‘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 men in the former group, Benny Andersson, 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 $5 billion worldwide thanks to singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s financial prowess. The film adaptation was released in July 2008.
This huge feel-good production was presented by the Koorliny Arts Centre, Kwinana Industries Council and the City of Kwinana and staged in the Koorliny Arts Centre’s larger theatre. The 2 hours 20 minutes show was aimed at patrons over the age of 13. The curtain raised at 7.30 each Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening until 27th March. There were Saturday and Sunday matinées at 2.00 pm. The whole season was a sell-out weeks before opening night.
The Scene: A 24-hour period in the summer of 1999 on the small Greek island of Kalokairi.
The Set: Designed by Brad Tudor comprised a set of flats stretched across the stage. They formed the white rough plastered, external walls of the local hostelry. The windows had dark blue shutters, matching the double front doors. Solidly constructed by Jon Lambert.
Behind this taverna wall was a backdrop curtain of silver ribbons, hiding the 6-piece band.
The complex lighting design by Jon Lambert, showed not only his artistic skills but also a full understanding of the properties and capabilities of the new LED motorised lamps. The patterns produced and the carefully chosen colours for the set décor helped give warmth and interest to the musical. Complex technical operation perfectly carried out by Peter Shaw. The four follow spots were in constant use, often demanding a moving thin beam; hard work carried out well by Samuel Kirk, Quinn Parnell, Jessica Ryding and Aylish Murray.
The sound operator Raymond Roke, sound and LX assistant TJ Wilson and the headset microphone technician Mollie McGarrity
Stage manager, Kerryn Boutle and head assistant stage manager Mollie McGarrity, were ably assisted by ASM Casidhe Gerrish and her stage crew, Aylish Murray, Mia Stoddart and Jessica Ryding. Although many of the rapid and highly efficient, complex scene changes were carried out by the actors during the next song’s pre-chorus stanza, their timing was immaculate; with all the actors in place or back off stage before the lyrics began. Really slick and impressive.
Even before the curtain rises, the show’s overture, which is an instrumental montage of many Abba’s hit songs had the audience foot tapping and singing along.
The daughter of Donna Sheridan (Cathy Woodhouse), the three times married Taverna’s owner, is attractive 20 yrs. old Sophie (Shanice Tudor). In a couple of days, she is to be married to local Greek boy, her fiancé Sky (Jesse Angus). Father Alexandros (Max Conroy) is lined up for the formalities. Sophie’s two ‘aunts’ have arrived for the ceremony. They are happy-go-lucky Rosie (Lucy Eyre) for whom ‘love has passed her by’ and Donna’s tall blonde sister, ‘Absolutely Fabolous’s’ Patsy Stone lookalike, Tanya (Natalie Burbage) 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 was the elusive parent. 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 holiday. Could her father be British architect, Sam Carmichael (Chris Gerrish)? Or rugged, wildlife hunter Bill Austin (Drew Elliott) or possibly the caring quiet, wealthy banker, Harry Bright (Murray Petrone)? How will Donna take their arrival?
On the beach, Sophie and her bridesmaids, Ali (Katie Lee) and Lisa (Phoebe Tempra) are charged with excitement at this special event. A couple of surfers, Eddie (Oliver Clare) and Pepper (Bailey Bridgeman-Peters) think it could be a good time to move in on the two bridesmaids.
Who will walk Sophie down the aisle?
To call Katie Elizabeth Williams, Rolando Mantala Jr., Ebony Uetake, Rp Van Der Westhuizen, Janine Upson and Sarah Robinson ‘the chorus’ does a huge injustice. These singers and dancers gave their all. Every number was packed with fast moving, highly energetic and intricate choreography, arranged by Allen Blachford – who joined in to prove that his demands were not unreasonable. Some of the actors were a little less lithe than others, but they kept up the killing pace and smiled throughout. Many of the ladies wore high heels for the routines – amazing. There were a couple of acrobatic pieces, but a smile still comes when I think of the men lined up on the beach with their yellow flippers – doing a tap dance!
Director Brad Tudor has tremendous vision of how to combine lighting, sound, costumes and actors to give us shows that are always memorable.
Musical director, conductor and keyboard player, Kate McIntosh has gathered her talented team to play the two dozen numbers in the very different styles; second keyboard Andrew Dobosz, third keyboard Dylan Hatton, guitar Vlad Sturdy, bass Chris Ingram and drums Alex Kent as her band. The music had all the vibrancy of the original records.
Then Kate was faced with training the singers. Most had superb voices, a special mention to Cathy and Murray.
The costumes ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous; they were designed by Brad Tudor and created by Margaret Willison, Katie E. Williams, Shanice Tudor, Nat Burbage and Kerryn Boutle. The Abba outfits brought a smile of admiration.
The poor marketing manager, Monique Mulligan, has had an exceedingly difficult season, with the permitted audience being limited by COVID. This limit then changed again halfway through the month. She always has a smile and a warm welcome.
The comments heard as we left the theatre included ‘That was better than the film!’ MANY congratulations.