Mamma Mia! (The Musical) in Manila

How many times in your life do free tickets to a renowned musical fall into your hands without your asking for it? In my lifetime, once. Of course, I grabbed the opportunity. To my sponsor, we did each other a favor watching Mamma Mia! 🙂

I’m not exactly an Abba fan, nor one who would key in “Dancing Queen” on the videoke machine. When I am in New York, and if I would be the one to spend for my TKTS, I would go for Disney musicals or Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera. My aunt has always raved about Mamma Mia! and how funny and fun it was to watch it, but I guess her enthusiasm wasn’t convincing enough. Until that very fortunate opportunity came my way.

We were fortunate (O, what fortune!) to get seats close to the stage, where we could see clearly the faces of the actors, and at the same time, have a good view of the whole “picture” without being too close.

Before I continue, just a quick synopsis of the show:

Sophie is about to marry Sky, and wants to find out who her biological father is so he would be able to give her out on her wedding day. She finds out through her mom’s diary that there might be 3 possible biological dads: Sam, Harry or Bill. She invites all three to her wedding and get a chance to know them and find out which of them is her real dad. Donna, Sophie’s mom, was enraged to find her three former lovers in Greece. She was supported by her two friends, Tanya and Rosie. The three, in their younger days, form “The Dynamos”, a singing group like “The Supremes”. The story complicates as Sophie realizes that it is impossible to really find out her biological father, while Donna’s feelings for Bill is revived. To make the long story short (Warning: Spoiler coming!), Sky and Sophie didn’t get married, but Donna and Bill did, so wedding preparations were not wasted.

The lights dimmed, and the band started to play the very catchy Overture, giving you a foretaste of the songs they will be performing for the show. Your eyes are suddenly treated to a flurry of blues, and your ears with the familiar “I Have a Dream” by Sophie (Charlotte Wakefield). Act 1 was simply full of energy and keeping with the rising action of the plot. The first Act was a lot of fun, featuring equally fun Abba songs:

          1. Honey, Honey
          2. Money, Money, Money
          3. Thank You for the Music
          4. Mamma Mia
          5. Chiquitita
          6. Dancing Queen
          7. Lay All Your Love On Me
          8. Super Trouper
          9. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!
          10. The Name of the Game
          11. Voulez-Vous

Rosie (Jennie Dale) and Tanya (Kate Graham) were great supporting actresses for Donna (Sara Poyzer) adding a lot of comic relief (as if it needed to be more funny). My favorite part was their singing of Chiquitita to Donna, when she found out that her three former lovers were on the island, while they try hard to make her laugh with their antics. Imagine the soft and mellow “Chiquitita” accompanied by comic antics. Their size (Rosie was round, while Tanya was tall and slim) contributed to the whole caricature.

Sam (Richard Standing), Bill (Charles Daish) and Harry (Matthew Lloyd Davies) were also quite a trio, whose different personalities added color to their performances. I particularly liked their rendition of “Thank You For the Music” which they sang with Sophie. (Trivia: Richard Standing and Sara Poyzer are real life couple)

The ensembles performed very well, fulfilling their supporting roles, not outstanding the real stars of the show.

Act 1 ended with a high note leaving the audience on a high as if it could already end there. The Voulez-Vous Act 1 Finale was perfect.

Act 2 begins with an Entr’Acte introducing orange hues symbolizing the developing and complicating relationship in our show’s couples. The songs are more mellow as the story reaches its dramatic climax, and moves back into a more humorous repertoire:

          1. Under Attack
          2. One of Us
          3. S.O.S.
          4. Does Your Mother Know
          5. Knowing Me, Knowing You
          6. Our Last Summer
          7. Slipping Through my Fingers
          8. The Winner Takes it All
          9. Take A Chance on Me
          10. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do
          11. I Have A Dream

I enjoyed the Sophie’s dream sequence with “Under Attack”. The choreography was simple, but accompanied by amazing costumes, and the dream like flow of the scenes were effectively delivered with the right amount of suspense and you start to realize that it really is a nightmare. I also most especially like Donna’s “The Winner Takes It All”. Sara Poyzer’s rendition was powerful and it takes you to the emotional ride that she is undergoing at that moment. It ends not with any high note, but ends with power eliciting a loud applause from the audience.

The subplot love story of Rosie and Sam becomes more evidently funny most especially developed in Rosie’s “Take A Chance on Me”. The director effectively used the space and the wedding stage set for this scene as Rosie tries to run after Sam as he avoids Rosie’s advancements. That song also deserved a round applause from the pleased crowd.

The show wonderfully ends with the same song it began with as if the story resolved by going back to status quo. Like a real comedy, the story ended happily, however not ideally.

After the curtain call, the cast delivered three wonderful encores which normally would get the audience standing up and dancing:

            1. Mamma Mia
            2. Dancing Queen
            3. Waterloo

Overall Recommendation

The cast, should I say, was well-casted. They are all wonderful in their roles and their faces match the character they are portraying, if such criterion exists. I saw the pictures of the original cast, and I thought, I would have indeed wanted a more caucasian cast for Sophie’s and Sky’s characters. The real nationalities of the characters are British anyway, so I would have imagined a blonde group of cast as opposed to a Latina or Latino looking set.

Their voices were also superb, and yes, they also match the character they are playing. In fact, listening to the 5th Anniversary album of the Mamma Mia! The Musical soundtrack, their voices are as close to the voice quality of the International Tour cast. Charolotte Wakefield’s (Sophie) sweet voice reminds me of Kristin Chenoweth’s role as Glinda and I would like to believe that Wakefield would also do justice and close to Kristin’s Glinda.

As I already said, Sara Poyzer delivered all the songs with perfection. Great voices also come from Tanya and Rosie.

As for the men in the show, my ears are not particular with vocal quality since I am more hardwired to female voices, being a choir girl and is always in search of female voices I could model. If I should give an evaluation of their voices, they are very good quality and not a single one of them was in tune. What did strike me with the men is their acting ability. Their body (and I mean, well toned and muscled hot!) movements during the dance were simple but perfect. The dance numbers didn’t require extremely difficult choreography. I just love the simplicity of the whole show, even the minimalist stage was very effective in highlighting the voices and the story.

As I already mentioned, the story ended happily, but not ideally; however, not bereft of lessons that we can still learn from it. We can learn from Donna’s decision to raise her daughter alone and run away to a land to live her own life away from the men he loved. We can’t learn from her definition of love for the opposite sex though. We learn mother’s love for her daughter and everything she will sacrifice for her. We can learn Rosie and Tanya about real friendship being there through thick or thin. However, we cannot learn from the materialistic lifestyle of Tanya. We also cannot learn from them about having children because they see it as burden and hindrance. We can learn from the dads who want to be responsible for their long lost daughter once they confirm who the real dad is. We can learn from Sophie’s modesty in dressing though except for her party outfit in one scene. However, we cannot learn from Sophie and Sky’s decision to not continue their wedding as if they are totally unsure, and just live together.

Watch this show for entertainment and great music, not to learn values. Don’t watch this if you’re bringing young kids whose foundation for love is not strong. Unless you are willing to process them after.

If you ask me, I want to watch this show again — for free. 🙂

It shows at CCP Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo. Show ends on February 19, 2012. You can buy your tickets at TicketWorld.

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