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Stage froths with light, laughter and drama

A full-noise, orchestral montage of Abba opens Musical Theatre Gisborne’s production of Mamma Mia! and sets the tone for the show’s non-stop gloriousness.

Even before the song and dance routines began the opening night audience had warmed to the wedding party guests as they wordlessly expressed their characters in a short scene. The lights bloom up seconds later on the Greek island hotel and it is here the musical’s romantic comedy, pathos and irrepressible joy for the next couple of hours takes place.

Tirzah Rolfe brings suitably bright chaos to her young character Sophie Sheridan but is all heart as she opens the jukebox show with its sweetly sung first number, I Have a Dream.

About to marry Sky (Michael Seymour), Sophie has read her mother’s diary and finds her father might be any one of three men — so she invites them to the island for her wedding. The trouble is, she hasn’t told her solo mum and hotel owner (Heidi Rice) about her plan to find which of them is her biological father so he can walk her down the aisle on her big day. Sophie is joined by her close friends and bridesmaids who are more excited than shocked at Sophie’s contrivance, excited enough in fact to break out into the song Honey, Honey. The young trio is matched by the trio from an earlier, disco generation of Donna and friends Tanya (Suzan Anderson) and Rosie (Rachel Crawford), formerly girl-group Donna and the Dynamos. Donna laments how much work it is to run the taverna with heavy debts. Cue matching song, Money, Money.

This is a big show with many moving parts (in all senses). Solos, duos and trios in the production are filled out with big choruses and thrilling harmonies. A good part of the magic in this production is generated by strong characterisation in the lead actors, background figures and incidental details. Wherever the audience looks something is going on. In one early scene, a trio of boys fish from the jetty, a couple of tourists take espresso at a table and two sunbathers help fill the stage with action while adding to the backing vocals.

Each lead brings larger than life colour to his or her character. Rice plumbs the complex emotions of a mother whose daughter is about to move into a new, independent phase of her life. Rachel Crawford’s unmarried Rosie Mulligan is a ribald extrovert while Suzan Anderson as three-time divorcee Tanya oozes confidence, wealth and a hint of the cougar.

The three possible dads are made up of Bill Austin, an Australian adventurer who is played by Peter Derby with a mix of well-twanged, lugubrious laddishness. Andrew Stevens is former heavy metal musician, now a self-controlled but charming English toff, Harry Bright. Peter Grealish plays Sam Carmichael as a sensitive, good-hearted chap. He still has strong feelings for Donna but she sees him as a cad.

Sophie’s bridesmaids Ali (Chloe Turner), with a fine Northern English accent, and Lisa (Ngahuia Riddell) are given little dialogue for most of the production but the two girls have a charismatic on-stage presence. Even younger teens than Turner and Riddell make up the adolescents in the ensemble but their youth brings high energy and athleticism to the dance and chorus scenes. A quick change and reappearance of a group of boys for a post-stag party comic dance routine was a particular cracker of a crowd-pleaser.

Talented dancer Austin Rice and Anderson present another scene-stealer in a routine in which Rice’s character, appropriately named Pepper, makes amorous advances to the flirtatious Tanya only to be outplayed and have his togs stripped off in the process.

Michael Seymour as Sophie’s fiance Sky is well-matched with Rolfe and has fine stage presence in the song and dance routines. Opening night nerves might have compromised his diction and projection a little, as it did with several actors — but having got the first show tucked away that issue will undoubtedly have been smoothed out by the next performance. Minor fumbles, nothing to worry about, were well compensated for with a stage that frothed relentlessly with light, laughter and drama.

Special mention must be given to the band made up of Trish Tattle, Catherine Macdonald, Coralie Hunter, Tracy Bacon, Cam Wood, Joseph Samuel Walsh, Tahi Paenga, Peter Te Kani, Amanda Maclean and Mikey Jones.

With a mix of guitars, percussion and a fleet of keyboards the 10-piece somehow manages to achieve a full orchestra sound that gives the cast their singing and dancing wings.

Act 2 deepens and darkens and opens with a well-executed bad dream in which Sky makes a surreal and well-played appearance. When Rice sings One of Us, she reaches deep to convey Donna’s hurt at Sam’s reappearance in her life. The gulf between her and Sam grows as heard in their strong rendition of SOS.

Rice plays the poignancy of Donna’s loneliness with great emotional power in her performance of the song The Winner Takes It All while in his solo performance of Knowing Me Knowing You Grealish plumbs real emotion in his character’s sadness.

The show ends on many euphoric notes, of course, and is rounded off with a wildly upbeat, disco-costumed finale that had the audience clapping along with the cast’s song and dance routine.

The season is sure to be a sell-out.

Book early.

A full-noise, orchestral montage of Abba opens Musical Theatre Gisborne’s production of Mamma Mia! and sets the tone for the show’s non-stop gloriousness.

Even before the song and dance routines began the opening night audience had warmed to the wedding party guests as they wordlessly expressed their characters in a short scene. The lights bloom up seconds later on the Greek island hotel and it is here the musical’s romantic comedy, pathos and irrepressible joy for the next couple of hours takes place.

Tirzah Rolfe brings suitably bright chaos to her young character Sophie Sheridan but is all heart as she opens the jukebox show with its sweetly sung first number, I Have a Dream.

About to marry Sky (Michael Seymour), Sophie has read her mother’s diary and finds her father might be any one of three men — so she invites them to the island for her wedding. The trouble is, she hasn’t told her solo mum and hotel owner (Heidi Rice) about her plan to find which of them is her biological father so he can walk her down the aisle on her big day. Sophie is joined by her close friends and bridesmaids who are more excited than shocked at Sophie’s contrivance, excited enough in fact to break out into the song Honey, Honey. The young trio is matched by the trio from an earlier, disco generation of Donna and friends Tanya (Suzan Anderson) and Rosie (Rachel Crawford), formerly girl-group Donna and the Dynamos. Donna laments how much work it is to run the taverna with heavy debts. Cue matching song, Money, Money.

This is a big show with many moving parts (in all senses). Solos, duos and trios in the production are filled out with big choruses and thrilling harmonies. A good part of the magic in this production is generated by strong characterisation in the lead actors, background figures and incidental details. Wherever the audience looks something is going on. In one early scene, a trio of boys fish from the jetty, a couple of tourists take espresso at a table and two sunbathers help fill the stage with action while adding to the backing vocals.

Each lead brings larger than life colour to his or her character. Rice plumbs the complex emotions of a mother whose daughter is about to move into a new, independent phase of her life. Rachel Crawford’s unmarried Rosie Mulligan is a ribald extrovert while Suzan Anderson as three-time divorcee Tanya oozes confidence, wealth and a hint of the cougar.

The three possible dads are made up of Bill Austin, an Australian adventurer who is played by Peter Derby with a mix of well-twanged, lugubrious laddishness. Andrew Stevens is former heavy metal musician, now a self-controlled but charming English toff, Harry Bright. Peter Grealish plays Sam Carmichael as a sensitive, good-hearted chap. He still has strong feelings for Donna but she sees him as a cad.

Sophie’s bridesmaids Ali (Chloe Turner), with a fine Northern English accent, and Lisa (Ngahuia Riddell) are given little dialogue for most of the production but the two girls have a charismatic on-stage presence. Even younger teens than Turner and Riddell make up the adolescents in the ensemble but their youth brings high energy and athleticism to the dance and chorus scenes. A quick change and reappearance of a group of boys for a post-stag party comic dance routine was a particular cracker of a crowd-pleaser.

Talented dancer Austin Rice and Anderson present another scene-stealer in a routine in which Rice’s character, appropriately named Pepper, makes amorous advances to the flirtatious Tanya only to be outplayed and have his togs stripped off in the process.

Michael Seymour as Sophie’s fiance Sky is well-matched with Rolfe and has fine stage presence in the song and dance routines. Opening night nerves might have compromised his diction and projection a little, as it did with several actors — but having got the first show tucked away that issue will undoubtedly have been smoothed out by the next performance. Minor fumbles, nothing to worry about, were well compensated for with a stage that frothed relentlessly with light, laughter and drama.

Special mention must be given to the band made up of Trish Tattle, Catherine Macdonald, Coralie Hunter, Tracy Bacon, Cam Wood, Joseph Samuel Walsh, Tahi Paenga, Peter Te Kani, Amanda Maclean and Mikey Jones.

With a mix of guitars, percussion and a fleet of keyboards the 10-piece somehow manages to achieve a full orchestra sound that gives the cast their singing and dancing wings.

Act 2 deepens and darkens and opens with a well-executed bad dream in which Sky makes a surreal and well-played appearance. When Rice sings One of Us, she reaches deep to convey Donna’s hurt at Sam’s reappearance in her life. The gulf between her and Sam grows as heard in their strong rendition of SOS.

Rice plays the poignancy of Donna’s loneliness with great emotional power in her performance of the song The Winner Takes It All while in his solo performance of Knowing Me Knowing You Grealish plumbs real emotion in his character’s sadness.

The show ends on many euphoric notes, of course, and is rounded off with a wildly upbeat, disco-costumed finale that had the audience clapping along with the cast’s song and dance routine.

The season is sure to be a sell-out.

Book early.

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