playing at the Princess Theatre until 10th December, 2023.

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Alex First

Alex First

Alex First believes all people have a story to tell, if only a good playwright can prize it out of them. Alex has a natural curiosity about the world and believes a strong narrative, or narrative with music, can open the door to subjects about which he knows little. Like his parents before him, theatre is his passion – a passion with emotional resonance, one that moves and excites him. He brings decades’ experience as an arts’ connoisseur to his role as a critic.
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