What an absolute treat. Last night Big Friendly, my boet and I went to the huge opening of Mamma Mia! at Artscape. Now, I secretly watched (and loved) the movie on DVD, in spite of the fact that I a) hate musical movies b) don’t love ABBA, and c) think it’s all terribly silly.

With this live, local production though, there has been huge anticipation because my sister-in-law Gina Shmukler (boast boast boast boast) is the lead, Donna Sheridan. It was a bit of a problem for me actually, because every time Donna appeared on stage I started to cry, Big Friendly would squeeze my hand (normally in time to the music because he was just loving it), then Donna would start to sing and the tears would stream down my face, and then, in the second half, when Donna gets all emotional I wept my heart out, having to let go of Big Friendly’s hand to smear my face with my sleeve. Now I wasn’t crying because I know Gina, I was crying because she is so totally brilliant. Her performance is amazing. She gives the character of Donna amazing depth, she has a huge emotional range, and mostly, I have rarely seen anyone else radiate their performance out to a huge audience so strongly. And then there is her unbelievable voice. What a powerhouse of a voice.

The show is worth watching just for Gina’s performance, and she is definitely the anchor here, but almost everybody else is totally brilliant. Firstly, Carmen Pretorius, who plays Sophie Sheridan, Donna’s daughter, has the really tough job of playing the young female straight lead. These are the parts where you have to be pretty. Yet she adds so much more to the role by being sexy, feisty, and also very present. She grows on you. And the girl can sing her heart out.

Next up are the dream team of Kate Normington and Ilse Klink as Donna’s old friends, Tanya and Rosie. Who could ask for anything more? They are so, so, so good. They are delicious, outrageous, funny, super sexy and warm. And they too have kick ass voices. In fact, it must be said that I can’t believe how brilliantly everybody sings, because ABBA is so hard to do, and the audience know every single word.

I loved the possible dads, Harry, played by Neels Claasen who was warm and funny, Bill, by Murray Todd who, let’s face it, is an absolute scene stealer, he is that good, and Sam, by Anrich Herbst whose earnestness was too cute. Actually, I can’t write about them without making special mention of Murray Todd’s dancing, which is one of my fave moments in the show.

I loved everybody in the ensemble, who I thought were focused, fabbalous, great dancers, and a great team. I want to make a special mention of Stephen Jubber, who plays Sky, the young boyfriend. What a transformation. He has grown into a relaxed and natural performer (if you ever get past his six-pack). It feels like he has taken every moment of stage time to learn and get experience, and he is lovely. Bravo.

So, the performers absolutely make the show, but they are supported by an unbelievable team.√ā¬†Everything about this production meets the highest standards. The band is excellent. The sound and lights are amazing, the set is brilliant, and the costumes are just my best. This is the exact kind of show that everyone will love, and feel like they are getting their money’s worth.

One of the hard things about an international production with a local cast is that there is a blueprint of how everything must be done, to the last stitch of costuming. What is so fab about this production is that it allows the cast to make it their own, with natural South African accents and small references that make it local. It is a production that brings out the best in local talent, and proves beyond any doubt that South Africans are up there with the best in the world!

Now I have to see if I can shmugel to get tickets to see it again!

PS. I must warn you about the earworm. I cannot get Supe pipper troup pipper out of my head. Eish!