‘Mamma Mia’ was enrapturing.
On opening night of ‘Mamma Mia’ at Twelfth Night Theatre, the audience was more enraptured than I’ve seen before. They knew all the songs – perhaps from seeing the musical previously or one of the two hit movies, or maybe they were ABBA fans themselves – regardless, there wasn’t one number that disappointed.
A musical derived from ABBA’s hits, ‘Mamma Mia’ follows Sophie, the protagonist, who romanticises the idea of being walked down the aisle by her father. She tricks three men, who might be her father, into coming to her Greek villa where she is about to be married, a detail unknown to her mother who previously dated the men. As expected, chaos ensues.
In the lead female roles, Carole Williams as Donna and Sophie Mason as Sophie were superbly cast. Donna, the antagonist who is seeing her three ex-lovers for the first time in 20 years, had Williams giving a tour de force performance both vocally and in terms of her acting. It must be incredibly daunting to take on ABBA classics such as “Money, Money, Money,” “One of Us” and “Slipping Through My Fingers” but she did it with remarkable skill and stage presence. Similarly, Sophie Mason superbly embodied her character’s youth, beauty and charm; and captured the vulnerability that is the root cause of Sophie’s manipulative behaviour. Her early song, “I Have a Dream” showcased Mason’s beautiful voice, and the audience was won over. One audience member audibly gasped when she put on her wedding dress – Mason indeed made a beautiful bride.
Donna’s ex-lovers, portrayed by Jordan Ross as Sam, David McLaughlin as Bill, and Peter Bothams as Harry, each conveyed a unique personality and contributed well to the incredible musical experience. In particular, “Thank You For The Music” was a highlight, showing each character’s unique personality, vocal style, acting ability, and their different relationships with Donna.
Likewise, Christopher Morphett-Wheatley as Sky, Sophie’s fiance, performed admirably in songs such as “Lay All Your Love On Me.” Donna’s two best friends were also incredible. As Tanya, Lisa Alsop conveyed a sense of confidence, humour and sensuality which the audience loved, and Fiona Buchanan as Rosie demonstrated her marvellous vocal abilities and comedic skills in each of her scenes.
Supporting characters were equally good. Darcy Rhodes, as Pepper, often stole the show with his slapstick humour. Direction by Sherryl-Lee Secomb added to this enjoyment through the careful insertion of these comedic touches, and others. As such, Chynna Santos and Daniela Pizzirani also played their roles as Sophie’s friends Ali and Lisa very well and with humour. Their early number with Mason “Honey, Honey” was a treat.
Managing the large cast, which features over 25 ensemble members as well as 10 dancers and a dozen primary cast members, must have been quite a challenge. Together, director, Sherryl-Lee Secomb and choreographer, Bec Swain, did an effective job organising the group. Energy exploded on stage and scenes were performed with great pace and comic timing. Musical Director, Julie Whiting, made the keyboard-heavy band sound skilful and tight, and the audience settled into the groove of the classic songs.
Set design by Gerard Livsy and Deian Ping was simple but effective – evoking the Greek Islands in shape and colour. That is, blues and whites throughout, and green vines cascading down the outskirts of building facades. Costuming by Deian Ping, with construction by Gillian Peterson, was also a highlight of the show and included vibrant colours, expressing the personalities of the various characters. It also showcased island tropical feels and bedazzled audiences with the ABBA-inspired jumpsuits.
As may be expected with an opening night show, there were occasional technical errors, such as problems with the sound balance. On a small number of occasions, some performers could not be heard over the band. As a result of these sound problems, there was one occasion when many of the cast were on stage and inaudible among the noise of others. Additional and strategic lighting may have helped in such situations but is something that will iron out over the course of the run.
With the rapturous applause from the audience on opening night, Queensland Musical Theatre’s production of ‘Mamma Mia!’ highlights how good it gets in Brisbane. With local talent thriving on stage, this show will delight any dancing queen!
‘Mamma Mia’ performs until Sunday, 14 November 2021 at Twelfth Night Theatre. For more information visit Queensland Musical Theatre’s website.
Disclaimer: Cast / Production Members working on this show also work for Theatre Haus, but rest assured, we always take steps to ensure our reviews maintain their integrity and are free from bias.