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Dates: 22 July - 31 August 2003
: Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Reviewer: John Jane





A Musical based on the songs of


Music: Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus

Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Choreography: Anthony Van Laast

Sophie and Sky
Marisa McIntyre and Todd Hofley are Sophie and Sky

After three incredibly successful years at the Royal Alexandra theatre in Toronto, the Canadian cast of Mamma Mia! have taken a summer hiatus to bring this Mirvish production to Vancouver.

So far, Mamma Mia! has been a hit in every city it has played, including London (the first), New York and Sydney, Australia.

British writer Catherine Johnson’s story was developed to coalesce a selection of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson’s popular compositions, originally performed by their symmetrical Swedish band ABBA.

Johnson’s premise has twenty year old Sophie Sheridan about to get married. Like most young women about to embark on such a journey, she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. Sophie’s conundrum is that she doesn't know who her father is. Believing she would discover his identity if she could somehow meet him face-to-face, Sophie invites three of her mother’s former suitors, Harry Bright, Bill Austin, and Sam Carmichael to the wedding, to be held on the small Greek island where she lives with her single mother Donna. When all three men arrive on the day before the wedding - without Donna’s approval - the fun really begins.

The opening strains of the overture, a lively medley of the show’s up-tempo tunes, promises an evening of fun theatre. Act one which takes place the day before the wedding, with the opening number “I Have a Dream” sung by Sophie, does not disappoint. The first act continues in an energetic, light-hearted vein, with fine comedic touches coming from Donna’s former sidekicks Rosie and Tanya, sublimely played by Martha Reilly and Vancouverite Nicole Robert. Recent cast addition Robert steals every scene she is in as the sarcastic Tanya. Her performance in “Does Your Mother Know” with Jay Schramek is brilliant.

Special kudos to Camilla Scott and Marisa McIntyre as the principal characters Donna and Sophie. They only inherited the roles from Louise Pitre and Tina Maddigan, when the latter were recruited for the show's Broadway version. While Scott appears at times to work a little too hard to draw out all the facets of Donna’s complex personality, McIntyre does more than hold her own as Sophie, and may even be an improvement on her predecessor. The vivacious teenager truly shows her artistic maturity in the nightmare sequence that opens the second act. Covering one of the weaker songs in the show, “Under Attack”, she guides the scene into one of the production's memorable moments.





Although much of the success of Mamma Mia! relies heavily on its featured players, supporting cast members should not be overlooked. Kent Sheridan (coincidentally, Donna and Sophie’s family name) deserves no small praise for taking on the role of Sam, the only really serious character in the show, and Todd Hofley makes the most of his part of Sky (Sophie’s fiancé), an essentially transparent role.

The final scene

The minimalist set design is visually functional, consisting of two double-sided ‘walls’ routinely rotated to represent the indoor and outdoor scenes of Donna’s Greek tavern.

After final bows, cast members don ABBA-esque costumes and are joined by an enthusiastic audience in a salute to the seventies band. Aside from this ten minute encore, this entertaining production is more than an ABBA tribute concert. Andersson and Ulvaeus’ well crafted tunes transcribed to suit specific performances juxtaposed with the storyline, is the essence of Mamma Mia!, not an homage to the original band members.

Anni-Frid, Benny, Björn and Agnetha

Though thirty years have passed since Anni-Frid, Benny, Björn and Agnetha last recorded together, the band’s distinctly European pop style of strong melody lines framed with tight female vocal harmonies has hardly waned. Dozens of tribute albums have been produced during the music’s current revival, including a stellar 1991 recording by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. ABBA’s musical legacy has assuredly galvanized people across cultures. Seeing how much fun the predominantly young Vancouver audience was having, it now seems to have galvanized people across generations.

© 2003, John Jane