Review: Mamma Mia! The Musical brings the party to Melbourne’s Princess Theatre (to September 30th)

Even if you don’t love ABBA, I dare you to listen to ‘Dancing Queen’ and not to get out of your chair and dance! Now add colourful boas, a sun kissed set, chiselled men dancing in flippers and an all-star cast- and you will have absolutely have no choice but to jiggly your body.

Mamma Mia! The Musical will have that effect on you. The catchy tunes are one thing, but mix it with a cast who are clearly having so much fun just being there and a simple yet eye catching set and you’ll feel like you’re in Greece with the gals people watching at the local resort.

The jukebox musical has become one of the world’s favourites since its 1999 West End premiere and again gaining traction in 2008 in the Meryl Streep led film of the same name (even spawning a sequel called Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again due to be released this July). For some reason the illogical story of a young woman about to get married in Greece, finding out that she has three potential men who could be her biological father, has captured the attention of millions globally. And now you have the chance to see the story unfold on Australian stages!

Thursday, July 12 saw Mamma Mia! The Musical make its way to Melbourne’s Princess Theater for opening night. After a successful run in Sydney, audience members were keen to see what all the fuss was about, and in particular the sound of eagerness increased when Natalie O’Donnell, Alicia Gardiner and Jayde Westaby made their way onto the stage. And rightly so, the three actresses easily stole the limelight, with O’Donnell playing Donna, the mother to the bride to be, and Gardiner and Westaby playing her lifelong best friends.

O’Donnel shone as the feisty Donna, perfectly playing a caring mother to Sophie, played by Sarah Morrison and sent her vocals soaring in numbers like, ‘The Winner Takes it All,’ and  ‘Slipping Through My Fingers.’ Gardiner set the audience laughing with her perfect physical comedy as Rosie, a highlight being her hilarious take on, ‘Take a Chance on Me.’

But if there had to be one champion of the night it would be Westaby, who played the glamorous, triple divorcee Tanya. She has me almost had me in stitches during, ‘Does Your Mother Know?’ prancing around the stage as a fierce cougar, warding off the excellent back flipping Sam Hopper. In fact, every time she hit the stage, the crowd laughed, even when she was just in the background. She perfectly encompassed her character and delivered an edgy mistress vibe that would make even a happily married 70 year old jealous.

Morrison also delivered a delightful sweetness as the bride-to-be Sophie. Adding a youthful glow that was echoed by the ensemble. The ensemble added an extra charm to the big band dance numbers, particularly killing it during ‘Voulez-Vous.’

At times, there are elements that fall short, such as the narrative getting lost in an almost tribute show feel, but they are quickly subsided but the fun atmosphere. The set design is simple and not as elaborate as other musicals I’ve seen, but still has elements that deliver a Greek Isle essence.

The show ends on a concert style finale, urging everyone to get on their feet and dance to popular tunes such as ‘Dancing Queen,’ and it is hard not to be intoxicated by the party.

Whilst the theatre elements are modest, the entertainment value is high and the cast make the show a brilliant night out!

Mamma Mia! The Musical will be running at Princess Theatre until September 30, click here for tickets and more info.