Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Resident Director: Nikki Davis Jones
Musical Director: Richard Weeden
Production Designer: Mark Thompson
Reviewer: Charlotte Broadbent
Mamma Mia! is fast approaching its twentieth birthday but that doesn’t seem to be slowing them down. The success has endured since 1999 and continues to draw audiences in for their first time or their tenth. With a successful film adaptation that’s incredibly true to the staged production the appeal has broadened, and with the film’s sequel due for release in July, what better time to revisit the original.
With the blessing and creative input of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, you are never more than a few moments away from an ABBA classic, the lyrics of which are used to tell the story of a young woman, Sophie, on the eve of her wedding trying to find out who her biological father is. Set in sunny Greece, the set designed by Jonathan Allen and the lighting designed by Howard Harrison beautifully depict a postcard-worthy view sure to inject any audience member with holiday envy. Act One is fast paced and builds to a thrilling crescendo at Sophie’s hen do with a rousing selection of ABBA’s disco anthems. Act Two lags a little, most of the songs selected in this act are ballads sung by one character to another with little in the way of clear direction. There is a run of three or four songs where one character sings while another watches which does cause the pace to slump.
It’s the dilemma of the jukebox musical that the plot needs to be framed around the music. This can mean the substance of the story is spread a little thin and the meaning and relevance of certain songs feels occasionally tenuous. It can also mean that sentiments are reiterated during songs as opposed to the plot progressing, resulting in a somewhat blunt and hasty dialogue.
Sadly this touring production does suffer from the lack of a live orchestra. Actors appear as though looking for cues and the backing track is pitched particularly loudly. Also, be careful where you sit if you’re sensitive the smoke or haze: the front of the stalls can expect a mouthful.
Sophie is played by Lucy May Barker who delivers an assured performance. Emma Clifford plays Tanya and seemed to be suffering vocally on the evening of this review. When speaking, there were noticeable cracks but this wasn’t present when she sang. however, it was a confident performance delivering wit, a lot of sass and a lot of fun. Donna is played by Helen Hobson whose performance was variable, in certain moments she took the reins well while at others seemed a little adrift on stage.
That said, however, the ensemble has so much combined strength it’s exhausting just to watch them. Whoever you look at, at any given moment you can be sure they will be beaming out with unbridled energy. They seem to be genuinely having an infectiously good time on stage.
Despite its flaws, the combination of the beloved music of ABBA, the tongue in cheek humour, the sunny setting and the eruptive energy ensures that every audience member will be on their feet by the end thanking them for the music.
Runs until 17 March 2018 | Image: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg