Music & Lyrics: Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus
Book: Catherine Johnson
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Reviewer: Natasha Hegarty
Mamma Mia has been entertaining West End audiences for 18 years and spawned a film starring Meryl Streep, Julie Walters and Colin Firth so the story is fairly well-known. The movie director Phyllida Lloyd is back in the chair overall, with Nikki Davis Jones taking the lead on the UK tour, but neither stops the musical feeling fresh and full of energy. This jukebox musical is stuffed to the brim with Abba’s massive hits, but for once this isn’t an Abba story, which is refreshing for the genre and instead focuses on family and friends set on a beautiful Greek Island.
Donna Sheridan (Helen Hobson) is a single mother to Sophie (Lucy May Barker) and is running a resort on the island and struggling. The young 20-year-old is desperate to find out who her father is so he can give her away at her upcoming wedding and so reads her mother’s diary in the hopes of discovering. However, she finds out it could be one of three men and so she invites all three and hilarity ensues.
Hobson is almost perfect in the lead role and has a stunning voice. She shows the struggle of being a single mother and worrying about Sophie but is still able to bring laughs, especially when paired with her two best friends Tanya (Emma Clifford) and Rosie (Gillian Hardie). The three of them work so well together it wouldn’t be a surprise to find out they’d been best friends for all those years too. Their comic timing together is one of the highlights of the show and both Clifford and Hardie are absolutely excellent in their roles.
Of course, it’s impossible to mention highlights without talking about the soundtrack. All the classics are there Dancing Queen, I Have a Dream, Voulez Vous and of course, Mamma Mia. Donna’s heartbreaking performance of The Winner Takes it All to the love of her life, Sam, is one of the best, as well as the beautiful Slipping Through My Fingers to Sophie on her wedding day. On the other hand, Tanya and her much younger admirer Pepper’s side-splitting – and rather acrobatic – performance of Does your Mother Know is utterly hilarious so that the audience instantly falls in love with him.
The three possible dads, played by Jamie Hogarth, Christopher Hollis and Jon Boydon, are all believable in their roles and their characters have an unusual camaraderie together despite their history with Donna and the potential of having a daughter. The actors work well together and Boydon as Sam is a stand-out, both for his voice and his acting. Sam’s relationship with Donna is one of the biggest storylines of the show and despite the ending seeming ludicrous in real life, there’s a collective agreement through the audience that there couldn’t be any other ending for them and the actors do it with justice. Mark Thompson’s set is simple but effective and the ensemble diving onto the stage to spin it on and off is a performance in itself and actually quite entertaining in its own right. While on the subject of the ensemble, they’re a talented bunch which is just as well as there’s a lot of them and they have quite a big job to do.
Problems in the musical are few and far between, with the music drowning out the actors in a couple of places, but the laughs and talented cast more than make up for it, so overall it is hardly noticeable.
There’s no doubt the music is always going to be great and it is. It is difficult to hear these songs and not feel full of joy and want to hit the dancefloor straight away. This production is wonderful from start to finish, with laughs aplenty, fabulous singers and a storyline that grabs the attention of everyone. The audience leaves the theatre with a light heart and huge smiles. Unmissable.
Runs until 20 May 2017| Image: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg