Here I go again. Again

Mamma Mia!Last week Mamma Mia! returned to Sydney for the “10th Anniversary Tour”.

Friends will know that the first time I saw Mamma Mia! (world premiere, London, 6 April 1999) I hated it, thought it was tacky and pantomime like, thought it would not last more than a few months and would never travel beyond the UK. It seemed a very “British” thing. And I wasn’t the only one.

When Mamma Mia! opened in Melbourne in June 2001 for its first Australasian tour (2001-2005) I saw it again, and either the show had changed or I’d grown accustomed to it, because I didn’t hate it anymore. And it has helped to sell millions more ABBA CDs, DVDs and books, so it can’t be all bad 😉

So now we have a touring version back in Australia. A smaller ensemble and band, but the cast are obviously having a lot of fun on stage, which is quite infectious. Several cast members from the original Australian production have returned to the same roles. Premiere night saw a smattering of local celebrities (Senator Bronwyn Bishop was right behind us, I caught her eye during the encore).

For more information go to www.mamma-mia.com.au. See here for some reviews and news stories.

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5 Responses to “Here I go again. Again”

  1. Samuel N.Inglles Says:

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/the-diary/much-more-of-me-to-come-says-moore-20091018-h2yv.html

    WITH FEELING THE LOVE

    MICHAEL CORMICK will not need to try too hard to outshine at least one of his predecessors in the role of Sam in the new stage production of Mamma Mia! In the film version of the musical, Sam was played by Pierce Brosnan (pictured), who was widely panned for his inability to hold a tune. ”People were negative about Pierce Brosnan, but in the film it was the acting and story that were paramount,” Cormick said last week from rehearsals for Saturday’s opening night at the Lyric Theatre, Star City. While Cormack has plenty of musical theatre credentials, including big productions in Australia, Britain and Europe, he admitted he was no match for Brosnan’s heart-throb status for a production sure to be a favourite with hens’ parties. ”I can’t comment on the looks department, but let’s hope the women that come along feel the love story between Sam and Donna.” The Sydney shows, which run until February, are the first stop on the musical’s 10th anniversary Australian tour.

  2. Samuel N. Inglles Says:

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/entertainment/arts/mamma-mias-bosom-buddies/2009/10/24/1256147923195.html

    Mamma Mia’s bosom buddies

    October 25, 2009

    The hit musical Mamma Mia! returns to Sydney this week for a new season with Anne Wood, who plays Donna, Jennifer Vuletic as Tanya and Lara Mulcahy as Rosie in the lead roles.

    The trio of bosom buddies will help raise money for breast cancer research at Friday night’s performance in the Lyric Theatre at Star City.

    Two dollars from every ticket purchased will go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Executive producer Louise Withers said the stage musical had a history of raising money for breast cancer.

    ”Mamma Mia! has supported breast cancer [research] since its birth as a stage musical in 1999,” she said. ”For creator Judy Kramer it’s an issue which is very close to her heart.”

    At Friday evening’s performance guests will be able to purchase pink ribbons and pink cocktails to show their support for breast cancer research.

    October is beast cancer month, with the foundation aiming to raise millions of dollars towards research into the disease that affects one in 11 Australian women. Over the past 15 years the foundation has raised $55 million for 230 research programs into the disease.

    http://sydney.jollypeople.com/mamma-mia-performance/

    Tonight’s Mamma Mia performance will be an extra special Pink Ribbon event.

    Guests will be given a pink ribbon and enjoy a pink cocktail as part of the evening at the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

    The Pink Ribbon performance of Mamma Mia will support the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/mamma-mia-here-they-come-again/story-e6frf96f-1225703100746

    Mamma Mia! The Musical returns to Melbourne
    Alison Barclay From: Herald Sun April 24, 2009 12:00AM

    MY, MY! How can we resist them? And why should we, when the stars of Mamma Mia! The Musical are coming back to Melbourne with their hit show.

    The unchallenged stage hit of the decade opens in Sydney in October, to be followed by four months at Her Majesty’s from February 13. It then goes to Brisbane and Perth.

    The 10th anniversary revival will see Wood reprise her role as the mother of the bride, Donna, with Vuletic as her friend Tanya and Mulcahy as Rosie.

    Bulging with ABBA songs, Mamma Mia! premiered in Melbourne in 2001. It played to 2.2 million people during its four-year Australasian run.

    Executive producer Louise Withers says the original cast were thrilled to be invited back.

    “I’ve been asked so many times over the years, ‘When is it coming back?’ ” she says. “The cast are so excited because not only is it a feelgood show, there is a genuine friendship between people who have shared this experience before.

    “It isn’t hard to come to work when you play to 2000 people every night who are there to have a good time. Obviously we wanted to invite our principals back because they are fantastic and the audience loved them.”

    Withers and team will hold auditions to cast Sophie, the 20-year-old bride, and the ensemble in June.

    Since its world premiere in London in 1999 Mamma Mia! has played to more than 40 million people in 197 cities worldwide.

    The film version has become the most successful movie musical of all time — which is no surprise to its star, Meryl Streep.

    “It was a no-brainer,” Streep told the BBC. “I knew it would do well because it was aimed at an audience that has been neglected in recent years in film offerings — women.”

  3. Samuel N. Inglles Says:

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/arts/the-homecoming/story-e6frg8n6-1225787521808

    The homecoming

    From: The Australian October 17, 2009 12:00AM Increase Text Size Decrease Text Size Print Email Share Add to Digg Add to del.icio.us Add to Facebook Add to Kwoff Add to Myspace Add to Newsvine What are these?
    Whether tacking the Bard or Benny and Bjorn, director Phyllida Lloyd is a woman for all seasons, writes Jane Cornwell

    “TAKING Mamma Mia! to Australia felt like a homecoming,” says Phyllida Lloyd of the hit stage musical that made its antipodean debut in Melbourne in 2001 and returns to Sydney this month. “People actually thought it was an Australian show,” she continues, leading the way up the spiral staircase of her four-storey Islington, London, home. “I think it was something to do with the outspokenness of the women and the ballsiness of the humour.”

    A theatre and opera director renowned as much for her energy as her creative vision, versatility and playfulness, Lloyd, 52, is still chatting when we finally reach her top-floor office, an airy space decorated with awards and framed posters of various theatre productions, including one for the Spanish-language version of Mamma Mia!

    She laughs when I collapse, out of breath, on the couch. “Sometimes I even run up the stairs,” she says, eyes twinkling.

    Lloyd never set out to direct a stage musical. Before ABBA changed her fortunes she was a successful director of everything but. There were new plays at the Royal Court Theatre; Shakespeare at the National Theatre; Benjamin Britten for Opera North.

    In 1998 she was directing Verdi at the Royal Opera House when she was introduced to ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, two of the four members of the Swedish pop group. A year later in London she was directing Mamma Mia!.

    In a setting similar to that of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the musical’s action takes place during 24 hours on a Greek island. Both involve the search for a lost father. “Lost children,” says Lloyd, “is a very Shakespearean idea.”

    Having spent most of her career enjoying the creative freedom bestowed by fringe and state-subsidised theatre, Lloyd initially baulked at taking on a big commercial musical. “I was used to creating what I wanted. This seemed like a poisoned chalice because the economic stakes were fearfully high. Other people had a say in what happened. But I knew it would change my life; either I’d be able to pay the mortgage or I’d have a nervous breakdown.”

    It helped that Lloyd’s friend Catherine Johnson wrote the script; another friend, Judy Craymer, was the producer. “Being part of that trio had a huge effect on the atmosphere of the show; it seemed normal to us to be silly one minute and deadly serious the next,” says Lloyd of the show, which has opened in more than 200 cities since that initial London production.

    The 2008 film – starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth and also directed by Lloyd – has grossed more than $US2 billion ($2.25bn) at the box office. Having become an international phenomenon Mamma Mia! has bought its director a much needed luxury: time. “Now I can pick and choose,” Lloyd says. “When I took on The Ring, for example” – she directed English National Opera’s first production of Wagner’s Ring cycle in its 2004-05 season – “I needed all the time money could buy just to get my head around it. Mamma Mia! has been amazing in terms of giving me space to do other work.”

    How different was it directing a musical from, say, an opera by Wagner or a play by the Bard? “As far as I was concerned it didn’t matter. We approached it very seriously; we treated it as a real play with songs. There was nothing cynical. No ‘Let’s try (to) earn a few bucks’. I mean, I’d worked with music a lot and directed comedy before” – there was a celebrated take on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors at the Bristol Old Vic – “and I was still working with mates from the state-subsidised theatre world. The only thing that made it different was the fact that the economic stakes were so high.”

    Even set designer Mark Thompson was a friend from Birmingham University, where Lloyd had studied drama and English after toying with the idea of becoming an actress. “I was sent away to a very eccentric boarding school when I was 11,” says Lloyd, one of two children born to a wine merchant and former nurse in the village of Nempnett Thrubwell (“I’m not making that up”), a few kilometres south of Bristol.

    “We did everything from Greek dancing with laurel leaves stuck in our bra straps to performing plays outdoors. I think the assumption was that I’d marry an army officer and would need to know how to make a good speech to open a church fete.”

    She pauses and smiles. “My mother moved the goalposts when I said I wanted to act. I was persuaded to go to university on the grounds it would be something to fall back on.”

    After graduating in 1997 Lloyd spent five years working for BBC Television before going on to direct in regional theatres and making her directorial debut at the Royal Shakespeare Company with Pericles in 1991. Her multiracial version divided critics. “To hear foreign people speaking the Bard’s words wasn’t entirely welcome; the British are very conservative about Shakespeare. There were some scalding reviews. I remember my thumb – it might have been the thumb I opened the paper with, I don’t know – going numb with shock for about six months.” She rubs it absent-mindedly.

    Lloyd toughened her skin and consolidated her reputation. In 2000 she got her first taste of film directing with an award-winning BBC TV adaptation of Britten’s opera Gloriana, her only film experience before tackling the cinema version of Mamma Mia!.

    The eclecticism of her career is further underlined by the success of her austere yet darkly funny revival of Friedrich Schiller’s 1800 play Mary Stuart this year. It won her a Tony award for best director and a screenplay is in the works. A framed poster for the Broadway run hangs next to a large black-and-white photograph of Lloyd’s partner, Sarah, a gardener.

    “She lives by the sea so I’m there most weekends, hiking or mucking about with boats. I’m a Gemini; I think I have that schizophrenia of being able to be in two places.” Or more: Lloyd has seen most foreign language versions of Mamma Mia! (“In Russia it was very Russian; it is oddly able to morph into the national spirit, wherever it is”) and intends to see the show “at some point” in Australia.

    “There’s a whole new generation who haven’t seen it yet,” says Lloyd. “There are people yet to experience that wonderful joi de vivre, that feeling of recognition when they go, ‘What song will they sing now?’ That ‘Oh! I don’t believe it!’ feeling.”

    Her recent trip to South America – to Guatemala and Peru – involved research for a possible film about micro-lending (small loans made with the aim of spurring entrepreneurship) and its capacity to change poor women’s lives. “So much of women’s experience hasn’t gone anywhere near stage or screen; it seems perverse not to put it up there.”

    Lloyd doesn’t prefer directing theatre over opera, opera over musicals or musicals over films.

    “Ultimately it all comes down to the material, the group you are working with and the project’s potential,” she says. “Sometimes plays are easier because there are less obstacles involved; there’s just you, the play, the stage and the actors. Opera has elements of theatre and film. Moviemaking is like an extreme sport; Mamma Mia! was two years’ worth of caffeine and chaos. In Europe it is not so unusual to move from one medium to another,” she adds.

    Has she become more fearless with all this risk-taking? “I think so. I hope so. One of the joys of being a woman director is that, unlike some of my dearest friends who are actresses, you can become wrinkled and overweight and hope that your mounting experience is going to make you better at the job.”

    Lloyd flashes a grin. “In that way I’m lucky,” she says. “I get to hone my craft. So I guess that my mother was right.”

    Mamma Mia! opens in Sydney on October 23.

  4. Samuel Inglles Says:

    The Daily Telegraph – Sydney (Wednesday, 21 October 2009) Page

    Lead role just the ticket. By Alex Lalak

    Musical
    Mamma Mia!
    Lyric Theatre, Star City; Starts Friday, $29.90-$119.90, 136 100, ticketmaster.com.au

    There was a time when actor David Somerville stood in the dark behind the audience at the Lyric Theatre to watch and learn from the stars on stage.

    “I worked there as an usher in 2005 and it was a great job during a period when there wasn’t much happening for me in terms of acting work,” he says. “The best thing about the job was I got to watch the show again and again, which sounds repetitive but as an actor it was a great experience.”

    And it has paid off, because this week Somerville will play Sky, the young leading man in ‘Mamma Mia!’ the musical when it starts previewing on Friday at the Lyric Theatre.

    Sky, played by Dominic Cooper in the 2008 film, is the fiancé of central character Sophie (played by Suzie Mathers in this production) who is trying to work out which of her mother’s three boyfriends is her real father before she gets married.

    It will be tough performing full time in the show, and Somerville will be drawing on all the lessons learned during his ticket-taking days.

    “Being an usher, I got to see how really experienced actors like Tony Sheldon and Reg Livermore approached doing eight shows a week with the same energy and precision every single time,” Somerville says.

    “Sheldon was in ‘The Producers’ at the time I was working there and I never saw him give less than 110 per cent. Every time he went on stage it looked like he was doing it for the first time and having a ball. That’s the skill.”

    ‘Mamma Mia!’ was a hit when it was first performed in Sydney and, on the back of the enormous success of the film, this return season looks to be just as popular which is a little daunting for the actors.

    “I’ll probably get nervous when I hear people in the auditorium just before the show,” Somerville says.

    “It’s all a bit surreal at the moment but I’ll definitely be nervous when I know we have to do it in front of people.”

    Yet Somerville is certainly not a novice when it comes to musical theatre, having performed in ‘Gutenberg! The Musical’ and ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’.

    “Performing is my first love and being on stage is great, it’s just a different perspective, I guess,” he says. “It’s so much fun and the audiences love it, if last time is anything to go by, and we’ll hopefully have the audience up on their feet and dancing in the aisles.”

    The Daily Telegraph – Sydney (Saturday, 24 October 2009) Page118

    Inside Edition

    Mother of a musical

    The creator of ‘Mamma Mia!’ had trouble getting it off the ground but it has since broken box-office records, writes Stephen Downie.

    Judy Craymer was never a Dancing Queen. Not back when the Swedish hitmakers ABBA were sweeping the charts. She bopped to punk rock and fantasised about being an international horse-riding champion. Now, with an estimated fortune upwards of $160 million, the ‘Mamma Mia!’ creator can boogie all the way to the bank.

    Or wherever she likes.

    But Craymer’s path to money, money, money was by no means an easy one.

    Right up to when ‘Mamma Mia!’ had its Australian premiere in Melbourne on the 9th of June, 2001, there was some confusion about exactly what it was all about.

    To Craymer’s horror, some presumed it was an ABBA tribute show.

    “I remember people asking, ‘So, who’s going to be playing the blonde one?’,” she recalls.

    Not a tribute show like, say Björn Again, but a theatrical experience interspersed with the hits of ABBA.

    It’s the ultimate fluffy, feel-good jukebox musical, it comes with the stamp of approval from ABBA’s songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and it’s guaranteed to leave fans giddy.

    Probably too sweet for some.

    Ardent ABBA non-believers may be left wincing in pain.

    Nevertheless, the show has proved to be a tank, bulletproof to any sustained attack.

    ‘Success’ almost seems the wrong word to describe what has become a global phenomenon. Since it debuted in the West End in 1999, 40 million people have seen the show in 200 cities across the world.

    The Australian production alone has been watched by 2.2 million. Away from the stage, the ‘Mamma Mia!’ film adaptation, starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, is the highest-grossing British film in the UK ever.

    And yet Craymer remembers not even being able to find a suitable West End theatre for the London premiere.

    “We got the Prince Edward Theatre, which seats about 1700, and I think Benny and Björn envisioned starting somewhere slightly off the radar, slightly smaller,” she says.

    “But then anything with ABBA cannot be off the radar.”

    Craymer was born and raised in North London. Studying stage management and music at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, she was always headed for a career in theatre. When she was just 23 she worked with theatre producer Tim Rice on ‘Chess’, meeting the two men who would later play a big part in altering Craymer’s life, ABBA’s Andersson and Ulvaeus.

    A lightbulb flickered on in Craymer’s head. It started off as a small film, but as she worked through some ideas she started to form the picture of a stage musical.

    “I always thought it would be a kind of women’s story,” she says. “The Winner Takes it All’, that was the inspiration for me. That’s the song I played quite obsessively.

    “But how do you make a happy musical out of a soulful break-up song? The challenge started. And it took quite a long time.”

    Yes, a long time to convince ABBA’s songwriters that the musical was worthy of their songs. Ten years after first proposing the idea, Anderson and Ulvaeus finally gave Craymer the green light.

    “They were always interested in the idea,” says Craymer. “But they had moved on from ABBA, they wanted to do other things. They were resistant to going back and, in the beginning, didn’t quite understand what I wanted to do.”

    Craymer also reasons ABBA’s songwriters were hesitant because the public opinion of the pop group in the late 1980s and 1990s was not so great.

    “There was a time when they did go out of vogue…well, not in Australia, of course,” she assures. “But now, they’re more like monuments on the landscape.”

    Doubtless, Craymer’s ‘Mamma Mia!’ has had something to do with that. With the blessing of half of ABBA, Craymer knuckled down with writer Catherine Johnson and director Phyllida Lloyd on creating ‘Mamma Mia!’.

    “It was Catherine who came up with the idea of a story based on a mother and her daughter,” Craymer says. “Then it began to really develop.

    “I had marked out the kinds of songs which I thought were story-centric. ‘Dancing Queen’ was there and also others which would help provide light and shade.”

    It was Ulvaeus himself who, as Lloyd searched for a way to open Act Two – which centres on Sophie reflecting on her life –with a bang, suggested the tune ‘Under Attack’.

    Interestingly, even after she’s picked over every ABBA tune thousands of times, Craymer doesn’t tire of the band’s music.

    “I realise that even more now because I’ve lived with them so long and every time I try and start another project after a few weeks I can’t stand hearing those songs.”

    As to the million-dollar question of whether she thinks ABBA will reunite, Craymer is doubtful, but believes you can “never say never”.

    She points to the BBC Radio 2 ABBA tribute concert, on September 13, in which Kylie Minogue was on stage with Andersson and Ulvaeus, singing ‘When All Is Said And Done’.

    “It was a big celebration and I think closest one would get a reunion,” Craymer says.

    “I think it shows that at last they realise how much people love their music.”

    It’s only taken them about 36 years.

    Photos: (1) Phenomenon Judy Craymer, who has scored big time with ‘Mamma Mia!’. (2) The movie cast together with ABBA members during the Swedish premiere of the movie.

    The Sydney Morning Herald (Wednesday, 28 October 2009) Page 26

    Stay in touch…

    With Swedish puff pastry

    Only fuelling suspicions that the music of ABBA appeals to the child within, audiences for the return season of ‘Mamma Mia!’, which opens at Star City tomorrow, are expected to include fans whose grandmothers once danced to the Swedish supergroup. According to promoters, the success of the film musical and subsequent DVD release has spawned a new generation of followers. This in turn has led to a new take on the lyrics to some of the band’s famous songs with some of the more recent mondegreens including ‘The Winner Takes a Doll’.

    The Sydney Morning Herald (Weekend Edition, 31 October-1 November 2009) Page 19

    Arts & Culture
    Musical Theatre

    Gimme, gimme, gimme a string of ABBA’s greatest hits

    Mamma Mia!
    Lyric Theatre, Star City
    October 29, 2009
    Until February 7, 2010
    Reviewed by Jason Blake

    With more than 40 million customers served to date, listing ‘Mamma Mia’s!’ deficiencies as musical theatre is about as useful as wagging a finger over the nutritional content of a box of Krispy Kremes, Gooey puffballs like these are irresistible.

    In the biggest and boxiest of the jukebox musicals to date, writer Catherine Johnson bolts together a parade of ABBA’s glam pop hits with the story of 20-year-old Sophie’s attempt to discover the identity of her father on the eve of her wedding on an idyllic little Greek island, home to her free-spirited mother Donna, who operates a B&B that’s losing money.

    It appears artless but it’s a very calculated exercise and Johhson crunches the elements together with the single-mindedness of a cut-and-shut mechanic.

    The results aren’t pretty but with the emphasis on fun, they’re driveable, typified by Donna’s encounter with former beau Sam in which alarm gives way to an agonised reading of the show’s title number, which is then twizzed to ridiculousness by a chorus of perky peasants.

    Only when the outer limits of credulity are approached does the house style give way to something approaching self-parody.

    Witness the Spanish-flavoured ‘Chiquitita’, hijacked by wedding guests Tanya and Rosie as a battering ram with which to jolly up the distraught Donna, with much bouncing on the bed and suggestive waving of bananas.

    Between songs, the acting is reduced to perky semaphore and the choreography matches the artlessness of the plotting, alternating between amiably amateur and cheesily aerobic.

    The director Darren Yap animates Phillida Lloyd’s original with an Aussie twang and his ensemble is strong and snappy, particularly in the lead up to interval.

    The cumulative effect of the ballad-heavy second half drags the energy level down to a point where recovery is difficult.

    Suzie Mathers is perfectly chirpy as Sophie and equipped with a terrific set of pipes that allow her easy access to high notes. She’s an honest and engaging presence, too, although her overused giggle in Act 1 lends her a demented edge. Robert Grubb, Michael Cormick and Peter Hardy do well in male roles that range in texture from stiff cardboard to plank of wood. As Donna, Anne Wood puts her creamy voice to good use, particularly when teamed with the earthy Lara Mulcahy (playing Cook book author Rosie) and Jennifer Vuletic as the waspish Tanya. Mulcahy’s courting of travel writer Bill (‘Take A Chance On Me’) and Vuletic’s vampish ‘Does Your Mother Know’ are highlights of a production that is still some way off having the punters dancing in the aisles.

    The Sun-Herald – Sydney (Sunday, 1 November 2009) Page 25

    Stage

    Mamma Mia! Review by Nicholas Pickard

    Critic’s Rating 6/10
    Lyric Theatre, Star City
    Until 7 February, 2010
    Tickets $29.90-$119.90
    Bookings 1300 795 267

    After 10 years on the circuit, the smash-hit ABBA musical, ‘Mamma Mia!’, has become a bit like a Volvo. It’s a safe ride but unless you really like them, then they’re probably best avoided.

    With songs and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus from the Eurovision-winning band, ‘Mamma Mia!’ is like a staged “Best of…” album with a brilliant collection of ABBA hits all rolled into a rather thin story by Catherine Johnson.

    Donna (Anne Wood) and Sophie (Suzie Mathers) are a mother and daughter who run a taverna on a Greek island that looks not dissimilar to Santorini.

    Having found her mother’s diary, Sophie discovers to her surprise that she has three potential fathers: the swaggering architect Sam (Michael Cormick), the prim and proper Harry (Robert Grubb) and the outback adventurer Bill (Peter Hardy).

    Unable to work out who could be her dad, she invites all three to the island to attend her marriage to Sky (David Somerville) along with bridesmaids (Hayley McCarthy and Elise McCann) and groomsmen (Ben Nicholas and Chris Buchanan) in tow.

    Meanwhile, old friends of Donna, Rosie (Lara Mulcahy) and Tanya (Jennifer Vuletic), come as moral support to the once-carefree owner of this Greek B&B.

    It’s a show full of good fun and the selection of ABBA songs is perfect (if not a little far-fetched for the narrative).

    The cast, both ensemble and principals, are excellent and they do a fine job of singing songs with lyrics that often don’t match the action on stage.

    Sadly, however, the producers have decided not to revamp the production and the set, costumes and choreography feel extremely dated – most particularly the dance numbers in the second half and the chiffon clothes worn by the female principals.

    The lack of live music also gives the production a cheap quality and the six musicians are unable to cover up for the karaoke-style pre-recorded backing vocals.

    But this is the world of commercials big hits and as well as this Australian tour ‘Mamma Mia!’ has syndicated productions showing in the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, North America and Spain, which shows the appeal of ABBA around the world.

    For a generation of people, the songs represent a carefree youth and rollicking good times. And for that reason alone, it’s worth going down memory lane. Unless, of course, ABBA represents the musical equivalent of a Volvo for you.

    The Australian – Sydney (Monday, 2 November 2009) Page 18

    Out & About: NSW & ACT

    ABBA with a twist. By Deborah Jones

    Can one tire of hearing ABBA songs? Not in any universe I’m aware of. In that respect the revival of ‘Mamma Mia!’, now playing in Sydney, is on immensely safe ground. Less secure is the easy, sunny fun and romance that made the original such a pleasure. This has hardened, particularly in the first half, into strenuous mugging and a heavy hand with the sexual jokes. It doesn’t have to be this way with a principal cast this good. Working in a set clearly designed for touring, with brutal amplification and what sounds like a lot of pre-recorded ensemble singing, they have some hurdles to overcome. It’s to their credit that in the second half they haul us in. Newcomer Suzie Mathers is sweet and unaffected as Sophie, the girl looking for a father; Anne Wood is her splendid mother, and I’d love to see Lara Mulcahy, Jennifer Vuletic, Michael Cormick, Robert Grubb and Peter Hardy in a less strident production.

    The Daily Telegraph – Sydney (Monday, 2 November 2009) Page 68

    Going Out

    The hits keep coming

    Musical
    Review: Mamma Mia! By Alex Lalak
    Lyric Theatre, Star City; until February 7, $29.90-$119.90, 136 100, ticketmaster.com.au

    It is the little musical with big songs that dazzled the world. ‘Mamma Mia!’ is now back in Sydney. It is a winning combination: hit songs by the Swedish pop group ABBA, a sweetly optimistic storyline and an extraordinarily energetic cast.

    Although the saccharine plot fails to tap into the bitter-sweet poignancy of the songs it laces together, it is still a fun and undemanding night out.

    Set on an idyllic Greek island, ‘Mamma Mia!’ introduces single mum and former wild-child Donna who is doing her best to run a crumbling taverna and raise her headstrong daughter Sophie.

    The identity of Sophie’s father has always been a mystery and there are three possibilities: Donna’s boyfriends from the Summer of 20 years ago Sam, Harry and Bill.

    As Sophie prepares to marry her fiancé Sky, she decides to secretly invite all three men to the wedding in the hope of discovering which one is her father.

    The cast is led by the talented Anne Wood, who is back as Donna and she navigates the role well, turning potentially cheesy scenes into pleasantly watchable comedy.

    Suzie Mathers is bright and sunny as Sophie, and Jennifer Vuletic and Lara Mulcahy are fantastic as Donna’s best friends and former back-up singers Tanya and Rosie.

    Some of the best scenes in the show are when Wood, Vuletic and Mulcahy sing together, and their rousing renditions of ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Chiquitita’ stand out.

    The male characters also have plenty of pep, with Michael Cormick excellent as Donna’s first love Sam, Robert Grubb a Peter Hardy both do excellent jobs of the uptight Harry and adventurous Bill and David Somerville is a little stiff but eager as Sky.

    The leads are backed up by a fantastic ensemble, bursting with enthusiasm.

    Ben Nicholas and Chris Buchanan show off their comedy skills as Pepper and Eddie, and Nathan Foley shines in the ensemble.

    The sound quality of the music is disappointing, and it sometimes makes the performers look like they are doing top-quality karaoke, but the performances are so good that it hardly matters.

    ‘Mamma Mia!’ is a musical for people who like ABBA and just want to have a good time.

    The Age – Melbourne (5 November 2009) Page 24

    Postcode 3000 – Suzanne Carbone

    The money’s on a blooming big day at the track

    As it happens, Oaks day rhymes with Blokes day and the boys will be out in their best and worst suits to have a few quiet drinks that are likely to turn rowdy. An excellent song has been chosen as the pre-race entertainment, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ by Anne Wood, the star of the return season of ‘Mamma Mia!’ at her Majesty’s Theatre on February 13th, 2010. Anne will ditch the ABBA jumpsuit and wear racewear on the day that the winner pockets the money, money, money.

  5. Samuel N. Inglles Says:

    * The Sunday Telegraph – Sydney (8 November 2009) Page 150

    Todd rejects claim

    Showbiz identity Todd McKenney has hit out at claims that he is a distant father and has fallen out with actress Anne Wood, the mother of his daughter Charlotte.

    McKenney, who took Charlotte to the opening of ‘Mamma Mia!’, is at a loss to discover where the story originated.

    ‘No one called me about it,” he said. “Anne and I have a fantastic relationship and we share parental responsibilities for Charlotte, whom I absolutely adore.

    “I have my own home in Melbourne, where she lives most of the time. Anne and I have wanted a child forever, and we’re enjoying every minute of it.”

    * The Daily Telegraph – Sydney (Friday, 24 July 2009) Page 100

    Happy to say, here we go again. By Stephen Downie

    Musical: Mamma Mia!

    Lyric Theatre, Star City; starts October 23, tickets on sale August 7, ticketmaster.com.au

    Even before she landed a gig in the musical ‘Mamma Mia!’, Suzie Mathers was a bonafide Dancing Queen as the Perth-born performer has been an ABBA fanatic since she was a teenager.

    Mathers even strutted her stuff in an ABBA tribute act to help pay her way through university.

    “I’m a big fan,” she says.

    “I received the album ‘ABBA Gold’ for my 16th Birthday and then we used to play ABBA songs in the 1970s and 1980s cover band I was in.”

    Mathers, 25, will play bride-to-be Sophie in the return season of ‘Mamma Mia!’.

    Featuring music and lyrics by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, and the late Stig Anderson, ‘Mamma Mia!’ premiered in Australia in 2001.

    Mathers has recently had an understudy role in the musical ‘Wicked’, but ‘Mamma Mia!’ marks her first major professional part since graduating from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2007.

    Sophie’s fiancée, Sky, will be performed by David Somerville, 27, who is currently starring in the madcap, ‘Gutenberg! The Musical’.

    “I flew to Melbourne for the auditions for ‘Mamma Mia!’, where there were lots of Skys and Sophies,” he says.

    “I think Suzie was one of the first people I read with and there must been some sort of chemistry there because the scene really took off.”

    Photo: New recruits: David Somerville and Suzie Mathers

    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2009/10/17/1255624766477.html

    Here comes the bride

    October 17, 2009

    The 10th anniversary tour of Mamma Mia! gives a talented newcomer her first lead role.

    “THIS is not a Chekhov moment. It’s a Berocca moment. I want fizz!” says Darren Yap, the bubbling-over director of Mamma Mia! It’s week four of rehearsals and the cast is singing Abba’s Thank You for the Music, one of 25 monster-hit songs from the Swedish supergroup featured in the jukebox musical. It’s all terrifically . . . fizzy.

    The rehearsal room has all the trappings of a Greek taverna. There’s a beach umbrella, distressed wooden chairs and bottles of plonk. Yap appends every scene with a “gorgeous!” or “brilliant!” Actor Robert Grubb is rehearsing such classic lines as: “I hope I get a chance to wrap my tongue around a little Greek.” Every time he says it, the stage crew manage a titter.

    More than 2.2 million Australians have already giggled at that line during Mamma Mia!’s record-breaking, four-year run, which started in 2001. Now the story of a young bride-to-be’s search for her real father is back for a 10th anniversary tour. Nearly all the original cast are reprising their roles alongside two newcomers: Suzie Mathers (as Sophie, the bride) and David Somerville (as Sky, her fiance).

    Mathers is a tiny, blonde figure standing in the middle of the makeshift stage. Her clear-as-a-bell voice is ringing high above the others. At 25, this is her first leading role and Yap says she has “it”.

    “When she walked into the audition room, the whole room just sparkled,” he says. “Her voice as an instrument is really spectacular; we were enthralled. She sings like an angel. She’s also a Perth chick, so she’s really relaxed with no ego at all.”

    The Perth chick was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, as it happens. She moved to Australia with her family when she was six. She nearly didn’t make it into musical theatre at all because she has a natural gift for numbers and maths. “That’s just how my brain works. Numbers are easy for me, so I did all maths and accounting at school,” Mathers explains during a rehearsal break. “I wasn’t a dancing school kind of girl at all. I was into basketball and sailing. But I did like to sing.”

    The eldest child of parents who ran a newsagency and then a restaurant, Mathers started a commerce degree at the University of Western Australia. One day she saw an advertisement for an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar. She auditioned and won a spot in the ensemble. “I played a leper. So glamorous!” She laughs. “That was my first ever stage show. Accounting by day, leper by night. I loved it.”

    Her musical theatre epiphany came a few years earlier. On a round-the-world trip with her parents and younger brother, the 16-year-old Mathers was gobsmacked by a Broadway production of Footloose. “I’d not really seen any shows before because in Perth you don’t get a lot coming over,” she says. “So when I saw Footloose, I just thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s what I want to do.’ Just that feeling of watching people sing, dance and act and tell a story through song had such an impact on me.”

    Mathers dropped out of the commerce degree, much to her parents’ disappointment, to study opera and musical theatre at the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts. She graduated in 2007 and went straight into Wicked as a swing, understudying 10 female roles in the ensemble. She says it was humbling.

    “Being a swing, you’re not really part of the show because you never get to rehearse with the cast and you’re just observing everyone and taking notes. That has really grounded me,” she says. “Now I tell the swings in Mamma Mia! they are the most important people in the room because if someone goes down, it’s them that keeps the curtain up.”

    After 18 months of Wicked, she’s now in her first principal role in Mamma Mia! working with such seasoned performers as Anne Wood (playing her mother, Donna), Jennifer Vuletic (the much-married Tanya) and Lara Mulcahy (the vivacious Rosie).

    Mathers says she auditioned for the role of Sophie even though she had reservations about jukebox musicals, which rely on the audience’s fondness for well-known songs. “I’ve never liked them. There are some awful ones out there,” she says. “I’m all for original work and for new things being created but this show has really changed my attitude. The story itself is so moving. It’s got all the elements of Shakespearean drama, with tragedy and a comedy of errors. The songs aren’t done in a concert vibe, they really do further the story. And this role is so good for me because it’s a juvenile lead. It opens doors for new talent and people like me who have just graduated. Who knows if another role like this will come along?”

    Down the track, Mathers hopes to land a job in London’s West End maybe start working in opera. “That’s the dream,” she says. “I’ve trained in opera but I’m just too young right now. Music theatre inspires me. I know some people think it’s uncool. But for me, I love music theatre because the songs take you on a journey. I can be moved by a song from the very start to the end in so many different ways. It makes me happy and now my parents are really happy, too. Even though Dad still asks if I’ll ever go back to commerce.”

    Mamma Mia! opens on October 23.

    Photo: Show on the road … Suzie Mathers will play Sophie in the hit musical.

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