Thank you (or not) for the music: who sings best in ‘Mamma Mia ...

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Thank you (or not) for the music: who sings best in ‘Mamma Mia 2’?

Some of the actors clearly weren’t hired for their pipes

Charlotte Runcie

When casting a musical, it is important to take into account whether or not your actors can actually sing. But when the first Mamma Mia film came out, it became immediately apparent that some of the actors were not, shall we say, from a musical background. The three actors playing Sophie’s three potential fathers, in particular — Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård — gave the singing their best shot, but were not always absolutely convincing. Audiences could safely conclude that these men weren’t hired on their singing ability alone.
So with the long-awaited follow-up, Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again hitting cinemas this weekend with plenty of new cast members drafted in, what sort of singing experience can be found on the actors’ CVs, and how do their singing voices measure up onscreen? We’ve rated them on their singing experience from could-do-better to fully-fledged diva:
16. Pierce Brosnan – Sam
Pierce Brosnan got the most flak from critics for his singing in the first Mamma Mia film. Calling it singing at all is, we must admit, debatable; at times in the first film, his performance can be more accurately described as speaking, albeit to a vague tune. This time, the amount of singing required of Brosnan has been drastically reduced. He has said he’s “relieved” about this, as are we all.15. Stellan Skarsgård – Bill“I wasn’t hired for my singing abilities or my dancing abilities”, Skarsgård has said of his casting in the first Mamma Mia film. He went further, and described the singing he did in the first film as both “horrible” and “really painful”, but embraced the inevitable criticism in good spirit, saying that he had always been prepared to leave his dignity at the door. His singing time has also been dramatically cut down in Here We Go Again.
14. Andy Garcia – Fernando
Given the truly unenviable task of duetting with the actual Cher (who isn’t going to come out of that scenario looking second-rate?), Andy Garcia plays the part of Fernando in the film, and also in the song Fernando.Sensibly, his voice has been turned down quite low in the mix of the song, so it’s not really possible to draw many conclusions about Garcia’s singing ability from it, but he should be applauded for stepping up to the plate with the Goddess of Pop at all, frankly. Many men would have quailed at the prospect.
13. Hugh Skinner – Young Harry
Here he plays a young Colin Firth, though his voice is noticeably deeper than Firth’s, and sings one of the biggest Abba hits of all: Waterloo. Skinner has a role in the 2012 film of Les Miserables alongside Amanda Seyfried, and he rises admirably to the challenge of performing the legendary hit.12. Colin Firth – Harry
As one of the three potential fathers of Sophie in the original film, Colin Firth was definitely the best singer of the trio, giving a genuinely touching and vulnerable performance on the song Our Last Summer. Firth wasn’t confident about his voice, saying at the time: “They didn’t audition me.  I thought: ‘They’re being reckless here. What do they think they’re doing?’ They cast me, Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgård without asking any of us if we could sing. So I figured they didn’t care if we couldn’t.” Like Brosnan and Skarsgård, he doesn’t do much singing at all in the sequel, which is a bit of a shame.11. Jeremy Irvine – Young SamOne of the younger actors in the cast, Jeremy Irvine’s background is mostly in screen drama rather than in musicals, but he still gets a major Abba song to tackle: Knowing Me Knowing You, which he performs with style and sensitivity. The world of musicals’ loss is Here We Go Again’s gain.
10. Dominic Cooper – Sky
Dominic Cooper had full training as an actor and should accordingly be a skilled singer. But he admits to having been nervous about the singing required in both films, telling Vanity Fair: “It was part of my training; I’d done it. I just didn’t have confidence in it.”He was given tricky Abba songs to sing both times around – Lay All Your Love On Me in the first film, and the more downbeat One Of Us in the second – and though singing isn’t his strongest skill as a performer, he pulled it off both times.
9. Alexa Davies – Young Rosie
Having made her name in TV comedy dramas Detectorists and Raised By Wolves, Alexa Davies plays Julie Walters’s younger self here, and while she’s not the most experienced of the cast, she more than holds her own in Donna and the Dynamos.8. Josh Dylan – Young Bill
In the role of a young Stellan Skarsgård, Josh Dylan is a relative newcomer to the screen, but gives a winning vocal performance on Why Did It Have to be Me?If nothing else, this suggests that the character of Bill once had a great singing voice in his youth, before something disastrous happened to it around the same time that he morphed into Stellan Skarsgård.
7. Jessica Keenan Wynn – Young Tanya
Along with Alexa Davies and Lily James, Jessica Keenan Wynn gets plenty of singing to do as part of the band Donna and the Dynamos, not least the title song Mamma Mia itself. Another newcomer, her vocal performance reflects her musical experience – she has previously been in the stage rock musical Heathers.6. Julie Walters – Rosie
Dame Julie is one of the most experienced and revered actors in the Mamma Mia cast, but she originally made her name in drama and comedy rather than in musicals. However, she was given one of the most famous Abba songs, Take A Chance On Me, to sing in the first film, and sold the song with real showbiz swagger. This time around she performs on several songs including Angel Eyes, and nails it. She’s a dame for a reason.5. Christine Baranski – Tanya
Juilliard-trained Baranski has an impressive track record of performing in musicals on both stage and screen in her time, so she’s no stranger to belting out a chorus. She almost stole the show in the first Mamma Mia film with her saucy rendition of Does Your Mother Know, proving that she has serious vocal chops, and they get a welcome outing again in the sequel alongside Julie Walters on Angel Eyes and I’ve Been Waiting for You.4. Amanda Seyfried – Sophie
Amanda Seyfried had lots of vocal exposure in the first Mamma Mia film, and her experience outside the realms of feelgood Abba musicals is broad. She starred as Cosette in the 2012 Les Miserables, and also sings in Ted 2 and Dear John.As a teenager she trained as a singer before turning to drama, to the extent that she had said she almost became an opera singer instead of an actress. With a voice that’s both pretty and strong, she’s one of the musical pros, and subsequently gives everyone else a run for their money in a range of songs in Here We Go Again.
3. Lily James – Young Donna
Lily James is being hailed as a breakout star, playing the young Donna Sheridan, but she’s no newcomer – for a start, she’s a classically trained actress.The 29-year-old has already had starring turns as Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, Debora in Baby Driver, and the eponymous princess in Cinderella, she showed off her beautiful voice in both of the latter two roles. She has the most singing to do out of everyone in Here We Go Again, and her voice is more than up to the challenge.
2. Meryl Streep – Donna
Meryl Streep has not only starred in countless films and won three Oscars, but showed off her excellent singing voice in plenty of movies, too. As a mark of her versatility, Streep is able to adapt the quality of her voice considerably depending on the role she’s playing.She only has a small amount of screen time in Here We Go Again, but she gives a showstopping solo performance of The Day Before You Came, as well as an emotional rendition of My Love, My Life. Streep proves yet again that there’s nothing she can’t do.
1. Cher – Ruby Sheridan
Do we really need to outline Cher’s vocal credentials? She’s only one of the greatest pop divas of all time. She might have relied on then-cutting-edge Autotune technology as an artistic choice for her 1998 record Believe, but her unadulterated singing voice has always been all power. From the Shoop Shoop Song to I Got You Babe, Cher is one of the most recognisable singers of the last century, and we should be honoured that she has once again graced the silver screen with her golden voice.Inevitably, she steals the film, and her passionate version of Fernando is so good that Abba’s Benny Andersson has even said: “She makes Fernando her own. It’s her song now.” Cher was so taken with the experience of starring in Here We Go Again that she’s reportedly planning to release a whole album of Abba covers. We don’t deserve her.
- © The Daily Telegraph

‘Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again’ is on in cinemas now.

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