Book: Catherine Johnson
Music and Lyrics: Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Does Your Mother Know that you’re out to see Mamma Mia! at the Wolverhampton Grand? With seat-rocking songs, an energetic ensemble, and a formidable main cast, this production of Mamma Mia! is already a hit.
If you haven’t seen the classic 2008 film, or any of the subsequent reincarnations of the original 1999 stage production (what have you been doing?) now’s the time. Here’s a brief rundown for you, just in case: Sophie lives on a small Greek island with her mother, Donna (played by powerhouse Sara Poyzer), who owns and runs their family business. We meet these two as young Sophie prepares for her wedding. She has secretly invited three men from her mom’s past, each of whom might be her father. Chaos ensues as the wedding guests, Sophie and Donna’s fabulous BFFs, and these three unexpected men all arrive on the island. High tensions and high romance come together with the iconic music of ABBA to make an unforgettable series of events.
As the audience files into the beautiful Wolverhampton Grand, there’s visible excitement, and people are singing along within the first few seconds of the overture. Musical Director Carlton Edwards and the live band know how to get a crowd to take part. The curtain rises on an elegantly simple yet highly functional set and a sombre Sophie (Jess Michelmore). Michelmore has a crystalline soprano voice and becomes more endearing each time she’s onstage. The sombre mood is soon broken by the arrival of her two best friends, and the youthful trio sing Honey Honey.
Next, we’re introduced to Rosie and Tanya – Donna’s best friends from years ago, who all together form Donna and the Dynamos. Both groups are enthusiastically supportive of each other, and through the show, they continue to prove the importance of close friends. Rosie (played by demure yet fiery Nicky Swift) and Tanya (irresistibly performed by Sarah Earnshaw) are crowd favourites for their abrasive yet lovable personalities and unforgettable performances of the classics.
This is a unique show because of the age divide between Donna’s group of friends (and her surprise men) and the rest of the cast. It shows that ABBA truly can unite all, because the entire cast comes together with electricity, and the result is a treat to watch. This young ensemble is beautifully eager and energetic – and incredibly talented. Although there may be a few missteps or a line mumble, the joy and impressive skills of these young people bring them to the level of the more seasoned professionals; watching them all work together is a delight.
This musical should have you dancing in the aisles. There are times when the choreography seems slightly lacking, but then the singing works to pick up the slack. But then there are times when the choreography is impeccable and all aspects come together, from punchy lighting cues to a funky band, and it’s impossible not to smile along in your seat. The cherry on top of this joyful show is the incredible costumes – they’re visually integral to the experience of Mamma Mia! and twenty years after the premiere, they’re still kicking.
For those who’ve only ever seen the film, be ready for some new surprise treats. For those who are experts on the stage production, enjoy a superbly attractive production. And for those who’ve never seen the magic of Mamma Mia! in any form, embrace the platform boots and white lycra, and get yourself a ticket before they’re gone.
Runs Until 28 January 2023 and on tour