‘Mamma Mia’ was super (trouper).
With Americans for leads, Brits in support roles, Swedish songs, and performed on an Australian stage, if middle-class white people were a musical, ‘Mamma Mia’ would be it. Ipswich Musical Theatre Company has assembled a cast of actors with an uncanny resemblance to their movie counterparts, an aesthetically pleasing set, and a strong orchestral team to bring this juggernaut to stage.
A challenging feat, even for professionals, ‘Mamma Mia’ is strung together with a mediocre storyline, a complicated island setting, and tidal waves of flamboyant costumes. It’s cheesy, awkward, and just a little bit satisfying with its killer song list. Even the youngest audience members feel at home with Abba’s greatest hits, which is what makes ‘Mamma Mia’ a great choice for Ipswich Musical Theatre Company.
Director, Robbie Parkin, incorporated some neat blocking that paid homage to popular ABBA video clips. He cast a capable set of performers and stylised the scenes into a days-of-our-lives-like melodrama. Choreographer, Simon Lind, smashed it in the post bow spectacular which saw the ensemble and leads raise the energy bar and challenge themselves with an array of quick formation changes and intricate group sequences.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this show was the design and execution of the very challenging set. Set designer, Joshua Mcintosh created large rotating pieces that formed various parts of the island, and a simple dock that gave the stage the much needed water feel. All of this was complemented by the clever lighting design by Owen Forsyth, who utilised a huge LED screen to transition between scenes, and was able to give the illusion of sand and water on the stage floor with strategically placed lighting.
Another key strength of this production was its orchestra who conquered the familiar but difficult score with ease. The team of musicians worked under the guidance of Musical Director, Matthew Rofe, and helped carry the show.
Leading the cast, Carole Williams filled the role of Donna Sheridan. She made the role her own, opting for a Midwest American accent and anchoring the character as a woman in crisis. Williams’ scene work was highly stressed and, alongside the accent, this gave the role an interesting edge. Her pleasant vibrato was celebrated throughout her solos, and in the show-stopping end notes of ‘The Winner Takes It All’.
Heidi Enchelmaier as Sophie Sheridan, and Jesse Olds as Sky had good chemistry. Olds, in particular, brought a necessary calmness to the show with strategic pacing of his lines and soft thoughtful infections. Enchelmaier countered this with a highly energetic and anxious portrayal of Sophie from the start, which ultimately set the tone for the show. She sang beautifully and won hearts with her rendition of ‘I Have A Dream’.
In many ways, the show was stolen by the dynamic dynamo duo, Rosie and Tanya, played by Simone Behrendorff and EJ Campbell respectively. Comedic sidekick roles are often crowd favourites, however, the ladies did more than play the lines. They had chemistry with any performers they worked alongside, and believability in their line delivery. Behrendorff and Campbell delivered the best duet of the evening with ‘Chiquitita’. Their vocals in this number and others were professionally held and complimentary of one another, offering satisfying harmonies and strong belts.
Sophie’s three fathers, Sam, Harry and Bill were portrayed by Ian Moore, Raymond Chandler, and Adrian Carr respectively. Silver fox, Ian Moore, was particularly noteworthy, with a good grasp on his upper register during solos, and an impressive physique and stage presence throughout. Raymond Chandler sang a duet alongside Heidi Enchelmaier which was one of the highlights of the show, and Adrian Carr had the audience in stitches with his hilarious scene work alongside Simone Behrendorff.
Notable moments included an impressive dance solo by Simon Drew as Pepper, a comedic portrayal of a priest by Rod Jones, and an appearing/disappearing act involving mirrors on wheels.
As opening night nerves kicked on, the show was not without its downfalls. Much of the dialogue came across rushed and premeditated, some of the vocals were belted when it was unnecessary, and some set changes needed a little more rehearsal. It was also disheartening for the cast that the bows fell apart, with timings mixed up and no set formations until the choreography kicked in. That being said, these little bumps will iron out as the season progresses, and they did not deter the crowd from rising to their feet for the spectacular finale sequence.
Overall, Ipswich Musical Theatre Company have presented a rendition of ‘Mamma Mia’ full of spirit. Some iconic moments were captured well, and the aesthetics of the show were postcard-ready. If you’re an ABBA fan, or just love a night at the theatre where you’ll know all the words, this is one of those shows to take your mum too.
‘Mamma Mia’ performs until Sunday, 22 September 2019 at Ipswich Civic Centre. For more information visit Ipswich Musical Theatre Company’s Website.