Dancing queens and kings excel

Mamma Mia! is back at the Pilbeam Theatre after a year.

Theatre review by Matthew Pearce

It’s great to be back in a theatre again and even better to be back in a theatre to see Rockhampton Regional Council’s production of Mamma Mia!

Thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the popular musical was cancelled in March last year after just four shows at the Pilbeam but now the cast are back with a bang.

Set to the music of ABBA, Mamma Mia! tells the story of 20-year-old bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan, who invites the three men who could be her father to her wedding on the Greek island of Kalokairi.

The ‘dads’ are American architect Sam, British banker Harry, and Bill, an Australian writer and adventurer.  And Sophie’s mother Donna isn’t too happy to see them, especially Sam, who broke her heart.

The musical features Amanda Hock as Donna, Maddison McDonald as Sophie, Aleah Dillon as Tanya, Lisa Kibblewhite as Rosie, Grant Wolf Whitfield as Sam, Jason Plumb as Bill, Peter Bothams as Harry and Jacob Goves as Sky.

The show is directed by Joy Philippi, with musical director Jeanette Douglas, choreographer Lita Hegvold and vocal director Jacinta Delalande. It features all local cast, orchestra, creative and production teams.

I never had a chance to see Mamma Mia! on stage last year and I’m glad to have finally have gotten the chance.

The plot will be familiar to anyone who’s seen the 2008 movie, but the stage version gives us more detail, digging deeper into the characters as well as featuring sequences that were changed or simply left out of the film.

Maddison McDonald is a standout performer as Sophie, boasting an incredible singing voice and a long list of theatrical accomplishments.

The homegrown Central Queensland star’s love for musical theatre took over when she performed in Rockhampton Regional Council’s Jesus Christ Superstar. She attended the Queensland Conservatorium of Music from 2015 to 2017.

Among her many roles, Maddison was cast as Scaramouche in RRC’s production of We Will Rock You, having the opportunity to be directed and choreographed by Wayne Scott Kermond and Katie Kermond. She also performed in Understudy Production’s 2018 premiere of Bare at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

Further standouts are Amanda Hock as Donna and Grant Wolf Whitfield as Sam, filling the roles played by Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan in the film version of the musical.

Amanda and Grant are great as the former star-crossed lovers who’ve been separated for 20 years and have great chemistry together, particularly when singing the surprisingly heart-wrenching ABBA hits SOS and The Winner Takes It All.

Fortunately Grant is a much better singer than Brosnan, whose unintentionally hilarious performance showed he should have stuck to action movie roles like James Bond.

There’s plenty of comedy on hand from the supporting cast including Aleah Dillon as Tanya and Lisa Kibblewhite as Rosie, Donna’s friends and former bandmates.

But of course, the real star of the show is the music. You’ll be humming ABBA songs for days, with most of the band’s most famous songs coming to life on stage, including Dancing Queen, Knowing Me Knowing You, Take a Chance on Me, Money Money Money, Waterloo and, of course, Mamma Mia.

Keep an eye out for Lay All Your Love on Me where Sophie and Sky declare their love for each other other, only to have Sky ‘abducted’ for his bachelor party by his boisterous friends.

I’m looking forward to seeing what our talented local performers will tackle next. Any chance of adapting the 2018 movie sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again?

No? Well, that’s probably for the best, the sequel doesn’t really compare to the original.

Thank you for the music.

Remaining show times are: Thursday, March 25, 7.30pm; Friday, March 26, 7.30pm; Saturday, March 27, 7.30pm and Sunday, March 28, 1:30pm.