Written on: 19/01/2008
Lucy pulled out all the dramatic stops, added extra stops, and then pulled those out too, extending the dynamics of her vocal emotional and comedic range well beyond what I thought was already her absolute limit.
It was my sincere pleasure and extremely good fortune to witness a very special performance of Mamma Mia on January 17th, 2008. After my wife's friend was taken ill and could not use her ticket, I gladly stepped in as her alternate audience member. To say that the combined performances of Lucy Harris (Donna), Jane Gurnett (Tanya) and Hanna Robertson (Sophie) were noteworthy would be like saying Simon Cowell's criticism can be a little harsh at times! Lucy pulled out all the dramatic stops, added extra stops, and then pulled those out too, extending the dynamics of her vocal emotional and comedic range well beyond what I thought was already her absolute limit. That's the magic of Lucy; it's as if she reinvents herself in every performance by drawing on some special powers, optimizing each performance depending on the cast and audience dynamics. The site and sound of Lucy jumping on the bed and singing Dancing Queen, left me simultaneously awestruck with her vocal, dramatic, athletic and comedic skills and equally concerned about her safety!
Just when I thought the scene couldn't be milked any more, she pulled out a tennis racket and began strumming it in a way that words cannot do justice. At times, Lucy projects a kind of ultra-believability of character that seems almost unique to her. One could try and dissect it, but why? Frog guts do not, a frog, make! Like some kind of sadistic magical dairy farmer, she just keeps milking a proverbial musical, dramatic and comedic cow long after you're convinced it must be totally dehydrated! There were substantial chunks of the show where I was drawn into the story in a state of total suspended disbelief. My son said it best when he said he felt like a fly on the wall. No sooner had I regained my composure after the bed scene, than Lucy emerged from a doorway with a purple-feathered scarf and sunglasses wielding her makeshift microphone (deodorant stick) and gyrating with such hilarious comic energy, that I'm still convinced actual sparks flew off her body!
Outdoing oneself seems to have been a recurring theme in the January 17th performance. Jane Gurnett's ?Does Your Mother Know? scene with Pepper went well beyond inspired; it was like 100 master-classes all crammed into one scene, all the while never slipping into a characterization of herself (a very real risk in such a role). Jane is the consummate professional, able to read, with razor-sharp accuracy, the timbre of the audience and adjust her timing accordingly. I feel that much of the subtler aspects of Thursday's performance were lost on much of the audience. I wanted to stand up and shout back at them, Did you just hear and see what I heard?? ?Were you bussed in from a hospital specializing in mental, emotional visual, auditory, comic and dramatic disorders!? All kidding aside, I think the percentages of foreign audience members have quite a bit to do with the nature and degree of audience response, or lack thereof. Jane is never out of character, helping, along with Lucy, to create and sustain a magical state of suspended disbelief, making their respective characters, and the relationship between them, that much more believable/relatable.
Hanna Robertson was divine. She has expertly refined her character in quite subtle, but no less substantial ways, palpably expanding her vocal and dramatic range, rendering an already totally believable character, that much more so. It really is difficult to see where Donna ends and Sophie begins, which is a testament to their individual talents and obvious devotion to teamwork. Despite knowing the plot all too well, I found myself on the edge of my seat, rooting for Hannah to make the right decision, almost embarrassingly so, like a bored housewife escaping into a fantasy world of soap opera, except that Mamma Mia is no soap opera! Hannah has a unique, almost porcelain doll beauty, which only adds to her youthful innocence, making her decision to marry so young seem that much more impulsive and by extension, makes me want to save her from herself that much more. I'm glad she seems to be using less makeup. Her natural, youthful beauty, only adds to the innocence of her wide-eyed character. Hannah exquisitely exemplifies the fragility of youth and along with it, the gravity of her potentially life-altering decisions juxtaposed against so little life experience. Paul Shelford is very believable as Sophie's fianc, and delivers a very selfless, polished, and at times, genuinely funny performance. This Sophie and Sky fully convince me that they could be an actual couple, causing me to root for their happiness that much more. Hannah is truly blossoming into a force to be reckoned with in the West End. I'm not making this up; during the drive home, my son complained that his lips hurt and were beginning to crack because he couldn't stop smiling! Notwithstanding Simon Cowell's reputation for harshness, I doubt even his hardened show-biz heart could resist substantial softening at the magical performance I was lucky enough to witness.