Beautiful bride, proud mum and 3 possible fathers, Mamma Mia
Who hasn't heard of ABBA? I dare say there isn't many who hasn't danced or joined in for a singalong to a few of their tunes. With such theatrical potential of pop songs, an idea was conceived by producer Judy Craymer resulting in a musical written by British playwright Catherine Johnson.
Named after ABBA's 1975 chart-topper "Mamma Mia", the musical premiered in 1999 at West End London and over 60 million people have seen the show since its debut. The show is the eighth longest running show in London's West End and after a 14 year run in Broadway New York, Mamma Mia is the ninth longest running show in Broadway history.
Who can forget the resurgence of ABBA following the 1994 Australian comedy-drama, 'Muriel's Wedding' to the MAMMA MIA film adaptation in 2008, starring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Amanda Seyfried.
Now an exciting new production of MAMMA MIA has been produced in Australia by Michael Coppel, Louise Withers and Linda Bewick with an all-Australian cast.
Mamma Mia the Musical Australian Cast 2017-2018. PIC CREDIT- PETER BREW BEVAN
Withers has had a 17-year relationship with the MAMMA MIA production, with its beginning in West End 1999, Australia 2001, the 10 year anniversary in 2010 and the current 2017 national tour. Wither's described the Australian production as giving MAMMA MIA, "new life, reinvented with new design and new direction" to give the audience a sense of a "whole new pulsating energy".
Withers ends her speech by stating "the world needs a lot more laughter and music" before handing the reins to Gary Young, the Creative Team Director.
Young mentions that they're only three and a half weeks into rehearsal and I was lucky enough to have a sneak peek of what's in store. But not before Young praises the "seriously talented cast, bringing energy, heart and warmth to each piece".
With another 3 more weeks before performing to live audiences, it's admirable to see all the hard work being put in rehearsal from those that are involved in such a production.
You may remember this story is set on a Greek Island paradise. The storyline follows Donna's daughter, Sophie, getting married and wanting to find her father, inviting all three men she finds in her mother's diary to the impending nuptials, unbeknown to her Mum. As all three men show up to visit the island, they last visited 20 years ago, so do, the two female backup singers who long ago, performed in Donna's trio (Donna's Dynamos).
Mamma Mia the Musical Australian Cast for 2017-2018. PIC CREDIT PETER BREW BEVAN
Opening with the sampler, "Money, money, money", the lyrics are used as a narrative to Donna contemplating life in a rich man's world. The ensemble is pulled into high energy mode with Tom Hodgson's choreography and I have an overwhelming urge to tap my feet and nod in agreement, "All the things I could do, If I had a little money, It's a rich man's world." Not to forget a touch of comedy with Rosie's handheld fan.
The second sampler performed was the Act 1 finale, "Voulez-Vous," French for "Do you want". Beginning with high hopes and much anticipation of Sky's Buck's and Sophie Hens' party. Another feet bopping piece where the landscape is seemingly cinematic, suddenly the penny drops for each of the potential fathers. Sophie has opened a can of worms and created chaos finding the identity of her father.
The finale from Act 2 is ABBA's megamix signature song and "Dancing Queen". You can't help but smile and start singing right along with it. ABBA's songs are memorable and fun as proved by its long-running success of the stage musical MAMMA MIA.
Speaking with Sarah Morrison who plays Sophie and Stephen Mahy in why MAMMA MIA resonates with so many. Sarah believes its due to "being so relatable…the songs have such longevity that keeps you coming back…songs mesh with family love".
Mamma Mia the Musical, Stephen Mahy, Sarah Morrison. PIC CREDIT PETER BREW BEVAN
Stephen states he was a Beatles fan growing up but his parents were ABBA obsessed and that he definitely saw the movie before auditioning. He tells me, "Just because it's ABBA, it's not all fluffy… there's a serious story behind it. Friends, family and fans have told me, they have seen it three to four times and keep back, as they're affected by the story".
Asking the three potential fathers, Ian Stenlake who plays Sam, Harry Bright who plays Phillip and Josef Ber who plays Bill, what their favourite ABBA song in the MAMMA MIA musical is, the responses include 'Lay all your love' and a moment of contemplation before Ian and Josef respond "that it keeps changing each night during rehearsals". A testament to the talented cast and exuberance of this musical.
Mamma Mia the Musical, Phillip Lowe,Ian Stenlake, Josef Ber. PIC CREDIT PETER BREW BEVAN
Now the ending is a little fuzzy to say the least in my mind but I'm not planning to spoil the ending. But I did ask the handsome fellas what they would want the audience to get out of the show. They collectively replied, "aim to have great fun…cuddle the person you love sitting next to you… and you're bound to get something out of it".
Chatting to the Donna played by Natalie O'Donnell (who once played the daughter Sophie back in 2001 production), and the accomplished Dynamos members Alicia Gardiner (best known as Nurse Kim in Offspring) and Jayde Westaby (who just finished Everyone Loves Lucy as Lucille Ball), had all at one stage or another been involved in the Mamma Mia production. Asked how they liked working together, their vibrant responses resounded with "having such a good time", describing themselves as "grown women having ridiculous fun jumping on beds" exuding the enjoyable kind of atmosphere that you want to be a part of.
Mamma Mia the Musical, Jayde Westaby, Natalie O'Donnell, Alicia Gardiner. PIC CREDIT PETER BREW BEVAN
Natalie comments that "the songs come from honest artists and so people can relate", Alicia pipes in "everyone loves music…the songs are ageless" and so much so Jayde shared that her 3-year-old was already singing and dancing to ABBA songs.
The Australian tour of MAMMA MIA will commence its National Tour at Canberra Theatre Centre on November 24th 2017, followed by QPAC's Lyric Theatre in Brisbane from December 26th 2017.
From here the tour will continue in Sydney's Capitol Theatre from February 11th 2018, Crown Theatre Perth from May 15th 2018, Melbourne's Princess Theatre from July 10th 2018 and the Festival Theatre at Adelaide Festival Centre from October 9th 2018.
No doubt when you book your tickets for any of the shows, look around at the audience, it will no doubt feel like a concert in the best foot-stomping way with its infectious boppy tunes. Make sure to see it before it slips through your fingers.
Mamma Mia the Musical Australian Cast 2017-2018 Sarah Morrison, Natalie O'Donnell PIC CREDIT PETER BREW BEVAN