Printable CopyMAMMA MIA
Michael Coppel
Adelaide Festival Theatre
Until 18 Nov 2018

Review by Nikki Gaertner

Thursday, October 11 was International Day of the Girl, and what better way to celebrate than attending the Opening Night of a show centering on the stories of two strong and independent women, the beautiful relationship between mother and daughter, and the special bond between lifelong friends.

It's easy to see why Mamma Mia has been a box office smash since it debuted on the West End in 1999. Unless you’re one of the few who doesn’t get swept away by the tunes of pop sensations, ABBA, this show is sure to put a smile on your face, have your toes tapping and keep you swaying in your seat from start to finish. The feel good atmosphere is only exacerbated by the fact that the cast are obviously having so much fun, with every performer exuding an irresistible joy that quickly envelopes and captures the audience.

For those only familiar with the 2008 movie of the same name, the storyline and sequence of events is almost exactly the same, with young Sophie Sheridan (Sarah Morrison) inviting three men, each of whom she has discovered is potentially her father, to her wedding on the Greek island where she has grown up with her mother Donna (Natalie O’Donnell). Emotions stir as Donna is reunited with three of her long-lost loves and they relive past memories and grapple with their new realities.

O’Donnell is spectacular as Donna, the mum who raised her daughter alone, has done it tough, and is essentially the grounding force across the entire show. Her natural and easy performing style makes her a pleasure to watch, and she demonstrates a wide range of vocals and emotions, from the haughty “Money, Money, Money”, to the heart-wrenching “Slipping Through My Fingers” and the powerful “The Winner Takes It All”. Morrison is well-matched as her headstrong daughter who is still trying to find herself, and thinks she might get some answers if she discovers who her father is.

Donna is backed, in both life and song, by her long-standing friends: extreme opposites Tanya (Jayde Westaby) and Rosie (Alicia Gardiner), who provide plenty of laughs and entertainment through their antics and harmonious vocals. Their duet “Chiquitita”, and trios with O’Donnell, “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trouper” are all highlights of the show, as are their individual numbers (“Does Your Mother Know” and “Take a Chance on Me”) in the second act.

Amongst all of this girl-power, the men of the show of course can’t be forgotten, and complete what is quite a perfect casting package for the production. Stephen Mahy is always a pleasure to watch, and works well as the young and good-looking English love interest for Sophie. Ian Stenlake is a great choice for Donna’s true love Sam, delighting the audience particularly when “that Pierce Brosnan moment” came and he launched into “SOS”. Phillip Lowe and Josef Ber, are also well cast and enjoyable as the “other two dads”, who are complete opposites – the straight-laced Harry and free-and-easy Bill.

The set is versatile and exudes the atmosphere of the Greek Islands, light and airy and easily changed – and also gives plenty of opportunities for the ensemble to burst into numbers as backing vocalists, another delightful aspect of the show.

It’s rare that a production gives you the feeling that you want to rush out and buy another set of tickets before it closes – but this one definitely does. It deserves every dancing-ovation it’s sure to get throughout its relatively short season. Get yourself an early Christmas present and grab some tickets before it’s too late!