Music: Bjorn Ulvaeus & Benny Anderson
Lyrics: Bjorn Ulvaeus
Book : Catherine Johnson
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Mamma Mia, the hit play based on the music of Abba, opens at the Regent Theatre in Stoke this week. First opening in 1999, the show has become a worldwide success bringing audiences to their feet and subsequently being followed up by a smash hit film and sequel. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, the current UK 2022 tour looks to get people dancing again and whilst not everyone feels confident to travel yet the Greek Isles are bought to the comfort of a theatre.
Unlike a lot of juke box musicals, Mamma Mia has more than a basic plot and is an entertaining mix of family, friendships, dreams, and misunderstandings. Sophie is getting married and after having a nose in her mother’s diary, narrows her possible fathers down to three contenders and decides in her wisdom to invite all of them to her wedding. Much to her mother’s horror they all turn up and stay in her beautiful but ram shackled hotel. What is refreshing about this story is the limited conflict, although it is still bold. It is a story that is fuelled by love, friendship, and nostalgia.
Mamma Mia is a show that is for fans of the music. Those who are not Abba fans may find it hard to appreciate as it is most definitely the songs that are the stars of the show. It isn’t any wonder Benny and Bjorn had the vision to turn their much-loved hits in to what has become a treasured musical.
The staging is idyllic, and it is easy to forget it is a rainy night in Stoke on Trent. It is also simple with few set changes because with songs as big as Abba’s why would you need anything else. The choreography is a joy to watch. Does Your Mother Know in particular is fresh and energetic. James Willoughby Moore as Pepper demonstrates an impressive stamina in this number which has the crowds clapping. Indeed, his whole performance stands out with his fun interpretation of this annoying but loveable character.
Sara Poyzer stars as Donna, a role she is no stranger to along with the dungarees which are worn with pride. Particular poignant songs are The Winner Takes it All and Slipping Through My Fingers. Under Attack kicks off the second act with a hilarious, comic book dream sequence involving fears of multiple fathers of the bride and a groom in a wedding dress. Recent graduate, Jena Pandya as Sophie, is a triumph in this scene demonstrating a resilience usually seen in seasoned performers as she is tugged and pulled in all directions whilst belting out this powerful song.
Mamma Mia offers an amazing night’s entertainment. It is flawless in its presentation bringing West End quality to the masses with no sacrifices. It is indeed the ultimate party show and although singing along is bad form these days, most people were at least humming along under their breath.
Most of all, the show is pure escapism taking audiences back to a happier time. It is dazzling, bright and sensational with no need for gimmicks. Abba is a much-loved band and as long as their music stays alive so will this endearing show.
Runs Until Saturday 21st May.