Theatre Review: Mamma Mia – Take A Chance On This, Or Who’s Your Daddy?

May 16, 2024




Mamma Mia / Directed by Janice Honeyman / Teatro, Montecasino, Fourways


It doesn’t matter what your personal feeling is about the ABBA-driven stage show Mamma Mia (and it does tend to be one of the more polarising major musicals): the piece remains a genius way to showcase a catalogue of pop hits that is as ubiquitous in 2024 as it was when the songs were released in the Seventies.

The songs are, by design, often examinations of serious themes couched in melodies that sound deliriously cheesy or fluffy, but which are deceptively complex. The stage show falls gleefully into the former camp, with the most convoluted part of the plot – the uncertain paternity of central protagonist Sophie Sheridan (Kiruna-Lind Devar) – still largely engineered to be a reason for different songs to be sung from different perspectives by three male voices.

The goofy storyline – young woman living on a Greek island is getting married and invites three men she believes could be her father, complicating matters for her mother, who has done her best to raise the child on her own – is continuously propelled from scene to scene and phase to phase by songs both hugely well known (the title track, Dancing Queen, Super Trouper, SOS, Take A Chance On Me and more) and slightly less than hugely well known (Under Attack, One Of Us, Our Last Summer and Slipping Through My Fingers). And it’s done with a joy and energy that has made the show a mainstream cult hit, if there is such a thing – something that fills as many seats as enduring hits like The Sound Of Music but which also sees large components of its audience printing and wearing matching T-shirts and then standing and bellowing the tunes karaoke-style, like a far less violent and bizarre Rocky Horror Show.

The cast in this production is largely responsible for its superior quality (bar some meandering accents that don’t add terribly much to the depth of the characters). There is a wealth of experience in key roles. Gina Shmukler (Donna Sheridan), Kate Normington (Tanya) and Ilse Klink (Rosie) are all reprising roles they’ve played opposite each other before. Devar, as a character and an actress a generation younger than them, is a veteran of several leading roles in grand-scale productions including Janice Honeyman’s annual pantomimes. Emmanuel Castis and Tiaan Rautenbach as possible dads Sam and Bill respectively have been leads in Jersey Boys and We Will Rock You (respectively) among others. And even the ensemble features powerful leading ladies in Carmen Pretorius (who has played Sophie before, as well as Roxy in Chicago and much more) and Nicolette Fernandes, who toured the world last year as Scaramouche in We Will Rock you last year.

Such an accomplished group of performers makes the many highs (both dizzily silly and occasionally meaningful) in the show regular reasons to smile and even, for all but the most cantankerous onlookers, inspiration to stand up and clap along at the end.

ABBA’s music won’t age – that’s already been established. Audiences can only hope, then, that when delivered live onstage, it is handled as well as it is by this company.