Audiences at the Grand Theatre in London are having the time of their lives. They saw that girl, watched that scene and dug the Dancing Queen. If you caught those ABBA references, then Mamma Mia! is right up your alley.
The Grand Theatre opened Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ Mamma Mia! on Friday night (April 26) to a sold out three-song standing ovation – signaling the start of a three-week run of the popular jukebox musical. It’s also a magnificent finale to the current Grand Theatre season.
This sunny and sensational presentation transformed the Spriet Stage into the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi (based on the real Greek island of Skopelos). With its vibrant cast and stunning set, the audience was thrilled right from the orchestra’s opening music. Even the seemingly fragile and timid elderly lady that was sitting beside me started swaying her hands and singing along after the first few numbers. By the end of the show, she was one of the first to stand up and dance to the three-song all-out disco encores of “Mamma Mia”, “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo”.
Sophie dreams of a perfect wedding — one which includes her father giving her away. The problem? Sophie doesn’t know who he is! Her mother Donna, the former lead singer of the 1970s pop group Donna and the Dynamos, refuses to talk about the past, so Sophie decides to take matters into her own hands. Sneaking a peek in her mother’s old diaries, she discovers three possible fathers: Sam, Bill, and Harry. She secretly invites all three to the wedding, convinced that she’ll know her father when she sees him. But when all three turn up, it may not be as clear as she thought. And it’s all told through the legendary music of ABBA.
This version is actually a co-production with the Charlottetown Festival where it returns for another run in August. It stars Rebecca Poff as single mom Donna Sheridan, who settled on the island and built a hotel while raising her daughter Sophie (performed by Katie Kerr who was part of the original Charlottetown cast in 2016). The chemistry between the two of them is a masterwork and completely magical.
The main cast is rounded out with Donna’s friends Tanya (Jan Alexandra Smith) and Rosie (Nicola-Dawn Brook), who reunite their musical group Donna and the Dynamos for an engaging and delightful disco romp at Sophie’s bachelorette party.
A good comedic romance is only as fun as the leading men are and this trio of Sophie’s dads provide the perfect balance to the show. Michael Torontow (Sam), Stephen Guy-McGrath (Bill) and Cameron MacDuffee (Harry) are as just as amusing as their movie counterparts Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård and Colin Firth. Stephen Guy-McGrath was absolutely outstanding in the musical routine Take a Chance on Me with his partner Nicola-Dawn Brook. If that didn’t have you laughing, you should check your pulse.
The best scene in the entire show caught everyone by surprise. Katie Kerr and Aaron Hastelow (Sophie’s fiancé Sky) led a cast of male ensemble performers through the ultimate song and dance routine centered around Lay All Your Love on Me. The guys were dressed in scuba gear, complete with giant diving fins, and they danced a perfect choreographed piece with their fins flopping and waving. A close second was the three-encores, where the leading actors were all disco’d up in some super fun costumes.
The stage was set to resemble what one would imagine is a stone villa on the island. We’re taken to a dock, Donna’s hotel, a bar and the church through a revolving multi-piece structure that flowed flawlessly with the music. Surprisingly, it even swung around with several actors on them. The entire set was surrounded by two blueish glowing arches that gave the villa a beautiful sunny glow in the day scenes and a clever moonlight for night.
Although some of the stage came from the Charlottetown Festival, much of the credit for the success of this one goes to director Adam Brazier (for selecting this cast), choreographer Lisa Stevens (for the stellar dance routines) and the incredible nine-piece live orchestra/band (thank you for the music).
Mamma Mia! runs until May 18 at London’s Grand Theatre Spriet Stage at 471 Richmond St. Tickets start at $29.95 and are available at the box office, online at grandtheatre.com, or by phone at 519-672-8800.