Music & Lyrics: Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus
Book: Catherine Johnson
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Reviewer: Taylor Simmons
Mamma Mia, the smash hit musical based on the songs of Abba, has become a firm favourite among musical theatre lovers – and one which continues to pack houses. This current touring production is vibrant, colourful and full of youthful energy with a plethora of experienced West-End performers mixed with energetic young graduates.
Helen Hobson, as Donna Sheridan, brings much-needed heart and truth to a role which can easily become a caricature in this jukebox story. While maintaining the strength of a determined single mother on the surface, the audience are immediately brought into her struggling world; through juggling the emotions of a daughter getting married with the pain and fear of her past returning back into her life. Hobson’s strong belting voice shows great control of the various vocal demands of the role, but the real highlights of her performance are her poignant renditions of One Of Us, Slipping Through My Fingers and The Winner Takes It All. Her wealth of experience certainly drives this production.
She is, however, well-supported by Emma Clifford as Tanya and Gillian Hardie as Rosie. Clifford brings comedy and class to the well-to-do divorcee and Hardie brings warmth and likability to the single middle-aged spinster. Despite their clear differences, you can believe these three unlikely friends had a past and a friendship that has endured through their different paths in life. As a threesome, their voices are strong and mix well together when performing Abba favourites Supertrooper and Dancing Queen. It is also worth noting both Clifford’s fierce performance of Does Your Mother Know? and Hardie’s desperate performance of Take A Chance On Me – both moments are excellent comic highlights perfectly contrasting with the turmoil of Donna’s story. The three potential Dads – Alex Bourne as Sam, Jamie Hogarth as Harry and Christopher Hollis as Bill – are well cast in their roles and compliment the women well.
The largely youthful company have excellent energy and timing; the ensemble singing is strong and engaging and the choreography is slick. Lucy May Barker as Sophie Sheridan and Phillip Ryan as Sky are a likeable pair with clear chemistry and strong vocal abilities. The ABBA megamix at the end of the show is the perfect ending to a great night out.
Like its West-End counterpart, the set by Mark Thompson is colourful, minimalistic and effective and this transfers well to the rigours of touring theatre. Howard Harrison’s lighting design is vibrant and this compliments the energy and feel of the production. Musically, the band of seven create an authentic lively sound. Sadly, the sound mix in act one meant that some vocals were lost but this seemed to improve in act two.
If you want an evening of fun, laughs and vibrant energy that will bring out the dancing queen in you, take a chance on Mamma Mia at the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent.
Runs until Saturday 29th April | Image: Brinkhoff/Mogenburg