Sequins, feathers and jumpsuits have returned to Melbourne to kick off the fifth production of Mamma Mia! The Musical.
Built around over 20 hits from the Swedish supergroup ABBA, Catherine Johnson has put together a paper-thin script to lily-pad from song to song. But that isn't necessarily a crime - after all, the wine-mum's aren't here for Pulitzer-worthy drama.
The story focusses on wild-child Donna Sheridan, who now manages a traverna in the Greek islands - assisted by her 20 year-old daughter, Sophie. Sophie is to be married in days, and in an attempt to find out who her father is, invites three of her mother's sexual partners to her wedding. Classic fairytale material, really.
The first act is a non-stop string of ABBA's greatest hits - Honey, Honey, Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, Gimme Gimme, Voulez Vous. This leaves Act Two with 'the rest', which mostly consists of ballads and some of Ulvaeus and Andersson's more clunky lyrics ("I still see it all/In the tourist jam/'Round the Notre Dame").
Elise McCann joins the list of Aussie theatre legends that have played Donna Sheridan. A spritely a warm actress, McCann is perfect as the working mum with a sparkly past. Serving a very emotional rendition of 'The Winner Takes it All', it doesn't quite have the arc that song requires to mark the end of the 'one way trip to ballad town' that is Act Two. This aside, McCann is wonderful.
Sarah Krndija is an adorable Sophie, delivering a warm energy that matches McCann's. Martin Crewes delivers a particularly powerful vocal as Sam Carmichael and as Rosie, Bianca Bruce is absolutely delightful.
The standout of the evening, delivering the show-stopping 'Does Your Mother Know' in Act Two is Deone Zanotto as Tanya. Zanotto's resume is insanely impressive, and the mark she has left on this role is unforgettable.
Tom Hodgson's choreography is firy and sharp. 'Does You Mother Know' makes fantastic use of Zanotto's incredible abilities, as well as those of Jordan Tomljenovic as Pepper. Unfortunately the ensemble appear to be unable to handle the choreography at the same time as the vocals. Clearly heavily relying on the tracks in the more physical numbers - to the point where in 'Voulez-Vous' some have just completely given up on even miming the words.
Set design by Linda Bewick is beautiful and clever - making use of a series of folding walls to transform the space seamlessly between interior and exterior locations.
Mamma Mia! The Musical is exactly what you want it to be - simple, surface level fun. There's no thinking required, just your dancing shoes for the oh-so-indulgent mega-mix at the end (which is a real highlight for those who have been desperate to sing along for two and bit hours - this is your time to shine).
Mamma Mia is currently playing at The Regent Theatre in Melbourne. Tickets and information can be found here .
Photos: David Hooley, James D. Morgan