A Night of Dancing with MAMMA MIA! in Manila

I just had one of my dreams come true! That is, to watch MAMMA MIA! live on stage :)

I posted an announcement about the show coming to Manila a few days ago (click here to read that post which also contain backgrounders). Since we attended the press con, some of my friends and I were fortunate enough to get invites to the opening night. I, of course, asked my sister to be my plus one because she's also a big fan of ABBA songs and the movie and we have been both dreaming of seeing the live show years ago. (Read her review here and watch the adorable video of my niece, who was only two years old at the time, singing You Can Dance ... I mean, Dancing Queen! :p)

But before I watched the show proper, I was invited to preview two songs in the afternoon of January 24. There, I got to take photos and videos of the actual performances of Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen and the cast members were awesome! They did each number twice so we can take photos and videos separately. I found that such a thoughtful gesture.

I went back home to Alabang after the sneak peek to freshen up and wait for my sister. When night came, we excitedly traveled back to CCP and arrived at Harbor Square around 7 p.m. Knowing we still have an hour to spare, we decided to eat dinner first. Unfortunately, we had to wait to be seated at the restaurant we chose to dine in and had to wait again for the food and, later, the bill. Time seemed to have slowed down significantly because the staff got distracted by a group of carolers, (Yes, in January!) who came in to sing and ask money from the customers. Long story short, we got out of there much longer than we wanted to.

We didn't get to see this scene :(
And so we arrived at the CCP while the National Anthem was already being played. Rushing, we lined up at the side entrance with about a dozen or more other people only to be told by an usher that we had to wait for the second song to be finished before we could get in! At the time, the show hasn't even started yet inside. Everybody there was asking him why we can't temporarily stand just inside the door, or sit on the stairs, whatever, just so we could catch everything from the beginning. He just repeatedly told us to wait ... and wait ... and wait without giving us a clear explanation why we had to. Up to now, I still don't understand what the reason behind all the waiting was :(

After 45 years, we were finally allowed inside. We have missed two songs already by that time. The scene we caught was the tail end of Money, Money, Money before the three possible dads entered the stage. (And I so wanted to see how they did the reunion scenes of the two sets of girl friends :S) Of course we were really disappointed at the way the usher handled the matter especially when we saw another usher allowing people to pass by the very front row to get to their seats while the show was already ongoing. Anyway, we just decided to forget the incident and simply enjoy the show. And enjoy it, we did! 

Having seen (and totally loved) the movie though, I wondered how the theater set up would be and how the story flow would go. Despite the many differences on film and on stage, the live version is FANTASTIC! The movable set pieces were very versatile -- imagine the taverna being turned into a bedroom or a beach front and back, in seconds. The flawless lighting likewise helped so much in accentuating everything that needed to be emphasized.  

Plus, the costumes were very colorful! I loved so many pieces I saw that night but the one that caught my eye the most was Tanya's blue and white shift dress. That was so divine! I wish I could find something like that, or have one made, one of these days.

Because the audio system was really good, we heard all the words and lyrics clearly. The singing voices of the lead actors are phenomenal. Charlotte Wakefield (who plays Sophie) has got some strong lungs. I love her crystal pipes especially when she hits the high notes. I also had goosebumps when Donna (Sara Poyzer), Tanya (Kate Graham), and Rosie (Jennie Dale) sang the opening lines of Super Trooper a capella. Hearing it sung live, and by good singers, was really something. I should moreover mention that the choreography was exceptional.

I'd say the casting was done really well. The three dads did great justice to their roles. Charles Daish (as Bill), Richard Standing (as Sam), and Matthew Lloyd Davies (as Harry) had great comedic timing. They were really funny and bantered easily with each other. Earlier in the day, I had a chance to have one-on-one chats each with Charles and Richard and they both expressed how excited they were to be performing in Manila.  

Watching Sara, Kate, and Jennie play the roles of Donna, Tanya, and Rosie, it's not difficult to imagine that they must also be really good friends behind the curtains. The three women have great chemistry; the way they they sang their songs together is unforgettable; and they are such a fun group to watch especially during the bedroom scene when they sang Chiquitita and Dancing Queen.

I could attest that David Roberts (who plays Sky, Sophie's fiance) had many of the young female members of the audiences figuratively drooling during the Lay All Your Love on Me segment. What happened? Well, you have to watch the show to find out! :p

All the scenes that involved any singing were wonderful. But my favorites among those include the one where Donna sang Winner Takes It All to Sam [Trivia: Richard told me they're husband and wife in real life :)]; the one when Harry and Donna sang Our Last Summer (but I also love the one in the film where it was Sophie and the three guys who sang this song); the tender moment when Donna was singing Slipping Through My Fingers as she helped Sophie dress for the wedding; and the hilarious Take a Chance on Me number of Bill and Rosie.

The whole production (well, the parts we did get to watch) went on smoothly and swiftly -- too fast for many of us who didn't want the show to end. By the time the cast members were taking a bow, my seatmates and I were wondering why nobody seemed to want to stand up and cheer. I guess people were shyly waiting for others to make the first move. When a few individuals did start standing up one at a time, my companions and I followed suit. 

By that time, the cast were starting the Mamma Mia number and we began singing and dancing along. I barely noticed if the people behind us (we were in the third row) also stood up to join the fun. The lights were dimmed before they revealed Donna and the Dynamos who sang Dancing Queen. The euphoria inside the CCP Main Theater went up several notches higher as more people stood up to clap, sing, and dance, too.

When Dancing Queen ended, Sara shouted, "Manila, gusto n'yo pa?" and the deafening answer was "Yes!" They performed Waterloo to our utmost delight. That capped off our memorable experience of watching an undisputed and deserving worldwide smash hit. My hands were sore by the time I remembered to stop clapping. The show is THAT amazing! 

So, should you watch MAMMA MIA! in Manila? Definitely! You'll be missing a lot if you don't! Just arrive really early so you'll get to watch the show in full. 

* Photos without watermark are official photos from the MAMMA MIA! press kit

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