Mamma Mia review: Players and Singers, how much we've missed you

Murray Bridge's amateur theatre company returns to the stage with its first production in two years: an ABBA musical.

The following is the personal opinion of the author. Tell us what you thought of the show in the comments.

More than 40 years after it first reached Australian shores, there has once again been an outbreak of “ABBA fever” – this time localised to Murray Bridge Town Hall.

After two years away, Murray Bridge Players and Singers dance and jive their way back onto the stage with their production of Mamma Mia, the musical based on the music of the Swedish pop group.

Given that the entire run has already sold out, there’s not really much point to this review, but let’s press on anyway for posterity’s sake.

The curtain opens to reveal a Greek taverna where Donna, a single mum, is helping her daughter Sophie prepare for her wedding.

Little does she know that three old flames are on their way as Sophie tries to figure out which of them might be her father.

Every community theatre show has a breakout star, and in this one it is surely Eboni Parst, who commands attention as Donna, showcasing her vocal and emotional strength and masterful characterisation.

We can be glad that she recently decided to move into our region and return to musical theatre after years away.

Breigh Angove is perfectly cast as her daughter – it’s a shame that the script doesn’t give the pair more duets or quiet moments together, though.

Instead it’s Donna’s friends and the three dads who threaten to run away with things.

It is hard to believe Cathy Miegel hasn’t been on stage before, because her timing and mannerisms crack the audience up in almost every scene, as do company stalwart Noel Kneebone’s cartoonish reactions amid moments of sincerity.

Just you wait til they finally get their moment to shine together.

Mari Reu provides a perfect foil to the other women as she inhabits the role of Tanya, a diva-ish divorcee – her chemistry with Miegel, in particular, is obvious as they ham it up in Dancing Queen.

Tailem Bend Music Hall regular Steve Mattner, as Sam, starts slowly in act one but gets to show off his fine theatrical voice later on.

Martin Altmann is a shrewd bit of casting – the doctor might be the best-known bloke in town – but he more than holds his own in his first musical theatre show, giving out appropriate dad vibes throughout.

A shout-out must go to Alex Pfeiffer, as well, who steps out of his comfort zone – the Monarto cricket nets – and into the role of Sky, the groom, with ease.

The ensemble players are really good, too – their energetic dancing and clean vocal harmonies have been well rehearsed, and some will surely be called on to play more prominent roles in future.

The show’s soundtrack is skilfully performed by musical director Peta Davis and her band, which is hidden out of sight in the depths of the town hall – an impressive technical achievement which saves space on stage, but does leave the music feeling a bit distant or pre-recorded at times.

Abby McIntosh’s choreography shines brightest in the big ensemble numbers like Voulez-Vous or the title track; but elsewhere the little nods to traditional ABBA dance moves like the 90-degree head turn are a nice touch, too.

The Greek taverna set is wonderfully detailed, with flower trellises, garden furniture and an illuminated backdrop which is used to set the mood or time of day.

Costume team leaders Cathy Schiller and Olivia Grinter have done an outstanding job, but they’ll leave you wondering where on Earth they found all those sequins, or Harry’s Willy Wonka-esque wedding outfit.

It’s funny, but if there’s one thing that lets this production down, it’s the show itself, as some of the songs are shoehorned into the plot a bit awkwardly.

One could nitpick about the blocking in some of the sparsely populated scenes – characters sometimes end up standing quite still, singing or speaking into empty space without a clear sense of direction or movement.

Ultimately, though, directors Robyn Bates and Trent Baker have pulled off a show ABBA fans are certain to love, and one which even the haters will enjoy, full of toe-tapping tunes and some good laughs.

That they have been able to do so under COVID-19 restrictions – including limitations on refreshments at interval, shifting capacity rules and the requirement that every audience member wear a mask – is remarkable.

That Mamma Mia has gone on to sell out, generating an income that should help sustain the company for years to come, shows they were right on the money, money, money.

Murray Bridge Players and Singers will stage seven more performances of Mamma Mia between now and May 22.

Directors Robyn Bates and Trent Baker have pulled off a show ABBA fans are certain to love, and one which even the haters will enjoy. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Disclosure: Murray Bridge News entered into a sponsorship agreement with Murray Bridge Players and Singers for this show.

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