You know when you are secretly a huge fan of ABBA, but are just too afraid to admit it? Well, Mamma Mia is still playing at Teatro Citi. It’s time to bring down the wall of shame people. Do not be afraid.
Every year, this grand theatre in the centre of Buenos Aires puts on a mass musical – recent spectacles have included The Sound of Music and Beauty and the Beast, while The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and Mary Poppins are rumoured to be on the way.
The musical has had an enormous impact around the world. After the production dazzled the West End stage in 1999 and Broadway in 2001, racking up more than 50 million viewers since, an additional burst of fame for the show came when Phyllida Lloyd’s film version was released in 2008. Starring the likes of Pierce Brosnan, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Amanda Seyfried – to name a few – it became so popular at the time in the United Kingdom that it topped the charts becoming the highest-ever grossing film.
Since Mamma Mia’s arrival on Avenida Corrientes earlier this year, local media has lapped up the rendition of the Scandinavian quartet’s 20+ hit songs, taking you through the lead up to a young woman’s wedding day and her grand search for her real father – all sung in almost completely porteño Spanish.
Just a month and a half after the show premiered, it hit a record of 30,000 viewers, taking it to the top of the BA audience ranking for musicals. Dubbed, “The Magical Musical,” and “The Only Winner,” as well as being a favourite in the running for a “Hugo” award (the Argentine version of the Tonys which takes place in August) this production’s capability to capture porteño hearts was clear from the beginning.
As is standard with shows brought from Broadway and beyond to the Buenos Aires stage, the musical tries to remain true to its worldwide counterparts (Mamma Mia is currently playing in London, New York and Paris as well as enjoying huge success on Japanese, Korean and International tours). Therefore, the set, costumes, lighting, staging, choreographies, etc are kept almost completely identical to the original West End show. The script and song lyrics are the only things that change, translated into Spanish.
Even so, for a story set on a Greek island, the scenery on stage really isn’t particularly that exciting, with two white walls on trucks, and a few extra props, much is left to the imagination. Luckily enough, the action taking place was, at least for the most part, interesting enough to light up the stage.
Paula Reca plays the character of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried’s part in the film version), and while she gave it her best, it was quite clear that the casting was a mismatch. Often singing off-key and really quite unconvincingly, the cheese factor that already comes with the show plus this general over-acting left me tuning out during nearly every performance she was involved in.
In contrast, the real stars were the likes of Marisol Otero as Donna, (played by Meryl Streep in the film) who I last saw in Bella y Bestia as Mrs Potts, as well as Silvana Tome who plays Rosie, (Julie Walters in the film) who I last saw as the hilarious Chow Fan in Avenida “Q”.
In fact the interaction between Rosie (Tome), Donna (Otero) and Tanya (Gabriela Bevacqua) saw some of the most entertaining moments in the musical, including on songs like “Super Trouper” where the ladies came out dressed in silver and white shiny flares.
“Voulez-vous” was another tremendous piece, full of energy and electricity. Otero’s rendition of “Hay solo un ganador” (“The Winner Takes it All”) was also breath-taking. In contrast, “The Name of the Game,” or “Como hay que jugar” as it is translated, was a little bit unconvincing and off time.
Unfortunately, the overall performance of the male cast was a little uninteresting, with their song renditions particularly lax. The leading male part out of the three possible dads is Sam, played by German Barcelo, who really failed to capture anyone’s attention at all. All three male parts were upstaged by Otero and her team, who completely stole the show. The only leading male who vaguely entertained was Luciano Bassi, who plays the character of Sky (Sophie’s hubby-to-be). The diving scene was particularly hilarious, even if for the more slap-stick elements of it.
With all of this in mind, the reality is that, ABBA fan or not, this glittery extravaganza and seventies song festival is a wonderful opportunity to practice your Spanish. Listening to all these songs translated is not as cringeworthy as you might think; in fact, at times it is very entertaining. There’s ´Dame, Dame, Dame un hombre esta noche…´ (“Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie a man after midnight…”), and ´Quiero dar las gracias´ (“Thank You for the Music”) just to name a couple.
Some of the titles were not translated (“Money, Money, Money” for example), but in these cases, the title is sung in English and the rest of the song lyrics in Spanish. I figure that was a choice made based on longer words not fitting into the musical phrases, which could have made the songs sound really odd. (“Dinero, Dinero, Dinero”, for example, might not have worked very well).
So, there you have it folks. If you are in need of a song-filled Spanish lesson, head down to Corrientes and grab yourselves a ticket. You will not be disappointed by this big, sparkly and very entertaining show. By the end of it the entire audience was up and dancing, and with the rave reviews it’s received, I do believe the night I went to see the show was definitely no fluke performance.
“Chiquitita dime porque,” there is no way you can deny it. Check it out.
Shows run on Thursdays and Fridays at 8.30 pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 9pm. Sunday showings are normally on at 3pm and again at 7pm. Some of the times do vary though, so it’s worth checking for the particular day you wish to go. Tickets range from $60-$350 pesos and can be purchased from the theatre’s box office or online through Ticketek