Written on: 02/02/2007 by Mia Martins (1 review written)
For those who love ABBA music, Mamma Mia is, and will always be, great fun, and hence, transcend mostly expendable cast members.
In general, Mamma Mia makes for a great night or afternoon out. For the more discerning connoisseurs among you, there are a few things that need to be said.
The leading ladies Rosie (played by Joanna Monro) and Tanya (played by Suanne Braun) are excellent.
Joanna Monro is a great Lady who makes the show so much more fun. One must, however, watch her closely to understand the meaning she puts in every word and expression. Joanna has a subtle class that goes largely undetected and hence, I fear, largely unappreciated by the mind-numbed generation X peanut gallery types raised on a steady diet of Jackass, Big Brother, South Park and EastEnders. In short, she is a "true" Lady.
Suanne Braun's Tanya is great fun, well acted, and in general, a dominant presence on stage and a great asset to the Mamma Mia cast; I am sorry to see her leaving the show.
Rosie and Tanya are very fun, giving a huge boost to the progression of the story, bringing the stage and the audience alive every time they step in. I would say that Suanne Braun and Joanna Monro are more Mamma Mia than Lucy Harris.
In my view, the recent hyperbole written about Lucy Harris is unjustified. While I concede she has lots of expression, so do the women selling fish in the streets of Lisbon. If you want to see expression, I recommend that you try and haggle with one of them on price, and then I'm sure you'll agree that if expression were a requirement to be Donna's understudy, then all those fisherwomen in Lisbon would not only qualify as understudies but also as leads.
As for the singing, well Lucy Harris was once compared to the great Portuguese singer Amalia Rodrigues. More hyperbole, hyper-hyperbole! Poor Amalia, I am sure she did quite a few turns in her grave with the thought of that apples to oranges comparison. Nobody can be compared to the one-of-a-kind Amalia, let alone Lucy Harris. One might as well compare Madonna to Maria Callas or Bono to Enrico Caruso (for the Gen. X peanut gallery, Maria Callas and Enrico Caruso were arguably the greatest soprano and tenor in modern opera history, respectively).
Lucy Harris is no Amalia Rodrigues, Agnetha Faltskog or Carmen Miranda; whoever compared Donna's understudy with these great Ladies, was being far too generous.
Lucy's somewhat raspy E-flat smoker-like voice, mixed with some exaggerated facial expressions and a few crocodile tears is nothing particularly noteworthy or unique.
Paul Hawkyard is an excellent Bill Austin; one believes he is really enjoying the role. The scene with Rosie is simply hilarious.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said about Iain Fletcher (Sam Carmichael), he strikes me as more and more bored and put out each time I see him on stage, as if he feels the role is beneath him.
With the mix of his apparent disinterest/contempt for the role of Sam combined with a poor singing technique, makes me think he missed his true calling as the hoofed Professor in Wicked (at least in Wicked he could be a Goat Professor instead of the wether [castrated male goat] he plays in Mamma Mia.
Tasha Sheridan's Sophie lost the enchantment of her beginnings, the scenes with her and Sky (Gareth Derrick) and her and Sam (Iain Fletcher) seem to drag more each time.
"Hats off" to Rebecca Mckinnis for trying to fill the shoes of Suanne Braun in the ensemble. Unfortunately, Rebecca Mckinnis's hat should be "blown off" not just tipped, in homage to Suanne Braun's superior stage presence.
For those who love ABBA music, Mamma Mia is, and will always be, great fun, and hence, transcend mostly expendable cast members. It is so cleverly put together and has such a broad appeal on so many levels; it pretty much runs itself and as such, does not need an extraordinary cast to deliver good entertainment.
That being said, I am hopeful that the new Donna, Sophie and Sky will inject Mamma Mia with some fresh dynamism into a show that is worthwhile, but somewhat fatigued.
Mia Martins (MM)