Book: Catherine Johnson
Music and Lyrics: Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Since opening in London’s West End in 1999, Mamma Mia has been seen by over 65 million people in more than 450 cities and judging by it’s current performance at the Liverpool Empire, it’s clear to see why this musical as been so successful.
We are transported to a Greek island where young Sophie is getting married to the lovely Skye however, as we all know, planning a wedding is never as simple as it sounds. After discovering her mother’s diary, Sophie learns that after years of wanting to find her father, he could be one of three men. Sam, Bill or Harry. She invites them all to her wedding and after failing to keep it a secret from her mother, Donna, our simple wedding story turns into a real Greek comedy.
If you’re a fan of ABBA then this is the show for you, after every 10 or 11 lines of dialogue the cast hits you with an outstanding routine to one of ABBA’s greatest hits. The choreography by Anthony Van Laast delivers a clever combination of inviting us to join the party but also some fantastic storytelling. The way in which Van Laast choreographs for the entire cast is extremely impressive to watch on stage and the energy from the whole company is sustained until the very end of the curtain call. However, it was the scenes in between the musical numbers that left little impact on the audience.
The dialogue in the first act is overshadowed by the big, bold musical numbers especially by the younger cast members. The story telling during the scenes is lost by the lack of volume and the acting felt more appropriate for television than for the stage. Phoebe Roberts stepped in to play the role of Sophie and delivered a very sweet portrayal of the character. Her on-stage mother played by Sara Poyzer gave us a tenacious, dynamic and well thought out portrayal of Donna. Poyzer’s performance of The Winner Takes It All is a real highlight of the show. The transition from scene to song was effortless and Poyzer’s powerhouse vocals give a stunning and emotional performance of the ABBA classic. If you want to see how pop music can be seamlessly transitioned into a dramatic musical theatre performance then Poyzer can deliver this skill in abundance.
As in any Greek story, the Chorus provide an integral storytelling device and in this performance of Mamma Mia the real star of the show is the ensemble cast. One of the first moments in which we see the ensemble really come into their own is during Money, Money, Money. The way in which they provide a narrative for the audience is comically done and extremely slick. What is so impressive about this ensemble cast is their ability to move effortlessly as one whilst also creating their own individual characters. This technique provides an incredibly entertaining show as the audience can tune into different members of the ensemble and know exactly how their character fits into this world. Whether that’s one of Skye’s mates flirting with Donna’s friends or a little, old Greek lady cutting loose during Lay All Your Love On Me. All in all, this portrayal of a Greek chorus is thoroughly entertaining and expertly done.
Overall, if you’re after an entertaining night at the theatre where you can get up and have a boogie at the end then this is well worth a visit. Feel free to come dressed in your finest sequins and platforms and you will be welcomed into the world of this show with open arms.
Runs until 9 April 2022