Written on: 17/02/2007 by Grace Winey (1 review written)
If you like ABBA music and good humor, then Mamma Mia is for you
I have seen Mamma Mia several times now with two different casts, and I have always unashamedly enjoyed the show. Call me simple if you will, but the show is "simply" great fun. If you like ABBA music and good humor, then Mamma Mia is for you; of course the pseudo-intellectual wannabes out there will tell you that it is a simplistic, "vaudeville-esque" story propelled, tackily, by seventies pop music. These, of course, are the same people who would go to, and then debate endlessly, French art films rather than go to what they secretly long for, Toy Story 2. Well, excuse me for living, but the graveyard's full.
Mamma Mia amuses me no matter what, and if I am going to pay good money to see a show, it might as well be something that brightens my day. If I want to be depressed and philosophize about the meaning of life and the suffering in the world, all I have to do is to turn on, for free, (not counting the TV tax) the cynical and nihilistic BBC daily news selling western civilization to the lowest bidder in the surreal "bazaar" of political correctness.
In what concerns art; I do not distinguish between art and entertainment. For me, there is no small or trivial "thing" in art. I agree with Picasso "Art is a lie that makes us realize truth," and Mamma Mia is a lie I don't mind being told repeatedly.
As far as the cast goes, as another reviewer already said, this musical "transcends any expendable cast members," notwithstanding the obvious fact that personal audience taste varies, but as a whole, I am sure that most actors do their level best, most of the time, once they step on that stage. Given England's population and the sheer number of stage schools churning out so many graduates per capita, it's definitely a buyer's market from the production side, who no doubt, get their pick of the West End litter in this peculiar little industry in this peculiar "little" Britain.
As far as the cast goes there are certain characters that appeal more to me than others. I am sure that everybody who watches the show has to love the characters Donna, Rosie and Tanya. The cast members filling the dynamo's shoes are another story. I have to say that I always thought that Kim Ismay was brilliant as Tanya until Suanne Braun came along. Although I would go back to see Kim Ismay in the role of Tanya, I think Suanne Braun is uniquely superb and extremely funny, as if the role was created specifically for her.
Lara Mulcahy was hilarious as Rosie, but after watching Joanna Monro more closely, I realized she is also great fun to watch; she's a different kind of Rosie, but still a very lovable one with a very "lady"-like presence on stage.
Unfortunately, I only watched one Donna in all my times at the Prince of Wales, so I do not have anybody to compare to; that being said, I do think that, as an entertainer, Lucy Harris is great fun to watch and therefore deserves the title "Born to Be Donna." She has been compared to several "stars" in different reviews and I knew the comparison to the great Amalia Rodrigues would ruffle some feathers. The Portuguese are very protective of their Amalia and with good reason. Amalia Rodrigues single handedly put Portugal on the international map as the epitome of talent, grace and class. That being said, I do understand why Lucy Harris's singing was compared to Amalia Rodrigues; they both have unique musical phrasing, independent of any differences in range, "character" or respiratory health.
Sophia Ragavelas has to be my favorite as Sophie Sheridan, I would not mind seeing her again in this role.
I do hope the new Sky brings something unique to the show, I must admit I did not think much of the Sky portrayed by either Fergus March or Gareth Derrick; they both bored me to death. I imagine "Sky" the character as a very loveable young man, with lots of personality; unfortunately all I have seen thus far is a sometimes arrogant, disconnected (Fergus March) and effeminate (Gareth
The dads were/are quite fun to watch, although I must say that the right Sam Carmichael has yet to be found and I leave it at that.
The ensemble is very likable, transmitting much energy, life and happiness to the audience. One exception is Rebecca Mckinnis who somewhat awkwardly sticks out in the group; perhaps a change of hats would lower her profile on stage?
I plan to return to Mamma Mia, in the not too distant future, to see the new Donna.