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Saturday 10 October 2009

Review: Mamma Mia at the Civic

Posted in: Performance
By Campbell Stodart - 27th September 2009

Seen by over 40 million people around the world and celebrating its tenth birthday, Mamma Mia had them dancing in the aisles at the Civic on opening night.

One of the very first albums I bought as a teen was Arrival by Abba and they were a stable part of my life growing up, so of course with Mamma Mia coming to Auckland I was very eager to see what it had to offer. The latest production, with a stand out cast left me with no doubt that the music of Abba is timeless and has cult status.

Right from the overture there was no mistake this was going to be memorable and the UK Cast did the show incredible justice with exceptional vocal ability, slick, snazzy choreography and strong acting ability. The Civic is a big stage but they managed to utilise and fill it with huge and delicious talent.

It is quite incredible how many Abba songs can be slipped into a storyline and the lyrics actually make sense and compliment the dialogue. There are a few extra songs that don't completely appear in the film - Thank you for the Music and Under Attack. Later, there's a very over the top and camp dream sequence with the cast dancing around Sophie in fluro swimwear.

The set is a very simple and functional and rotates easily to create various locations based around the Greek Taverna where the story takes place. This is easily enhanced by clever lighting that creates the balmy summer on a Greek Island. For some reason the sound on opening night was a little odd and thin at times but I am positive this will be sorted. The intro at the start of the second act literally gave the audience a huge fright... it was so loud, and if the intention was to catch our attention then well done! This certainly did not discount the talented live band who made the music come to life and it was a pleasure to see the orchestra pit used and not just pre-recorded music.

The diversity in the costumes was fantastic from sunny little linen outfits to the colourful ensemble outfits to the Abba-licious sets for the three number finale. (Now that's a finale!) The colour palate across the whole production was very sharp and crisp and even though the Show was set in 2000, it still had a very retro twist. We even had the gorgeous number with boys in wet suits, snorkels and flippers. Who ever thought of that deserves a big hug.

A huge relief was Cameron Blakely who played the role of Sam Carmichael, portrayed by Pierce Brosnan in the 2008 Movie. Cameron could sing, extremely well, when Pierce couldn't. He played the role of one of Sophie's possible fathers with conviction and grace and this was emphasised by his brilliant voice. And speaking of Sophie, played by Miria Parvin- what a talented performer. She showed the vulnerability and confusion of her character beautifully through her facial expressions, acting ability and stunning voice.

It's been five years since Mamma Mia last came to our shores and we are very lucky to have the opportunity to see this sensational production again. Mamma Mia runs through till 18 October and the Civic before heading to the TSB Arena in Wellington. Don't let others tell you about it... you be the Dancing Queen!

Campbell Stodart - 27th September 2009

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