Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia!
Music and Lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. Book by Catherine Johnson. Northern Light Theatre Company (SA). Shedley Theatre. April 9- May 1, 2021

In Post COVID Adelaide, where life and theatre are beginning to emerge from their cocoon, Mamma Mia!, by Northern Light Theatre Company, is just the tonic! This reviewer has seen the professional versions of this show, in London, Sydney and Adelaide, and went on opening night to the Shedley, expecting a ‘nice night out’, but also cynically, not much more. How wrong I was!

This is a wonderful piece of theatre and NLTC should be proud of every aspect of this show. There are no weak links; all of the ensemble and leads work together to create a slick, joyful, vibrant piece of theatre. Ceri Hutton has directed a tight show with all space used cleverly and every scene bright and engaging. A scrim to change setting was used once for the ‘Does Your Mother Know’ sequence, which I felt could have made more use of ‘beach-based’ colour, but that would be my only criticism of the show.

On arrival at the theatre, one is struck immediately by the classic Greek Island style blue and white taverna, gorgeously decorated with vines and splashes of leadlight to give colour. The set team, led by Gordon Coombes and Russell Ford, have done a wonderful job. This, coupled with outstanding lighting by Chris Golding, sets the scene immediately for us to be transported to the beautiful Greek Islands. The use of decals, gobos and colour throughout this show strongly lift the performances to a new level.

The first character we meet is Sophie, the wistful but determined daughter, who invites her three ‘dads’ to her upcoming wedding. Alana Shepherdson is always a joy to watch on stage, but in this show she positively shines. With a crystalline voice and mesmerising stage presence, she is an absolute star.

Robyn Brookes, brings much stage experience to her portrayal of and has found the perfect balance of strength and femininity in this role. Her renditions of ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’, which reduced this reviewer to sniffles, and ‘The Winner Takes It All’, showcase her breadth of skill and powerhouse vocals. A nuanced and beautiful performance.

The three fathers, played by Gavin Cianci (Sam), Angus Smith (Harry) and Ben Kempster (Bill), are hilarious, each demonstrating their own stage experience and presence. All possess wonderful voices. A highlight was Harry’s duet with Donna, where Smith’s softer and higher range is lovely. Cianci is strong as Sam and he has the gravitas to convince the audience of his 20 year love for Donna. His rendition of ‘SOS’ is heartfelt and vocally tight. Kempster, as Bill, is wonderful – as cheeky and as ocker as they come. His duet with Michelle Davy (Rosie) of ‘Take A Chance On Me’ is an absolute hoot.

The other two thirds of the Dynamos - Michelle Davy (Rosie) and Paula Cooney (Tanya) - are talented women. Cooney slinks about the stage, vamping it up beautifully as the three-times divorced Tanya, and delivers a great version of ‘Does Your Mother Know’. Davy, however, is a standout. If there isn’t such a thing as ‘awkward-sexy’ then she has invented it! Every second on stage is comic genius and her physicality and slapstick moves, coupled with her strong belty vocals are a tour-de-force.

Another standout amongst the cast that deserves note is Mike Lapot as Pepper. He has wonderful stage presence and brings a cheekiness to this role, as well as some great dance moves. His tap dancing in flippers is worth the ticket price alone! Sanjay Mohanaraj’s Eddie is a fitting sidekick and, likewise is gloriously cheeky.

Hayley Wolfendale and Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti are the bridesmaids. Their voices blend well with Shepherdson’s in ‘Honey Honey’, and they have the right amount of girlish bounciness and joy.

The ensemble in this show deserves huge applause. They are on stage for nearly every scene, their choreography is tight and every expression, joyful. ‘Voulez Vous’ was an absolute highlight and must have been totally exhausting!

Having mentioned choreography, it is no mean feat to stage a show like Mamma Mia! without excellent choreography and Kerreane Sarti and Shenayde Wilkinson-Sarti have done an amazing job. The stage is used well, there are many dance styles used and all moves are soundly rehearsed to give a slick performance.

Behind the scenes, literally, is one of Adelaide’s great music men: Peter Johns. Having myself worked with Peter in shows, I can vouch for his dedication and meticulousness when it comes to musicality. The vocals in both leads and ensemble have been perfected with no doubt a great deal of rehearsal, and the orchestra which he conducts is balanced, sharp and tight.

The costuming in Mamma Mia! is bright and vibrant, and in particular, Ann Humphries as Costume Designer has outdone herself with the Abba lycra suits! They are crazily over the top and stars in their own right. Her eye for detail, as with every show she costumes, is again perfect.

NLTC has an absolute hit on their hands. Mamma Mia! is a splendid night out. Grab your platforms and lycra and buy a ticket to see this show! And for those of you that, like me couldn’t help ‘slip out’ a few quiet lyrics along with the cast, there is a ‘sing along show’ being offered! Bring some joy into your life and go and see this well directed, beautifully choreographed and vocally strong show!

Shelley Hampton

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