Sunday, November 20, 2011

REVIEW: Mamma Mia! - Putonghua version 妈妈咪呀! 中文版 (Guangzhou)

Guangzhou Opera House, Wednesday November 16

Mamma Mia! has to be one of the better jukebox musical so far. I do have to admit that when it opened in 1999 and even with it's good reviews, I was not particularly keen on seeing it. In 2001, when I have pretty much seen all the worthy musicals in West End, I decided to see Mamma Mia! I then found out that it was not easy to find a ticket as it was one of the hottest show in town. Finally, I was able to get one and surprisingly, I enjoyed it immensely.

Aside from the all too familiar songs of ABBA, the musical actually packs an interesting story. Needless to say, part of the fun was seeing when and how the songs are going to appear. I caught myself laughing out loud at one of the most dramatic moment when the character Sam confronted Donna; and Donna said, "I don't wanna talk!" and proceeded to sing the subsequent lyrics of the song "The Winner Takes it All"... it sounded as if the song was written for that moment!

Years later, after seeing the musical again in Hong Kong in 2004 and the movie in 2008, I was most intrigue to know that it will be playing in China in Putonghua. My immediate concern was the translation and the casting. Well, I had it wrong, it was the technical side of the production and the audience that were the problem.

Despite the regular warning about mobile phones ringing, there were endless ringing phones. The audience was also in competition with the actors in their loud conversations, worst of all was that they were the couldn't-care-less, what-are-you-looking-at-type of audience that believe that it was their right to talk during the performance. Technically, the sound design was karaoke in style. Every time somebody starts singing, the reverb and echo was on high gear and they made sure that the back-up singers were louder than the lead.

The "translation" was not bad at all, at least based on what I can hear and decipher. They didn't take the route to go literal, instead, it was almost as if they have written a whole new set of lyrics to fit the music and the story, while keeping the essence of the English lyrics. They were fluid and doesn't sound like translations. Personally, that suits me... The English lyrics were never Pulitzer Prize quality anyway.

The talents on the other hand were way better than I anticipated. The younger generation did a great job.张芳瑜 as Sophie and 于晓璘 as Sky had all the vibes and feel of their generation, which is not different from their western counterparts. Both of them and the ensemble of their age did make me think that musical theatre in China looks indeed quite promising.

The older generation was not bad either. It was although some of those small slip ups e.g. when Rosie was trying to be funny, she went into this Chinese folk dance steps, or when Donna was belting her "The Winner Takes it All", she went into this Chinese opera hand chop gesture... those small mannerisms that broke the little fantasy. These however, I would imagine, would escape the typical Chinese audience. 影子 as Donna was a delight to see and can belt out a good performance as long as the song doesn't need too many low notes. 贾邱 as Bill and 傅震华 as Harry were perfect for the roles, their comedic timing were fabulous.

Some changes made that I don't particularly favor were the likes of Bill giving the young couple "laisee" (red packet) or changing the lyrics in "Money, Money, Money" from "Las Vegas" to "Macau"... They were unnecessary and actually took away more than it contributed.


Mamma Mia! - Putonghua version 妈妈咪呀! 中文版
Guangzhou Opera House
October 28 to November 24 2011

Cast includes:
影子 Ying Zi: 唐娜 Donna
张璐 Zhang Lu: 谭雅 Tanya
陈沁 Chen Qin: 罗茜 Rosie
张芳瑜 Zhang Fangyu: 苏菲 Sophie
于晓璘 Yu Xiaolin: Sky
曾慧诚 Ceng Huicheng: 山姆-卡尔麦克 Sam Carmichael
贾邱 Jia Qiu: 比尔-奥斯丁 Bill Austin
傅震华 Fu Zhenhua: 哈里-布莱特 Harry Bright

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