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- Theatremonkey show opinion
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On a sunny Mediterranean island, a daughter on the verge of marriage learns about her background from her 1970's party girl mother. Typical of that decade, mom's story can be told totally through the medium of those Swedish superstars, ABBA. And it is.
Transferred here from the Prince Edward Theatre on the 3rd June 2004 and from the Prince of Wales Theatre on 6th September 2012.
One reader felt that, in May 2012, "The current stage show of "Mamma Mia!" includes some swearing. We went to a Saturday matinee with three under 10's and there were many other children in the audience too. I've seen the show before and the film many times, neither has swearing. There is no warning when you book tickets, but there is plenty of swearing. Be warned. We were upset."
The monkey investigated, and was told that the production hasn't changed and that around 3 words are used in the course of the evening. Still, it hopes readers will make up their own minds.
Later review: Prince Of Wales Theatre: Monday 19th April 2010.
“Mostly Harmless.” That was a good enough revised opinion of planet Earth for “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” editor, and it’s a good summary of the monkey’s revised opinion of "Mamma Mia." This edition of the show has two advantages. First, the majority of the witless dance has been scrapped in favour of choreography that seems to come from the film. Second, and far greater… this show has Linzi Hateley in the lead role at most performances. The lady misses one show per week (usually either a Monday or Thursday, but not always, and not in a predictable pattern – and the box office don’t have her schedule alas), and it’s very much worth making the effort to catch her. Years of experience produce a perfectly judged performance, handling comedy, drama, dance effortlessly, and producing her trademark matchless vocals that carry the production for much of the evening. Her professionalism showed in a perfectly timed ad-lib in response to a disruptive audience member – also managing to deliver a ‘death beam glance’ in that unfortunate’s direction as she did so.
Linzi Hateley apart, the show itself seemed tired. It may have been the “Monday Night” effect – but there was a sluggishness to the bigger dance numbers and delivery of comic lines that was noticeable by their failure to elicit much response. The cast appeared to warm up a little towards the end (even the monkey was up and dancing along at the finale), but there’s room for work.
In particular, Jessie May as Sophie would benefit greatly from a little time with Bjorn or Benny at the piano. There’s a depth to her role that she clearly yearns to explore, but appears not to have been given the attention needed to help her to do so. Indeed, that possibly applies to much of the rest of the show too. There’s a slight feeling of mass production which a director’s visit (rather than the more usual stage or company manager’s work) would probably dispel. A cast change – due in May 2010 – may help. Until then, this remains a harmless, cheerful enough evening, lifted out of the ordinary by one of the greatest leading ladies in the West End.
From the Prince Edward Theatre production:
Launching a broadside against this one will win theatremonkey no friends, he knows, but here goes...
The music is well known to most people, toe tapping and inoffensive, the stage set is functional and matches the story in both style and emotional depth. But the Dance, the Dance. Saturday Night Fever is but a memory as the witlessness of the choreography unfolds on the stage. A grafted story theatremonkey can take, even admire the fact a bunch of unconnected songs can become a tale at all, but why not give the show a little visual style - ABBA was about glam after all.
A light evening of entertainment, but ballet fans may want to take a paper bag.
10th June 2009: The monkey has just seen the film version of this. While it would pay to see Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried live on stage, otherwise it now forgives every flaw in the stage show.
The Monkey has truly fallen off of his branch in this case. To give this wonderful and entertaining show only 3 bananas reeks of artistic snobbery to me. In fact, Mama Mia is a GREAT show....if one's criteria for ratings is how enjoyable an evening was had by all. 'Phenomenal singing, in particular by the female lead, whose voice is surely the best in the West End at the moment. I suppose if you prefer to wear all black and imagine yourself to be too sophisticated to enjoy whatever the commoners are watching.....you won't like Mama Mia. If you're looking for the most fun. night out in Theatreland....I suggest Mama Mia wholeheartedly!
Important: Some reviews below can contain "spoilers" - please don't read if this bothers you!
(from the Novello Theatre production)
Went to show Friday (28th September 2012). Loved the new theatre sat in front row C near centre. If you are a 'front rower' the look up and missing feet and ankles will probably not bother you and as I'm 5ft 1 inch (on a good day!)...( and the inch is all important when you are this short trust me !) I tend to put up with that a lot when I sit in the front row. This is only my humble opinion.
The tickets are still as expensive as next row behind so nothing off for good behaviour or looking up but there is a warning on the tickets and on the booking site. If you like the 'whole body version' book back a few rows.
The show is still brilliant as always and this cast is fantastic (slight bias there) and as I'm running out of adjectives I'll finish... enjoy the show.
I was lucky enough to get to 'Mamma Mia' at the Novello Theatre for a Saturday matinee performance.
Seats - Grand Circle G16-17 (£45 each): Leg room was sufficient for me at 6'2... but the view was like watching from inside a letterbox - especially when folk in front decide to lean forward to see the action at the front of the stage.
I wouldn't recommend sitting higher than the Dress Circle (I nipped down during the interval to see what their view was like!). Value for money - probably, just.
Harrumph of the Day - why are so many more people going for a leg-stretch during the show? It's very off-putting and not a little irritating.
Anyway, I still enjoyed the show!
We attended saw the show last night, 8th October 2013 in stalls seats S 9 and 10. No problems with the seats, especially as they were half price.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the show at Prince Edward's some years ago and being a fan of The Novello I thought combining the two would be good, how wrong can one be? The show has turned into a cross between the film and "Two Pints of Lager" (infamous but brilliant late night BBC2/3 TV show) , I am convinced that Sophie's friends have been replaced by Janet and Donna and Sky has become Johnny! I really hate to say this but most of the cast appeared to be going through the motions (maybe Tuesday night downer) with no one really shining. The stage is too small for this show, the box set seemed to constrain the action. The sound quality was not great, strange as it was fine in "Crazy For You".
I suppose the most damning observation is that I have never been in a theatre with so many people texting, chatting, fidgeting and ambling of to the loo during a performance. It wasn't really holding many peoples attention (apart from that last two numbers) and probably explains the availability of reduced price seats. It looks like this fun show has now become a tick box on the list of things to do in London, which is a shame and a fate that it does not deserve.
However I must also add that the front of house staff are perhaps the most polite and helpful that I have ever encountered, well done them.
Managed to get seats for Mamma Mia Row B in the dress circle for £20 should have been £65 by asking at the box office on the day this was about 2pm Tuesday 19th November 2013.
Performance: February 19th, 2015. Afternoon performance.
Seats: Balcony C17 to C19.
Half term and a trip to the making of Harry Potter (really good and recommended). Decided I wanted to introduce my 9 year old daughter to the West End and to take my Mum out to a show for mother’s day, all without breaking the bank (the studio tour had done that). Anyway after much searching got three tickets in the Balcony for Mamma Mia. Was slightly concerned they were so high, but did my research and our tickets (row C seats 17-19) were pretty good with a great view of the stage. If people in row A and B leaned forwards it could be slightly obscuring but fortunately they did not that much and our view was pretty good. I like being higher as the choreography always looks so much better from on high.
Seen the film, loved the music, daughter loves Abba so thought it would be a safe choice. When Sophie started the first song little concerned as her voice was not great, but fortunately this seemed to be first song nerves as she markedly improved as the show went on. Sometimes Donna’s vocals were lost in the music but really these were the only two negative points.
The show delivered two hours of good music and fun, we all loved it. Special mention must go to the actress playing Tanya certainly delivered the best performance and seemed to get the loudest and longest ovation at the end. The three “Dads” also very good. Sophie’s two friends slightly OTT, I suppose they were meant to be but for me was a little grating. I've read complaints about the swearing, yes there was some, daughter found it funny and it wasn't too rude.........fortunately some of the more suggestive adult humour passed her by, though I noticed my mother chuckling.
Music fantastic and the finale brilliant, daughter and I had predicted the songs for the finale and we were not disappointed. All three of us came out with big smiles and would definitely recommend the show. Daughter now wants to go back to London soon for another show so hopefully back again soon.
On Thursday 29th September 2016, for the 3pm show, we got three seats together in row K middleish (7-9 I think) for £35 each at 12:46pm, according to my receipt. Were offered row E to the side for the same, or rear stalls/mid dress for £25.
14th January 2017
Seat: Stalls. R20.
Got this seat through Get Into London Theatre (cheap promotion each year - editor) and was very happy with it. Legroom was about average and the overhang wasn't an issue (and probably wouldn't be in shows with high up action). These seats aren't too far away from the top priced seats and think the saving would be worth it as the view was fine.
Show: One word to describe this show, fun! From feather boas to flippers it has plenty of humour and smile raising scenes. That's not to say there aren't some serious numbers, which balance the story out making the characters that bit more believable. It's a well paced show, the acts feel well balanced, (nothing worse than a long first act followed by a short second act) and the songs are complimented really well by the action, and vice versa. Two minor gripes, it wasn't clear a couple of time if the singing was meant to be bad or not (if you've seen the film you know what I mean by this) and with the exception of the Dynamos costumes, the costumes and set were a bit underwhelming. Overall though, very entertaining.
May 30th 2018.
Other plans fell through, so I arrived at the box office at 10:30am. After politely declining the £100 seat offered, the friendly box office lady and me finally arrived at F7 for £35, which we both could live with. Slightly more to the side than I‘d like, but the distance to the stage was okay. The stage is quite high, so sitting closer would not have been ideal. Legroom was as disappointing as I expected, but I survived.
Sidenote: Being close to the stage can also mean you‘re close to the speakers. For this they‘ve turned the volume up to 11. At times I was almost looking forward to dialogue scenes.
I‘ve always defended the movie version. I thought it was a moderately funny, nice little movie with some woefully inadequate, but in their own way quite charming, performances by the male leads. I still won‘t criticise Messrs. Brosnan, Firth, and Skarsgard. But in pretty much every other respect it‘s almost shocking how much better the stage version is compared to the movie. More fun, more wit, more energy. Even the (simple, yet effective) stage design looked just as convincingly Greek as the (poorly filmed) locations of the movie. "Mamma Mia" is still only a flimsy jukebox musical, but it‘s a great night out.
Went to see Mamma Mia on Saturday 28th July 2018. Seats Balcony A11 and 12. Being 6ft tall there was no leg room, and before interval, had to move and stand at back of theatre to watch show. Being a first time visitor to a show I was upset at the lack of leg room. I would like to go and see 'School of Rock,' But this experience as put me off.
Apart from leg room the show was brilliant.
We were there for "Mamma Mia" the 20th Anniversary show on 6th April 2019. My first visit to the Novello and to be honest, whereas for the 10th I knew something was planned, this time around I genuinely hadn't heard about anything so it was a wonderful surprise to find that lightning did strike twice - we were in the presence of pop royalty once again. The fact that Bjorn and Benny were there made the night very special, as was the completely unexpected chorus line of past dynamos which was a fantastic moment. It took me a moment to realise what was happening as these random people appeared on stage but I soon cottoned on! I swear Siobhan McCarthy must have a portrait in the attic! Judy Cramer was a lot less drunk this time around and made a great speech, including a much appreciated tribute to Louise Plowright. As for B and B, they got a standing ovation at the start just for turning up but I got star struck all over again seeing them on stage together. Its not every night you get to be in the same space as your musical idols!
So with all that, this never was going to be a "normal" performance. The show is what it is - its not highbrow or particularly clever but then its not meant to be, I love hearing the songs sounding so good, particularity the end of act one medley of Gimme Gimme Gimme / Voulez Vous, and the gorgeous arrangement of I Have A Dream at the end. Sarah Poyzer was an excellent Donna, both the other Dynamos were great, as were the three dads. I was less sure of Lucy May Barker as Sophie at the start, but then it takes a while for the dialogue to be less stilted and more natural. She won me over by the end. All in all the show is in great shape. What really surprised me was the reaction of the audience. I expected more whooping and cheering than normal and there was lots of that, but so much laughter at the jokes. After 20 years and the film I find it hard to believe that many of the audience would be coming to this completely fresh but to be honest, the reaction to the dialogue was like it was the first time we saw this in 1999 ( the first west end show that I took my wife to as it turns out). So credit is due to the cast for keeping things fresh and keeping the standard high. I don't know if I need to see the show again now especially as nights like this are hard to top, but then I might just keep an eye on April 6th 2024....
Seating: We sat in the stalls Row C, seats 19 /20. This is the front row, yes the stage is high, but not to the detriment of the view. And what wonderful legroom! I would keep these green all the way. I have rarely had such comfort. I am sure the overall view might be better further back but I will take not having knee lock any time, as well as being able to see all the glances and nuances between the cast members. Because of the special events I wouldn't have wanted to sit anywhere else, but to be honest, if I were to book for a normal night I would go for these like a shot. My wife loved sitting there, obviously I had a big advantage in terms of seeing feet but she had no complaints. The only apology I have this time is that is my huge silhouette on the official photos on the Mamma Mia facebook! Its great for my collection, less so for anyone who wants an unobstructed photo of the stage....
(3 reviews from the Prince Of Wales Theatre production)
On a normal Monday in the West End our decision was made at 7p.m. to grab tickets for 'MAMMA MIA!' Luckily we got very cheap tickets for Stalls C 24 and 25.The guy at the Prince of Wales box office was really helpful.
When seated there, you are totally in the action! The bandleader/conductor is directly in front of you but that's no problem at all. Beware of daydreaming because actors may look at you at several times during the show! What you can't see from there are the floor lighting effects at the end of act 1, but if you do not know they are there you won't miss them!
The sound experience is on a high level, crystal clear - but the voices are sometimes a little bit too gentle in comparison with the band. If you get one of those seats for a fair offer, do not hesitate - and enjoy a delightful night in Greece!
On a second visit, again at the Prince of Wales Theatre, the Box office guy offered us seats in the dress circle. I'm not a fan of dress circle or balcony seats, and love to be as close to the action as possible - but he promised us that these are one of the best places.
The steps down to dress circle seats B 29 and 30 (each for £35 quid, the same price we paid for the ones in the stalls) are very cliffy, and if you are not free from giddiness / vertigo be sure that you can grab someone's hand for your way down. On the left hand side is a guard rail and, if seated in seat 31, it might restrict your view slightly - but in seat 30 it won't harm you in any way. You are really close to the stage action and you get a wonderful overview. The sound is great, voices are crystal clear, with very good sound mix. The whole sound experience is much louder than in the stalls. No loss of emotions or anything like that.
If I'm going to see the show again I'd love to get these circle seats again. I'm always looking for something in the stalls, but after that night at the Prince Of Wales, I'm in love with their dress circle. Never before was a show attendance from upstairs so moving! Gratitude to the box office member for his advice, its good to deal with people who know what they are selling!
What an extraordinary night in June 2011. The Pantheon is definitely undergoing a major expansion! Sally Ann Triplett is, quite simply, a goddess. As for the much anticipated return of Kim Ismay, despite my wife having regaled me with tales of Kim’s legendary exploits, I decided to reserve judgement with a healthy dose of scepticism until seeing and hearing her in the flesh; after all, my wife also once claimed, somewhat hyperbolically that 'Mamma Mia' actually cured her depression! After seeing how much Kim Ismay's Tanya adds to the show, if not reinvents it altogether, I’m actually planning to make a special trip to focus on her exclusively, as her masterful portrayal of Tanya is literally a show within a show, and what a show it is. Every time I tore my eyes away from Kim, even for a nano second, I did so with anticipated, then confirmed, regret, as I invariably missed one of her unique colorations of an almost unsettlingly realistic character. Indeed, her portrayal seemed so “real,” I had convinced myself that Kim was actually not an actress at all, but the world’s greatest impressionist imitating the “actual” Tanya (if there were such a person).
Barring some kind of “Tanya Exorcism,” I fully expect Kim to continue “oozing” the spirit of her expertly crafted character for many shows to come. As for Tonya and Rosie’s 'Chiquitita' duet, it was, by a country mile, the most pitch-perfect I’ve heard, and dashed off with such aplomb, I actually believed it cheered Donna up with its delicate balance of humour and tenderness, capturing the poignant consequences of Donna’s life altering youthful indiscretion with her simultaneous over-reaction about the final outcome; after all, things could have been much worse (rainy housing estates, for one).
The conviction of Chiquetita and Sally Ann’s acting prowess, made Donna’s “cheering up” seemed truly spontaneous, which is no small feat given the abruptness of the transition from Chiquitita to Dancing Queen. In the past, I have criticised those who belittled Mamma Mia as mere “string” upon which the pearls of timeless ABBA tunes are “strung.” If there ever was any truth in such criticisms, there can’t be now. The almost other-worldly ways in which Sally Ann transported me with her pulsating vocal and dramatic Mesmerism made me feel 50 pounds lighter. To call Mamma Mia mere “entertainment” would be like calling the Mona Lisa, a doodle. Sally Ann, Kim, Joanna, Sky, Sophie and Sam so expertly splash their coordinated colours and textures on their shared canvas, it’s as if 6 Jackson Pollok’s were thrown together to create a Rembrandt.
The new Sophie’s (Dani De Waal) performance was exquisite. Her vocals were pitch-perfect with a beautifully refined tone and expressive phrasing without being self-indulgent. This Sophie could have easily gotten smothered among the larger than life Dynamos of this cast, but more than holds her own without over-stating her character. I found her very likeable and believable without “demanding” to be liked. There was a quiet confidence (not arrogance) which, in my sometimes not so humble opinion, struck the perfect balance of competence and vulnerability.
William Tapley as Sam weren’t no chopped liver either. His vocal facility brought a renewed richness to his role and the production as a whole. The role of Sky played by Craig Fletcher was refreshingly well acted, well sung and appropriately understated. I found this Sky and Sophie combination to be completely believable, so much so, that a part of me cannot help but wonder if there isn’t more to their relationship, particularly given how new this cast is? Far be it from me to start tongues wagging, but they are so good together, I cannot help but wonder if art may be imitating life to a degree in this case?
As I told Benny and Bjorn after the 10th anniversary party (half joking) that Mamma Mia cured my wife’s depression, which garnered a few chuckles tinged with skepticism. Despite their laughter, I believe that great music and drama have power to heal. That being said, any shrink will tell you that absence of depression does not equal happiness. Well boys, whether you think I’m kidding or not, this particular cast went well past a cure of depression and crossed over into the realm of actually making my wife happy; not just for a day or two, but for the foreseeable future. How long will this inoculation last? Only time will tell, but a booster shot is only a ticket away! And yes, I am deducting this latest performance from my taxes as a legitimate medical expense.
25th June 2011 - Brilliant.
I went to see this show with my daughter as a "hen party" treat. There were five of us in total ranging in age from 67 to 22, with just one of us that had not seen the movie). We sat in the circle row F right in the centre. These seat were fantastic. Although the circle at this theatre is pretty steep! It's a small theatre and I should think wherever you sat the view would be pretty good. Our seat afforded us a full view of the stage and you could still see the cast's faces.
I booked this as a surprise for my daughter and was a little nervous after reading some reviews that said the singing and acting was not good. However, we did not find this to be the case. We felt that all the cast were very good and the leading ladies brilliant. Melissa Jacques was amazing as Donna Sheridan, her voice did all the songs justice. Dani De Waal was brilliant as Sophie and Joanna Monro was so funny as Rosie. All their voices were brilliant and the acting was just as good too. Of the men, all three "dad's" were brilliant, although I got slightly confused because Oliver Senton who played Harry Bright, from a distance, reminded me of Michael Macintyre! But all three, William Tapley (Sam), Mark Gillis (Bill) and Oliver Senton (Harry), were very good.
The stage set was very basic, but they made the most of basically just the same set that gets turned around. The Orchestra was extremely loud and fantastic. The dancing was good and we were all up and singing and dancing in the aisles (or in front of your seat in the case of the Dress Circle) by the end of the show. If you go to this show and compare it to the film, I don't think you will be disappointed. You can definitely see the film in the show or even in show in the film!, certain lines are the same, but the only thing they can't replicate from the film, on stage is the back drop (like on top of the cliff when Donna sings 'Winner Takes it All'). Donna in the show stands by a window.
All in all a very good show (and I have seen many) and I will be going back again with my husband and mum and dad. If I had to say one negative, it would be that the love between Donna and Sam was all a bit sudden, not much lead up to it and that they didn't quite get the emotion across. But that really is just being picky! Don't listen to the bad reviews, get yourself off to see the show, 'cos if you like the movie and Abba songs you can't fail to love the stage show.
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 Wedding 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 sync.)
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 70's 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 Dreams instead!!!
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.
About 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 talking.
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 disappointment.
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
"Mamma 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 the boxes?
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 2004 performance.
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 their game.
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 :o)
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: http://www.geocities.com/lucyharrisfan/oct7.htm
And, well, I didn't quite stand after she sang "Winner Takes It All", but I 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 page)
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 dancing???
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 movements.
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 performance.
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 ego.
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 tickets!
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 musicals ever!
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, yuck!
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 part company.
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 hence, unwieldy.
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 midget.
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 facility.
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 July 7th 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 in brightness.
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 thereof.
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 “closet” boyfriend.
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 virtuosity.
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 Bowman.
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 city,
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 political correctness.
In what concerns art; I do not distinguish between art and entertainment. For me, there is no small or trivial "thing" in art. I agree with Picasso "Art is a lie that makes us realize truth," and 'Mamma Mia' is a lie I don't mind being told repeatedly.
As far as the cast goes, as another reviewer already said, this musical "transcends any expendable cast members", notwithstanding the obvious fact that personal audience taste varies, but as a whole, I am sure that most actors do their level best, most of the time, once they step on that stage. Given England's population and the sheer number of stage schools churning out so many graduates per capita, it's definitely a buyer's market from the production side, who no doubt, get their pick of the West End litter in this peculiar little industry in this peculiar "little" Britain.
As far as the cast goes there are certain characters that appeal more to me than others. I am sure that everybody who watches the show has to love the characters Donna, Rosie and Tanya. The cast members filling the dynamo's shoes are another story.
I have to say that I always thought that Kim Ismay was brilliant as Tanya until Suanne Braun came along. Although I would go back to see Kim Ismay in the role of Tanya, I think Suanne Braun is uniquely superb and extremely funny, as if the role was created specifically for her.
Lara Mulcahy was hilarious as Rosie, but after watching Joanna Monro more closely, I realized she is also great fun to watch; she's a different kind of Rosie, but still a very lovable one with a very "lady"-like presence on stage.
Unfortunately, I only watched one Donna in all my times at the Prince of Wales, so I do not have anybody to compare to; that being said, I do think that, as an entertainer, Lucy Harris is great fun to watch and therefore deserves the title "Born to Be Donna". She has been compared to several "stars" in different reviews and I 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 performance?
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 treasure/break.
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 worthy replacement.
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, incognito.
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 meaning.
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 abundant talent.
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” Donna.
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 believable/relatable.
Hanna Robertson was divine. She has expertly refined her character in quite subtle, but no less substantial ways, palpably expanding her vocal and dramatic range, rendering an already totally believable character, that much more so. It really is difficult to see where Donna ends and Sophie begins, which is a testament to their individual talents and obvious devotion to teamwork. Despite knowing the plot all too well, I found myself on the edge of my seat, rooting for Hannah to make the right decision, almost embarrassingly so, like a bored housewife escaping into a fantasy world of soap opera, except that Mamma Mia is no soap opera! Hannah has a unique, almost porcelain doll beauty, which only adds to her youthful innocence, making her decision to marry so young seem that much more impulsive and by extension, makes me want to save her from herself that much more. I’m glad she seems to be using less makeup. Her natural, youthful beauty, only adds to the innocence of her wide-eyed character. Hannah exquisitely exemplifies the fragility of youth and along with it, the gravity of her potentially life-altering decisions juxtaposed against so little life experience.
Paul Shelford is very believable as Sophie’s 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 was!!!!!!!!!
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 seen.
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 been better.
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 bit.
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 for more.
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 way home.
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 on sale.
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 it was.
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 something unforgettable.
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!)
Stalls J27: Very comfortable. Great view. Nice legroom.
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Monday at 7.30pm
Wednesday at 7.30pm
Thursday at 3pm and 7.30pm
Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 3pm and 7.30pm
Sunday at 2.30pm
NO TUESDAY PERFORMANCES.
Runs 2 hours 30 minutes approximately.
Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.
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NOTE: SELECTED £97.50, £82.50 and £72.50 seats MAY BE reduced to £77.50 / £62.50 / £52.50 if purchased at least 4 months in advance via www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk, the box office phone number 0844 482 5170, or at the venue in person.
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