Mamma Mia !

Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

07/09/2023 - 16/09/2023

Production Details

Music and Lyrics by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus
And some songs with Stig Anderson
Book by Catherine Johnson
Originally conceived by Judy Craymer
Musical Director - Kate Marshall-Crowe
Director & Choreography - Leigh Evans

Whitireia Musical Theatre

One of musical theatre’s sunniest and most exhilarating smash-hits, Mamma Mia! has thrilled more than 65 million people world-wide in its 25+ year history. Now the ultimate feel-good phenomenon makes its way to Te Auaha this September 7 – 16 in an energetic new production presented by the Musical Theatre course of Whitireia & WelTec.

Set on an idyllic Greek island resort, Mamma Mia! features ABBA’s hit songs as they tell the hilarious story of a young woman’s search for her birth father. 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 into the picture. Forced to face the music, Mamma Mia! is a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget!

Enjoy the storytelling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs as they propel this wedding party through a whirlwind of love, laughter, and friendship in an incredible evening of entertainment and heart. Featuring a larger-than-life ensemble of characters, high-octane choreography and a non-stop medley of musical joy, make sure you RSVP: this is one wedding you don’t want to miss.

Tapere Nui, Te Auaha, 65 Dixon Street, Wellington

Thursday 7 to Saturday 9 September 2023, 7.30pm
Sunday 10 September 2023, 4pm
Wednesday 13 to Saturday 16 September 2023, 7.30pm
Full price – $40
Concession – $30
Groups 6+ = $30


Set Design & Graphic Design - Ben Emerson
Lighting Design & Operator - Michael Trigg
Acting Coach – Gavin Rutherford
Sound Operator - Chris Hayward
Production Coordinator - Lauren Fergusson
Stage Manager – Ace Dalziel
Set Construction – Scott Maxim

Donna – Rachel McSweeney
Sophie - Lily Moore
Tanya – Abby Roff
Rosie – Aneika Webster
Sam – Isaac Andrews
Bill – River Santner
Harry – Josh Franken
Sky – Mackenzie Htay
Lisa & Ali – Maddi Barnes & RV Quijano
Pepper – Wiljo Faifai-Collins
Eddie – Conal Dixon
Father Alex – Christopher Horne

us Donna - Abby Roff
us Sophie – Lyrique Sheppard-Lowe
us Tanya – Emily Holden
us Rosie – Maya Gatling
us Sam – River Santner
us Harry – Raureti Ormond
us Bill – Bryce Blackmore
us Sky – Isaac Andrews
us Lisa & Ali – Hannah Doogan & Corrie Milne
us Pepper - RV Quijano
us Eddie - Jenna Otway
us Father Alex – Sarah Powell

Cayla Louise, Raureti Ormond, Jess Weston, Bella Armstrong, Hannah Doogan, Chloe Faulkner-Bell, Maya Gatling, Marilyn Mansilla, Corrie Milne, Mila Te Whare-Manson, Brianna Weir, John Nickle, Bryce Blackmore, Emily Holden, Xanthe Nurkka, Jenna Otway, Sarah Powell, Lyrique Sheppard-Lowe, Marija Stanisic.

Musical , Theatre ,

2.5 hours including interval

The entire cast communicates the essence of the show

Review by Dave Smith 08th Sep 2023

Whitireia music students have staged this musical event as the pinnacle of their academic year. It’s an inspired choice on their part and is a massive credit to Director and Choreographer Leigh Evans, along with Musical Director Kate Marshall-Crowe.

The show has a somewhat atypical genesis. It is retrofitted from the back-catalogue of ABBA songs from the 1970s onwards. The plot is somewhat basic as the songs do the talking and drive the narrative, the actors’ feel and create the all-pervading but ever changing atmosphere. We are light years away from the days when Mr Hammerstein handed a detailed book and the full lyrics of every song to Mr Rodgers who then wove timeless melodies around those character prompts from on high. Here we go the other way. Whatever, Mamma Mia gives The Sound of Music more than a spirited run for its money.

Gorgeous lass Sophie is a twenty-year-old about to be married on an idyllic Greek Island to lucky young man Sky. Her mum Donna had, 21 years earlier, been on the self-same island being supergood friends with long-gone Sam, Harry and Bill (or was it Tom, Dick and Harry?)

From there she was an attentive solo parent and the mum-daughter thing looks to have worked out fine. However, while mum is hell-bent on staging a white wedding in a Greek taberna backed up by her suburban battle-hardened cronies (Tanya and Rosie), Sophie is mainly stressing over who her real dad is. 

Therein lies the consequential nub. We have an issue at which Chekov or Tolstoy might not have turned up their noses. It might be said to be mildly cosmic. Here, though, it is just another highly effective hook for reeling in the many and various ABBA songs.

I always think of those songs as the ditties and dances that saved the world for the worst excesses of crude disco and punk in the post Beatle era (being worth a Nobel in anyone’s money). Even in the States I can well remember getting into elevators to the soothing strains of ‘Fernando’ or onto planes while ‘Hasta Manana’ calmed the nerves of first fliers. The Swedish group was, one must say, one that was easy to write off as a lightweight cash cow back in the day.

Here their clearly estimable songs are the engine room of quite a memorable theatrical event. Whatever plot and musical crudities may be inherent in the show, it has obviously thrown down a challenge to the cast and crew; one to which they have responded magnificently. Te Auaha is a uniquely configured wingless performing space but it so often seems to bring out the best in performers and designers.

Starting with the simple but genuinely effective set, buoyed up by superb pastel-shaded lighting from Michael Trigg, we palpably feel the emotional ‘distance’ between the seating and the stage shrinking. The ensemble cast delivers an in-yer-face offering with an in-yer-face performance of power and conviction. Energetic cast faces of rapture are lovingly set and remain throughout the full two hours onstage. Atmosphere and mood are second to none. It justifiably pushes the audience to semi-delirious responses. Literary logic goes out the window. Being young, creatively enthusiastic and alive is the overwhelming name of the game.

Yet, as the title implies, this is as much about mum Donna’s generation as it is about Sophie’s. The latter’s preoccupation – which reaches nightmare at the start of the second Act – are but a catalyst for Donna’s wholly unexpected confrontation with the past during a faltering ceremony that is meant to dictate and seal in the future.

Rachel McSweeney’s Donna is top notch. She skillfully communicates the pain and anguish inherent in motherhood but can then turn on ABBA-like dance performances in the iconic Dancing Queen tradition. In that she is more than ably supported by song and dance chums Abby Roff and Aneika Webster, in roles that reek delightfully of a thrice-married Amazon and eye-to-the-main chance sidekick.

Sophie herself is cast in the peculiar role of being the nominal star of the wedding but, alas, will never know who her dad was. She ends up with three middle-aged men from the hazy past, each suddenly claiming a slice of the family action. She’s the one who (improbably) invited them and they (improbably) come. Lily Moore has an instinctive grasp of this conflicted and conflicting role. She sings everything beautifully and throws herself bodily into the nuptial action – which, one is bound to say, is virtually non-stop.

The three suitors’ ghosts from the past are well cast. My favourite is Harry, played by Josh Franken. The guys are neatly distinct in personality, orientation and inherited life experience. Harry is a huge revelation and Franken handles him with authority and aplomb beyond his actual years. He and Sam (Isaac Andrews) meet (platonically) with Donna in her bedroom almost as if they were her 3 o’clock and 3.30 appointments. They move reality around and give the piece its centre of gravity.

But in the final assessment what will linger for me from this great little show is the sense of abandonment to the songs, the breakdancing, the magnificently artistic use of the unusual stage, the amazingly light-footed ‘Cossack dancer’ entries laterally into the dazzling light of the Greek islands. These bring the audience to their feet. That irresistible feeling that life is truly worth living out there in the sunshine.

The entire cast communicates that essence of the show. They can do “older” but they are young both in heart and body. They will look back on this production with exhilaration and joy. No cast can do more. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council