Hamilton Press
24 June 2015
Reviewed by Geoff Lewis

















Waikato Times
20 June 2015
Reviewed by Sam Edwards

Well, sucks boo to the philistines and pedants who pooh-pooh the music and entertainment, which made ABBA one of the world's great musical acts.

More than forty years later ABBA can still fill the stolid old Founder's and bring the clapping, whistling, cheering, audience to its collective feet to dance in the aisles and hand jive in the rows.

What a change from the grinding repeats, lacklustre spin offs, and bloody awful return tours to raise money for retiring rocksters last joints.

OK, so the musical isn't pure ABBA, with some added songs with Stig Anderson, but it is the essence of ABBA, carefully distilled and rendered visible in a narrative, which is at once lighthearted and comic, and carries a wonderful poignancy which allows the lyrics and music, to carry an unexpected depth.

Thing is, it is all there in the music, but unless you are as good as the ageless David Sidwell, it stays there.

As his hair gets lighter, his touch gets defter, more creative, and really locked in to the potential of his productions. This is probably his best, although as he warns in his programme introduction, ABBA is infectious, and an infection can cloud the judgement.

But a Foundersful of unbridled enthusiasm can't be wrong. And it is not.

This show works because Sonja McGirr-Garret's choreography is brilliant, from stunning and spectacular lifts through chorus line spectacle - including the hilarious introduction of snorkels, flippers, and goggles - right down to period linked handjive.

The discipline and competence of the dancers was compelling, especially in their apparent spontaneity. That is a tough trick, but it worked, and made the whole show look like a wonderful party populated by real people.

The show works because the support from Aaron Chesham's sensitively designed lighting plot, which focussed audience attention when it was needed, and provided a mood enhancing ambience - reflected the music and the mood of the moment.

The final sequence, which closed on a stunning silhouette, could have been a tacky stereotype - but instead provided a magical final moment.

The show works because the crew did not miss a beat, right down to costume design, which picked out the ABBA style without falling over the usual anachronisms,  and with real flair, embedded it in a 2015 mindset.

Hamilton still has difficulty with acoustics, and questions of balance and levels were asked again tonight, but this show is about performers, who simultaneously have to carry both character parts and their physically demanding singing and dancing roles.

Clearly they have been superbly prepared vocally and in their stagecraft, and the collective results were a delight.

The bouquets, however, have to begin with the sequence in which, backed by their slightly idiosyncratic renderings of Chiquitita and Dancing Queen, Ali Harper as Donna, Lisa Wiles as Rosie, and Loretta Wilkinson as Tanya had the audience in a hilarious uproar.

It was fast, witty, funny, original, and perfect, and set the romping foot tapping tone for the rest of the show.

The cast, principles and support at all levels, was uniformly great. You all deserve to be named, to be given critical attention. The house was full, the enjoyment palpable, and the satisfaction complete.

Take a bow on their behalf, David Sidwell. They did you credit.


Hamilton News
20 June 2015
REVIEWER: Steve Scott

Waterloo, S.O.S., Dancing Queen, yes the timeless hits of Sweden's pop phenomenon Abba rung out from the stage of Founders Theatre last night as the venue was transformed into the front surrounds of a Greek island taverna where a wedding is about to take place.

Enter young Sophie (Gwen Lyon) whose presence was immediately captivating as she began the song I Have A Dream. Her wish is to walk down the aisle with her father, but after reading her mothers's diary discovers the names of three men who could possibly fit the role.

Secretly inviting all three to attend, it is the catalyst for fun and laughter to begin. And it isn't long before Sophie's mother Donna, played by the professional and expressive Ali Harper, invites her old friends Rosie and Tanya (Lisa Wiles and Loretta Wilkinson) to join her and relive their glory days as Donna and The Dynamos on a stunning Super Trouper.

With backing vocalists blending perfectly with every song and the actors leaping into every line of dialouge, Mamma Mia demanded attention and happily received it.

From the delight of Dancing Queen to the fun of the lads wearing flippers while dancing the can-can, Hamilton Operatic Society kept the momentum flowing outrageously.

Adding poignancy to the show, Donna displayed her aching charm on One of Us and later sung superbly with husband-to-be Bill Austin (Nick Wilkinson) during the splendid blend of dialogue into song via S.O.S. Certainly Donna's highlight was her dynamic and controlled delivery of The Winner Takes It All where upon she owned the song and stage.

While Sophie's daring dream sequence was superbly choreographed and costumed thanks to Sonja McGirr-Garrett and Lesley Burkes-Harding, Rosie's raunchy rendition of Take A Chance On Me fuelled by her suggestive antics and dancing also brought the Founders audience to their feet.

With an unstoppable mix of high-energy songs, synchronised dancers, tight lycra and platform boots this tale unfolded into an hilarious evening of enchanting entertainment. For all members of Hamilton Operatic Society, Mamma Mia was indeed a triumph.