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Review - Mamma Mia! 2017 - you'll love it all over again


Above: The dads - Phillip Lowe, Ian Stenlake and Josef Ber. Below: Alicia Gardner, Natalie O'Donnelll and Jayde Westaby. Below right: Sarah Morrison and Stephen Mahy. Photos: James Morgan

Mamma Mia!

Music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjiorn Ulvaeus

Book by Catherine Johnson

Directed by Gary Young

Choreographed by Tom Hodgson

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Complex

South Bank

Brisbane

Season: Until February 4, 2018: Bookings: qpac.com.au or 136 246

Mamma Mia, Here we go again! Cliché I know, but this is the third time I have seen the show in 13 years and for the third time I had an absolute ball watching the fun and games on stage at the Lyric Theatre.

This new production has so much verve it was exhilarating to watch, with new and vibrant choreography, super costumes, and a cast that wore them well and danced to the timeless Abba tunes with so much precision and energy.

As usual for this show the Lyric was packed to the roof with fans familiar as well as newcomers to the phenomenon, and no one was disappointed. Even Catherine Johnson’s storyline seemed believable, which for the initiated is:

On a small holiday Island in Greece lives Donna, a single mum who moved to the island when she was pregnant with daughter Sophie. She had her baby and for the next 20 years lived happily and after building a taverna for tourists made a precarious living to support herself and Sophie.

Sophie is 21 and soon to be getting married.

Donna has always been vague about Sophie’s father, which has always frustrated Sophie. When Sophie finds her mother’s diary from 20-odd years ago she discovers that her father could be any of three men who had been beach partying with mum at the vital time.

So Sophie invites them to the wedding, which sets the scene for a lot of laughs, some pathos and 22 Abba songs, most familiar some not so, that help the plot along nicely. But where the plot is a bit fanciful, the characters are not. They are all well drawn and, here extremely well acted to add an air of reality.

Natalie O’Donnell was Donna, who interestingly switched from playing the role of her daughter Sophie, in the 2001 production. She created a great Donna and really sold it to us when she sang the dramatic The Winner takes it all and won the laughs when she sang Mamma Mia. That was when she met all her ex- lovers for the first time.

Now these ex-lovers were well cast too. Ian Stenlake was a terrific Sam. He of course is an experienced stage musical star and has a fine voice. He played the divorced architect as a subdued, but strong alpha male.

Phillip Lowe was excellent as the gay man Harry. He kept his character very convincingly subdued. There was no stage camp to emphasise his gayness. It was a nicely played performance.

Josef Ber was action man Bill Austin. In previous shows I described the character as a cross between Crocodile Dundee and the Leyland Brothers, but this time we saw more of the inner man and the insecurities that made him shun civilisation. It added depth to the show.

Donna’s friends and former rock singers Rosie and Tanya, are always a delight .

This time Rosie was played by Alicia Gardiner. She’s a big lady, full of fun and the audience certainly loved her. She added an extra dimension with some terrific comic timing and she can sing of course!

Tanya was played in a lovely cougarish style by Jayde Westaby. There was no problem understanding why the island Romeo Pepper fell for her. He was played by Sam Hooper.

Sarah Morrison was Sophie and she created the perfect girl/woman, switching her moods from child to adult perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance. Stephen Mahy was excellent too as the bridegroom- to-be Sky.

All the hits were there, Dancing Queen, Honey. Honey, I Have a Dream, Money, Money, Money, S.O.S, I Do, I Do, I Do and The Name of the Game among them.

So many of these were performed with the talented ensemble cast of singers and dancers every one of which was just superb. I loved every production number, and of course the classic Elvis jumpsuits and the clog boots that came out for the rocking six-minute finale were amazing.

If you’ve seen it, you will love it all over again, if you haven’t, it is something for bucket list.

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