Review: Orana Productions, “Mimma: A Musical of War and Friendship” ⋅
Regal Theatre, April 11 ⋅
Review by Claire Trolio ⋅
A politically tumultuous, pre-WWII Italy meets the swinging London district of Soho in a brand new production which opened at the Regal Theatre last night. Mimma: A Musical of War and Friendship is the product of a chance meeting between the two WA based creatives from librettist Giles Watson and composer and producer Ron Siemiginowski.
The score includes both high energy, musical theatre numbers and operatic arias. It’s a curious combination that reflects the varied styles of Siemiginowski who had already written some of the music before he and Watson embarked on their creative venture. As such, the contrasting styles do feel a little incongruous, but the production solidifies in the second act which is more operatic in style.
Mimma is about how war wreaks havoc on the lives of innocent people on both sides, but at the crux of it, the story is about two young women: passionate, Italian journalist Mimma (Mirusia Louwerse) and London nightclub singer Sarah Parker (Holly Meegan). Turin is becoming increasingly dangerous for Mimma and her family, who refuse to stay silent under the reign of Mussolini, so she seeks refuge with her uncle (stage veteran Igor Sas) in his Soho nightclub. There she meets the kind-hearted, tea drinking, singer Sarah and the pair quickly become friends.
It’s their spirits and their careers that define the two female leads. Both women are strong, politically aware and unwavering in their values of freedom and fairness. Sarah is a dedicated singer who commands the stage while her ally Mimma is a journalist whose vocation remains at the core of her sense of self and ultimately creates a reason for her imprisonment. It’s refreshing to see a new work that champions women who have men in their lives but who are never defined in relation to them.
The casting of these two characters, then, is vital to the success of the production and fortunately Louwerse and Meegan delivered as Mimma and Sarah respectively. Accomplished soprano Louwerse displayed her vocal dexterity brilliantly in the second act. But it was Meegan who left the audience gasping and sighing with delight with her heavenly vocals. Meegan’s vocal clarity astounded the audience and was a true highlight of the performance.
The talents of Jason Barry-Smith as Mimma’s brother Aldo, and Suzanne Kompass as her mother Ada were partially obscured behind the booming music and chorus in Act One but both shone performing the Italian language arias in Act Two.
The Perth Symphony Orchestra performed expertly under music director/conductor Sean O’Boyle, whilst director Adam Mitchell proved once again why he’s in high demand right now.
After a dramatic couple of hours, Mimma concludes with some distinctly local flavour. The titular character and her surviving family move to Western Australia, docking at Fremantle and forging a new life on Australian soil. It’s a tidy package for local audiences to relate to, one which serves as an important reminder that those fleeing war-torn countries deserve to be welcomed and protected, and celebrates the ways in which immigrants enrich the cultural landscape. A fitting end to a cross-cultural epic.
Except that it wasn’t the end. An already a lengthy performance was unnecessarily extended with a reunion scene between Mimma and Sarah, where events the audience had seen were recounted. It was a bit too neat and tidy and left the audience wanting less, not more.
That said, the standing ovation said more than a bit of fidgeting did. The creatives behind Mimma have come together to build something new, unique and – with a little more time at the drawing board – world-class.
Mimma continues at The Regal Theatre until 21 April.
Pictured top: Mirusia Louwerse (Mimma) and Holly Meegan (Sarah) have got each other’s back in Mimma. Photo Gary Marsh.