Whanganui High excels with Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia!
A Whanganui High School production
Royal Whanganui Opera House
May 19-22, 2021
Reviewed by Paul Brooks

You know a show is good when you enjoy it so much the first time that you book seats for the following night as well.

That's what happened with Whanganui High School's production of Mamma Mia! We went twice and got twice the enjoyment.

It's a musical and every song is an Abba hit, in this case, all sung by the cast.

The story is simple: Donna Sheridan (Jessie O'Connor) runs a hotel in the Greek islands.

Her daughter, Sophie (Eve Parker-Groves) is getting married to Sky (Nat Kirk). Flying in for the occasion are Sophie's bridesmaids, Ali (Toni Adams) and Lisa (Zoe Bracegirdle), and two of Donna's old friends, Tanya Cresham-Leigh (played on alternate performances by Alyssa Hartley and Isabelle McKenzie) and Rosie Mulligan (Maddi McKenzie).

But Sophie has invited three of her mother's old flames — Sam Carmichael (Heath McKenzie), Bill Austin (Shae Kairau) and Harry Bright (Aaron Cogan) in the hope that one of them is her natural father.

That's the basic premise, and almost every scene is all-singing, all-dancing, with moments of dialogue and characters in turmoil. It's funny, foot-tapping and worth seeing twice.

Whanganui High School has gone above and beyond with a production to exceed all expectations, no matter how high they are. I've dipped into my well of superlatives and can't find anything adequate for my purposes.

The cast shone, but none more so than Jessie O'Connor. She is a star in the full showbiz sense of the word. She has it all — voice, movement, acting ability and stage charisma! Her performance was faultless, and when she sang The Winner Takes It All, audience emotions ran high and hankies were sodden.

She was supported by a surrounding cast of super-talented young men and women. They can all sing, they can all dance, they can all make us believe that they really are their characters. For a moment you forget how young these actors are and accept them for who they pretend to be. There is no greater praise.

And the dancers, those young, energetic and well-trained people who filled the stage with colour and synchronised movement — sensational!
The chorus and backing singers ... everyone made this show a success.
Choreographers - an incredible job!
The set was a realistic-looking work of art and the costumes were amazing. Sound, lighting, video back-projection — the show was a masterpiece of technical skill and performance talent.

To all who produced, directed, assisted and to those who took part on stage, you have set the bar at a ridiculous height.

I would love to name you all and congratulate you individually, because you all deserve it.

Your audience will never forget this production of Mamma Mia!

Paul Brooks
Whanganui Midweek 26/5/21

(*) Last Reviewed: May 26, 2021

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