Sunday, May 16, 2010

“ABBA-DABBA DABBA said the monkey to the chimp.”

I sang that song during a seven week run in a Sunshine City Theatre Show last fall. The song was a lot of fun to sing. During many of the performances Heather Vance, Todd Cleland and myself, almost laughed out loud a few times- or at least smiled broadly. The song continually changed tempo and we were singing and a dancing as fast as we could! Of course, giggling during the song would have stopped the show and our musical director- Aunt Shirley would not have been amused.

Now, to an ABBA of a different type. I’m speaking of Mamma Mia- Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’ hit show featuring most- if not all, of the hits of ABBA. For example Waterloo – which the cast sings while breaking the 4th wall was not actually part of the Mama Mia story- just the mini-concert at the end.
This version of Mamma Mia is at Mirvish’s Princess of Wales Theatre until the first week in June. I hadn’t seen the stage version before- just the Movie Version with Meryl Streep. I know the show had a “hit” Toronto cast back a decade ago but I didn’t see it.
Let me come clean about that fact.
I didn’t see it because-
I am not an ABBA fan.
Sure, I play a handful of ABBA songs on Swisssh Radio but that doesn’t make me a fan. I do it for the listening audience. I do like a couple of songs but that’s about it.
Fernando is NOT one of them.
I appreciate the talent and what the group accomplished musically, it’s just not my taste.Too European sounding for me.
What did I think of the performance?

I had read two reviews in Toronto papers and neither was glowing. For the most part I would have to agree. The lead- Michelle Dawson (Donna Sheridan) gave me the impression that she would just rather be somewhere else rather than on stage- although she shone in one particular song- The Winner Takes All.

The actress playing her daughter Sophie- Liana Hunt, also seemed to be out there.
Somewhere. Lah Dee Dah.
She forgot lyrics at one point. She seemed weak in the role.- as weak as her onstage “boyfriend” Sky, played by David Raimo. Although, once Mr. Raimo removed his shirt, and stood there in both underwear and smallish bathing costume, I could understand why he won the role of a “pretty boy” with a few muscles.

A couple of actors did stand out from the rest. Vincent Corazza (born in Newmarket, Ontario) as Harry-one of Mamma’s lovers from 21 years in the past, was good. He also had a chance to parade around the stage in a bathing suit. No, not quite a Speedo- although it should have been. Vincent has a fantastic body. Huge biceps and chest with several well defined stomach muscles. In his case though, he could also act and sing. Important in a musical. How he hid that sculptured body beneath his clothes was beyond me. All those loose-fitting shirts, I suppose.

Kittra Wynn Coomer (left) as Donna’s friend Rosie was superb. She shone. Her facial expressions were terrific and her characterization was “spot on” and believable- unlike the character of Donna. Nice voice too.
Donna’s other gal pal Tanya (Rachel Tyler) was equally as good. She’s a great dancer with nice comedic timing.
One other young man- Adam Michael Kaokept (Pepper), was also superb. He was not only totally enthusiastic, he was a great dancer with an engaging stage presence. He just came off the Las Vegas production and perhaps he was still riding on that “Vegas” high. Thankfully this mundane cast- for the most part, didn’t break his spirit.

As I watched some members of the ensemble I wondered if this was their first time onstage. For example, at one point it seemed that two young men straddling the Taverna’s wall had been grabbed from a bar up King Street and had been told to just “do” what they were doing in the bar.
I know this couldn’t possibly be the case but still…
The set- although minimal, worked well with the lighting effects. This American Touring cast should have been better. Even TV Soap Star Mathew Ashford (Days of Our Lives), didn’t bring a lot to the part of Bill Austin- another one of Donnas' lovers.

I must admit after half of the 21 ABBA songs in this show, I said to myself-
“ Gee, didn’t they sing that one already?”
If you’re an ABBA fan, you probably would enjoy this touring company’s version of Mamma Mia.
I said enjoy.
Maybe not like or love-all male eye candy aside.