Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mamma Mia! (Lunchbox Theatrical)


Residing on a Greek island, a mother and a daughter prepare for a wedding. Sophie (Charlotte Wakefield) wants to solve the mystery of her identity before tying the knot. Reading through her mother's diary, she isolates three men who could possibly be her father and sends all of them an invitation to her wedding, without mommy’s consent. What happens when Donna (Sara Poyzer) finds out all about them sooner than expected? Unresolved issues resurface and a wonderful story unfolds as the characters sing and dance through ABBA’s set list of hits one by one.

The acting felt a bit technical at first, as if every moment was calculated. Luckily, this notion goes away pretty fast, along with the weirdness of seeing too many Caucasians on one stage. Sorry, it is my first time to see a musical with a foreign cast. Everything becomes natural after a few minutes or so and a happy kind of vibe just hits you as soon as the nostalgia sets in.

The movie does a better job in establishing a Greek atmosphere thanks to the many panoramic shots they were able to use. For the onstage musical such an atmosphere is captured through the bright turquoise hues that are visible just about everywhere, from the walls all the way to the clothes. Match this with the two white rotating panels and you get a rather okay version of Greece. Some furniture are brought along and taken away by the cast members themselves as they move around the stage.

For us on this side of the planet, a comparison with the movie would always be done simply because most of us saw that first. I have no idea if this is the first time this production has been brought here, but it is quite sure that majority of us do not have the luxury to go all the way to either the West End or Broadway just to see the onstage version. Kudos to Lunchbox Theatrical Productions for adding Manila in this international tour of the London cast.

The movie seemed like an over extended MTV and they were not even able to include all the songs. The play has 27 musical numbers all in all, and it does reach a point when you would exclaim, Oh no, they are singing again! but you are most likely to dismiss this thought quickly if you grew up with ABBA. This really is a tribute to their music, and if you are a fan there is absolutely no reason for you not to enjoy it. However, be warned that not every song has a party-party vibe. There is still a story in here that has to be highlighted because after all, this is not a concert. But if you want one, you will eventually get it so do not get disappointed. More on that later.

To continue, there are songs that are presented better in the movie, while there are some that benefit from the awesomeness of being seen and heard live. In my case I prefer the movie versions of Slipping Through My Fingers and Does Your Mother Know: the former because the reel was able to capture the intimate moment between mother and daughter in a more poignant way (onstage the orchestra is a bit louder, which kind of ruins the solemn mood); and the latter maybe because Christine Baranski as Tanya growls better than Kate Graham. Personal bias.

On the other hand I think Take a Chance on Me and SOS worked better onstage because you get to see the nuances of the characters live and up close. There was just too much camera panning in the movie version of the former. As for the latter, Pierce Brosnan was difficult to watch because it seemed like an artery on his neck would pop up from too much tension in an effort to sustain this duet with Meryl Streep. Here, Richard Standing as Sam Carmichael also gives an artery-on-the-neck popping performance but somehow you see it more as a result of the character's raging emotions rather than the actor’s struggle to hit the right notes.

The most visually arresting number would be Gimme Gimme Gimme because of the smoke effects and the neon lights playing a trick with your eyes as they hit the cast’s very colorful clothes. The most applauded, on the other hand, would be Rosie’s (Jennie Dale) Take a Chance on Me followed by Donna’s The Winner Takes It All, which was just oh so pitch perfect. And that is another thing I liked so much about this particular show, Poyzer’s vocals. Her singing voice is just so full and she sings effortlessly.

The concert following the curtain call is definitely a must see. Now this is the party-party vibe I mentioned earlier. The younger members of the cast return to sing and dance to an encore of Mamma Mia. After that they are joined by Donna and the Dynamos for the Dancing Queen repeat. Lastly, the three fathers join them for the Waterloo finale, flamboyant costumes and all. One thing I found strange though, was the audience reaction, which was sort of lukewarm. Perhaps, because it is a work night? In fact, it was not until after Dancing Queen did some people stand up to sing and dance along, and it was only about a third or a fourth of the audience.

Overall this is a truly enjoyable musical. Whatever good feedback you are hearing about it is true. Treat your parents. Bring them along because I guarantee that they would really enjoy this. Baduy na kung baduy but after seeing this I am further convinced that I was born in the wrong era. I should have been a late 70’s disco boy. HAHAHAHA.

2 creature(s) gave a damn:

Unknown said...

definitely watching this ...

ihcahieh said...

@kay - Go watch! Ganda ganda. :)

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