Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mama Mia -- Cast singers in musicals!!!

I really wanted to like Mama Mia! In fact, I was convinced that I would like it. I don't remember who talked me into seeing the stage version and I went to it in a very skeptical state of mind, both because of some snobbish bias against such blatently commercial theatre (I know, I'm a hypocrite) and by my life-long hatred of Abba music. But I liked the stage version of the musical. I had fun. I thought the way they managed to link the lyrics of the songs together into some kind of a coherent, if simple, story was clever.

Then I saw the previews for the film. Meryl Streep! Colin Firth! That girl from Veronica Mars and Big Love! Beautiful scenery! Mama Mia! I was so sure it was going to be great.

But it wasn't. Not for me. And in trying to figure out why, the only thing I can think of is that if you're doing a musical, you need to cast actors who can sing. Most of the women (save Julie Walters) sang quite well, but the men were sad. Especially poor Pierce who's the romantic lead of the film. It's hard to get emotionally involved in a story partly told by song, if you're distracted by the so-called singing.

Two other films in the fairly recent past were similar "types" in that they were stories that cleverly linked together well-known songs: Moulin Rouge and Across the Universe. These were two of my favorite films of the past 10 years. And I really think the difference was not only was there good storytelling and acting, but also good singing. The music parts were enjoyable and entertaining, not mildly painful and uncomfortable.

And I think that's why the stage version of Mama Mia worked so much better for me, too. They cast singers...

But what the heck do I know? Obviously my taste differs from most, because Mama Mia! has been a box office success, while the fabulous Across the Universe was not. Go figure.

(but I expect that's more to do with star power and major studio distribution, etc.)

9 comments:

Marilyn Brant said...

I saw the stage version in NYC and enjoyed it in all its fluffiness and goofiness, but I haven't yet worked up the courage to see the film. The curiosity will get the better of me some night, I'm sure, but now that you've warned me about Pierce's singing...well...

Mel Francis said...

I loved the movie Mamma Mia! (loved the stage version too) I even forgave Pierce's poor performance because A: he's Pierce and B: He at least camped it up enough to make me giggle (I do think that was on purpose because he knew his singing was weak) but I also went in with low expectations regarding the singing and high expectations regarding the fun. So I was not let down.

I had the best time in that movie and left wearing a big smile. I even teared up a little. I really loved it.

Maureen McGowan said...

Mel, I really thought I'd have fun, too... Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood. Don't know.

I just didn't get swept up and since I did love the stage version, figure the singing was really the only excuse.

That said, I thought Meryl was fabulous. Is she in good shape or what??? Boy, I want to be her when I grow up.

Wylie Kinson said...

I haven't seen the movie (yet?) but did see a small clip of Pierce singing.
YIKES! I was hoping I saw a not-so-good-moment, but now I'm thinking I saw exactly what I saw!

Cindy Procter-King said...

LOL, I saw Mamma Mia the movie this week and LOVED it. I loved it because they sang like regular people--horribly (except for the girl from Big Love, who has an amazing voice). I totally admired Pierce Brosnan's performance, because he was the absolute worst singer of the bunch and yet he delivered with such sincerity. I LOL'ed every time he began singing, yet my heart wrenched for his character, too. For me, that was the whole point.

Eileen said...

I didn't see the MM movie because I was pretty sure it would bug me. Overall to me musicals are best on stage.

However with the sound down I would watch Pierce anytime.

Diana Peterfreund said...

I loved Mamma Mia mostly for Christine Baranski, Julie (Walters? i know I have that wrong -- the other friend), and Amanda Seyfried, who I thought was luminous. Meryl was only so-so (what was with all the crotch grabbing?) except in that scene with the scarf on the cliffside, and I couldn't figure out half the time how the story fit in with the songs.

Sara Hantz said...

I LOVED it and have seen it twice so far. I didn't mind that the guys couldn't sing... it was part of the charm. I thought Amanda S sang beautifully, and Meryl was amazing with The Winner Takes it All....

Julie Walters cracked me up, as did Colin Firth who was so funny especially at the end when they were singing during the credits.

Maureen McGowan said...

Well, clearly I'm in the minority here. I really, really wanted to like it, because I loved the cast and the setting and had enjoyed the stage production...

But for whatever reason (poor Pierce's singing was the only tangible thing I could think of) it just didn't work for me.

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