Queensland Musical Theatre // Mamma Mia!

brisbane arts theatre queensland musical theatre Mamma Mia

By Chloe Boike

“You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life” is most certainly the experience at Queensland Musical Theatre’s production of Mamma Mia! Opening night had the audience dancing in their seats from the beginning of the Overture to the end of the final Megamix number. Performed at the charming Twelfth Night Theatre, with an energetic cast and groovy tunes, this is a night out that won’t be forgotten any time soon.

Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical that takes the celebrated songs of ABBA and incorporates them into a story for all ages. Sophie, Donna’s 20-year-old daughter, is getting married and after reading her Mum’s diary, finds out that she has three possible dads. After inviting all three to her wedding, Sophie has 24 hours to figure out which one is her real dad so he can walk her down the aisle – all before Donna finds out! The original West End album was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2002 and the original Broadway production was nominated for 5 Tony Awards in 2002 including Best Musical.

The technical production kicks opening night off with a bang featuring fabulous Sound Design by Ross Ritchie and clever Lighting Design by Tom Dodds. Except for a few minor technical troubles with the mics, the sound is seamless. The lighting features a wonderful display of technical design – particularly the strobe lighting in ‘SOS’. The lighting also separates the stage for certain scenes removing the need for a set change which is very clever.

brisbane arts theatre queensland musical theatre Mamma Mia
Image Credit: CF Photography

The sets designed by Gerard Livsey and Deian Ping are simple but by no means basic. There is no time wasted taking big sets on and off with set pieces remaining on stage throughout. The very realistic design of the Taverna feels authentically Greek, the audience is drawn right into Donna’s resort. Hiding Donna’s bedroom in the barn is a stroke of genius and facilitates a quick and easy set change. The lighting mixed with the set design really brings the audience into the world of the story and allows them to feel like they travelled to Greece themselves. The cocktail props from the bar present a mix of different colours which makes the show feel more real – not everyone drinks the same thing on holiday. While this seems like a small detail, it makes a big impact.

Director Sherryl-Lee Secomb should be applauded for her direction of such a large cast on such a small stage – at no point does it feel crowded. It is clear that each performer on stage has their own direction and motivation. There are a few moments here and there when there is a little too much focus on getting a laugh so some of the dialogue is lost or it doesn’t quite fit within the moment of the story. But overall, the direction shows a passion for the music and the story from Secomb that underpins a clear vision for the production.

The musical direction of Julie Whiting is wonderful. With only the lead performers singing with mics, the large ensemble harmonies do not overpower the melody. Bec Swain’s choreography captures the essence of each scene perfectly – whether it be the classy hen’s night or the crazy bachelor party. A really powerful choreography moment is creation of Sophie’s nightmare with four dancers in ‘Under Attack’.

There can be no doubt that Carole Williams was born to play the role of ‘Donna’. Williams pours out her emotions in ‘The Winner Takes It All’ leaving the audience feeling like they just experienced a magical moment in theatre. Her emotions and reactions on stage makes it very easy for the audience to fall in love with her.

brisbane arts theatre queensland musical theatre Mamma Mia
Image Credit: CF Photography

Sophie Mason brings the perfect amount of innocence as ‘Sophie’ and manages to display traits of each of her possible dads throughout the show, making it even more impossible for the audience to figure out who the real dad is. The chemistry between Williams and Mason as mother and daughter is truly incredible – the final chorus of ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ does not leave a single dry eye in the room.

Jordan Ross (Sam), David McLaughlin (Bill) and Peter Bothams (Harry) each bring a refreshing take to the well-known roles of the three possible dads. They are each able to make the characters their own whilst still keeping the essence of the originals.

Christopher Morphett-Wheatley as ‘Sky’ definitely has a few fans in the audience, especially when he takes his shirt off in ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’. Morphett-Wheatley perfectly captures the spirit of the kind and caring fiancé who is still not afraid to goof off with his mates.

Lisa Alsop (Tanya) and Fiona Buchanan (Rosie) match together like sand and surf. The chemistry between them and Donna really makes the audience believe that they had been friends for years. Alsop displays the right amount of sass in ‘Does Your Mother Know’ and Buchanan has the audience in stitches during ‘Take A Chance’.

All of these talented lead cast members are supported by an equally talented ensemble who build out the world of the story and invite the audience to join in on all the fun! It would be impossible to pull off this production without the energy and enthusiasm of the passionate ensemble performers.

Queensland Musical Theatre manages to take a show that everyone knows and loves, and gives it a new lease on life. If you haven’t got tickets for this sold out season, you are missing out on a truly great production. If you do have tickets, prepare to be amazed by the amazing effort and talent of the cast and crew. You will most definitely leave the theatre feeling like a ‘Dancing Queen!

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