Review: Mamma Mia! The Musical @ Princess Theatre (Melbourne)

'Mamma Mia! The Musical' - Image © James D Morgan
National Arts and Comedy Editor. Based in Melbourne.
Pop culture, pop music and gaming are three of Jesse’s biggest passions. Lady Gaga, Real Housewives and The Sims can almost sum him up – but he also adores a night at the cinema or a trip to the theatre.

A timeless story of love and family, ‘Mamma Mia! The Musical’ hit Melbourne’s Princess Theatre to a rousing reception.

With a setlist of iconic ABBA songs (‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘SOS’, ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ to name a few) and a chaotic but beautiful story, there’s little room for error here.

Elise McCann is delightfully frazzled as Donna Sheridan, running about her taverna in preparation for her daughter’s wedding. The chemistry Elise shares with besties Tanya (Deone Zanotto) and Rosie (Bianca Bruce) is believable and infectious.

Comedic timing, hilarious physicality and a truly dynamic presence are all notches in Sarah Krndija’s belt during her portrayal of Sophie Sheridan. She breathes new life into the character, playing her to be more obviously like Donna, and making her a delight to watch.

Martin Crewes, Drew Livingston and Tim Wright gel well together as Sam, Harry and Bill respectively. They each bring the panache their role calls for – whether it’s the more uptight nature of Sam, the flamboyance of Harry, or the carefree spontaneity of Bill. Their wildly different personalities make them a hilarious and unlikely trio, especially upon their arrival to the island.

Lewis Francis is a great fit for Sky, his conflict with Sophie feels real and so does his deep love for her.

Also standing out is Jordan Tomljenovic as the sleazy Pepper – his choreographic performance in ‘Does Your Mother Know’ (with Deone Zanotto leading the vocals fantastically) is a highlight of the show, winning the audience over with ease.

Image © David Hooley

It may just be the Princess Theatre or an issue with sound mixing, but there are a few moments musically which feel like they should be crescendos, instead not packing the full punch. The pre-chorus of ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ is an example of this – a moment that feels rife with anticipation doesn’t get the heart pumping like it should. Vocals take a front seat (which is a good way to show off the abilities of this fabulous cast, if nothing else) and musical instruments lurk in the background when they deserve to sit much closer to the front of the arrangement.

That being said, the music here is so iconic and recognisable that for the most part, that’s enough. A number of audience members may have only seen the 2008 film and in that case would be pleasantly surprised to hear tracks like ‘Under Attack’ and ‘One Of Us’, but those familiar with the musical and its setlist will also be pleased to know it’s just as fun, heartwarming and hysterical as ever.

Staging is done well, with enough moving parts to significantly change scenes between bedrooms, outdoor dining spaces and the wedding setting.

This production of ‘Mamma Mia!’ successfully retains the undeniable charm of its plot, with a fabulous cast carried by bursting personalities like Sarah Krndija and Jordan Tomljenovic. Something – whether it be the venue capabilities or the show’s sound design – preventing some songs from reaching their full highs, isn’t quite enough to dampen the evening given the completely iconic nature of the setlist. Audiences are on their feet for the brilliant, technicolour encore, and ABBA’s enduring legend status is proven once more.


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