Packemin’s latest production MAMMA MIA! sure did pack them in – the audience at the performance I attended was almost full to capacity .
One of the world’s favourite feel-good musicals takes us to a stunning little Greek island , telling the story of a young woman’s ( Sophie ), search for her birth father. On the eve of her wedding, Sophie’s wish to discover the identity of her father means three men from her mother Donna’s past ( Sam , Harry and Bill) return to the island they last visited 20 years ago ,with the narrative told via appropriate ABBA songs .
Slickly co-directed by Jessica Fallico and Jordan Vassallo, with sensational leads and a huge ensemble supporting cast, the musical begins on a sunny jetty where Sophie (Bell) tentatively posts three wedding invitations to the trio of her possible fathers. What follows is fast paced as it is driven by the deadline for preparations for the looming wedding as well as Sophie trying to discover who her father is and various complications that arise. Mamma Mia! also includes fantastic roles for older women, manages to portray long term female friendships, and oozes compassion as well as focusing on the mother-daughter relationship.
The orchestra as led by Peter Hayward was terrific and sizzled at times .The set design ( Josh McIntosh ) is fluid and flexible with many pieces sliding in and out and being reversible. Lighting by Sean Clarke is magnificent at times sharp and clear ,others dreamily romantic .Sally Dashwood’s choreography handled the huge crowds in the big production numbers deftly , seething and surging (and with the zombie like brides opening in Act 2 in Sophie’s nightmare rather menacing ) and blended several dance styles . Costumes by Audrey Currie were bright, bold and colourful :Sophie is a stunning angelic vision in her wedding dress and the spandex ABBA suits with the ruffles and batwings are ssooooo 1970’s.
The cast is wonderful and the production vibrates with energy and dynamic enthusiasm.
‘Donna the Dynamo’, Sophie’s mother was given a finely nuanced performance by Louise Symes, who smoulders , stressed and embittered at times but is also quite sympathetic, emotional and romantic or bubbling with energy and has a powerhouse voice. Her The winner Takes It All brings the house down) .
Sophie (gorgeous blonde Courtney Bell ) is a knockout in a superb performance with a lyrical clear soprano while Sky , Sophie’s fiance was delightfully portrayed by talented, dishy Chris White .They make a most fetching couple.
Donna’s two friends Tanya and Rosie were played with great gusto by Debora Krizak and Rachel Gillfeather. Tall , blonde leggy and oh so chic Krizak as Tanya is sultry and seductive in Does Your Mother Know and Gillfeather has great fun as Rosie in her interactions with Bill ( Take A Chance On Me ) .
The trio of possible dads are terrific – Terribly handsome Sam ( Scott Irwin), the architect who originally designed Donna’s taverna is charismatic and engaging with a glorious voice. His silences and stillness are emotionally packed in his Knowing Me Knowing You and SOS.
Harry is portrayed by Blake Erickson as gentle and rather offbeat .
Bill is portrayed by Mark Simpson as a rather casual and laid back typical Aussie, somewhat perplexed travel writer with gauche charm .
All three are splendid both as a team and individually.
At the end the audience was dancing in their seats clapping and singing along – make sure you stay for all the curtain calls! Both cast and audience have enormous fun.
MAMMA MIA runs at Riverside Theatres Parramatta until 17 August 2019.