MusicalNorth WestReview

Mamma Mia! – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Book: Catherine Johnson

Music and Lyrics: Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson

Director: Phyllida Lloyd and Mark Hilton

Reviewer: Abbie Rippon

In the 17 years since its debut, Mamma Mia! has gained and maintained its reputation as one of the most fun and feel good musicals of its generation. It has toured internationally and many readers will be familiar with the 2008 film adaptation starring an array of both Hollywood and British stars. So the question is, is it still worth the hype?

The simple answer is – heck yes!

The plot follows the story of Sophie who was raised on a Greek island by her mother Donna who raised her independently at the same time as building and running a local taverna. Sophie is about to get married and is on a quest to find out who her father is, the only problem is that she has three possible dads…. Uh oh!

The soundtrack which includes the majority of ABBA’s hits, has you tapping your toes from start to end. There is a slightly slow section in the second act where four ballads take place one after the other, which drops the pace a little, but this is broken by the hilarious duet Take a Chance On Me.

Mamma Mia! has an incredibly hard working set of ensemble performers and their skill and zeal is a key part of what makes the show so successful. They create the party atmosphere while maintaining a performance that is tight, energetic and polished.

As for the principles, the creative team have cast a set of stonkingly good singers, with no voice out of place. With so many of ABBA’s famous harmonies in the work, their voices complement each other in every duet and trio, it is a very pleasurable listen. A special mention needs to be made to Jacqueline Braun and Emma Clifford as Donna’s friends Rosie and Tanya who pull every inch of comedy out of their performances as humanly possible. Dancing Queen in particular has the audience roaring with laughter from start to finish. Lucy May Barker also deserves a credible mention as Sophie. This character is one that can so often come across as a little bit wet but Barker gives the character a real likeability and sense of self.

The show not only sounds great, but looks great too. Mark Thompson’s original designs have stood the test of time and the use of the set is as effective as it was in 1999. The costumes maintain their vibrant feel and although they haven’t been updated to replicate this year’s vogue, they don’t need to! There is a timeless feel to them (with a little bit of ABBA’s 70’s influence, obviously!).

If you enjoy a good night out, a sing along and a bit of musical theatre that doesn’t take itself too seriously then you can’t go wrong with Mamma Mia!. If a gang of wetsuit-clad dancers with matching flippers performing moves not to dissimilar to Swan Lake is unlikely to raise a smile, then maybe stay at home! But by goodness you’ll be missing out!

Runs until 4th June 2016 | Image:Brinkhoff-Mögenburg

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