Music: Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson
Writer: Catherine Johnson
Director: Phyllida Llloyd
Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood
Mamma Mia! has been going strong in the West End since 1999 and has toured extensively worldwide. There has also been a film production (2008) starring Meryl Steep, Pierce Brosman, Colin Firth and Julie Walters. The story has been shared to many fans about Donna Sheridan (Helen Hobson), a single mother, whose daughter, Sophie (Lucy May Barker), is getting married and wishes to know the father she never knew and met. Sophie invites three men, three possible fathers, (Jamie Hogarth, Christopher Hollis and Jon Boydon) to the wedding and their arrival leads to a deluge of past memories.
Known as a jukebox musical with well-known hits from ABBA, Mamma Mia! is unique in that the music and songs fit around the story rather than vice versa. It is cleverly choreographed as such that the musical number not just fits the scenario and circumstance but also the tempo and tone representing the emotive states of the characters. The story set on a small Greek Island with a holiday-like atmosphere within a close-knit community, and as such, the staging is aesthetically pleasing in reflection.
There is no introduction to the musical numbers, as the audience is already familiar with them. Rather, they are invited to assume, interpret, speculate and draw conclusions from the narrative and recycle them into new ones drawn on their personal experiences and beliefs. The show interacts with the audience well with its innuendoes, adult humour, long pauses, popular references, and misunderstood innocence which is comically interpreted and assumed.
Not forgetting the popular ABBA songs which are featured including I Have a Dream, Voulez-Vous, Thank You for the Music, Mamma Mia!, Dancing Queen and Take a Chance on Me. Other songs fit so well with the underlining themes that are highlighted in the musical such as Sophie battling to find oneself in Knowing Me, Knowing You; Donna’s struggles in Money, Money, Money and The Winner Takes It All; and Harry and Donna reminisces times in a slow paced Our Last Summer and the cheeky and hilarious rendezvous between Tanya (Emma Clifford) and the young Pepper (Louis Stockil) in Does Your Mother Know. The contrasting themes such as traditionalism and modernism are integrated and documented along with identity, independence, empowerment, belonging, memories and nostalgia.
There are incredible performances from Hobson as Donna, Clifford as Tanya and Gillian Hardie as Rosie and they certainly put on a show just like in the Donna and the Dynamos days. The three possible fathers are superb with stellar interpretations from Hogarth as Harry Bright, Hollis as Bill Austen and Boydon as Sam Carmichael and their collective quest to reconnect with Donna and connect with Sophie. Barker beautifully and sensitively portrays Sophie Sheridan in pursuing her dream and her love for Sky which Phillip Ryan supports securely and lovingly.
Over the years, a long-running musical adapts with the times and the talented creative team have ensured Mamma Mia! continues to have a fresh look throughout today as much as when it first premiered. The audience is entertained with an energetic and colourful performance with a story told with ABBA hits from beginning to end. There is plenty of laughter; however, there is also room to reflect deeply on the themes explored. This is evident at the end with standing ovations and audience participation during the encore. This is down to thanking ABBA for the musical and the ingenuity of both Lloyd and Johnson for making this a night to remember for many theatergoers.
Touring Nationwide | Image: Contributed