REVIEW | Mamma Mia

Alicia Gardiner, Natalie O’Donnell & Jayde Westaby. Photo James Morgan

MAMMA MIA! The new musical version arrives in Sydney

Capitol Theatre, Sydney, Feb 15

Reviewed by Heather Clements
Inspired by the classic music of ABBA from the 1970s, Mamma Mia The Musical has seen phenomenal success around the world since its debut in 1999, the movie musical version is now playing at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre on its Australian tour of this newly-imagined production directed by Gary Young.
While this latest incarnation of Mamma Mia The Musical may lack big name ‘star power’ it does not fall short on talent. This tight-knit small ensemble and cast are faultless in their roles, singing and performance overall. Every single member, from lead to support, are 100 per cent in character and ready to take the audience away for a wedding on an imaginary Greek island in the summer!

Sarah Morrison & Stephen Mahy. Photo James Morgan

Respected director Gary Young works a subtle direction and feel in the show from the beginning to end. This Mamma Mia is intent on being light-hearted as much as earnest in its emotions. I love how the show both starts and ends on an emotionally quiet moment by the mail box – so unlike other musical productions which usually relying on a huge opening and closing number for each act.
As mentioned, it is clear that all performers are accomplished triple threats and I applaud choreographer Tom Hodgson on his ensemble casting as, without a doubt, the dance sequences to these fabulous ABBA songs are the absolute highlight of the entire show! From Honey, Honey to Voulez-Vous, the choreography is the best part of this show. When they dance and sing the atmosphere is lifted and sheer delight is finally transferred from the stage to the audience.
Both the storyline and the dancing peaks at the end of Act 1 with the musical medley building up to match the storyline with Super Trouper, Gimme Gimme, and Voulez-Vouz. It’s a crazy, energetic and exciting part of the show that really puts the performers to their task.
Although there are no stand out ‘star powers’ in this production, what it does have is awesome triple threat talent throughout the entire cast! The female leads of Natalie O’Donnell, Sarah Morrison, Jayde Westaby and Alicia Gardner are a delight working together as the best friends and daughter and are perfectly cast for voice and action. Plus they can also ‘cut a rug’ when required – and seem to enjoy it thoroughly from start to end! As required, Alicia is a hoot as Rosie!
Phillip Lowe, Ian Stenlake & Josef Ber. Photo James Morgan

The all important male supports in this iconic musical story (which premiered on stage in 1999 with the movie version to follow in 2008) are also brilliantly delightful in their portrayal. Because they may all be the father of bride-to-be Sophie we see Phillip Lowe, Josef Ber and Ian Stenlake take to the stage as enthusiastic possible fathers and add the perfect amount of sincerity, humour and ‘dad’-awkwardness to the story.
In my opinion, the highlight of the show was Jayde Westaby‘s performance as Tanya. She was not only comical and present in each scene, but her voice was perfect in all ways! She was the ultimate mix of character and comic in this role and her voice was sublime.
Sarah Morrison and Natalie O’Donnell. Photo Peter Brew Bevan

Natalie O’Donnell as Donna was solid and certain in her interpretation of Sophie’s mother. It was a big role and she delivered in full, especially with her awesome voice and stamina, however I feel she may have lacked a special connection with the audience on the night. Sarah Morrison as Sophie was endearing, convincing and delivered her songs in a super professional way, although a tad safe, she was solid in her role as the impending bride trying to discover both herself and her father.
The role of husband-to-be Sky, played by Stephen Mahy is unfortunately just as bland live on stage as he appears in the movie version. Stephen did the best with what he had to work with, but seriously!… Why can’t this character be more than one dimensional? Having said that, the two males who are Sky’s mates and Donna’s suitors are pretty fun although stereotyped in their ‘crazy’ roles of Pepper and Eddie.
Back to the dancing… while every single one of the performers on stage can just as easily sing a feature song as bust a move to an ABBA groove, the main element to making this production a fun experience and new success is the incredible choreography by Tom Hodgson. He takes us to another place with his fun numbers – for both the artists and the audience.
Shout out to the amazing supporting cast of Mamma Mia!:  Monique Sallé,  Jessica Di Costa,  Sam Hooper, Alex Gibson-Giorgio,Stephen Anderson, Jadie Bastow, Dion Bilios, Du Toit Bredenkamp, Annie Chiswell, Matt Edwards, Josh Gates, Catty Hamilton, Matthew Hamilton, Emma Hawthorne, Zoe Komazec, Sarah Kate Landy, Courtney Monsma, Clay Roberts, Leigh Sleightholme, Thalia Smith, Lisa Sontag and Zachary Webster.
The finale scene of all the leads donning 70s flared and sparking suits and singing along to Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo is also a genuine happy moment and must-see!
If you are looking for a fun night out – without disappointment! –  then get along to see Mamma Mia and sing along to 22 of ABBA’s hits in Sydney now or next in Perth, Melbourne or Adelaide.
Do not miss this fab fun show!

Read our interview with Choreographer Tom Hodgson here!


MAMMA MIA! | National Tour

Capitol Theatre
From February 11th 2018

Crown Theatre
From May 15th 2018

Princess Theatre
From July 10th 2018

Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
From October 9th 2018