Mamma Mia!(l-r) Jennifer Vuletic, Anne Wood and Lara Mulcahy. Photos - James Morgan

Musicals are funny little creatures. They do strange things to people. What is it about an impromptu but well-choreographed song and dance routine that has the most bitter cynic swaying in their seat? In one of his books, David Sedaris says the history of the chocolate chip could make an excellent musical, if you got the right choreographer.

But unlike the most gaudy, nonsensical and over-the-top examples of musical theatre (I'm looking at you, Cats) Mamma Mia actually has a story. Sure, it's not the best or the most original story ever told, but in the world of musical theatre the story bar is set pretty low and Mamma Mia jumps it comfortably.

The numbers are all songs you know well and with their conversational lyrics they fit the story surprisingly well, though there are perhaps a few too many songs too close together in parts. With a cohesive cast who know how to play around with their roles, the whole thing can be bloody good fun.

This production has such a cast, the majority of whom are reprising their roles from the previous Melbourne production in 2001. Newcomers Suzie Mathers and David Somerville as Sophie and Sky, the young newlyweds, add some youthful energy to the proceedings. Mathers has a bright smile, a strong voice and palpable charisma both onstage and off, while Somerville's lanky frame and wild-eyed mischief are sure to endear him to audiences. Keep an eye on both actors in the future.

After something of a shaky start in Sydney that earned a few dubious reviews, the production now seems to have found its feet and is in fine form for Melbourne. It's certainly livelier and more engaging than the movie version, which felt flat and forced at times.

Anne Wood is lovely as Sophie's mother, Donna. She does frazzled and frivolous very well and is really responsible for carrying the self-parodying spirit of the show. Lara Mulcahy and Jennifer Vuletic as Donna's incorrigible friends, Rosie and Tanya bring most of the laughs and bounce well off each other.

Of the male leads, Robert Grubb is the standout as rocker-turned-banker Harry Bright, while Michael Cormick as love interest Sam Carmichael has the best voice. Peter Hardy as Bill Austin is playing the bit of rough and doesn't have as much to work with in his character but does a decent job nonetheless.

It's a big cast and there isn't room to mention them all, but the ensemble members seem particularly talented and energetic in this show, finding ways to leave their own stamp on their characters and clearly having a lot of fun. The Lay All Your Love on Me and Does Your Mother Know numbers are good examples of this. The band is rocking and the choreography is seamless and infectious. By the end of opening night, everyone was out of their seats, clapping and dancing.

What else is there to say? If you're considering going, you won't be disappointed. Mamma Mia is loud, feelgood fun. How could you ever refuse?


MAMMA MIA!
10th Anniversary Australian Tour  

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre | 219 Exhibition Street
Season: Feb 13 – May 30, 2010 
Times: Tuesday - Saturday @ 8.00pm
Matinees: Wednesday @ 1.00pm, Saturday @ 2.00pm Sunday @ 5.00pm
Tickets: $29.90 - $119.90
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 795 012 | www.mamma-mia.com.au