Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Mamma Mia" in Manila!

January 29, 2012
I bought tickets for this show as early as September last year when they were first out on sale. This is so that we could get the best seats in our price range, as well as to get a 10% discount being offered at that time.  I bought those tickets so early I even forgot what date and what seats I bought until the show began to show last Tuesday.

The traffic going to the CCP was horrendous tonight as there was an ongoing procession for the Sto. Nino along Roxas Blvd., leading to that main road being blocked.  We, along with everyone else, had to take various alternative routes.  Luckily we were able to cross Roxas Blvd. and find a parking space in good enough time to eat a quick dinner before the show.  We got settled into our seats just in time.  There would be a lot of late-comers during the course of the first act.
The show began at a little after 8pm.  The whole show will be about 2 and a half hours, with a 20 minutes intermission.  The set consisted mainly of two movable white slabs of Greek Santorini style walls which can be rotated to represent Donna's taverna or her room or the courtyard.  The story was already familiar since we have already watched and enjoyed the movie version (starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Siefried and Pierce Brosnan).  Sophie is getting married and she invited three men in her mom Donna's past, anyone of whom could be her real dad.  When Donna sees them, fireworks erupt and threaten Sophie's wedding.  Of course, we all know how this happy little musical based on ABBA songs will end -- happily ever after.  
After watching the whole show, it was not bad at all.  However, I have a feeling that something was lacking.  I had been reflecting on possible reasons.  One definitely is knowing the story and how the songs were going to be intertwined into the story line beforehand because we watched the movie first.  There were some other songs sung which were not in the film (like "Thank You for the Music" or"Knowing Me, Knowing You") still had the surprise factor.  But the songs which were already in the movie, I could not help comparing their execution to that of the movie.  I can even imagine Meryl Streep et al on the stage instead of the actual actors.  I do not know too if the CCP is too big of a venue for a rather simple musical like this.  There were no really elaborate production numbers or huge set pieces to speak of.  The actors may have been swallowed up by the very big stage.
Of the cast, I would say that only the lady playing Donna (Sara Poyzer) and the chubby lady playing her naughty friend Rosie (Jennie Dale) had any charisma or connection with the audience.  This was quite evident from the loud applause they received during the curtain call.  The rest of the cast seemed to have difficulty getting through, including the girl who plays Sophie (Charlotte Wakefield) who even looked older and heftier than her sexy mother!  In the second act, Sara Poyzer had a trifecta of consecutive great song performances starting with the wistful "Our Last Summer" (my personal favorite song) sung with Bill Austin (Charles Daish), then the poignant"Slipping through My Fingers" as she fixed and dressed Sophie up, and finally the defiant and show-stopping "The Winner Takes it All" in her confrontation with Sam Carmichael (Richard Standing). 
The cast sang extra ABBA songs at the end featuring "Mamma Mia," "Dancing Queen" and "Waterloo".  These were the most well-received, well-applauded song numbers, more than the singing during the play itself.  So what does this tell us? Was everyone just waiting for an ABBA Tribute Concert?
About the controversial issue about Equity clearances, I do not know why local theater producers were not or could not get the rights for this musical.  That is too bad because I'm pretty sure our local theater productions and artists can handle this material as good or even better than this generic Australian cast, especially since the sets are not particularly of a grand scale (like "Phantom," "Ms. Saigon" or "Cats").

Originally slated to wind up its Manila run on February 14, 2012, it was just announced that "Mamma Mia" will have a limited extension up to February 19, 2012.  Even more exciting theater news is the coming of "Phantom of the Opera" to the CCP in August this year!  Posters of this much-awaited event were already in the Lobby of the main theater last night.

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