By Tatum Stafford
If Mimma is an indication of the state of live theatre here in WA, we have absolutely nothing to worry about. Presented by an entirely WA-based creative team who form Orana Productions, this show is not only a star vehicle for its array of talented performers, but a testament to the creative abilities of its creators; notably librettist Giles Watson and composer Ron Siemiginowski.
As World War II begins, Turin journalist Mimma Marini is forced to evacuate her home country and head to SoHo to work in her uncle Lorenzo’s bar. Once at the bar she meets aspiring jazz singer Sarah, and the two form a friendship that surpasses time, location and cultural differences. It is a truly heartwarming, wartime story that refreshingly does not focus all of its attention on romantic love, but instead upon the bond formed between nations and women when the stakes of the Second World War begin to soar.
One of this show’s true strengths is its score. The opening number, set in a lavish Turin mansion in 1938, is a spectacle of fiery, Latin-infused dance and excellent vocalisations from Louwerse and members of the ensemble. The Perth Symphony Orchestra accompany this show beautifully, and tackle the score’s large variety of dynamics with gusto and unabashed power – as do the extremely capable ensemble, who adopt a variety of different accents, styles of dance and vocal techniques to convey the piece’s inherently dramatic and everchanging plot.
Mimma’s set is particularly striking, and is so easily transformed into drastically different settings – lending extremely well to the story’s constant jumps in time and location. Whilst the set consists mainly of lavish props, projections are very intelligently incorporated into the show, with one particular submarine scene working extremely effectively to convey the distance between those safe above deck and those trapped on another ship below. One technical issue Tuesday’s preview audience may have encountered was a very small size font projected to illustrate the changing of time, location or even to caption some of the songs in the second act, but this will hopefully be amended for the ease of the show’s future patrons.
Mirusia Louwerse is a force to be reckoned with within this beautiful show. A household name across the world for her phenomenal soprano voice, Perth is a very lucky city to play host for Louwerse’s theatrical debut. She glides across the stage with ease, vocalising with strength, beauty and clarity and delivering emotionally-driven acting sequences with natural confidence – thus carrying the show with strength and poise. Jason Barry-Smith’s performance as Mimma’s brother Aldo is similarly striking and powerful; his strong vocal range producing a stunning Italian operatic number in the second act.
Holly Meegan is a triumph as the earnest yet driven Sarah, who is dubbed a ‘nightingale’ for her stunning voice – and who is certainly deserving of this high praise. Meegan’s stunning soprano soars in light-hearted moments of the show, and once stakes are raised and personal issues come to light (such as Sarah’s fiancé being dispatched into the British navy), her stunning lower range and jazz stylings evoke heartbreak and an elegant despair.
Special mention must also go to the jovial pairing of Caroline McKenzie and Geoff Kelso, who complemented each other wonderfully and provided some moments of much-needed comic relief within some of the show’s darker moments. Other principal cast members include Suzanne Kompass as Mimma’s feisty mother Ada, Igor Sas as the kindhearted Lorenzo, Ian Toyne as the intimidating Constable Talbot and Brendan Hanson as the courageous Gino. These cast members carried their scenes with gusto and provided an excellent insight into the magnitude of the cultural and racial division within the period.
Mimma closes at the Regal Theatre on April 21st, and I urge you to buy a ticket for a night of theatre that you won’t find elsewhere and that you truly won’t forget.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.