Infectious musical beats pandemic

This feel-good show is a tribute to Abba’s timeless tunes

Geoff Lewis





After a five-year journey, Hamilton Musical Theatre’s production of stage musical Mamma Mia! opens on the first Friday of February. Based around the infectious music of 70s super-group Abba and the 2008 movie of the same name, Mamma Mia! tells a tale of love and friendship brought to life by a large cast in explosive song-and-dance scenes to create a night of fun and laughter. Director John Drummond is well known in the local theatre community and said the background to Mamma Mia! can be traced back almost five years to a collaborative initiative by several regional theatre groups. A consortium, including Whakatāne and Gisborne theatre groups and Hamilton Musical Theatre, came together to create all the required sets and props. These were designed and built to a modular design flexible enough to use on larger and smaller stages and pack into one shipping container. When it came to Hamilton’s turn to use this facility, the Covid pandemic intervened and the scheduled 2020 staging by HMT was cancelled. In October last year, a mini-lockdown held it up again. So February’s twoweek season is third time lucky. How many of the original cast could make it became the question, Drummond said. “The biggest challenge with Covid has been the uncertainty. “We had to ask if and how we could put on a show and how many of our original cast could make it. We lost some but luckily all the principal actors were still available.” The cast of 30 is local and includes experienced players, new talent and people returning to the stage in Hamilton after many years doing other things. Set on a Greek island, Mamma Mia!, tells the story of solo mum Donna, played by Fiona Hargreaves, who runs a local taverna with her daughter Sophie — Bethany Petrovich. In her earlier life Donna had been quite the girl about town. During her preparations to get married again, daughter Sophie decides she’d like to discover the real identity of her father. Rummaging through a box of her mother’s old letters, she discovers the names of her past lovers. Sophie decides to invite them all, Sam — Lindsay Amner, Bill — Mike Scanlon and Harry — Jonathan Kay — to the wedding, and they all turn up. The result is a riotous feel-good show and tribute to the storytelling magic of Abba’s timeless tunes. Direction John Drummond, musical direction, Jono Hawthorn, choreography Vicki Loynes, production Maureen Cruickshank, stage management Phil Jones, Wardrobe Tracey Wilson. Mamma Mia! is not a tribute show, but a stage musical that will allow the audience to get into songs — Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo — and dance, at its finale. The pandemic continues to affect the production as all those working in the cast and theatre must be double vaccinated, the audience must be masked and carry the vaccine certificate.