Music:/Lyrics: Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus
Book: Catherine Johnson
Director: Phylidda Lloyd
Reviewer: Helen Patrick
The mini spring heat wave may have disappeared from across the region, but summer has already arrived at The Palace Theatre with the welcome return of international smash hit and ‘Original’ Jukebox musical Mamma Mia. Over the past few years, we have been given many touring productions of West End musicals, but have had to make do with several cutbacks, usually in the set and size of cast, but with this current International Tour, no expense has been spared, here we have a full size cast and an almost exact carbon copy of the set which has firmly made its home in the capital for over 10 years.
Sophie Sheridan is turning 20 and about to marry the man of her dreams, having been brought up by her single parent mother Donna in her hideaway Taverna off the mainland in Greece. After secretly reading her mother’s diary Sophie invites the three men who could be her father to her celebrations in order to complete her fairytale white wedding. But when the men arrive and Donna finds out not everything runs as smoothly as one originally hoped and the characters are all left in a whirlwind of self doubt and discovery.
Filled to the brim with toe tapping ABBA hits; Mamma Mia is unusual in the sense that unlike other Jukebox shows, where the songs feel shoe horned into the production, it seems from the off that serious thought and story construction from the creative team have meant that they’ve produced a show that feels complete – ok so the story (Catherine Johnson) may not be super strong, but it still packs an emotion punch when it needs too. Director Phylidda Lloyd has managed to bring the best out of every cast member and directs a production that is comical and touching and gains a great reception from the sold out audience. The show is also helped by a simple set premise (two individual taverna walls, that rotate and move around the stage to create various locations) designed by Mark Thompson, and also gains great feeling thanks to Howard Harrison’s atmospheric lighting design and to top it all off we have some stunning choreography from Anthony Van Laast.
Taking on the matriarchal role of Donna is Sara Poyzer who has tons of Charisma as the fiercely independent single mother, however her vocals didn’t quite knock it out of the water, especially during the more intimate and quiet solo numbers. Local girl Charlotte Wakefield takes on the role of Sophie and is beautifully cast, here we have a performer who has not only blossomed into a stunning young woman, but her performance skills have also developed immensely since her debut in Spring Awakening a few years ago. Her Sophie is full of joviality and wide eyed anticipation of youth and bursts equally with excitement and angst, and to top it all off she can seriously belt out a tune, a long and prosperous career lies ahead for her. Sophie’s spouse to be sky is played with a charming level of geek chic by David Roberts.
Matthew Lloyd Davies (Harry), Richard Standing (Sam) and Charles Daish (Bill) give great support and have a great connection with each other on stage however it is the performances of Kate Graham as posh bird Tanya and a larger than life performance by Jennie Dale (Rosie) that steal the show with a classic combination of comic force and knockout vocal talent.
Mamma Mia may be in its 12th year, but it has firmly stood the test of time, the production has a strong and timeless quality about it making seem as fresh and as enjoyable as it was back in the late 90’s. I defy anyone not to enjoy this energetic fun filled show that will leave you clapping till your hands are as red as a drunken European on the sandy shores of Kos.