Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia! In 1997, London-born musical producer Judy Craymer commissioned British playwright, Catherine Johnson to write the book ‘Mamma Mia!’ based on the timeless songs of Sweden’s ABBA. The two ABBA men, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, combined talents to write the score and lyrics, then supervised the show’s development. Since the jukebox musical’s 1999 debut, over 75 million people have seen the show and it has grossed $6 billion worldwide thanks to singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s financial prowess. The film adaptation was released in July 2008.

This gigantic bubbly production which was presented by the partnership of the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre and the Stray Cats Theatre Company was staged in the Mandurah theatre centre. This fast moving 3-hour show was aimed at 95% of the population. Every seat in the balcony and stalls of this huge theatre was packed. The whole season was a sell-out weeks before opening night.

The curtain ‘raised’ at 7.30 pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 8th May. There were Saturday and Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm.

The Scene:           A 24-hour period in the summer of 2000, at a hotel on the small Greek island of Kalokairi.

The Set:                The set design by Bronwyn White and Karen Francis, comprised three brick units. At each side of the stage was a white, rough plastered holiday unit with a trellis of climbing wisteria and bougainvillea. The windows had royal blue shutters, that matched the wooden pergolas and front doors. At the rear of the stage was the exterior of a taverna – about a third of the stage width – and on rotation this became an inside bedroom, or later, the church interior. On each side of the rear stage was a boat jetty, mooring ropes, fishing nets with floats, and a fish creel.

The set construction was supervised by head builder Mal Thompson and constructed by Bill Bargerbos and Tony holding. After the set painting and decoration by Bronwyn White, Michelle Thompson, Ella Thompson, Wanita Cooke, Lynne Rostin, Coral Hoffbeck and Lyn Tamplin the results were most realistic.

Fly mechanist Nathaniel Alves Veira even managed the tricky task of lowering the church tower in alignment with the building’s roof.

Lighting design by Nick Morant and Karen Francis was complex and innovative. The cloud patterns and the carefully chosen set décor flood colours helped give warmth and interest to the musical. The follow spots were in constant use and carried out very well by Eibhlis Newman and Campbell Glover.

Creative projection director Bronwyn White teamed up with creative projectionist Alan White, to produce the entr’acte projection – but then there was their dream sequence, one of the finest pieces of projection work I have seen. Brilliant.

Dylan Conroy, the sound technician’s work was flawless. Headset microphone technicians usually stagger through with half a dozen, head microphones; technician, Sarah Bridgman was amazing with her couple of dozen sets. Great sound.

The enormous number of props were sourced by Sheryl Gale.

Stage managers Karen Francis and Mary Castle, along with their assistant stage manager Charlotte Roberts managed to have any scene changes carried out rapidly and silently, often whilst the 6 cast members were leaving the stage – thanks to the backstage crew of Billy Roberts, Karen Francis, Aidan Thomas, Hunter Perry, Alex Davis and Wanita Cooke. Production manager Kristie Corbishley, be proud, a massive production smoothly run.

Great programme and poster as always from Kristie Hennessy. The prize for most programme sales must go to that shy, quiet, retiring chap Sam Taylor.

Before the curtain rises as the show’s overture, an instrumental montage of Abba’s hit songs, had the audience foot tapping and singing along.

The daughter of the Taverna’s owner, Donna Sheridan (Ali Hill), is attractive 20 yrs. old Sophie (Jocelyn Campbell, understudied by Corinna Gosby) who in a couple of days will be married to local Greek boy, her fiancé Sky (Bailey Bridgman-Peters, u/s Jioji Nawanawa). The minister, Father Alexandros (Andy Vernie, u/s Aidan Thomas) is lined up for the formalities.

Sophie’s two ‘aunts’ have arrived for the ceremony. They are happy-go-lucky, randy Rosie (Joanna Wilson-Smale) for whom ‘love has passed her by’, and Donna’s tall sister, millionaire hunting Tanya (Kristie Corbishley) who can have – and does have – any man she fancies.

Everyone seems to be there for the wedding, except Sophie’s father! Unfortunately, her mother does know which of her three boyfriends from two decades ago was the elusive father. On finding her mother’s old 1979 diary and without giving them the true reason for the invitations, Sophie has secretly written to the three potential fathers asking them to come to their hotel for a simple holiday.

Could her father be British architect, Sam Carmichael (Scott Hansen, u/s Andy Vernie)? Or rugged, wildlife hunter Bill Austin (Alex White) or possibly the caring quiet, wealthy banker, Harry Bright (Paul Hayward, u/s Andy Vernie)? How will Donna take their arrival?

On the beach, Sophie and her overly excited bridesmaids, Ali (Maren Gosby, u/s Tannah Pridmore) and Lisa (Alyssa Murakami) are charged with excitement at this special event. A couple of surfers, Eddie (Dylan Randall) and Pepper (Matthias Zver, u/s Jioji Nawanawa) think it could be the ideal time to move in on the two bridesmaids.

The big question is – Who will walk Sophie down the aisle?

Ensemble: Ruby Arbuckle, Lizzie Baker, Annie Bala, Emalea Bassett-Scarfe, Claire Booker, Jaxan Bower, Courtney Brown, Georgia Brown, Amaliah Campbell, Makayla Carter, Eden Chung, Mel Coleman, Megan Cooke, Alex Davis, Bethan Defoy, Angela Edwards, Amy Elliott, Bonny Elliott, Kaleb Fearon, Emma Fieldwick, Rhiannon Francis, Sheryl Gale, Sienna Gardyne, Amelia Gaunt, Rach Gilmour, Octavia Hall, Rochelle Hayward, Sommer Hester, Chelsea Hobson, Sydnee Hopkins, Presley  Hough, Brad Ingham, Karen Jarvis, Bindi Jordan, Donnah Knight, Brody Koller, Gemma Lever, Kylie Lever, Teaghan Lowry, Paris Meeres, Tahnaya Minchin, Josie McCappin, Isabelle McMahon, Poppy Miller, Hermione Mohsenin, Lianna Mohsenin, Ava Paschkewitz, Rhianna Patching, Hunter Perry, Alex Phillips, Asha Pickering, Allie Potter, Esther Prestage, Tammie Pursell, Morgan Randall, Escher Roe, Keira Shimkus, Jeanette Southall, Teresa Sukarsana, Annah Swadling, Abby Tamplin, Emily Tamplin, Sam Taylor, Mitchell Vickers, Tenira Waapu, Cathy Wainwright, Caitlin Wainwright, Meyer van der Westhuizen, Holly Vandervaart,  Ceri Willis, Meg Willis, Aroha Winter,

I have listed the understudies who rarely mentioned or required, but with COVID so many shows have collapsed due to lack of backup actors and these actors have worked hard to keep the show on the road.

General understudy for other male roles is RP van der Westhuizen and for the ladies, Eva Fiebig.

To call this large group an ‘ensemble’ is unfair. These singers and dancers gave their all. Every number was packed with highly energetic movement and intricate choreography, arranged by head choreographer Caitlin Wainwright. One would expect with a stage of 60 performers that there would be the odd straggler trying to keep up, or even one falling down, but no, this smiling fully synchronised troupe filled the stage with joy. The audience loved the male swimming flippers dance.

This director has tremendous vision of how to combine lighting, sound, costumes and actors to give us shows that are always memorable. Yes, Karen Francis has done it again. A one-man (sorry lady) entertainment machine. One wonders how she manages to present several productions per year and still maintain the amazing quality. I suspect it is respect and love from her cast and crew.

This show had lots more visual comedy than I have seen before. The singers had beautiful voices, clear, powerful with perfect enunciation, presenting great renditions of the original songs whilst still acting wonderfully.

Musical director Vanitha Hart has selected and trained some fabulous singers, not just the leads but the backing group who were based in the orchestral pit. The lively Mamma Mia Orchestra had on Keyboards, Vanitha Hart, Warren Bracken, Jay Anderson and Nicole Schreck, Guitars William Christensen and Robert Thorpe, Bass Leah van der Meulen, Drums Thomas Selim and Percussion Steven Hartley.

Head choreographer Caitlin Wainwright was not fazed by the vast number of performers, along with her assistant choreographers Matthias Zver and Rhiannon Francis, she filled the stage with excitement and colourful action.

Head of costumes Linda Lowry has given us swimsuits, scarlet latex, beautiful gowns (for the reunited group of yesteryear) and along with her assistant costumes makers Pat Francis, Kim Parker (and cast) ensured a smart ensemble.

Another brilliant production. Knowing the songs, having seen the films, the audience went with elevated expectations and were more than satisfied.