The jukebox musical MAMMA MIA! has been seen by more than 65 million people in 450 cities, and it is now featuring in Singapore for the third time at the Sands Theatre till November 5.
Written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, it is based on the songs of the hugely-popular Swedish pop group ABBA.
The band’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus were involved in the development of the show, which debuted at London’s West End Prince Edward Theatre in April 1999, and has been going around the world since.
The hugely successful English-language International Tour premiered in Dublin in September 2004 and, to date, has visited 41 countries, performed more than 3,500 shows and has been seen by more than 7 million people.
MAMMA MIA! is produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East & Bjorn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal and NGM and presented in Singapore by Base Entertainment Asia.
ABAA has been part of my life since my college days, some 40 years ago. I simply love the Swedish group. Their music is astounding. I have been hooked on their songs, especially Voulez-Vouz, The Winner Takes It All and Chiquitita from the time I heard them.
So, to get a chance to hear the songs again live on stage, that too being acted out, is something I consider I’m lucky to experience.
Catherine also wrote the screenplay for the 2008 hit film MAMA MIA! starring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Amanda Seyfried. The story begins in a small Greek island where Donna raised her daughter Sophie, now 20, and built a business independently.
Sophie, played on stage by the lovely Jess Michelmore, is set to marry her partner, Sky (Christopher Foley), but wants her father to walk her down the aisle to give her away. The only problem is, it’s not clear whether the father is Sam, Bill or Harry, as she discovered that three men were involved after reading her mother’s diary from the year she was pregnant.
The musical opens with Sophie sending out three wedding invitations – one to each – in the hope she’ll know her dad when she sees him. The three potential fathers are tricked into attending the wedding – from where much of the chaos ensues.
Jess’ performance is phenomenal. Her vocals are powerful, and her bubbly personality is infectious.
She joins her best friends Ali and Lisa, played by Tanisha Butterfield and Freya Humberstone, for a rendition of Honey, Honey, which is breathtaking. It instantly indicates the night will be one of non-stop joy.
The band plays out the songs fantastically well, showcasing their talent, and bringing out the party atmosphere. Most among the audience automatically lip-synced and foot-tapped to the 23 ABBA hits throughout the 150 minutes, from Dancing Queen and Super Trouper to Money, Money, Money and The Winner Takes It All.
Donna, Sophie’s mum, is played brilliantly by Sara Poyzer, who has a wealth of theatre, television and film experience, including roles in The Knife That Killed Me and My Last Five Girlfriends.
Her vocals and range are stunning, and the emotions are well and truly felt as she belts out The Winner Takes It All.
She really brings the character to life, with the help of Nicky Swift and Sarah Earnshaw as Rosie and Tanya, both fantastically cast with equal parts humour and sass. Tanya’s style even sees her eyed up by Sky’s friend and audience favourite Pepper (Jaden Osheny).
Sophie’s potential fathers are portrayed by Richard Standing (Sam), Phil Corbitt (Bill) and Neal Craig (Harry), who provide real humour as they trip over each other in showing their adoration for Donna and giving the impression that each one is Sophie’s father.
The chemistry is particularly strong between Donna and Sam, who develop their relationship through the songs SOS and Knowing Me, Knowing You in the second act.
Our Last Summer brings out the humorous friendship between Donna and Harry, as both playfully dance together, helping keep Donna calm before the wedding.
Rosie and Bill’s relationship culminates with a performance of Take a Chance on Me just before the wedding. The slapstick fun of the song is incredibly performed by Nicky Swift.
It takes immense talent to bring seemingly disparate ABBA songs together into a cohesive story, adapting the tone and performance to fit the plot.
But the opening dream number of the second act, Under Attack, didn’t really work for me. It was used to highlight the confusion of parental responsibility but felt like one sung by partners.
The set was fairly simple, but largely effective, using just two pieces of taverna to create endless pockets of the island with a number of props. The intelligent use of lighting and “freeze frames” really immerse the audience in the story.
The ensemble was incredible, particularly coming into their own during Lay All Your Love On Me and Voulez-Vouz. Through a combination of clever costuming – blue and white throughout – and energetic dancing, they brought the warmth of a Greek island to rainy Singapore on a October evening.
The costumes were incredible throughout, especially the spandex, ruffles and flares. Gimme Gimme Gimme and Voulez-Vous provided star-quality choreography that brought chaos to the stage and really emulated the emotions Sophie was feeling as she frantically attempted to find out who her father was, and in turn, discover herself.
The encore was everything you could want and more, and perfectly epitomised the whole production. The audience is treated to three final songs, where the cast and ensemble truly come into their own.
MAMMA MIA! the musical, previously presented in Singapore in 2014 and 2018, is energetic, fun, hilarious and touching, full of ABBA’s greatest hits you can’t help but hum and dance along to.