Mimma – A Musical of War and Friendship

This show needs work. It tries too hard to be too many things – sometimes a musical book, other times an opera – in which certain characters take, frankly, too long to die – sometimes a historical narrative, other times a convoluted and more and more implausible. story of various people who knew each other or not but kept their identities hidden for reasons that may or may not have been revealed in the dialogue. For a musical (if that’s what it is) billed as “war and friendship”, there didn’t seem to be much war (I don’t recall any characters was enlisted) and there didn’t seem to be much friendship. In short, it’s a tangled and confusing mess.

The production can’t even decide on the pronunciation of its main character, played by Celinde Schoenmaker, whose Mimma (sometimes ‘Mee-muh’, sometimes ‘Mee-mah’, sometimes ‘Mim-muh’) was accented so heavily that it was hard to decipher what she was saying. Then there were the long stretches of the second half that were (presumably) sung in Italian. The production made extensive use of a projection screen for various still and moving images, although there appears to be no budget left to use the screen to provide English translation. In contrast, the Royal Opera House provides surtitles “for all opera performances, including those sung in English” – even Once The Musical provided translations from Czech into English.

Note that sound issues kept cropping up throughout the evening – so many lines in whatever language were lost that it must have contributed to the struggle to keep up with what was going on, even with Sir David Suchet telling, like Alfredo Frassati (1868-1961), the famous Italian journalist and novelist. For performance which had the royal and diplomatic seals of approval (there are letters and messages in the program from HRH The Prince of Wales, the Governor of Western Australia and the High Commissioner for Australia) and flanked by the BBC Concert Orchestra, we might have expected something much more engaging.

I still don’t know anything about Mimma herself, as there aren’t enough details about her personal life. It is, in effect, used as a narrative device to advance a story about London-based Lorenzo (John Owen-Jones) and his friend Jacob Katz (Steve Serlin). Ada (Elena Xanthoudakis), as Mimma’s mother, had made the decision in 1938 that Mimma should live in Britain due to the rise of fascism under Mussolini. But weirdly (in my opinion), it was a joint decision made with Aldo (Ashley Riches), Mimma’s brother, that kills any remaining feeling that a show called Mimma could give women the courtesy of independent thought. Later, when a rising artist, Sarah Parker (Louise Dearman), defends Mimma, her views are mercilessly dismissed.

It’s an all-male writing team, and it shows – the female characters don’t converse and interact convincingly, and that has nothing to do with the performers themselves, who do remarkably well. what we give them. The writers are so narcissistic that the “list of music” (thirty numbers in total), rather than indicating which character(s) sing them, instead lists the names of the writers – and how they wrote it all together. , the same names appear again and again and again.

Some sound effects were so ridiculous that they managed to devalue the atrocities of the time. The pace is so pedestrian that it feels like sitting in a traffic jam in central London on a day of an underground strike. At various points in the first half, random headlines were shouted out to underscore, far too many times, the fact that World War II was looming. Most were useless: the public is not stupid.

There are no memorable songs to speak of. The lights were so blinding in some scenes that I could see viewers on the balcony using their programs to shield their eyes from the glare. A notable number of people did not return after the interval. ‘A Musical of War and Friendship’ could and should have been so relevant at the time of writing (during the 2022 invasion of Ukraine), but it was, I regret to report, a disappointing and underwhelming experience .

1 star

Comment by Chris Omaweng

Mimma, a new War and Friendship Musical, performed with the BBC Concert Orchestra for a semi-organized special only gala concert, at Cadogan Hall on 28 February 2022.
Orana Productions Ltd, producer and presenter of the Mimma Charity Concert, will donate 100% of ticket proceeds to The Prince’s Trust. The total amount donated to The Prince’s Trust is expected to be £65,000. The Prince’s Trust is a registered charity incorporated by Royal Charter in England and Wales (1079675) and Scotland (SC041198).
Mimma’s creative team includes Ron Siemiginowski (composer and producer), Giles Watson (librettist) and Luke Fredericks (director). The BBC Concert Orchestra will be conducted by renowned British conductor and orchestrator Richard Balcombe (Music Director and Orchestrator).

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