Mamma Mia! has been dubbed the “world’s sunniest and most exhilarating smash-hit musical,” and it’s a title that’s well-deserved. I was able to join the gala night of Mamma Mia! in Manila, and I found myself dancing in my seat. My biggest challenge was not to sing along with the cast!
Mamma Mia! tells the story of Sophie, a young girl about to get married in the Greek island paradise she and her mother call home. She attempts to discover the identity of her father in time for her wedding and she invites the three men from her mother’s romantic past.
The musical is set to the music of the Swedish band ABBA, and features the songs “Dancing Queen,” “Take A Chance On Me,” “Winner Takes It All,” and of course, “Mamma Mia.” I’m also a fan of the band so you can imagine how much fun I was having.
With ABBA’s vast repertoire of music, it’s easy to connect the songs to any kind of storyline but they lend themselves elegantly to this particular tale. The songs fit seamlessly in the scenes, especially in that brilliant exchange when a spoken line transitions to “Winner Takes It All.”
The Manila stop of its international tour is an entertaining watch because they are led by a strong cast that complements each other. Shona White as Sophie’s mother Donna is hilarious and stunning, and she truly shines in the songs that she leads, especially the hilarious “Mamma Mia” and the poignant “Slipping Through My Fingers.” Lucy May Barker is charming as Sophie, ably performing her role and her numbers, like “The Name of the Game,” and “Under Attack.”
For me, the highlights of the show are the members of Donna’s generation: her friends Tanya and Rosie, and the possible fathers of Sophie: Sam Carmichael, Harry Bright, and Bill Austin.
Tanya and Rosie were the comedic relief and they pulled it off well, with Helen Anker’s cougar Tanya shining in “Does Your Mother Know” (one of my fave numbers) and Rosie shutting the house down with “Take a Chance on Me.”
For the fathers, it’s hard to choose between Tamlyn Henderson as Sam, Daniel Crowder as Harry, and Matthew Rutherford as Bill, since they bring different things to the table. Sam is a jaded architect, Matthew is an uptight banker who used to be a headbanger, and Bill is a carefree travel writer. Their only number is “Thank You For the Music” but their best moments were in speaking parts, especially in “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” (another fave scene and one of my fave ABBA songs in general).
You can tell from this review how much I love ABBA and the musical, but you can still enjoy the musical even if you’re not a fan of the music or if you haven’t seen the film adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried. Trust me, you can walk into the theater not knowing a single line of “Super Trouper” and “Chiquitita,” and end up dancing with the crowd during the musical’s legendary encore when the cast returns to perform the band’s greatest hits.
It’s a good thing that the encore allows the audience to sing and dance along with the cast. With all that pent up energy throughout the show, I needed to share the sunny vibes.
This story is in partnership with Concertus Manila. Mamma Mia! in Manila will be staged at The Theatre at Solaire. Tickets are now on sale at www.ticketworld.com.ph (ticket prices here). The show is a collaboration between Concertus Manila, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, and Ticketworld. For more information, follow the show’s Facebook and Twitter pages.