Abba’s iconic songs will come to life as the hit musical Mamma Mia! lands in town. Chanelle Tourish caught up with Nick Evans, the production’s acclaimed director, to find out what we can expect from the show.
Based on the classic hits from Swedish band Abba, Mamma Mia! is the brainchild of renowned producer Judy Craymer. The musical combines the storytelling of Abba’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of love, family and friendship on a Greek island.
It’s an enduring story that has been seen by more than 54 million people across 39 productions in 14 different languages. The award-winning show is celebrating 15 years in London’s West End and is the ninth longest-running musical on Broadway. Transformed for the big screen in 2008, Mamma Mia! the movie starred Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, and is the highest-grossing live action musical film of all time.
‘The show features the remarkable music of Abba, which 40 years on, people still listen to,’ says resident director Nick Evans. ‘Before I did the show I wasn’t the world’s biggest Abba fan but the musical has been there all my life – at school discos, at weddings, at celebrations. People associate it with the good times in their lives.’
The comical tale is about a young woman, Sophie, brought up on the island by her mother Donna. She doesn’t know the identity of her father, but one day, she finds a diary that suggests three men who could potentially fit the bill. She invites them all to her wedding without telling her mother or fiancé, Sky, and along with Donna’s two best friends Tanya and Rosie, gather on the island.
‘The story is just great,’ says Nick. ‘Of course it’s about Sophie who is planning her wedding and wants to find out which of three men is her dad. But it’s a roller coaster ride involving ordinary people and the play is a combination of music and personal characters that people can relate to.’ There’s a sequence in the play where Donna and Sophie sing, ‘Slipping Through my Fingers’, which is about their relationship and afterwards, Donna sings, ‘Winner takes it all’. Nick says that in some ways those are the two most dramatic performances of the show, which are stripped back to a very truthful telling of the story. ‘The show is warm and celebratory, it’s hard to resist and you will leave with a smile on your face. From the energy and the choreography to the fun of the music, there really is something for everyone. One of the joys for me is sitting in an auditorium and seeing kids singing along as well as husbands who have perhaps been dragged along.’
Having directed Billy Elliot the Musical in London and worked as associate director of the Jesus Christ Superstar world tour for the UK, Australia and the US, Nick is no stranger to putting on top-class productions. ‘It’s all about preparation particularly at the start of a new company. You have to work incredibly hard and put the hours into rehearsing. We have more than 750 costumes that we tour with and there is just a lot of day to day maintenance. It might seem like a very simple story but it’s actually a very complicated production,’ explains Nick.
The company consists of 60 people hailing from across the UK and Ireland including husband and wife duo Sara Poyser (who plays Donna) and Richard Standing (who plays Sam). ‘Because they are married in real life, it just brings a real truth and an interesting energy to the show,’ says Nick.
The role of Sophie is performed by the leading actress Niamh Perry from Northern Ireland. In March 2008, Perry was announced as one of the final 12 contestants in the BBC1 programme I’d Do Anything, which aimed to find a performer to play the character of Nancy in a West End revival of the musical Oliver! By Andrew Lloyd Webber.
‘Niamh has a huge musical instinct of her own. She lives and breathes music really and it shows in her performance,’ says Nick.
Mamma Mia! From Dhs195-1,295. January 2 to 10. Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road. Various matinees and evening shows. For more information and for tickets visit www.yakevents.com.