GREAT SHOW: The entire cast deliver a wonderful performance in Mamma Mia. Photos John Morin

Review

Mamma Mia
Whakatane Little Theatre
Runs until May 25

MUCH-anticipated Mamma Mia opened to a packed theatre on Wednesday night and it didn’t disappoint.

From the outset, a beautifully-crafted stage set transports the audience to the Greek island taverna where the rom-com unfolds to ABBA’s amazing music.

The story revolves around a young woman, Sophie, played by Whakatane’s Eve Lyford, who lives with her mother and taverna owner Donna, played by seasoned British singer-dancer Jessica Mordue.

Sophie is about to get married and, unbeknown to her mother, she has invited three of Donna’s previous lovers to the wedding in the hope of finding out which one is her father.

Donna, who last saw these men 21 years ago, knows nothing about her daughter’s plan and is shocked to see the three men at her taverna, and this is where the fun – and drama – begins.

Directed and choreographed by Dean McKerras, and with Adele Dixon as musical director, the entire cast delivers a fast-paced and perfectly timed performance as everyone prepares for the wedding.

This is possibly the first time our audience is hearing Mordue, as Donna, in song, and her powerful voice stuns, particularly her moving rendition of The Winner Takes It All. This won’t be the last time we see Mordue as Theatre Whakatane will no doubt be hanging on to such talent.

Lyford, as Sophie, and her beau, Sky, played by Jean-Daniel Rosset, are perfectly matched as the soon-to-be married young couple, their on-stage affection gorgeous to watch.

Songbird Lyford delivers a great performance, her voice, as always, a pleasure to hear, and sweetly backed by the harmonies of her friends, Ali (Alice Blakeway) and Lisa (Alex Robbie).

Rosset doesn’t let us down with his on-stage charisma. He is a great all-round musical theatre performer and his gymnastics antics draw quite a few “oohs” and “aahs”.

But, of course, Mamma Mia is also about the laughs, and Donna’s two friends, Rosie, played by Janene McIntyre, and Tanya, played by Monica Julian, as well as Donna’s former boyfriends (Harry, played by Mark Pascoe, Paul Julian as Bill and Calvin Kingi as Sam) ensure we are all kept well entertained.

McIntyre is another strong singer, and a true comedic, and doesn’t miss an opportunity to be outrageously funny. Paul Julian, as Bill, is her love interest and their performance of Take a Chance on Me was a crowd favourite.

But it is Paul’s better half that delivers one of the surprises of the show. Monica Julian relishes her role as Donna’s glamorous triple-divorcee friend Tanya.

Teetering around on high heels, she delivers plenty of cheeky one-liners: “Little boys who play with fire get their fingers burned,” she seductively tells smitten young Pepper (Nate Smythe) before singing Does Your Mother Know.

One of the highlights is when the trio of ladies, Tanya, Donna and Rosie, team up again as their former band Donna and the Dynamos to perform Super Trouper.

Mamma Mia has played around the world since its West End debut and it is still as captivating as ever, thanks to the wonderfully catchy music of ABBA.

Expect to the hear the Swedish band’s best hits, including Mamma Mia, Chiquitita, Money, Money, Money, Money, Knowing Me, Knowing You, and many more.

Theatre Whakatane has been trying to get this show to our stage for several years, and it is a milestone to finally have it here. It is a funny and feel-good show; the dancing by the ensemble is exuberant and entertaining (the male ensemble’s performance in flippers a feat, no pun intended, to behold). The cast are clearly having a blast throughout and their happy energy is contagious.

Mamma Mia is on at Whakatane’s Little Theatre until May 25 and tickets are selling fast.
Book now because this is one party you don’t want to miss out on.

– Kathy Forsyth

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