FROM THE PRINCE EDWARD THEATRE PRODUCTION
Visited 7th August 2002, 7.30 showing.
The staging and lighting were marginally effective. The direction was
uninspired. The plot trite and hackneyed - I mean, who on earth thought of
setting a musical to the strains of Abba - ah yes, try Muriel's
for instance....A far more polished affair (perhaps we should leave this
sort of things to the Australians?)
The choreography was so interesting that the dancers
each did their very
best to provide uniquely individual interpretations - Had they been dancing
solo their timings would have been perfect, however, as an ensemble perhaps
more like watching a series of jewellery box figurines (all activated out of
I think it fair to say that for the price of a couple of pints you would
hear (and undoubtedly **do**) better in the local boozers' Saturday
evening Karaoke extravaganza. Indeed, for an authentic effect, go on a
night - even with the price of costume hire, you're on to a winner.
A pair of tickets at £70 will be just enough to get you seats two rows from
the back of the stalls - another triumph of overcharging - well done Ticket
Master. Proof positive that given clever marketing and hype, tourists and
Londoners alike can be persuaded to fork out a small fortune for little more
than a pile of sequined pap. Spend the money on tickets to see Bombay
I sat in the front row of the stalls for a 5pm Friday performance where both
leads were missing. Laura Michelle Kelly was apparently ill - not sure if she did
the 8.30 pm show (but I understand she was perfectly fine the night before).
This of course does not mean she wasn't ill on Friday, but I guess finding out the
truth is impossible!
Louise Plowright, (the best thing about the show, I hear)
was also missing. It would have been nice to find out how good she is, but I understand she never does the 5pm show.
my seat - Stalls Row B Front Row - the sound is awful and the view not great, and
I understand they recently put the prices up for this row by quite a lot. Sitting
here is also very distracting due to the band who talked between the songs quite loudly during the performance.
I wrote a letter of complaint to the producers, which was polite and
just stated my disappointment, but basically got a snotty reply saying I should take more care when booking tickets and quoted terms and conditions
about casting (but Louise Plowright missing when not ill, to me is not to me an unavoidable cause!!) and offered a worthless apology about the band
Their response made me more annoyed and upset than before. I feel strongly that the
5pm show is an inferior one and that people should be warned about this.
WOW. What else can I say? It is the best way to sum up such a wonderful
performance. I loved it from beginning to end.
The songs are marvelous. Everyone knows the tunes which makes it even better;
there are no boring parts during the slow songs you can't get you head around.
The set is sooo cleverly made and designed everyone will be amazed. By the end
of the show you feel that you really know the characters. All the actors have
such amazing voices and I could listen to the sound track.
If you like ABBA in any remote way or just love the songs that everyone
knows Mamma Mia is the musical for.
It is a truly amazing story and does a lot of justice to the brilliant
stars of ABBA. I could go back and see it a million times with out being bored.
Amylase Winklestein (Age 15)
At the age of 55 I've finally seen my first London Show (March 2003)! I'm no
critic, so I found the show thoroughly enjoyable, though the theatre was rather
warm and the £8 souvenir programme was disappointing. Only published in
February, it only contained one or two of the performers currently in the show,
and you had to buy the £2.50 programme as well for background information on
the performers. If you wanted to know about the Australian and Canadian
productions etc. it was very good.
The show had been recommended by some friends who had gone to see it on the
spur of the moment whilst in London. They couldn't get returned tickets so ended
up buying from a tout / scalper. They paid £55 each for seats in the upper
circle (£20 or £25 face value), so please let that be a warning to others to
only book as I did, through the theatre itself or an authorised agency to avoid
Have I been to the show that others have been to see? I found the show absolutely captivating from start to finish, and the rest of the audience, would hardly let the performers off at the end they loved it so much.
The music is, as we already knew, wonderful, and it is applied in a comic way in places, 'Does your mother know' and 'Take a Chance on me' being particular examples.
I was right at the back of the Stalls, in Row ZA, in seats which Monkey rated as unacceptable (actually, just "not a first choice at the price" - monkey editor). However, the sound and light were fine, and the seats provided an unrestricted view of the stage.
I went on the Thursday Evening of 21st August 2003. Alexandra Jay was not performing, but the understudy, Elinor Collett, was excellent. Louise Plowright delivered a mesmerising performance as Donna Sheridan.
Music Stunning, Great Production, Hilarious Book by Catherine Johnson, Fantastic Orchestrations by Martin Koch,
What are you moaning about?
Went on the last weekend in June (28th, 2003) with full cast appearing . Sat in stall row E. View and sound excellent and for some reason there was more leg room here.
Bought the tickets for the show on the Saturday afternoon for that night's performance at £40.00 each from box office. This is the second time this year that I have been to a London show and been able to but top price tickets for that night's (Saturday) show by going in the afternoon.
Back to Mamma Mia. Thoroughly recommend it unless you hate ABBA. Music familiar and superbly song but the dialogue complements it by being both funny and touching.
We went to see "Mamma Mia" on Saturday 11th October 2003 and were extremely disappointed. Yes, the music was great but the story was SO corny. I was expecting a colourful stage but there were just two pieces of set that were continually moved into so many positions it was a joke. Two out of the three lead male singers were a let down, when paying prices as they are you expect the best.
This is the first London show I have been to and if this is the best - then it will be the last!
Saw this last Friday (17th October 2003) at the 5pm matinee. So bad it was good. I couldn't work out if it was one long spoof as it reminded me of a school Christmas pantomime in terms of acting and (particularly) singing.
Still the theatre seemed pretty full - mainly tourists -who lapped it up and it wasn't a bad way to spend 2 1/2 hours, just very poor in terms of quality.
I would see it again. I'm an ex-dancer (including ballet) & I loved every minute. It was a real feel-good show that had me & my friends smiling from ear to ear. Well worth seeing.
FROM THE PRINCE OF WALES THEATRE PRODUCTION
Mia - HERE I'LL GO AGAIN" is what no doubt what a lot of the audience were
thinking! Corny at times, and doesn't try to hide it. Surprisingly good plot - I
wasn't expecting one at all! Great leading members of the cast - apart from one
of the male leads who really COULDN'T sing!!!
Sit anywhere apart from
Have never been to see a West End show before and to counteract a previous 'reviewee' - if they're all like this I'll be going to see more.
Being an Abba fan and never seeing them live I suppose this is the next best thing. I thought all the performers did fantastic
jobs. Obviously the music is fantastic, cast great ('Sophie' - Alexandra Jay - was
gorgeous) and the story interesting and funny.
The night I saw it everybody was up and
"giving it some" during the 3 song encore.
Brilliant. Have already recommended it to friends
Thursday Oct 7th
The seats were fantastic as was the
show. Well written, funny, the whole audience loved it.
September 22nd 2004
We saw the Saturday matinee performance on 30th April 2005. Sat in seats H 19, 20
and 21 in the stalls. Excellent seats - I doubt you would get a better view
in all of the stalls.
What a show! From the first scene the hugely talented and energetic cast delivered a great afternoons entertainment. I can't see what people's
problem is with the set or the dancing. This is not an extravaganza or a dance musical. It is pure fun and
entertainment for anyone who likes Abba
songs and a clever idea.
The way the music blends seamlessly into the story is excellent. The story
is clever, the script is at times hilarious and other times quite moving.
Viven Parry as Donna delivered a powerful, touching and endearing
performance. Her singing was wonderful and she stopped the show with 'Winner
takes it all.' Sophie Raveglas as Sophie shows she is a highly talented
actress with a beautiful voice. She also has one of the most expressive
faces I have ever seen. The various friends and fathers were all on top of
The climax of the show at the end really delivered too. All of the audience
were up dancing and cheering regardless of age or gender.
We came out of the theatre beaming. Ok so it wasn't Sondheim or Rogers and Hart. It doesn't pretend to be. If you want to walk away discussing the
finer points of choreography, lyrics and staging stay away. If you want to walk away walking on air having been thoroughly
entertained then go. I loved every minute of it.
Mamma Mia indeed……….wow!! Fantastic!! Fab!! Superb!! Absolutely fandabydozzy
I fell in love with the characters, the story and ABBA. Fergus March was gorgeous and Sophia Ragavelas perfect. To anyone that does not enjoy this
FABULOUS production – ARE YOU MAD?
All that there is left say is "THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC……." And in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger,
"I’ll be back!"
Fantastic feel-good show - all the cast were
superb - particularly Lara Mulcahy as Rosie - what a performance.
Highly recommended for all ages - has everyone
literally dancing in the aisles.
Performance seen on June 4th Saturday matinee -
Dress circle seats B28 - 29 - brilliant view and comfortable too !
I recently went to see Mamma Mia and it was fantastic - a friend booked the tickets and we were in row D 9
to 17 . The view was fantastic and the seats were very comfortable - it was good to see the expressions on the faces of the cast. No neck ache in these rows despite being 4 rows from the front.
There was a hen party in the first row (A) and throughout the show they put the smoke machine on and it completely covered them all in row A they couldnt see a thing !! It went back as far as row B/C but we were lucky in Row D. You couldnt see them in row A with the smoke !! So row A is not a good bet for this show !!
Saw the show a second time on 22nd July 2005 with hubbie and kids and they
thoroughly enjoyed it – hubbie being a cynic even had a tear in his eye when
Donna sang "SLIPPING THOUGH MY FINGERS" to Sophie. The kids were in awe (aged 9
and 13) and both want to see it again……and again Sophia and Fergus were
FANTASTIC and the whole cast just FABULOUS.
What's the worst thing about "Mamma Mia"? It makes those darn Abba tunes stick
in your head! What's good? Mamma Mia is the BEST THING SINCE COCA COLA!!!
LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!
Well I did it, I saw it yesterday (2nd September 2005) and it was great as
always... I did read this site's bit on theatre manners and didn't sing...Ow, my
tongue hurts from biting it!! A almost did an impromptu standing ovation for
Lucy Harris after she sang winner takes it all...but I didn't...that's easier
with two than alone!! Hahahah gosh, was I tempted!!
Later: Oh "Mamma Mia" still has it!! I saw it again on Friday 8th
October 2005!! Read my latest review:
And, well, I didn't quite stand after she sang "Winner Takes It All", but
did stand up by myself for the bows...I didn't care about anyone
else... I adored
the performances and so I got up.....
http://www.lucy-harris.co.uk (Mamma Mia's Lucy Harris, a fan
I have to agree with Theatremonkey on this one! I enjoyed it, but the scenery
was too bland for such a huge production. I enjoyed it very much and the mother
had a fantastic voice as did the daughter. I was hoping for some tap dancing
perhaps, or other dancing which I didn't think there was enough of.
I thought the singing of one of the fathers left a bit to be desired. It was
enjoyable and I did enjoy it but I cannot put my finger on what was missing -
something was missing but I am not sure what. I went to see "Our House" once,
which was based on Madness music - a similar idea to this one - and have to say
I thought that was better. In "Mama Mia" I thought the "large" lady was terrific
full of fun -it was a great show don't get me wrong, and it is well worth
seeing, but I still think there is something missing. Perhaps it was more
Ms Christina Brooks
Fabulouse!! Great show, fantastic cast, great story and even better songs. What
an enjoyable evening. Can't wait to book up again.
I must admit to attending the July 7th 2006 production of Mamma
Mia, starring Lucy Harris as Donna, Suanne Braun as Tanya, and Tasha Sheridan as
Sophie, mostly to see what all the "hubbub" was about. I simply had difficulty
accepting that an understudy, who only performed as Donna once weekly, could be
"that good." Surely there must have been some small, delusional, fanatical,
hardcore fan group that identified with her for some irrational reason, pumping
her up, out of all proportion, into a caricature of herself.
ABBA music is rather unique in that much of it is permeated with folk, even
classical, substructures. Although I can rarely tolerate popular singers,
especially the bubblegum music of Brittany Spears and company, I can more than
tolerate ABBA due to their many classical underpinnings. The underlying chord
structure of "I Have a Dream" is similar to what many argue is the most perfect
piece of music ever written, Beethoven's violin concerto, and "The Winner Takes
it All," complete with arpeggiations, is basically "Ave Maria." I'm not blaming
Benny or Bjorn for plagiarism; I'm sure they were written partly on a
subconscious level, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
One popular singer that I can easily tolerate is ABBA's Agnetha Fältskog. Her
voice sounds so natural, that the music takes the form of a seamless extension
of what you are convinced is her very essence. In contrast, one knows Barbara
Streisand is a "great singer," which is the problem with Streisand. She
constantly reminds you with her self indulgent and egoistic singing that she is,
indeed, "great," much in the same way Dustan Hoffman won't let you forget he's a
"great" actor. If you need an example by way of contrast, I'd much rather see
Lawrence Olivier "act" tired than suffer the self-absorbed Hoffmann staying
awake for three days straight to make himself literally tired for the Marathon
Man scene where Olivier, much more convincingly, plays the villain Nazi dentist
juxtaposed with the sleep-deprived, ("look at me, damn you, I'm acting")
Hoffman, much like the "Listen to me damn you, I'm singing" Streisand.
Fältskog and Lucy Harris in contrast, are simply projecting themselves through
the music which you feel you have been lucky enough to happen upon. It's akin to
spying an animal in the wild, displaying great natural skills, unaware of your
presence, yet no less impressive for not having studied said skills in an
"approved" school. One has the feeling (whether it's true or not) that Lucy
would be doing the same thing while gardening if she were not on stage.
Similarly, Agnetha Fältskog had a way of singing with technical aplomb but also
with total sincerity and musicality without even the slightest hint of any part
of her technique sounding "studied." Regardless of their level of technique,
great artists make you forget their technique. Ella Fitzgerald is a perfect
example of a truly "natural" singer who never changed her tone colour while
changing registers. It was as if she never took a masterclass, and so was
blissfully unaware of the difficulty of such a feat.
There are only a handful of popular, (living) "singers" that exude the same
divine spark of total believability, one of which is Lucy Harris. I'm not
talking about technical perfection here, I'm talking about giving meaning to
music with an opaque technique, in much the same way we happily forgive the
great impressionists for not drawing with perfect perspective (deepening in the
process, our "perspective" beyond Cartesian geometry).
I realize my comments about Lucy sound like hyperbole; but rest assured, I don't
make them lightly. Lucy Harris sings almost in spite of herself; much like the
bumble bee that isn't supposed to fly, she moulds the music in a way that defies
labels, and in so doing, transcends the kind of formulaic singing that is fast
becoming all too recognizable through drama school homogenization. Method
"singing" is a creativity killer just like method "acting;" neither of which
represent genuine singing or acting, anymore than paint-by-numbers represents
the pinnacle of visual art. Obviously, Mary Poppins, by contrast, has the almost
impossible task of imitating Julie Andrews, making it a kind of
quasi-re-enactment of the film (not that there is anything wrong with that [I
loved the West End production of Mary Poppins]). In contrast, Mamma Mia is, or
at least should be, all about eccentricity, improvisation, interplay of
characters and spontaneity, and as such, should embrace and cultivate the
diversity and synergy of Lucy, Tasha and Suanne.
The role of Donna was so seamlessly blended into the music itself, that I had an
almost unsettling feeling that I couldn't disentangle the singing from the
acting. Lucy has an uncanny ability to blend the dynamic range and emotional
content of the music in a way that simply cannot be taught. Her character exudes
such transparently sincere emotion, it's as if she couldn't play it differently
if she wanted to; talent does what it can, genius does what it must.
Her combination of facial expressions, body language, voice inflections, and
seamless transitions from dialogue to singing and visa versa, is so automatic,
natural and effortless, that I can only conclude she headlined as Donna in an
earlier life. I can only hope that she is reincarnated as Donna in a more
prominent way, and soon! If there is any justice in this world, Lucy Harris will
get the recognition she most assuredly deserves, both in this life, and in any
credit she has already accumulated in any previous lives as Donna. Speaking of
reincarnation (metaphorically), in some ways, I see Lucy as a throw back to an
earlier time. Her ability to project subtle emotion is akin to vaudeville or
silent movies, and stands in stark contrast to the so-called "stars" of
Hollywood who can barely manage to project the slightest emotional content, even
with the aid of telescopic close-ups (most recently exemplified by Julia Roberts
bombing spectacularly on Broadway).
The role of Sophie, played by Tasha Sheridan was at once convincing and sincere.
I do not consider the two to be the same thing. A car salesman can be convincing
and anything but sincere which was the polished yet "canned" impression the Las
Vegas production left me with; an experience I shall not repeat voluntarily.
I think that Tasha almost suffers from being "too good." In that I mean she
pulls off the girl next door so convincingly, you almost resent her for not
being more glamorous. She could have easily used her runway physique, vocal and
acting talents to take Sophie in a more glittery, but in my view, entirely wrong
direction, but instead restrains herself in keeping with the character which is
both commendable, and in my view, the real genius of her role. If she were
anything more than a simple girl who merely wants to find her dad in order to
somehow ground herself on the eve of her momentous decision to marry, then she
would not be Sophie. I also know how difficult her vocals are. The "I have a
dream" number should be simple yet elegant, and she pulls it off without being
overly sentimental. The childlike simplicity of "I have a Dream" is so simple
musically that it runs the risk of sounding childish when sung too "straight."
If it is embellished too much with excessive portmenti (slides) then it comes
off as "cheesy" (like an overly sentimental country and western tune). Just as
the line between the sublime and the grotesque in Mozart’s music is the most
difficult to balance, so too is the melody which, in so many ways, defines
Sophie. For you wannabe singers out there, try an experiment at home; sing "I
Have a Dream" staccato with no slides (like discrete notes on the piano where
they are not interconnected by slides), and you will have a sense of just how
good a singer Tasha is. Her intonation is uncanny and her tone is pure without
being saccharine. It is the difference between honestly expressing hope for the
future and singing Disney's "If you wish upon a star" which is meant to be
naive, unrealistic and child-like.
I also do not resent Tasha for not being trained at the Bolshoi Ballet; her
dancing is solid but not too polished (in the classic ballerina sense), which I
think contributes further to the believability of her girl next door character.
Otherwise, she runs the risk of coming off as a dancer who took a few singing
lessons or a singer who learned to dance. I don't see any combination of singer,
dancer or actress in Tasha; I simply see Sophie in much the same way I see
"Donna" in Lucy Harris, which I think is the highest complement one can pay a
cast member. This must be why I became a bit tongue tied after the show; I
wanted to congratulate Tasha for all of the above, but could not pick out, to
her credit, any single element on which to focus.
The role of Tanya played by the South African-Born actress, Suanne Braun, was
extremely well played. It is a role which can very easily be over-played to the
point of caricature (as it was in Las Vegas), like the difference between a
simple fruit hat contrasted with the small jungles that were Carmen Miranda's
trademark. I suffered through an exaggerated version of that character in Las
Vegas, and it left me doubting that anyone could be that gold-digging, shallow,
horny, vain and spoiled and still be friends with Donna. In short, she had to
have something in common with Donna to be a believable friend, and she pulls it
off effortlessly. I was particularly impressed with her scene with Pepper. She
gave the impression that she was only humouring him in a playful, not sadistic
way. She also played a very tempting part in its proper proportion in a way that
supported Donna, and in doing so, elevated them both; so just as she never over
sang her harmonies, she also kept her character within the intended limits of
the spirit of Tanya to support synergistically, rather than compete
distractingly against, Donna.
The music from the pit was of the highest technical quality, and I cannot
remember an orchestra that seemed to genuinely enjoy their music as much as this
group clearly did, due no doubt, in large part, to the universal appeal of
ABBA's music (and I told the conductor as much).
Now, I must confess that I am not a popular music buff or even much of a fan of
musicals in general. I'm not, however, entirely unfamiliar with musical
productions; I played in the pit of several old standbys (Brigadoon, Music Man,
Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, etc.) and in my youth, was even the "fiddler" in a
community production of Fiddler on the Roof (I played the part of the Fiddler as
well as the actual fiddle; [instead of merely miming the tune, I played on stage
what is usually played by a pit musician). My background is in classical music
and I was, as you may have guessed by now, trained as a violinist. I have played
and taught professionally in symphony orchestras as well as the occasional
orchestra pit, on and off for 25 years.
My violin teacher (www.wernerlywen.com) used to say that "We could not help but
play beautifully for him (Leonard Bernstein)." This was due to Bernstein's
seemingly boundless musical genius that transcended his almost equally grand
intellect. In short, he had a way of blending all of the key ingredients of any
given performance, creating a totally convincing and unifying impression that
left you wanting for nothing, except more of the same. I can say with all
candour, that only a few artists in my life have given me the feeling that their
interpretation was the only valid one. Some artists were more highly trained
than others, but all had that innate quality of total sincerity that cannot be
faked, transcending the moment; performances that were so substantial, they
seemed to have their own gravitational field independent of, and incorruptible
by, outside influences. If you find yourself asking a jealous question such as,
"What does Lucy have that I don't?" try duplicating all the subtleties of her
performance. It's analogous to saying "Babies don't really do too much" and then
finding yourself exhausted after trying to copy all their "natural" crawling
The dancing and choreography in Mamma Mia was of the highest quality. Rather
than give the all too common impression that dancing is an unrelated break from
the storyline, serving to disrupt rather than propel the story, the dancing is
refreshingly integral to the inertia and character of the story and for this
reason, the dancers are unapologetically and justifiably, enthusiastic. Good
dancing and choreography can help a musical, but great dancing with bad
choreography, can kill one.
Mamma Mia is not just a must see, it's a must repeat see! Don't be surprised
however, if you find yourself loitering around stage doors, skipping out early
from work on Fridays, and daydreaming about the most trivial minutia of anything
and everything Mamma Mia. I actually left Friday's 5:00 performance with an
unsettling feeling, not unlike, a person who starts out innocently enough in
search of some harmless casino entertainment only to find himself compulsively
gambling inexplicably beyond his means? If there is a recessive Mamma Mia gene,
it has been activated in me. Indeed, if Lucy's fan base is delusional and
fanatical, I can only say with all humility, I now understand, and even
partially share, in their addiction.
Because Mama Mia's present cast will change on 6 March 2006, I offer some
thoughts on the departing cast. I've been fortunate to view this cast on three
occasions, the most recent being the 25 February 2005, Saturday night
Mama Mia continues to be an audience favourite because of its zany story of
three men, a mother and daughter, and a father unknown. Add to it the Abba music
and the glitter which propels the entire production. One need only sit back and
enjoy the snappy dance scenes and familiar Abba songs. But there's also a story
to be told - about relationships and people.
This lead cast has been strong and talented. Likewise the energetic ensemble
cast. Together, they put on a pulsating, whimsical show night after night which
feels fresh and exciting. It's been a pleasure experiencing this cast.
The strongest vocalists are the tandem of Vivien Parry as Donna, and Sophia
Ragavelas as her daughter, Sophie. Together they form a fulcrum around which the
other performers craft a two hour journey of whimsy, nostalgia, and reflection.
But don't reflect too long as the glittery Abba encore reprise will have you
standing and clapping at closing curtain.
Favourite scenes, I have many. How to choose between dancing frogmen, friends
reflecting on years past while singing Dancing Queen, Donna's emotional rebuke
of a lover singing The Winner Takes it All, or Tanya tweaking a young Don Juan's
But my sentimental favourite scene is the wedding dress scene between Donna and
Sophie before Sophie's wedding. Ms. Parry and Ms. Ragavelas create a sense of
remembrance as time slips away between them during their final tender interlude
together. They don't simply sing the words, they convey the feelings in the
lyrics with real tears as they perform like mother and daughter. It's theatrical
magic at its best.
We've experienced Mama Mia from many different vantage points. As TM suggests,
Stalls L10/11 are wonderful seats providing good vantage and good acoustics &
one need only sit back and take it all in. Likewise TM correctly cautions about
Stalls D9 which is a stage left seat in a musical which tends to run stage
right. Thus one feels a bit removed from the action at times. Sight lines are
sometimes obscured by ensemble cast as well. Be forewarned about proximity to
the speakers. You'll adjust during the performance, but during the encore
numbers, the volume is all the way up and your eardrums will pop.
Our favourite seats were Stalls B 33/34. These seats are mesmerizing as the
actors are so close and you feel the energy of the performance in an entirely
different manner. Act II's dream scene is surreal as fog wafts off of the stage
onto your lap. It's from these seats that we discover the powerful chemistry
between Ms. Parry and Ragavelas during the wedding gown scene.
Along the way we've had our own special theatrical moments. Most memorable is
the evening when two inebriated women sit behind us and proceed to sing along on
every song with the leads. Compounding this is a blind man seated next to me,
who upon hearing the drunken ladies decides to join in as well ( badly out of
tune I might add ). The two inebriates are escorted out of the theater at
intermission while the blind gentleman is admonished to sit quietly. This is
truly "theater of the theater."
Of course we all look forward to the Abba encore after final curtain calls
during which the leads don full Abba lycra regalia. It's one of the few times
I've seen a UK audience stand in unison and clap and join in with the nostalgic
Abba celebration -- standing ovations are after all given more sparingly in the
UK. But to my surprise, during my most recent February visit, exactly five
people stand up in stalls during the Abba encore ( myself included ). And this
after a fine performance and very warm applause by the audience. Well at least
they all knew who the yanks were.
Like life, theater moves on and it's time for this Mama Mia cast to give way to
a new group of performers. It's been a pleasure to watch this cast perform and
I'm very happy to be fortunate enough to see one of their final performances.
Went to see "Mamma Mia" on 9th March 2006 - great show really good seats in the
stalls - right at side of sound box but no problem and plenty of room to get up
and have a jig about as only one row behind us.
Went with friends who had seen it before and they thought it was better than the
first time - they thought the script was funnier they said. Good night out and
all the stalls seats seemed to be pretty good for views.
Lizzie Loves the Theatre
This show was well worth waiting for and one I MUST go and see again! My
only stipulation is I have to see the fantastic Lucy Harris play Donna
again! She was taking on the part on a Saturday matinee I saw, although I
understand from a recent letter she kindly sent me, that she only usually
does a Friday matinee!
The whole show is full of energy and I am a fan of Abba songs anyway which
makes all the difference! We were up dancing on our row at the end when the
company sang 'Waterloo' and in the interval we had commiserated that it was
almost over! The comment from my companion was 'do you think they'll come
back and start again if we sit here long enough?!' when the curtain had gone
down! Well, yes they would, later that evening! But sadly we did not possess
A must-see show and I hear it will be touring so those who cannot get to
London so easily should eventually have a chance of seeing one of the best
2nd Visit: When I previously reviewed this show (above), I
stipulated that I would HAVE to watch Lucy Harris in the lead role again. I
managed it, booking a Friday matinee intentionally, I tripped back to the Prince
of Wales Theatre – and wasn’t disappointed!
I cannot imagine why Lucy has not been taken on as the full time Donna. I do
wonder what it is she has to do to prove herself to be the first choice. If I go
again (and it is highly likely I will!) I refuse to book anything other than a
Friday matinee for fear of not getting the same enjoyment. I just don’t think I
would be satisfied seeing her in the ensemble.
I am pleased to see that others agree with me as well.
I might book again soon to see Jane Gurnett take on the role of Tanya (although
at present, having been a fan of Casualty back in her day, I find it hard to
think of her in the role of Tanya) – but I am wondering in the meantime if a
letter should be sent to the Production Team to shake them up and force their
hand in casting Lucy as Donna!
An excellent production, highly recommended, it’s great to sing-along to and
‘feel good’ too!
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo Linzi Hateley. Even when bravo is repeated for emphasis
or used in its superlative form “Bravissimo,” it seems a pathetically inadequate
kudo to encapsulate the sheer weight of Linzi Hateley’s portrayal of Donna in
Mamma Mia. Bravo! Admittedly denotes much enthusiasm and admiration, but
simultaneously sheds far too little, if any, light on why I felt spontaneously
compelled to shout it at Linzi Hateley during her curtain call. I’m ashamed to
admit that when I first saw Linzi Hateley ’s publicity photo announcing her as
the new Donna, I was actually angry. I thought to myself “come on Benny and
Bjorn, say it ain't so; don’t tell me that you have also sold out to the
Hollywood machine!” In my own defence, my suspicions were not totally
unjustified given Linzi Hateley’s far too glamorous, and to my eye, youthful
appearance combined with Hollywood’s recent casting of the lead roles of none
other than Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia the movie, to boot,
Linzi Hateley has, like a catalyst in a chemical reaction, single-handedly
transformed the role of Donna and in turn (much like a chain reaction), also
transformed Mamma Mia, as a by-product of the first reaction. Thermodynamics
aside, the dramatic energy of Mamma Mia obeys entirely different laws when
driven (catalyzed) by Linzi Hateley as Donna. Make no mistake; I do not wish to
convey the notion that the role of Donna has been somehow dramatically
“improved” by Linzi Hateley, unless of course you consider a Porsche Carrera a
dramatically “improved” VW beetle. Yes a VW beetle is roundish in shape and has
a rear-mounted engine, but for me, that’s where the qualitative similarities
I know the more sceptical of you out there are wondering how I could possibly
write anything more glowing than my previous critiques of earlier Donnas,
critiques that bordered on fanatical idolatry? The answer to that rhetorical
question is below; just keep reading. I just need to dash to the kitchen for a
moment to take the “crow” out of the oven. Don’t pity me, I don’t mind it too
much; it’s a small dietary sacrifice for the privilege of having a Linzi Hateley
“experience.” In order to put Linzi Hateley’s characterization of Donna into
perspective, one cannot really do it comparatively; one needs, instead to devise
a new scale of measurement, appropriate to the size and weight of the object
being measured. One does not measure the diameter of planets in millimetres
because even though it’s possible, it yields numbers that are too large and
For those of you who follow classical music, especially in London, Sir Thomas
Beecham needs no introduction. Arturo Toscanini said of Beecham, in what must
have been the greatest backhanded musical compliment of all time, “Beecham is a
genius, amateur. If one heard nothing but good amateur orchestras, Beecham’s
performances would, no doubt, cause one to think one had died and gone to
musical heaven. But then if one heard Toscanini after Beecham, one would be
forced to conclude that what one thought was heaven, was really a musical
purgatory. In other words, Beecham would quickly go from being a giant, to being
the world’s tallest midget. In my view, Linzi Hateley is as different from the
next best Donna, as the world’s tallest giant next to the world’s tallest
Linzi Hateley brought out subtleties in Mamma Mia that I am not convinced, even
the creators, had the insight to “write” into the script; nor am I sure if it
would even be possible, for the creators to have “written down” what she did. I
am reminded of the sheer musical genius of Leonard Bernstein who imbued music
with meaning in ways that no one else could, even the composers of said music!
Igor Stravinsky once admitted that “Lenny” brought out things while conducting
“The Right of Spring” that not even he (Stravinsky) knew were there! Similarly,
Linzi Hateley brought out aspects, both dramatic and musical, of Mamma Mia that
I didn’t think were even possible.
I know this will seem like a detour, but bear with me; I recently saw the Royal
Operas televised performance of Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle (approx. 15 hours).
Despite being introduced by Michael Portillo in the most nauseatingly
patronizing and arrogantly pseudo-intellectual way, as if to say “thank you all
for giving up banger racing this weekend to give opera a chance,” it was well
worth it. The vocal, orchestral and most impressively, dramatic elements were
woven into a seamless continuum of the highest artistic quality. It was deeply
moving, and I’m not just saying that because of the occasional appearance of the
Rein maidens topless! Just in case you were wondering, I have not yet gotten
around to registering a complaint about the maidens with the royal Opera!
In my view, Linzi Hateley’s task in Mamma Mia, was in some ways, more
challenging than the role of Brunhilde or Sigfried in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, what
most consider to be the most monumental task in Opera. How can I make such an
audacious claim? Well, here’s how. Wagner was the composer, librettist and
dramatist of the ring Cycle; in short, every word, every syllable, note, stage
action, plot dynamic, was created by Wagner to interrelate in a complete
artistic creation. Mamma Mia was created, as many critics point out, as a cute,
but somewhat superficial excuse to sing ABBA music. Linzi Hateley manages, with
an uncanny depth of insight, to seamlessly convey the deeper and more universal
archetypes hidden in this seemingly superficial story. With a kind of musical
and dramatic alchemy, Linzi Hateley transmutates the songs of ABBA (whose lyrics
leave many gaps in terms of their ability to tell the whole story) into a
coherent work of art (transfiguring the superficiality of contemporary “pop
lead” into a timeless, and much more weighty, 24 karat “Rein-gold” to borrow
from my friend Wagner). The genius of Linzi Hateley is her ability to reconcile
the slapstick with the sublime while somehow, miraculously convincing the
audience that both are necessary.
In the first scene where Donna encounters Sam, her reaction is more of surprise
than anger, which totally transforms the rest of the plot as it unfolds making
the overall story much more believable. In her more shocked than angered
reaction Donna gives the audience the distinct feeling she is replaying her
entire past with Sam and somehow reliving the same feeling of false hope she
felt when she thought he had abandoned her all those years ago. This simple
tweaking of her reaction, set up the rest of the story in a far more authentic
light and hence, renders the characters much more complex. This, in turn,
elevates them from mere excuse props for singing ABBA tunes, into bona-fide
characters who belong there, with or without ABBA. Because she isn’t overly
bitter, her hysterical, knee-buckling rendition of Mamma Mia, is that much more
reminiscent of a middle-aged woman suddenly transformed into a week-kneed
teenager in the presence of a cute boy. It also raises the deeper and more
uncomfortable reality that no matter how grown up we seem to be, much of our
personalities are shaped by these youthful indiscretions, which make Donna’s
reduction to a rubber-kneed teenager that much more poignant and funny at the
same time. I’m struck with the oxymoronic overtones of the expression “youthful
indiscretion” insofar as youthfulness, by virtue of the lack of experience
characterizing it, is not as much “indiscrete” as it is an inevitable
by-product, often tragic, of youth. I think the laughter during that scene was a
different kind of laughter, almost cathartic. It’s as if every girl who was ever
jilted in her youth, relives it through Donna’s rubber-kneed descent into
teenage irrationality. It also speaks to the broader notion that deep down, all
most people really want is to be loved unconditionally, and that much of what
passes for “grown-up” activities are really fatally doomed efforts to win the
“unconditional” love and approval of others by virtue of the simple fact that
with the act of “earning” love and respect, both cease to be unconditional and
hence, loose their purity.
During Chiquitita and Dancing queen, one feels that Donna was genuinely
cheered-up by Tanya and Rosie which provides much welcomed hope about the
elasticity of the human spirit and the hope for a brighter tomorrow. The
choreography of the three dynamos and the physical comedy they matched to the
lyrics, defies words, even for me! I have seen several performances of Mama Mia
under other casts, and this was by far, the most meticulously crafted, expertly
sung and acted thus far. I don’t think I could take anything much funnier
without pulling a muscle laughing. While previous Tanyas may have “looked” the
part and acted it well enough in terms of Tanya as a two-dimensional archetypal
gold-digger, this Tanya (Jane Gurnett) imbues the character with such expert
vocals, physical comedy and relatability to Donna and Rosie, as to put her on
Mt. Olympus with the other giants, separating her also, from earthly midgets.
The new Sophie (Hannah Robertson) was delightful. She projects just the right
balance of innocence, likeability, believability (especially in her scenes with
Sky [Paul Chelford]) and strong vocals. One really senses her genuine doubts
about the wedding and her naiveté in the opening number, where she conveys,
through it, her desire to find herself through her paternity search. The new sky
perfectly complements Sophie; he is naturally very funny, boyishly handsome (but
not in a vain or self conscious way) and believably heterosexual. Tanya was
excellent in the scene with Pepper in “Does Your Mother Know.” She milks every
ounce out of that scene without over doing any one aspect of the character, all
the while displaying what is clearly a highly trained and unflappable vocal
Linzi Hateley rendition of “Slipping Through my Fingers” was absolutely magical.
Forgive me Bjorn, but Linzi Hateley is technically and interpretively an even
better singer than Agnetha; I mean that sincerely. Her tonal range is like a
simmering volcano, making everything she sings sizzle with an underlying
passion. And like a simmering volcano, she produces a steady stream of energy
that holds your attention in anticipation of a catastrophic eruption that
thankfully, never materializes. Her vocal quality has in my view, an analog in
the violin playing of Mischa Elman or the singing of Mario Lanza (with a sex
change, of course). For the uninitiated, it may seem easy to do, but I assure
you, what Donna did with “The Winner Takes it All) is technically and
dramatically, a very precarious and extremely difficult thing to pull off.
Instead of singing the whole song, she talks for portions of it and then, with
impeccable pitch, picks up the notes of the melody. This gave the piece a much
more authentic and believable effect in that she was essentially crying the
song. I have never seen such risks taken in that way in live theater, and I am
in awe of her for taking such chances (considering how perfect it was, I suspect
she just may be a better singer than even I give her credit for).
With humble, awe-struck adulation,
Mamma Mia, here I go again:
The September 8th 2006 performance of "Mamma Mia" differed from the
2006 performance in several ways. Firstly, I want to make it crystal clear to
the knuckleheads who passed over Lucy Harris last time for the lead; please have
your eyes, ears, hearts and brains checked in no particular order before the
next round of auditions. After seeing Lucy this time, I am convinced she is not
a star; that would be an insult. She is a bona fide supernova.
A supernova (pl. supernovae) is a stellar explosion that produces an extremely
bright object made of plasma (Lucy Harris) that declines to invisibility over
weeks or months (when she gets passed over for the lead). There are several
different types of supernovae and two possible routes to their formation. A
massive star may cease to generate fusion energy from fusing the nuclei of atoms
in its core, and collapse under the force of its own gravity (Lucy without the
support of Suanne Braun) to form a neutron star or black hole. Alternatively, a
white dwarf star may accumulate material from a companion star (Suanne) until it
nears its Chandrasekhar limit and undergoes runaway nuclear fusion in its
interior, completely disrupting it. The explosion drives a blast wave into the
surrounding space, (Prince of Wales Theatre) causing the audience to
spontaneously sing and dance, forming a supernova remnant (that warm glowing
feeling that makes life worth living). "Nova" is Latin for "new", referring to
what appears to be a very bright new star shining in the celestial sphere, even
if astronomers (casting agents) are too blind to notice them; the prefix "super"
distinguishes this from an ordinary nova, which also involves a star increasing
Lucy’s emotional, musical, comical and overall theatrical range is on an order
of magnitude many times that of anyone else I can imagine as the next closest
contender. So please, whoever is auditioning the next cast, for your own sake
and that of the shows immortality, beg Lucy Harris to do Donna as long as she is
physically able while quadrupling her salary (a bargain). A talent like Lucy’s
only comes along in a generation or two. Let me make myself clear to those who
struggle with analogies, Lucy is simply Donna. There will never be a role for
which anyone is better suited, never.
I’m beginning to wonder if Lucy can even be fully appreciated in England. I
lived and worked in Portugal for 4 years where something as simple as guiding a
driver into a parking space looks like Toscanini conducting a Wagnerian opera.
Lucy Harris and Suanne Braun have more expression in their four eyebrows than
the whole rest of the West End combined. How can I put this diplomatically; the
English are not famous for exaggerated facial expressions (their eyebrows
generally don’t move [I call it “Fergie face” named for the former toe-sucking
Duchess of York; it’s like a botched Botox injection that paralyzes the face
from the nose up]). I just had a very unpleasant vision of Pepper (who is, by
the way, an obviously excellent dancer and naturally very funny [not a Botox
victim]) sucking Fergie’s big toe! Yuck!
I have another bone to pick; what the hell is Suanne Braun doing in the
ensemble? Her raw talent combined with her impeccable stage presence, shines
through so glaringly that I can’t even enjoy a balanced view of the stage. Her
vastly superior stage presence, movements and gestures make me simultaneously
grateful that she’s at least somewhere on stage, but angry that she’s not Tanya.
Tasha Sheridan was even better than last time, (no small feat). Her singing was
even more polished, and she projected better (her vibrato has also widened and
loosened up). She is maturing with each performance. I almost worry that she’ll
get too polished and lose some of the innocence of the girl next-door quality
that she captures so well. One has the feeling that she truly enjoys her work
and would be doing community theatre for free had the casting directors not, in
a rare fit of reason, cast her as Sophie.
Rachel Spry was excellent as Rosie. She was very funny in “Take a Chance on Me.”
She has a wide expressive and comic range as well as a strong voice. I can’t
help but fantasize about how much more electric the chemistry between Lucy,
Suanne and Rachel’s performance would have been with Suanne as Tanya.
Paul Hawkyard was excellent. His comic timing and more masculine physical
presence add a much-needed ingredient to the mix. I also enjoyed the role of
Harry played by Peter Challis. He also has a strong voice, which helps;
particularly in “Thank You for the Music” which is difficult to sing a capella.
Iain Fletcher is good and looks the part. He doesn’t dominate the stage, nor
should he. His selfless performance allows the role of Donna to shine in the
center, as it should be. His is in many ways, a thankless part. After all, he
has to play what we call in Portugal, a “banana” (a guy who is pushed around by
females and does what he is told most of the time. I’m happy for Donna at the
end but a bit angry that it has taken Sam 20 years to figure out what an idiot
he’s been. For all its lightheartedness, Mamma Mia does remind one of the
permanence of spur of the moment decisions made at times of high emotion where,
blood flow is not always being directed to the cerebral cortex.
So, once and for all, would the amateur astronomers please invest in a
computer-controlled telescope in order to see the obviously blinding starlight
emanating from Lucy Harris and Suanne Braun? Just because you got lucky by
spotting Tasha Sheridan with a conventional optical telescope, doesn’t mean you
don’t need to update your equipment. If not, you will turn a Greek comedy into a
Greek Tragedy as regrettable as Sam leaving Donna to wed his mother!
Later visit: Wednesday, November 29, 2006
"Do not try this at home"
This review, like many consumer products, comes with a patronizing safety
warning for the foolhardy. Serious injury or even death could result from
attempting to emulate Lucy Harris. In fact, I have a challenge to issue. If
those pathetic post-pubescent morons of “Jackass” fame want to truly humiliate
themselves, instead of tumbling down hills in outhouses, they should try to sing
or act with 1 thousandth the aplomb shown by the trio of Lucy, Suanne and Joanna
during Wednesday’s performance. The sheer volume of vocal, dramatic and comic
elements the three “dynamos” crammed into the November 30th performance of Mamma
Mia seemed to have distorted space-time itself.
Indeed, I had the feeling of a strange kind of time compression mirage, where
the absolute best elements of all previous performances were cut and spliced,
and hence, compressed together. The amount and quality of expression, both
musical and dramatic, combined with the gut-splitting comic elements in
Wednesday’s performance were almost too much to process. I wanted to film each
character separately and view the show in stages.
Lucy in particular is, in my view, so innately talented, that she is incapable
of being self conscious about it. Couch potatoes are not naturally as impressed
by monkeys, as they are by Olympic gymnast; despite the superiority of primate
skills over that of even the most skilled of humans, we naturally don’t give
monkeys the proper credit for doing something they were “born,” not “trained,”
to do. So if Lucy will forgive the primate analogy, I think it is a fair one.
Put simply, Lucy is “naturally” so good; one’s expectations are automatically
raised to a level that would be unfair to mere humans. So while I apologize once
again for the simian reference, I assert that Lucy is, metaphorically, a
“different animal.” That being said, I understand that Wednesdays can be a
little slow and as such, sometimes the audiences are “bussed in” in bulk; in the
case of the night in question, the geriatric ward of a local hospital must have
been evacuated, making for some interesting audience participation, or lack
There was awkward laughter at the wrong times, such as the peculiar laughing at
the use of dry ice; loud questioning, and even louder answers, by and between
those obviously hearing impaired. In the finale, one woman, who was 90 if she
was a day, was gyrating to Waterloo in a way that convinced me she was having a
seizure. I know that many eyes will glaze over when I start with classical music
analogies, but I simply must make this one. Bronislaw Huberman (1882-1947) was
the most individual violinist ever to record. My violin teacher asked Huberman’s
wife after a concert, why he sometimes played brilliantly and other times so
poorly? She confided in my teacher that Her husband suffered from terrible
insomnia. The extreme characterization of his interpretations brought Huberman
great fame particularly in Central Europe, but also the label of maverick. His
admirers included Brahms, Dvorak, Joachim, Furtwängler, and Toscanini.
Today, in an age of standardization, his playing constantly challenges our
expectations. I kept searching my brain for the kind of highly individualistic
yet non-idiosyncratic phrasing that Lucy reminded me of, and it struck me like a
thunderbolt during “Money, Money, Money;” Huberman. If the Huberman analogy is
too obscure, I also see many parallels between the naturalistic singing of Lucy
and the Portuguese singer Amalia Rodrigues; both of whom give one the feeling
that they were not formally taught but rather somehow tapped into some kind of
universal aesthetic law, giving them maximum flexibility of expression without
sacrificing internal consistency; so even though no two pine cones are
identical, the underlying laws governing the germination of seeds never generate
a rectangular pinecone. Amalia put it most succinctly when she famously quipped
“Fado is not meant to be sung; it simply happens.” Lucy, like great Fado,
doesn’t sing, she too, simply “happens.” This is the divine spark that every
cell of Lucy’s body resonates with, and this is why, no matter how much she
seems to vary her performance, she never violates the limits of the very natural
laws that simultaneously define, regulate and liberate her.
In short, her “improvisations” are internally consistent, so that every turn of
every phrase still comes out “square” no matter how twisted it becomes between
beats. I promise this is my last diversion into classical music. The great
violinist Fritz Kreisler was the most profound musical genius/violinist of all
time. He could memorize music during train rides and then go home and play them
on his fiddle. He once had a violin in the shop and showed up to a rehearsal
without it. When the conductor asked him how he planned to rehearse, Kreisler
calmly said, “fear not” and proceeded to play the violin part on the piano!
Kreisler was famous for warping rhythms in ways that were highly individualistic
yet impossible to emulate, always landing on the “beat” (like Lucy) at the end
of each measure.
I also had the feeling that the pit crew (musicians) were almost trying to act
bored so that no one would discover just how much fun they have for fear they
may end up donating their time instead of being paid, however little it might
be. The music director is clearly a man of very high standards and genuine
devotion to the highest quality of each and every performance. His attention to
detail did not go unnoticed by me, and I want him to know that he is
appreciated. I noticed that many of the transitions from dialogue to music were
tightened up, only adding to the overall professionalism of the show.
Not even the IV league audience (intra-venous) could dampen the enthusiasm,
impeccable timing and comic hilarity on the night. It was, in a word, surreal. I
am not a conspiratorialist, but I find it difficult to believe that the cast was
not somehow drugged with stimulants (I wouldn’t put it past management). Paul
Hawkyard and Joanna Monroe were hilarious in “Take a Chance on Me.”
Their physical timing and Paul’s jacket twirling had me genuinely concerned
about re-injuring my umbilical hernia. I have warmed up to Joanna in a way that
has me regretting not noticing her talents more; she has excellent comic timing,
a very solid voice and an ability to blend seamlessly into any scene. I feel
that Suanne Braun is really the glue that has allowed the trio of Donna, Tanya
and Rosie to congeal. Suanne is simply a comic thoroughbred with every muscle in
her body rippling with instinctive timing. When Donna told Rosie and Tanya to
not let the newly arrived ex-boyfriends see them, Tanya (Suanne) dove onto the
floor and assumed a frozen position with her arms clasped over her head as if
she was diving sideways, lips pursed, and eyes bulging in a stroke of sheer
physical comic genius that is on a par with Don Knotts (deputy Barney Fife of
Mayberry fame). James Lailey’s Harry Bright was very good as the disheveled
If Suanne is not chosen as the main Tanya, then I wish the knuckleheads who pass
her over, no ill will. I won’t need to; their wounds will be self-inflicted,
like a time-released poison that will have done its damage long before their
ability to reverse it. In short, not even 20 Bozo clowns will be able to fill
Suanne Braun’s metaphorical shoes retroactively.
My message for those who are thinking of passing over Lucy, yet again, is simply
this, may you and your ilk, be forced to watch, in a West End Purgatory, a never
ending production of Mamma Mia, starring your mediocre and myopic leads. Lucy is
Mamma Mia. If Lucy is not a Diva, then why was she showered with flowers during
the curtain call? For a moment, I thought I was at La Scala? Lucy’s red-faced
reaction to the justifiable adulation of her public just goes to show how
thankfully out of touch she is with the depth of her own talent, which only
deepens the inspired nature of her unique gift. For to be self conscious, is to
descend into the banal; it is Lucy’s naïve, not false, humility, that symbolizes
her divine spark.
Lucy is a gift, not entirely of this world.
On another visit, he says,
A night full of surprises. I attended the November 26th 2009 performance of
'Mamma Mia' with some trepidation. After all, I made no secret of my suspicion
that the decision to cast Niamh Perry as Sophie was partially influenced by
myopic commercial "TV Land" considerations, considerations I still don't feel
were in her long-term interest nor in the interest of the West End. This is why
the reader should assign double weight to what I am about to write.
I doubt anyone with his or her eyes closed listening to Niamh could honestly
guess her age?
The richness of Niamh's tonal palette combined with the maturity of her
phrasing, creates a cognitive dissonance between what your ears register
musically, and your eyes register chronologically. It's as if her voice is an
amalgamation of reincarnated divas with a freshness not yet coarsened by the
ravages of time. They say that youth is wasted on the young, yet somehow Niamh
has managed to cheat the vocal Gods. Her performance left me both mesmerized and
saddened. Mesmerized by vocals interpretively well beyond her years and saddened
that a more lucrative recording career has not yet materialized for her?
Sally Ann Triplett as Donna was simply stunning. The breadth and depth of her
vocal, dramatic and comedic ranges were blended to absolute perfection. The
uniquely original mixture of her giddiness, confusion and anger upon seeing Sam
for the first time in 20 years, made her rendition of Mamma Mia truly
unforgettable. I thought I had already gleaned some hint of Sally Ann's vocal
facility from a recent outdoor performance in Hyde Park, but I was wrong.
Outdoor acoustics left me woefully unprepared for the true depth of her
The seamlessness with which she married her stunning technique to her equally
insightful emotional interpretations of Slipping Through My Fingers, One of us
and The Winner Takes it All, rendered them, and her, positively electrifying.
Leanne Rogers played a convincing Rosie with vocals that are simultaneously
disciplined and expressive. With the Role of Rosie, less is often more, And
Leanne selflessly understates her character for the good of the show when
necessary. In some ways, the characters of Donna and Tanya are, and should be,
bigger than life; this makes Leanne's restraint, all the more commendable.
One would think I would eventually run out of praise for Jane Gurnett; think
again. Jane has found a new synergy with Sally Ann, convincing me they are
genuine old friends. During Chiquitita, my entire torso began a kind of
involuntary spastic movement that I initially interpreted as a combination of
indigestion and hiccups only to realize that my entire upper body had been set
to "chuckle," not unlike a "Tickle-Me-Elmo" doll. For about 15 seconds I was
actually concerned that I would not be able to stop. The only other time I
experienced anything like that was when I worked nights at a peach packing plant
and became so sleep deprived that I started laughing at a joke and continued
uncontrollably for approximately 20 minutes. It was a temporary but very real
psychotic episode brought on by sleep deprivation.
So thank you Jane, your physical comedy and expert timing caused me to lose
control of my laugh reflex. You really should come with a medical warning. Sam
Carmichael as played by Norman Bowman was excellent. He possesses an exceptional
voice and uses it to genuine dramatic effect. Without a believable Sam, Donna's
job becomes much more difficult which, thankfully, is not the case with Norman
The other dads were more than just believable, they were authentic. Well done
Paul Ryan as Harry Bright, and Bill Austin's stand in, Anthony Topham. A brief
note on demographics. One of the nicer things about Mamma Mia historically, has
been the general level of civility in the audience, typically a bit older,
better heeled, dressed and spoken than your average beer-swilling Wicked
audience member. I have now detected a definite slide toward the "Wicked end" of
the gene pool, and actually don't blame "TV Land" nearly as much as "Movie
Land." So for all of you hen party gals who got lost on the way to the ABBA Sing
Along, do all of us a huge favour, stay home and watch Mamma Mia the Movie
projected onto the giant plasma TV mounted on your cave wall.
Think about it:
1. it's much cheaper than a theatre ticket,
2. it saves you the agony of trying to find fake fur-lined Eskimo boots to match
your fake fur-lined, standard-issue Vicky Pollard neoprene coat,
3. you can really get blasted without having to pay 4 pounds for a cheap
champagne served in even cheaper plastic glasses,
4. You can reduce carbon emissions by drinking directly out of the bottle not to
mention the general improvement to the aesthetics your absence will bring to the
5. You can sing along as loudly as you wish with Meryl Streep, which ironically,
will probably make you both in tune with each other,
6. If you start your party early enough, you may have time to catch X Factor
where you can spend, voting for your favourite act, what you would have spent on
a theatre ticket even though it will no doubt be your second choice in light of
Jedward's recent exit,
And finally, if you still feel compelled to grace the big city with all your
refined charms and urbane elegance, you can always go to the brand new and much
anticipated production of "Dumb and Dumber, the Musical," starring, you guessed
it, Jedward where you will actually be encouraged to sing along, out of tune,
and hence, in tune, with those equally charming twins.
Speaking of X Factor, if TV Land casting it is indeed a new economic, and
inescapably necessary evil to ensure West End survival, then I'd like to
nominate another Lucy for the next Sophie, Lucy Jones!
Since so many cave dwellers seem to have gotten lost on the way to the Mamma Mia
sing along, the absolute minimum courtesy the pathetically impotent theatres
could do would be to make an announcement asking the fake fur-lined audience
members to please refrain from singing until the very end. Last night I actually
had a nightmare where I was surrounded by a chorus of fur-lined celebrity
riff-raff led by Katie Price and Jedward singing spectacularly off-key in my
ear. It was called "I'm a critic, get me out of here!"
18th August 2006 - 5pm
Fantastic show. Fantastic storyline. Fantastic actors and actresses. Fantastic
songs. Fantastic theatre. Fantastic toilets. Fantastic ice-cream!
Jessica and Niamh (27 and 10 London)
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 humour, 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
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
"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 new 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 Derrick) version.
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.
Saw Mamma Mia January 12th 2007 and I have to say it was one of the most
disappointing nights I've ever had at the theatre. I was expecting a happy jolly
night out - something like an updated version of a Doris Day movie - and my
heart sank more and more as the show continued, it felt like watching a bad
holiday camp show. What could have been a simple charming piece of theatre was
turned into a series of crude jokes made at the expense of the characters in the
show. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude, but I expect more from a West End
show than cheap laughs from fat people dancing badly and men wearing wedding
dresses. Where was the story, where was the characterisation? I'm not expecting
'Hamlet' but characters should do more than just turn up, make a cheap joke and
never be seen again until the curtain call.
I'm only glad I got my tickets on a "Get into London theatre" promotion (ended
17th March 2007) as I would have been annoyed to have paid full price for this.
On the plus side though, the Prince of Wales renovation is stunning - although
its not worth sitting through this show to see - take the tour instead. If you
like musical theatre and want a good night out, go and see 'Spamalot' or
'Evita,' if you like Abba see a tribute band first.
We went to see Mamma Mia (again) last night (20th
March 2007) and just had to send another review as the cast were so brilliant.
Linzi Hateley as Donna - Wow - when I saw she was playing the role I knew she
would be tremendous and she was - what a powerful voice coming out of such a
petite frame. She surely must be one of the youngest Donnas to grace the stage.
Joanna Munro as Rosie is simply fantastic - what
great comic timing as well as singing and acting - almost unbeatable. Jane
Gurnett as Tanya was spot on too with a fantastic wiggle to boot.
The three "Dads" made a great team too -Iain
Fletcher and Steven Finch were new to me as Sam and Harry but they infused their
own identity on the characters straightaway.
Hannah Robertson as Sophie was good although all the
Sophies I have seen in the past have been great too. Paul Shelford as Sky was
very dishy indeed again with great acting.
Anyway another fantastic performance - full of energy and a totally feel good
evening - I can't recommend this musical highly enough. We were on our feet
dancing at the end and cheering with delight.
I've already confessed to being a Mamma Mia fanatic.
Mention to a Londoner that you're going to see Mamma Mia, and their eyes twinkle
and a knowing smile appears while they gently nod. It's easy to see why Mamma
Mia remains a West End audience favourite. Although the casts change, the
constant is Abba's music and lyrics along with clever dialog, and an energetic
cast which sings, clowns, and dances through the night. Lots of folks take this
repeat journey to the Prince of Wales for their periodic Abba fix. We ourselves
enjoy the whimsy, fun, and music as well as the serious moments which last long
enough to touch you, but then melt away as the next light hearted scene follows
assuring you that everything's going to be OK.
Although there's an absolute constancy to Mamma Mia, there's also a dynamic
process of change. We've seen Mamma Mia in December, January, and now in April.
Each time, the cast adds or subtracts a line, a gesture, or a move. There's just
enough change to create a fresh look and feel while holding onto the familiar
things you've come to love. The cast itself appears to be a tightly knit group
of folks who enjoy every minute spent on stage. You can see it in their eyes and
faces as on this recent Saturday night when Ms. Hateley, Monro, & Gurnett finish
performing 'Dancing Queen' and join hands for a quick exit, but not before
looking at each other as if to say "that was fun". Just another aspect of
theater which is palpable on occasion.
Linzi Hateley, the latest Donna, delivers her own emotional take on tears spilt
and hopes exhausted on a relationship never totally lost or fulfilled when she
performs "The Winner Takes it All". She combines a more theatrical
interpretation moving between spoken words and lyrics to ratchet the song up to
a new emotional plateau reaching deep within the audience. Lots of tears out
there amongst the audience. But don't fret, Jonna Monro follows with her
slapdash scene "Take a Chance on Me" and tears quickly turn to laughter. That's
what Mamma Mia is all about.
Don't be afraid to admit that you're a Mamma Mia fanatic. Just be sure to get
down to West End so you can stand up and enjoy the lycra-fest encores.
Here is an ethical and moral thought experiment for all you
budding Mamma Mia philosophers out there. Imagine that you have just
seen an emergency news broadcast detailing the certain obliteration
of Earth by an unstoppable asteroid in just two short hours. Now
imagine also that due to the strict “no mobile phone” policy in the
Prince of Wales theatre, everyone but the cast has received the
ominous news. Do you tell the cast and give them a chance to say
their prayers, or do you keep them blissfully ignorant of their
impending doom? I vote for blissful ignorance, “a noble lie” (sin of
omission if you will). I will explain the philosophical
justification for my decision in the context of the very special
February 29th, 2008 London performance.
Firstly, what good could possibly come from telling the cast of
their fate? I know that they are very talented, but let’s face it,
like the difference between a genuine smile and a politician’s grin,
no actor or group of actors is good enough to fake their own
enjoyment of this show so convincingly. Secondly, What are the
chances that both the cast and audience will collectively ever
experience greater joy, not escapism, but the pure joy that should
be the inevitable residue of sharing such an extraordinary
If politicians really wanted to ensure certain re-election, they
would use Lottery funds to subsidize Mamma Mia to mesmerize the
population into temporarily forgetting about all the crumbling
infrastructure in this country, making it not just “an entertaining
night out” but rather a national, and necessary, mental health
Still basking in the bittersweet afterglow of Lucy Harris’s final
performance as Donna, I actually forgave the Ministry Of Transport
(MOT) for their utterly hopeless, myopic, third world-style road
works, as I made the inevitable, poorly-marked, detour around the
never-ending piecemeal construction on the M11-M25 junction.
Indeed, even the simple wiggling of Tanya’s (Jane Gurnett’s) foot
(never the same way twice), on the bed where she fakes an ankle
injury to avoid having to “suck or blow” an inflatable mattress,
alone, would have made my detour more than worth it.
Hannah Robertson in my view, has a very unique talent that
should, if there is any justice in show business, allow her to “name
her poison” when selecting any role worthy of her gifts. The
combination of her exquisite beauty, grace and musicality tempted me
to assert that she has a “Movie Star” quality about her, but given
the current state of affairs in Hollywood, I realize it could be
taken, justifiably so, as an insult. Thus, I am now, officially, on
the record, placing Hannah into my rarified Pantheon of Mamma Mia “Irreplaceables.”
I will miss Bill Austin’s (Paul Hawkyard’s) rapport with Sophie;
he brings a great deal of quality and believability to his role.
Unlike the self-indulgent and pathologically narcissistic Hollywood
pretty boys personified in Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise or “Brad Pratt”
and “Tom Loose” as my son refers to them, Paul Shelford (Sky) much
like Hannah (Sophie), projects a totally sincere, likable and
believable character that must be, like Lucy’s and Hannah’s
characters, on some level, a partial extension of himself. He will
be sorely missed, as I fear he too, will be enshrined in the Mamma
Mia Pantheon. I certainly will not be holding my breath awaiting his
The comic timing of Jane Gurnett (Tanya) and Joanna Monro
(Rosie), during Chiquetita was a masterpiece of the most densely
packed hilarity I have ever seen, and sadly fear, ever will see,
again. It stands alone, like a kind-of “banana bullfight” Mona Lisa
of comic genius, that will be debated for centuries to come, with no
clear definitive theory ever emerging to fully explain it. It may
just be that the best any of us can do is simply gaze in wonderment,
and not even try to explain why or how it affects us so deeply.
Jane Gurnett’s “Does Your Mother Know” scene was so outrageously
funny, I thought my wife was going to hyperventilate. May I suggest
to the theatre that they change their “fake” warning about nervous
dispositions and white LYCRA and replace it with a real medical
warning about Jane and install fully functioning drop-down oxygen
masks! A friend of ours, who came to the performance, said her eyes
were so full of tears from laughing at Chiquetita, she missed half
of Dancing Queen.
Staying with the Greek theme for a moment, I truly believe that
Mamma Mia is fundamentally misunderstood. I submit that it is not
the “light-hearted romp” that so many believe it to be, but rather a
kind of modified Wagnerian “Total Art” (Gesamtkunstwerk) experience,
In my view, whether Judy Craymer realizes it or not, she has, in
a way, bested Wagner, and in so doing, has converted one form of
psychic energy (catharsis) into another, pure joy, by juxtaposing
outrageous comedy with the joyful music of ABBA with the potential
tragedy of Sophie (Hannah Robertson) marrying too young and then
narrowly averting the potential disaster of her youthful impulsivity
at the 11th hour. Mamma Mia goes well beyond mere entertainment,
which is why, like the Greek classics, it will live forever in the
hearts of those who are lucky enough to internalize its deeper
I normally don’t like to reveal too much emotion in my reviews, but
here I feel it is both necessary and instructive. Somewhat caught
off guard by my own reaction, I kept telling myself, almost
embarrassed, “get a grip Tim, it’s just a show, and a comedy
nonetheless;” of course, my wife blubbering next to me didn’t help
my best efforts at stoicism. So why did I feel as if I had been
gutted during the curtain call? Why such a strong sense of loss?
Well, to put it bluntly, Lucy occupies her own unique category,
and also still, in my view, partly because of her uniqueness, is not
fully cognizant of the true depth of her powers. In some ways I
suppose this is a good thing for the quality of her last
performance, like the surgeon who is so focused on cutting, that he
hasn’t the time to speculate on the consequences of failure for the
patient’s friends and family, but for me, it serves as very little
consolation, and in fact, only seemed to deepen my sense of loss.
It is now my firm belief that even after all the glowing words I
have written about Lucy, I didn’t even scratch the surface of her
Now I know that you skeptics out there will say, “Come on Winey!
how many times can you eat crow?” “You are a bigger flip flopper
than the infamous Senator John Kerry, who unceremoniously lost the
last US Presidential election in a landslide.” I can assure you that
there is no crow on this menu. I have not forgotten my earlier
reviews, but have had, what I can only call, an epiphany after
discovering the deeper message of Mamma Mia, exemplified by the
transition from catharsis to Joy, which Lucy (to my chagrin)
instinctively discovered long ago, and in so doing, literally became
Donna. The foundation of all great art is truth. And the “truth” of
Donna cannot be arrived at through scholarship, only by instinct. I
deeply regret not fully appreciating the full weight of Lucy’s
instinctive discovery much earlier, but like so many things worth
treasuring, we often discover, “tragically,” their true value only
after they are nearly, or completely, gone.
To fully grasp the magnitude of my loss, the reader could combine
everything I ever wrote about Lucy, multiply it by a thousand, raise
that number to the power of 100, and then, like imagining an
infinity of infinities, give up trying, and simply curse yourself
until a real meteor does eventually strike you as just punishment
for not having the good sense to fully appreciate her.
Alternatively, you could reflect on my emotions during Lucy’s final
curtain call. I felt as if it were the inevitable, end of an era,
painfully and irretrievably, “Slipping Through My Fingers.” Lucy
(Donna), Hanna (Sophie) and Jane (Tanya) clearly have gone far
beyond the call of duty in their roles, and in so doing, have given
me and my family many priceless memories that we will treasure
always; in fact, had a real meteor actually struck me during Lucy’s
final performance, I would most assuredly have died as happy as any
man ever did.
God bless this cast, and in particular, Lucy Harris, for
generously radiating so much joy to so many, in this all too weary
world. They say that grief is the price of love, and so I doubt we
will ever completely stop grieving over the loss of this “one off”
With our deepest, heartfelt gratitude,
Timothy, Grace and Hugo Winey
We were in Circle Row G15 and 16 - very good as reviewed on this site (thank you
Monkey) last night, Thursday 4 May 2007. The sound wasn’t balanced well at
first, and the banker Dad was so soft you could barely hear him speak, but OK
when singing. Worth mentioning again, the very steep rake of the Circle. Don’t
wear platform shoes! I didn’t see anyone walk down facing forward. They all
turned sideways. Ladies wearing high heels were the most nervous of all.
However, I reiterate other comments that the new seating is very good and
comfortable, and legroom, at least where we sat, good.
Good, lightweight fun. Amazing how many young people know the words better than
I do, at near pension age (oh God, am I really?) and the enthusiasm and
affection for the performers was voiced all through. Wonderful finish numbers,
with the whole audience jumping and singing along lustily.
Just wanted to say, nuts to all the negative comments on this show, it's
fabulous. Saw it on Friday 15 August 2007, 5pm performance, and loved every
minute of it. In fact, came out and wanted to go straight back in and see it
again - and would have done if we hadn't got train tickets to get home! I reckon
your correspondent who saw it in January 2007 was very depressed by the weather,
'cos it certainly wasn't the show I saw - I hope no-one is put off by the
'blokes in wedding dresses' comment for instance, there's only 1 for about 60
seconds, so that comment is most unfair. I agree with the person who said about
the 'feel good factor' though, it certainly makes you feel good. I agree you
really should be a fan of the music but that's a given if you go and see this
show anyway, why would you go to a show based on ABBA's music if you don't like
their music in the first place???
Anyway, just had to say how fabulous the show is and can't wait to go again. Our
seats were circle row D 15/16 and the safety bar on the circle edge didn't
bother me and I am only 5' 2" tall, so no probs whatsoever, although the comment
about the rake of the seating is true, the one thing you can't do in the circle
seats, even if you are on the end of the row, is get up and dance at the end -
next time I will sit in the stalls!
Once again, I can't recommend this show highly enough, and not just for the
music. The cast are brilliant - Linzi Hateley is a brilliant Donna, and as for
Joanna Munroe and Jane Gurnet, well! 'Take a Chance on Me' and 'Does Your Mother
Know' were just 2 of the fabulous performances. We thought it was a brilliant
melding of the songs and the story, the whole thing really flowed together, and
of all the friends who told us to go and see it, no-one told us how funny it is
too, but we know now! Will definitely be on the train again in the near future
to get back and see it again.
Having promised my wife for a while I would take her to see 'Mamma Mia,' I can
honestly say that saving it for her Christmas present was a smart move, This
show was one of the best prezzies ever bought; the timing / choreography and
excellent mixture of realistic storyline and good comedy was Superb!! Topped off
with colourful costume and delicious renditions of the ABBA greats, This was a
night we will remember and talk of for a long time.
If there had to be a downside at all, I would respectfully suggest that the guy
playing Sam has a fantastic voice both in speech and song, but came across very
much as being better suited to opera than Abba - that's Opera as in Carmen etc,
not Oprah as in the female talk show host - although I'm certain he would do
just as well in either role!!! Seriously, this guy could bring a tear to a glass
eye with such a powerful and emotional aura, unfortunately it made him a little
wooden / shouty and over-powering in this particular story...... But in fairness
it didn't spoil anything.
Overall I would recommend this to the hilt and then some. The whole experience
was nothing short of exquisite in every sense. We have already planned to buy
tickets for this as a birthday gift for family and will definitely watch for
this cast or any of its current members in anything else, they .. just as the
show itself ... were a joy to watch. Thank you to all!!!
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
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
Paul Shelford is very believable as Sophie’s fiancé, 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.
On arriving at the theatre on a warm Saturday evening (August 31st 2008) I was
nervous to say the least. My wife was desperate to see 'Mamma Mia' after seeing
the recent film version and although I was told it was a 'girl's film' I played
the good and dutiful husband and supplied 2 tickets.
We took our seats in stalls D17 and D18 and had a good look around and thought
that the theatre looked very modern and soulless compared to other West End
theatres I had visited before. The music started pumping out very very loudly
and then the curtain went up, one pretty young girl sitting on stage begins to
sing, then she is joined by two other girls and for some unknown reason I
immediately get the feeling this is not going to be my kind of show - how right
I hated every minute of this production - the jokes weren't funny, the singing
was terrible (apart from Sophie), the acting was overdone, some of the songs
were misplaced and irrelevant, the list goes on. One of the dads' could not sing
or dance to save his life and I question how on earth he made it into the show.
There were women cackling and howling all around me - it was like there was a
big joke that every one else was in on but no one had bothered to tell me about.
Don't get me wrong I liked 'Hairspray,' 'Guys and Dolls,' 'Phantom,' 'Chicago,'
'Joseph' etc - so I don't have a bias towards any particular type of musical but
this just did not appeal to me.
In summary I would say this is definitely a girls / womens musical and one plus
point of the evening was that my wife loved it and thought it was fantastic -
but even she conceded it did lack the 'quality' of other West End shows we had
Seat opinion - Stalls D17 and D18 - very close to the action and you can see
faces and expressions etc but I think two or three rows further back might have
I went to see Mamma Mia on 24th January 2009 at the matinee.
It was a full house and I can see why, although I'm still not sure what to think
of this show. I can understand it being a 'woman's show' as it is that kind of
almost chick flick story. Especially scenes in the wetsuits, definitely for the
women of all ages (and we mustn't forget the Gay crowd too!).
I personally really enjoyed it, BUT it had its downsides. The beginning of Act 1
is hard to get into and I didn't really start enjoying the show until about
'Mamma Mia!' when all the real gags came out! However from here till the end of
the first act they put all the best ABBA songs on, or at least the ones I know.
'Dancing Queen' was of course my favourite scene. Very amusing and great to
watch (and my friend who's obsessed with ABBA was singing along the whole time).
By the end of the first Act 1 was really enjoying it, but then Act 2 followed
the same pattern where it is hard getting into it and then all the well known
songs come on at 'The Winner Takes It All'. Out of the 2 acts, Act 1 is the more
immature fun one, whereas Act 2 is the more mature one (but only just). I
especially loved 'Take a Chance on Me', which had me giggling none stop. However
after the initial bows with the megamix when everyone got up and danced and sang
along, it was good to see everyone up on their feet and I really did enjoy that
The cast are all amazing, understudies and the main actors. Loved them all and
was probably a perfect cast for a first time.
We sat in the Dress Circle Row L seats 7 to 11. Being the very back row, the
theatre has been built in such a way you can see everything like you were in the
stalls! Every detail is perfect. Plus these seats are cheap and you feel almost
in the middle! I would get them, very comfortable and lots of leg room. No need
to worry about tall people in here!
Overall I would say a good show, not just for ABBA fans and possibly not for the
alpha males. Older generations will appreciate it more, but younger ones will
still enjoy it and have a good time. But I can only take small doses of ABBA at
a time, so this is enough for me for a couple of years. Bear that in mind. But
it is a 'must see' on your lists.
Saw this Saturday matinee January 31st 2009, with sister-in law and 3 x 9 year
olds. Sat in the Dress Circle row F seats 31 to 35, all I could get, but they
were excellent seats, we had a great view of the stage and the Circle has a good
rake so the kids were able to see perfectly.
In one word, we all agreed it was FAB. It’s such fun and the perfect antidote to
the current credit-crunch gloom and doom. It was a great atmosphere throughout
and the whole theatre was on its feet at the end clapping, dancing and cheering
I loved Donna (Linzi Hateley) and her Dynamos, they were very funny, especially
Joanna Monro as Rosie (fantastic comic timing) and the boy playing Pepper (an
understudy) also did very well. However we all thought that the lady playing
Sophie was a bit old for a realistic 20 year old (my 9 year old got her muddled
up with Donna from time to time).
Favourite group numbers were 'Gimme Gimme Gimme' and 'Voulez Vous' ( a brilliant
ending to Act 1), performed with huge energy and enthusiasm by the cast and of
course Super Trouper by the Dynamos.
All in all it’s a brilliant, if a somewhat pricey, way to spend an afternoon.
The kids gave it 8.5 /10 (some of the jokes went right over their heads), my
sister-in-law and I gave it 11. We were singing the songs and smiling all the
Notes from 6th April 2009 performance, the tenth anniversary:
First of all, 10 out of 10 for the refurbishment of the theatre - it is the
first time I have been since it was done out, and it really sets the standard in
terms of facilities, legroom, cleanliness. More should follow suit and bring the
West End kicking and screaming into the 21st century without sacrificing the
character of the theatres. A big 'thank you' to the box office staff too. I have
been asking for tickets to this performance every time I have been in London for
the past eighteen months - they took my details and although I expected to hear
nothing, actually did get in touch via email and phone on the day tickets went
Also, 10/10 for the seats - we sat in the stalls row F seats 16 to 19 - a
perfect view, and plenty of legroom, even for me.
We know the night was going to be a special one, what with the decorations, the
photographers, the complimentary champagne, programmes, badges etc, and indeed
The show itself was a normal performance, Linzi Hateley performed as Donna (not
usual for a Monday) and was magnificent, and her dynamos were equally good,
especially Joanna Munroe. It took me a little longer to warm to the three "dads"
but they got going eventually. As for the show itself, my usual thoughts, the
first half is fantastic, the start of the second sags a little but then it picks
up again - Abba songs take you through a range of emotions and this show
certainly does the same.
It is the quality of the songs and the script that keeps it going, and as a
lifelong Abba fan, I really appreciated the inclusion of 'Slipping Through My
Fingers,' the perfect song for that scene, really proving that the creative team
wanted to do more than simply reel off the hits. That song reduced many people
around us to tears! By the end, everybody appeared to be having so much fun that
it would be impossible not to be swept along with it.
It was during the final run throughs of 'Dancing Queen' and Waterloo that
"normal" stopped, as the theatre was festooned with fireworks onstage, and the
auditorium filled with glitter and streamers. This was followed by speeches by
Judy Craymer and Catherine Johnson, and finally, raising the roof, Bjorn and
Benny themselves. Bjorn's little joke about Abba reforming was a nice touch!
Good to see the casts reactions too, it was obviously a special night for them.
Overall, I would thoroughly recommend this show if you are after a fun night
out, obviously this was not a usual night, but it transformed a great show into
Went to see 'Mamma Mia' (again) on Monday 2nd November 2009. I have seen it
several times before in the West End, my last trip being about two and a half
years ago; and I have to say this musical came up as bright and sparkling as a
newly minted coin.
We sat in the Circle Row D 18 and 19 and had a perfect view of the stage. The
feel good factor of this musical can't be underestimated and the cast had the
audience singing, clapping and dancing during the finale.
Special mention must go to Sally-Ann Triplett as Donna who was excellent
throughout - try to see her before she finishes in mid-December 09.
We sat in row H, seats 19, 20, 21, 22 of the Dress Circle. Although I personally
wouldn’t normally choose to sit this far back I was pleasantly surprised at the
amazing view of the stage. I could see loads of detail and the sound was very
good as well. In addition, the very steep rake of the seating (not great for
high heeled shoe lovers) ensures clear views over heads in front of you.
In terms of sightlines, this must be one of the best Dress Circles in the West
End. The view from there front few rows must be even better. The Dress Circle
bar is also wonderful with loads of room.
I managed to get a free ticket for Mamma Mia, this week - March 2010. I was
allocated Stalls O12. The view was surprisingly good, there was a reasonable
rake, and you felt a lot closer to the stage than 'O' might otherwise suggest.
The only downside was that because it's an aisle seat, there's an overhead aisle
light that shines distractingly in your eyes when the house lights are dimmed.
In fact, many of the aisle seats in this area are disconcertingly illuminated
whilst the rest of the house is in darkness, making you feel slightly exposed.
That night, I was surrounded by people who just would not shut up. Behind me
there was a group of generally non-English speaking tourists who appeared to be
translating the show for their colleagues, and got louder whenever a song was
being sung. Somewhere over to the right in the next block there was another
group of people who had had a few drinks too many ... and wanted to talk. And to
the left, near the Sound Desk, there was a girl that was clearly too young to be
taken to the theatre who also wouldn't shut up.
It was impossible to concentrate on the show - in fact it was so distracting, I
didn't know what was going on or what the story was (I haven't see the film or
the stage show before).
After 25 minutes, I just couldn't take it anymore, and had to leave.
Okay, I hadn't paid for my ticket, but I felt sorry for those in the same area
that HAD paid for their tickets. In 25 years of West End Theatre going, I've
never had a more miserable night.
I took two coaches on 5th November 2010, and as expected everyone loved the
show. We had excellent seats in the Dress Circle - rows E, F and G, which were
superb when you are sitting down as you could look over the head of the tallest
person sitting in front of you. Getting down to your seat from the back would
challenge anyone suffering from vertigo, though as it is a very steep rake.
Having said that, the refurbishment of the whole theatre is quite spectacular
and the seats very comfortable.
The show itself has lost nothing compared to the first time I saw it. This was
the fifth time, four of them with coaches - making six coaches altogether, which
must make it the most number of people I have taken to any show.
An evening treat after quite a heavy matinee on 29th January 2011. I must point
out first what a lovely theatre The Prince of Wales is. Really refurbished to
such an elegant and high standard. We were in the Dress Circle, row D37 to 41,
which was over to the side but not affecting the view of the stage. The seats
were really comfortable too, which was unusual and a nice surprise; but the
whole Theatre is a gem anyway.
The show? Awful! They might as well of just stood there and sang a load of Abba
songs out of tune. The set was practically non-existent, and what set there was
didn't seem to move very much; which was a theme the actors also used, as they
just stood motionless when most songs were being warbled! A couple of numbers
brought some movement, but not much.
I can't believe this show has been on for so long. In theory it should be an
absolute blast but it's utterly lame. The only energy came in the last ten
minutes with the encore. The whole show should of been like it. ('Priscilla'
does the same thing 100 times better).
All five of us were in agreement that it just isn't fun enough or colourful
enough (unless you really like blue). It obviously serves a purpose, but we
won't be going back - which is a shame because the Theatre is stunning!!
(Oxfordshire's most feared critic!)