Friday, December 1, 2017


Book by Catherine Johnson
Originally conceived by Judy Craymer
Music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjӧrn Ulvaeus
Directed by Gary Young
Produced by Michael Coppel, Louise Withers and Linda Bewick
Canberra Theatre to 17 December

Reviewed by Len Power 30 November 2017

Unless you’ve been living on a distant planet for years, you would know the phenomenon that is ‘Mamma Mia!’  This jukebox musical was written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, based on the songs of ABBA, composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.  It first opened in London in 1999 and is still running there.  The show ran on Broadway for 5,773 performances.

This is the first time Canberra has seen a production of ‘Mamma Mia!’ and it’s been worth the wait.  This is a stunningly good production.  The Canberra Theatre Centre management is to be congratulated for obtaining the premiere of this production at the start of its national tour.

Natalie O’Donnell as the mother, Donna Sheridan, gives a strong characterization and sings the role brilliantly.  She stops the show with ‘The Winner Takes It All’.  As her daughter, Sophie Sheridan, Sarah Morrison is thoroughly believable as the young woman who yearns to find her father.  As the show progresses, she sings and dances her way into the audience’s hearts.  The trio of possible fathers played by Ian Stenlake, Phillip Lowe and Josef Ber are all excellent comedians with a sure sense of timing and they sing and dance very well, too.  There are delightful characterizations from the numerous other principal performers who all get their moment to shine.

The singing and dancing ensemble do a great job of appearing laid back and casual and all display distinctive characters.  They make it look easy but they’re probably the hardest working members of the show.  Their dancing of ‘Voulez-Vous’ at the end of the first act is a genuine showstopper.

Director, Gary Young, has given us a colourful show that succeeds on every level.  The set design by Linda Bewick is attractive and practical, nicely evoking a Greek island village location.  Costumes by Suzy Strout are vibrant and striking and Gavan Swift has produced a knockout lighting design.

The sound design by Michael Walters keeps the sound levels between musicians and singers just right and musical supervisor, Stephen Amos, achieves that distinctive and all-important ABBA sound.  The choreographer, Tom Hodgson, gives us breath-taking dances that are exciting and believable in the show’s context.

The audience were ecstatic by the end of the opening night of ‘Mamma Mia!’.  Don’t miss it!

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm and on ‘Artcetera’ from 9.00am on Saturdays.