Mamma Mia – London - 21 July 2004

There is something good about seeing a show close up and that was certainly the view I got from my last visit as with the Prince of Wales stage having less depth than the Prince Edward and the orchestra pit being more under the stage the front of the stage is extremely close to the audience. The move to the Prince of Wales seems to have been a smooth transaction and the show is as fun, energetic and funny as before.

Vivien Parry is the new Donna having taken over from Louise Plowright who played the role for around 5 years. Her Donna is not exactly content but accepting of the lot life has given her and making the most of it with the impending marriage of Sophie putting the idyllic years into a period of change that she is perhaps not ready for. She conveyed the emotions of Donna’s character extremely well and in particular the scenes in the bedroom for ‘Slipping through my fingers’ and ‘The Winner takes it all’ as she fights to keep the emotions back in Sophie’s presence but is choked as her daughter not only has her mother’s love but also a potential for a stable start in adult life unlike Donna had. Vivien had a very believable relationship with John Alastair’s Sam, both fighting to suppress the feeling which never went away 21 years before and ‘The Winner Takes it All’ was played to just the right level of emotion and at the moment when it could all come together Donna forces that door to close once more. John presented a Sam who had grasped at this opportunity to return to the island to the person he loved but who had difficulty in knowing how to work it through or even what would be there for him. The ‘S.O.S’ and ‘Knowing Me, Knowing’ you scenes were well sang and played , the latter building an initial relationship with potentially his daughter Sophie.

Robert Hands’ Harry was very nicely played especially during the ‘Our Last Summer’ scene where just the flicker of the memory of that time affected him still and although she was the last girl he loved just small moments of him catching himself showed she was still the girl he could be in love with. His need to feel that sense of belonging was captured in his response to Donna’s question about his coming to the wedding of ‘I’ve been invited’.

Alexandra Jay plays the role and the emotional journey of Sophie very well. On the whole she sings the role well although I do find her voice hasn’t got enough of a mature edge to it, she is let down especially on ‘I have a dream’ with lack of diction.

Sara West’s Rosie is an independent woman who any man would find quite intimidating that is until she claps her eyes once more of Bill and the real woman underneath starts to emerge. Kim Ismay’s characteristics and facial reactions to what goes on around her are at times priceless and the many superficial layers to Tanya’s character stride around the stage. Her final touché moment with Pepper is funny, well choreographed and a final triumph for Tanya over his hot blooded young man.

The mix of funny and poignant moments, quiet and then energetic moments in the show make it into such a entertaining evening and one I would gladly sit through on more than one occasion

Mamma Mia Masterclass: 21-24 July 2004

Most people could sing along with an Abba song with no problem but creating the actual Abba sound on your own is a different thing and the one thing this masterclass demonstrates is that creating that sound is a more complicated thing than you would think. Once all the harmony parts come together and that sound is achieved it is a great moment of satisfaction.

Mamma Mia is a wonderful upbeat show and this masterclass captures the essence of the show, working on a small excerpts of the show the performance moves from the angelic 'I have a Dream' to the grasping' Money Money Money', the romantic' I do I do I do' to the rousing dance sequences of Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen. Working up a sweat during the 3.5 days is a 100% reality but it is worth it in pursuit of having a great time and experiencing a bit of the shows magic and energy. Not wanting you to rest on your laurels there is also the opportunity to perform not only on stage but also in the singing booths in the wings to boost the sound on stage for the others performing. That is a learning skill in itself.

The singing routines are enthusiastically and patiently taught by the dance captain of the show, Tim Stanley, assisted by Nia Fisher, the dramatic moments are directed by Peter Addis and the musical direction by Marcus Savage

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