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★★☆☆☆

“I saw Mamma Mia recently, and frankly, I was...”

Written on: 06/01/2007 by Sue Earl (1 review written)

I saw Mamma Mia recently, and frankly, I was under-whelmed. This raving about Lucy Harris is unjustified. She is good, and has lots of energy and expression, but come on; she's not Julie Andrews, and if energy and expression are the only requirements for West End leads, then they would be populated by transvestite Italian taxi drivers. Firstly, she has to sing in a lower key (I heard the conductor say, in an almost "bless her" tone, "E Flat" (indicating a drop in key). Then he mouthed the words to her like a reception teacher at a school play. His face was so contorted; I thought he was going to hurt himself. Lucy has lots of expression, but her voice sounded a bit raspy, like a smoker.

The part of Sophie, played by Tasha Sheridan, was pretty standard fare. She is a bit big, not clumsy, but big. This makes the dance numbers somewhat awkward, almost as if she is leading. In singing the opening number of "I have a dream" she sings well enough, but she has this stunned expression on her face, not of hope or wonderment, but of terror. It's the same expression I saw in a rabbit that I summarily flattened recently while driving in the fog. I saw Sophia Ragavelas (the previous Sophie) before, and she was what I consider to be the ideal Sophie. In Tasha's defense, she has to play along side an actor (Sky - Gareth Derrick) who should be running away with Harry Bright at the end, not Sophie. I think with her somewhat imposing masculine physique; she makes Sky look even more feminine, if that's possible.

The part of Sam played by Ian Fletcher was intolerable. He has the worst vocal technique of anyone I ever saw on stage. He sings entirely from the neck and chest with an artificial vibrato generated by shaking his entire head back and forth like a goat. He should have the nickname "Headbanger," not Harry Bright. In fact, with the veins in his neck about to burst and his head dangerously close to the set, I thought he was going to knock himself out with his manufactured vibrato.

The part of Tanya played by Suanne Braun was excellent. One can see that the part suits her and that she has worked it out in the minutest detail. She exploits every second she's on stage and always with a purpose. Her number with Pepper was excellent as was Pepper (Ben Heathcote); I just wish I could introduce him to a bottle of shampoo and possibly a bar of soap?

The part of Rosie played by Joanna Monro was also excellent. She did not overplay anything and was very good in "Take a Chance on Me."

Mamma Mia is so clever; it still survives this mostly mediocre cast. I can still recommend it, but only due to the musical genius of ABBA combined with the brilliant adaptation for stage. All musicals should be so lucky as to have such a bulletproof formula.



Sue Earl