By Madeeha Syed
Sunday, 18 Oct, 2009
Mamma mia, here I go again
My my, how can I resist you?
Mamma mia, does it show again?
My my, just how much Iâ€™ve missed youâ€¦.
After wowing us with Chicago, Nida Butt and Made for Stage is back with yet another musical, Mamma Mia. It comes under the genre of being a jukebox musical (one which uses previously released songs in its musical score) and was written by Catherine Johnson.
Both the play and the score of the musical are based on the songs of the hugely popular Swedish pop band Abba (active from 1972-1983), and although the story is fictional the title of the play has been borrowed from one of Abbaâ€™s 1975 hit songs. When it comes to the original Mamma Mia the musical, BjÃ¶rn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson (band members and main composers in Abba) were involved in its development. One of the female band members, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, had contributed financially. The last band member, Agnetha FÃ¤ltskog, did not actively contribute to it but was present at its Swedish premiere and final show. According to statistics, Mamma Mia the musical (at least till 2007) had been seen by over 30 million people worldwide.
The story in itself is simple enough. Sophie Sheradon (played by Rachel Viccaji) is about to get married to Skye (Omar Bilal Akhtar) and wants her father to be present at her wedding. The only catch is that she doesnâ€™t know who her father is since her mother, Donna Sheradon (Kiran Arshad Chaudhry), was intimately involved with three different men around the time Sophie was supposed to have been conceived. She chances upon her momâ€™s private diary and discovering the identity of the three men [Sam Carmichael (Aly Mustansir), Bill Anderson (Saad Rahim Zubair) and Harry Bright (Akbar Merchant)], she invites them to her wedding.
They arrive at the little Greek island where she lives simultaneously and promise Sophie that they wonâ€™t tell her mom that theyâ€™re here or why (cue song: Thank You for the Music). Donna discovers them anyway and is visibly shaken by their presence. Also attending the wedding are Donnaâ€™s old friends one of which is Tanya (Zoe Viccaji), a vivacious, high-maintenance, rich woman who has been married and divorced three times â€” and seems proud of it. The other is Rosie (Sanam Saeed), a carefree soul, unmarried and with a somewhat kooky sense of humour.
The play centres around Sophie â€” who has 24 hours before her wedding â€”trying to find out who her father is, dodging her mother, confessing what she did to her fiancÃ© and getting ready for the wedding. It also focuses on Donna and the emotions sheâ€™s going through seeing her three old lovers back after 20 years all at once (cue song:
Mamma Mia), while trying to let go of Sophie as her only daughter is about to enter into the â€˜second phaseâ€™ of her life (cue song Slipping through my Fingers). Tanya and Rosie are also focused on as the two friends whoâ€™re trying to be just that â€” good friends to Donna, provide her with support, cheer her up and try and adjust to the single bedroom that theyâ€™ve been given. They also have their own set of romantic interests, with one Skyeâ€™s friends actively making a move on Tanya (she brushes him off, singing Does your Mother Know?) and Rosie discovering that sheâ€™s attracted to Bill Anderson and tries to seduce him (Take a Chance on Me).
At the end of the story, Sophie decides it isnâ€™t important for her to know who her father is after all. All three men are happy being one-third of her father for her. She also decides it isnâ€™t important for her to get married to Skye at that time and Sam Carmichael seizes the opportunity to propose to Donna (cue song: I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do) since both of them are quite not over each other.
The local version of Mamma Mia has its moments. Other than the obvious play on nostalgia by featuring and being entirely focused on Abbaâ€™s music, the highlights of the musical are definitely the characters of Tanya and Rosie who invited laughter and applause from the audience for their cleverly delivered antics, and Sanam and Zoeâ€™s chemistry as actors. Kiran Arshad Chaudhry, who has her own band Caramal, debuted in the musical as an actor, was natural in the delivery of her role and seemed to stand out as a vocalist during the singing sections.
Her rendition of the song, The Winner takes it All, was a testament to her powerhouse vocals that were heard loud and clear especially considering that there were numerous technical glitches in the sound on the opening day, with the music often seeming louder than the vocals. Rachelâ€™s role as Sophie was completely different from the femme fatale Velma Kelly she plays in the second installment (and as the Hungarian inmate in the first installment) of Chicago. One can see sheâ€™s made a definite effort to try and embody the role of a sweet, innocent 20-year old who realises at times that sheâ€™s taken on more than she can handle.
At the end of it, Mamma Mia the musical isnâ€™t the best production that Made for Stage has come out with, especially considering that there isnâ€™t much depth to the story line â€” not visually as â€˜happeningâ€™ as their previous showings. The interchangeable set designed by Barry was almost genius but the costumes at times became downright gaudy, perhaps intentionally. Having said that, Mamma Mia still has its moments â€” though they are few and far between â€” and will appeal to those who have even a slight interest or knowledge of Abba songs.
Courtesy: Dawn Images