Civic Theatre, cnr of Queen Street & Wellesley Street West, Auckland

04/03/2014 - 23/03/2014

Production Details

A mother. A daughter. Three possible dads. 
And a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget! 

One of the world’s biggest ever feel-good musicals, MAMMA MIA! opens in Auckland in March.

Having been seen by over 54 million people all around the world, MAMMA MIA! – presented in Auckland by Amici Productions and Auckland Music Theatre Inc – will play for a strictly limited season at The Civic Theatre in Auckland from March 4.

Today, Amici Productions and Auckland Music Theatre announced that theatre star DELIA HANNAH, acclaimed for her roles in international productions of Cats, Mary Poppins and Les Misérables and a firm favourite of the maestro Andrew Lloyd Webber, will play the lead role of Donna in MAMMA MIA!

Delia last appeared in Auckland in 2012 as The Bird Woman in Disney’s stage musical Mary Poppins. Prior to Poppins, she appeared as Grizabella in the Australian and Asian tours of Cats. Prior to touring with Cats, Delia performed for two years in the premiere season of Les Misérables. She also toured Australasia as a principal soloist in the 1996/1997 Australian Tour of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber starring Anthony Warlow and Sarah Brightman. She won a Variety Club Award and a Mo Award for Aspects of Love and played Glinda in The Wizard of Oz.

Delia made her New Zealand debut as Florence Vassey in the 1992 tour of Chess starring Tommy Korberg and Murray Head from the original London cast. She also appeared in the 1994 hit production of Blood Brothers starring David Soul (of Starsky and Hutch fame) for which she won The Sydney Critics Award and the 10th anniversary production of Les Miserables in 1999. More recently audiences have seen Delia in Auckland Theatre Company’s Into The Woods and Silo’s sell out season of Three Penny Opera, directed by Michael Hurst.

Supporting her will be the wonderful JACKIE CLARKE as Rosie, an unmarried fun-loving author and former member of Donna and the Dynamos, and MINOUK VAN DER VELDE, in the role of Tanya — the slightly acerbic, witty and wealthy friend of Donna who was also a former member of Donna and The Dynamos. Further cast details will be announced soon.

Jackie is one of New Zealand’s most versatile entertainers. A regular at Christmas in the Park she is no stranger to the stage having starred in Anything Goes, A Christmas Carol, Mum’s the Word, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Porgy and Bess and Little Shop of Horrors. Amici Productions and Auckland Music Theatre are delighted to have Jackie on board again after her leading their last production of Anything Goes in the role of Reno Sweeney.

Minouk enjoyed critical acclaim for her role in Spring Awakening (Fringe Festival) and has had a long association with New Zealand theatre that includes roles in Buddy, Footloose, Little Shop of Horrors and The Wizard of Oz. 

MAMMA MIA! will feature a new set and costume design with sets by John Harding (Home by Christmas, Until Proven Innocent) and costumes by Lesley Burkes-Harding (Home by Christmas, Out of the Blue).

Writer Catherine Johnson’s sunny, funny tale unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings 3 men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. The story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship, and every night everyone’s having the time of their lives!


Inspired by the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs, writer Catherine Johnson’s enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago…

Producer Judy Craymer was first inspired to create a musical using the music of ABBA to tell an original story in 1987.   

VENUE:  The Civic
SEASON:  From Tuesday 4 March to Sunday 23 March 2014  
BOOKINGS 09 970 970009 970 9700 or Ticketmaster
Groups 10+ SAVE! Call Group Bookings on 09 970 974509 970 9745 

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Here I go again

Review by James Wenley 05th Mar 2014

You should have a fairly good idea by now if you are inclined to enjoy Mamma Mia! 

Here’s a simple test: Do you like Musicals? Do you sing along every time ABBA comes on The Breeze? Do you have your own flared lycra jumpsuit in your wardrobe? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you probably have already booked your tickets. 

Just as Donna might have felt when seeing three of her former flames turn up on her Greek island all at once, it’s a case of triple déjà vu for its Auckland audience. This is the third time Mamma Mia! has played at The Civic in a decade. [More


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Not served as well as it could be

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 05th Mar 2014

Full of smash hits, Mamma Mia is perfectly crafted light entertainment and family fun with universal appeal. It is designed to resonate easily with both parents, who sang ABBA’s hits into their hairbrushes when they were young, and their kids, who are familiar with the film version. 

Therefore the global phenomenon comes with undeniable audience expectation. My daughter (10 years old) has watched her DVD over and over: she knows all the lyrics and all the characters. Back in 2004 I saw the Australasian tour and in 2009, I saw and reviewed the British tour (produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East and Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal and Michael Coppel with Louise Withers & Associates). Also staged in the Civic, it was an impressive production. 

To the show at hand: Auckland’s Amici Productions and Auckland Music Theatre Inc now have an established reputation for showcasing some of the city’s best amateur performers and creatives, in our most awesome venues, and alongside some of New Zealand’s most recognisable stars and well known experienced musical theatre professionals. Their pro-am formula allows more otherwise financially unfeasible large-scale musicals to be produced locally, bringing a landscape of opportunity to the industry. The ticket price range is more affordable than the recent run of fully professional imported extravaganzas. I applaud the vision for what it is and wholeheartedly congratulate all concerned for obtaining the rights to this celebrated popular musical. 

The opening night audience is in the mood for a Mamma Mia party before the first note plays and on the whole, have fun, clapping after many of the iconic upbeat numbers.  

‘Money Money Money’ is well staged and starts strongly, despite a few word stumbles. But when the 11-person strong off-stage backing vocals (BVS) are added, they are so loud, a barrage of ooo-eee-ooo-eee-ooo-eee breaks the spell and the narrative. Other songs, such as ‘Chiquitita’, suffer the same fate. However, in each case, the vast majority of the audience is not bothered, and they respond with enthusiastic cheer. 

The three ole gals – Donna (Delia Hannah), Tanya (Minouk Van Der Velde) and Rosie (Jackie Clarke) – steal the show. They own the night, with show-stopping solos, performances and vocal sass. Together, the three are a joy to watch, as they ooze uncensored, effortless, infectious fun.  

Delia’s vocal performance is wonderful during all her heart-felt ballads. She delivers a powerful hero note at the end of ‘The Winner Takes It All’ that wins a huge audience reaction.  

Minouk is classy and infinitely watchable during ‘Does Your Mother Know’. Josh Martin as Pepper gets a chance to show off his best moves, but it’s Minouk in Queen Bee mode who is in command of this ship. 

Jackie strikes up a fabulous dynamic with Minouk. Their scenes are fun, natural and fluid. Their duet, ‘Chiquitita’, is hilarious yet vocally beautifully crafted.  Predictably, Jackie brings the house down in ‘Take A Chance On Me’, as she throws herself around the stage, and at her man. (He simply doesn’t stand a chance). 

Their male counterparts do well: John Hellyer as Bill, Steve O’Rielly as Harry, and especially Richard Neame in the role of Sam. Neame’s vocal cut in ‘I Do I Do I Do…’, is sensational. While I don’t always feel the emotional tension between Delia and Richard, when they come together for ‘SOS’, it’s a powerful duet. 

The young female performers, Aimee Gray as Sophie Sheridan, Cathy Rood as Ali and Destiny Sanderson as Lisa do their best, but sometimes dialogue feels forced rather than free and natural. Solos and solo lines are full of strident confidence at the expense of connecting emotion. However, the girls open the show well, with enthusiastic energy. Rory Nolan as Sky, even when singing ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’, which is at the very top of his range, is an engaging performer to watch. 

Teesh Szabo’s choreography is often sassy, showy and suggestive. Occasionally the company numbers reflect a more fun, free summer holiday spirit. For example, the stand out-group number of the night is ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’, with the now-famous all-boy flippers and wetsuit routine.  

Nik Janiurek’s lighting design is his expected high standard, but I am at a loss as to why the second half opened with a disconnecting lighting show. Perhaps it is designed to lead us into Sophie’s mad nightmare, which in itself is a garish, disjointed, fluoro mess, from the Thriller rip-off, to the awkwardly staged elevation of Sophie. Not even the Borat-Mankini-inspired ball-breaking costumes on the men could save it. The otherwise very enthusiastic and warm opening night audience sat in confused silence. 

Regrettably, the band mix on opening night is rough. From where I’m sitting (which admittedly is not in the middle of the auditorium), the band is often too loud at the start of a song, drowning out the vocals. Thankfully, the balance between band and vocals is rectified by the end of each number.

Within the band, one keyboard (there are four in the mix) is piercingly too loud, and on many occasions, it is hard to hear the much-loved themes. Often bizarre synth-sounds – no doubt scored to add a little colour or musical texture to a moment – completely swamp the melody, distracting the ear from the main event.

Plus there seems to be a flabby sound in the bottom end of the mix, as if a speaker has blown. The sound designer / operator I know to be very experienced and skilled, so perhaps there was not enough time allowed for technical rehearsals, given the complexity and duration of the show. 

ABBA songs are defined by their infectious or perky catchy melodies and clever rhythms – they draw you in with just the right amount of tension and then resolve. Musical Director Christopher Moore’s band wasn’t as tight, poppy and bright as I expected it to be, no more so than in the overture and instrumental opening to the second half. In both cases, I simply couldn’t find the melody in the arrangements. The musical texture is very heavily synthesized, yet seems to lack the usual musical colour associated with pop music. The raucous drums sometimes overpower everyone (‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ and again in ‘Dancing Queen’). Again, I am familiar with the high standard of work of many people within the band, so I can only assume a tight rehearsal schedule meant that the production was one or two music-runs short by opening night.   

Overall the story of Mamma Mia is not served as well as it could be. The narrative that connects every element of the show needs more clarity. Yes, the cast is skilled and enthusiastic; yes, Vocal Musical Director Catherine Carr’s backing vocalists are strong and on cue; yes, costume designer Lesley Burkes-Harding’s work is fabulous, detailed, contemporary and colorful; yes, John Harding’s set is expansive, literal yet impressive; yes, Nik’s lighting design fills the stage with a bold party dynamic at night and lush warm dappled light in the day… But the sum of the parts – the story that binds it together – feels patchy, up and down, and lacking in the usual opening night cohesion.

Sometimes the energy is up, the performers are 100% engaging and the toes are tapping when they sing. At other times, wooden, over-mannered acting on an empty stage, deflate the momentum. Director Grant Meese leaves many performers to simply ‘stand and deliver’ (‘What’s The Name Of The Game’), and even Nik’s nice beams of moving light are not enough to carry big iconic numbers.

The company feels under-utilised. A huge cast is one of the major advantages of the pro-am model, so why were they not used more throughout the story, especially in the big numbers like ‘Mamma Mia’? It felt like an opportunity lost, given the audience’s expectation. 

The finale, with a digi-screen of disco balls filling the entire upstage wall and the entire company dancing and singing in full throttle, is the winner on the night. Karaoke ABBA at best, with the many in the audience on their feet, joining in the post-bow medley of upbeat ABBA hits. By the time ‘Waterloo’ rings out at the end, the crowd is clapping and screaming along. How could it fail?

I am sure that after a few more runs, the creative team, cast, musicians, operators and crew will all settle into the undeniable Mamma Mia groove, so that the story matches the magic of the well-known music.

What did 10-year-old Ella think? “I liked the house. It was like the one in the movie. The costumes were great. And I loved the songs. It was good that we got to dance at the end too.”


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Euphoric swirl

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 05th Mar 2014

A local re-working of a musical that has achieved world domination is a big ask but Auckland Music Theatre and Amici Productions really hit the mark with a production that is all heart and avoids the trap of trying to replicate the razzamatazz of a mega-budget extravaganza.

The show is anchored around Delia Hannah who displays remarkable vocal prowess and an actor’s instinct for honing in on key emotions as she delivers an epic rendition of The Winner Takes It All, while Richard Neame finds a melancholy tone in songs like Knowing Me Knowing You.

At Hannah’s side, Jackie Clarke brings an exuberant sense fun to the whole enterprise with goofy physical theatre and a hilarious turn as an aggressive cougar on Take a Chance on Me. [More]


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