HOW DO you keep yourself restrained when there’s a party on stage and iconic ABBA songs are playing? This can be the biggest challenge one encounters when watching the ongoing run of Mamma Mia! at The Theatre at Solaire: controlling your desire to stand up and dance and sing along with the cast.
Mamma Mia! opened on Sept. 29, and media was invited to the gala night performance on Oct. 2.
But before the show, they got a chance to talk with the cast members, who have already made observations on the Filipino audience.
“Here in Manila, they’re attentive. And right at the end they went absolutely crazy. It’s a brilliant reaction: Everyone was on their feet,” said Lucy May Barker during the media interview. She plays the role of Sophie, the daughter whose determination to find out who her father is triggers the action of the musical.
Mamma Mia! tells the story of the hippie chick Donna and her daughter Sophie, who, in the run-up to her wedding, is determined to find out who among the three men her mother was involved with 20 years ago — Bill, Sam, and Harry — is her father.
Not so much of a spoiler, but there’s a disco/concert party in the final act that had everyone getting up, dancing, and singing to ABBA’s timeless hits.
“Here, people are getting up and dancing at the end. Which have been done in all other venues — and which we loved. There’s a fantastic opportunity at the end where we encourage people to come and dance along in the finale,” said Shona White who is playing as Donna.
The 19-year-old West End original production, like wine, ages perfectly well over time, thanks to ABBA’s music that transcends generations, and to its story that empowers women, especially single moms raising their kids in a judgmental and patriarchal society. It’s not preaching, but the lesson is communicated well through the songs and the script.
The worldwide success of the musical inspired a movie adaptation in 2008 starring Meryl Streep as Donna, and, after 10 years, a sequel, Mamma Mia 2 was released which traces how Donna met Sam, Bill, and Harry, and ended up settling in Greece.
Will the theater production also have a part two like the film?
“The first musical, which is our musical, is 20 years old in April next year… But we don’t know [if there will be a part two]. It might be difficult because there are some similarities and the choices of songs are already in the first movie. But it would be fantastic because there’ll be before, during, and after. It’s nice to know what our characters’ histories were,” said Ms. White.
Phillip Ryan, who plays Sophie’s fiancee Sky, added that the allure of the musical is its high energy and absence of any antagonist. “The songs keep playing them on record. I think the good thing about the story’s there’s no villain. It’s just a great evening of dancing and singing.”
LOVE FOR REAL
Mamma Mia! celebrates love — apparently even off stage. It was revealed during a press conference when the actors playing Sky and Sophie were asked how they relate to their characters that they are engaged in real life.
“We’re engaged in real life and also on stage. At the end of the show, Sophie and Sky are about to travel around the world, which resonates with us,” said Ms. Barker, adding that she gets to tour around the world thanks to the show.
The couple met during their final audition for their roles in 2015, and from there, they hit it off.
“It’s quite special to put in the wedding dress in ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ scene knowing that I have to also do it in real life,” she added.
“There’s no acting required.” — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman