Truth be told I'm not a big fan of jukebox musicals, they are usually more of a song-and-dance cabaret than musical storytelling, plots are reduced to set-ups for the next number as opposed to story telling, and the music is meant to elicit excitement from audience members at hearing familiar tunes than to move the plot along and heighten emotions with beautiful melodies.
And yet, watching Mamma Mia, the mother of the genre that started it all, I felt that everything flowed in a very smooth manner. The song and dance of ABBA's music was very much present, but the plot was actually quite interesting and engaging. The songs segue into the drama in the most natural way, and storyline advance while the songs go on.
And what a good looking cast we have here! Lots of handsome faces and toned pecs and abs, from young adults to more mature fellas. In the lead role of Donna, Sara Poyzer gave a highly energetic performance in a long and demanding role. Her voice tends to get screechy at times with flat high notes when she gets carried away, but later on she showed us her formidable vocal chops packed with emotional charge in The Winner Takes it All. Niamh Perry as her teenage daughter also had her share of screechy moments but turned out what is in total an energetic and charming performance.
The backdrop of blue and white wave patterns do little to conjure up the Mediterranean beach resort atmosphere that the movie captures so vividly, making the ensemble cast's appearances in tight little swimming trunks seem a little gratuitous and out of context (just saying, not complaining). But where it succeeds over the movie is its immediate connection with the audience. The cast members, besides acting well and looking good, sang and danced up a storm backed by a highly charged live band. And unlike an original musical, this production is ready to serve up an extended encore, rock concert style, with full 70s flower-power disco regalia complete bell bottoms and platform shoes.
In short, whether you are expecting a retro concert of ABBA's music or a moving music-drama experience, this production of Mamma Mia delivers both in spades. No wonder it has charmed audiences worldwide. I'm sure you'll be won over too.
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