PLYMOUTH – THEATRE ROYAL
MAMMA MIA until 5 February 2022 and touring.
Theatre Royal Plymouth – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 19 JANUARY 2022
For over twenty years the phenomenon that is the show ‘MAMMA MIA’ has played to millions of people throughout the world. The two Hollywood films have brought in many hundreds of dollars and been hugely successful. All that being so, the show has eluded me until tonight. Not that I have been unaware of the music, I am old enough to have watched Abba win the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’ – one of their biggest hits which doesn’t appear in the show.
‘Mamma Mia’, which was created from a book by Catherine Johnson with the music of Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (whose names sit above the title) was brought to the stage by Judy Craymer and Robert East and starts a long tour in Plymouth continuing well into next year. The simple story of a young woman inviting three men, any of whom might be her father, to her wedding on a Greek island is the tool to weave the songs of Abba amidst it. There is no doubting that it is cleverly done. Like all ‘jukebox’ musicals, the story is contrived so the songs fit, but this does work pretty well. There are a lot of songs, which means, as often is the case in this kind of show, that there is little room for much character development and so the approach to most of those populating the story is very broad brush. Little subtlety is at hand, this is ‘punch it out there’ performance territory.
Originally directed by Phyllida Lloyd with choreography from Anthony van Lasst, ‘Mamma Mia’ is undeniably a crowd pleaser. The music of Abba is still going strong after nearly five decades and its longevity is accented in the show; it is versatile, immensely hummable and heartfelt. Strangely for me the familiarity of the songs rather got in the way – the show was at its best during two lesser known songs, ‘Our Last Summer’ and ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’
Mark Thompson’s effective and simple revolving Greek taverna set is rather comforting in the face of the flashy, video-screened, projection stacked production designs which are prevalent these days. It works like a dream – nothing else required. Under the baton of Carlton Edwards, the band pump out the music where required but are equal to the quieter moments.
The cast throw themselves into their roles and attack all the songs with great energy and, although the choreography isn’t always as inventive as it could be, it is all done with precision and pizzazz.
As Donna, the Mother trying to escape her past, Sara Poyzer is excellent – her song tally is high and she relishes every moment of them. Her real-life husband, Richard Standing, is also very good as Sam, the man Donna ends up marrying. When the two duet, there is a potent connection.
Lucy May Barker brings out the feistiness of Sophie, the bride-to-be and Toby Miles is suitably buff as her intended, Sky. Helen Anker and Nicky Swift both have fun with their roles as Donna’s friends Tanya and Rosie and Daniel Crowder and Phil Corbitt are equally at home in their roles as the other two possible Dads, Harry and Bill.
This is a great fun show, but somehow left me a bit cold. There is nothing particularly lovable about any of the characters and so it is difficult to feel anything for them; it is the music that seems to matter more and, good though it is, it exposes some shortcomings of the storyline. But then maybe I am looking into it too deeply. This is a show to sit back and enjoy and it is difficult not to on some level. Yes, like most musicals of this kind, it is corny and cheesy, but there is a big market for them and this is one of the better ones.
‘Mamma Mia’ will provide plenty of entertainment for many years to come as will the songs of Abba and if you just want an evening to let fun and music wash over you, then you could do worse than take your seat and enjoy.
CAST & CREATIVES
SARA POYZER – DONNA SHERIDAN
NICKY SWIFT – ROSIE
HELEN ANKER – TANYA
RICHARD STANDING – SAM CARMICHAEL
PHIL CORBITT – BILL AUSTIN
DANIEL CROWDER – HARRY BRIGHT
LUCY MAY BARKER – SOPHIE SHERIDAN
TOBY MILES – SKY
JASMINE SHEN – ALI
MARIELLA MAZZILLI – LISA
JAMES WILLOUGHBY MOORE – PEPPER
COREY MITCHELL – EDDIE
ENSEMBLE – TAYLOR BRIDGES, AMBRA CASEROTTI, MARTIN DICKINSON, BILLY DOWNES, CHLOE GENTLES, RACHEL IVY, LUKE JASZTAL, MATT KENNEDY, LEWIS KIDD, ROBERT KNIGHT, HOLLIE NELSON, NATASHA O’BRIEN, PHOEBE ROBERTS, BLAIR ROBERTSON, KAINE RUDDACH, AMY THIROFF AND CAMERON VEAR.
BOOK – CATHERINE JOHNSON
MUSIC – BENNY ANDERSSON & BJORN ULVAEUS
ORIGINAL DIRECTOR – PHYLLIDA LLOYD
ORIGINAL CHOREOGRAPHY – ANTHONY VAN LAAST
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – CARLTON EDWARDS
PRODUCTION DESIGN – MARK THOMPSON
LIGHTING DESIGN – HOWARD HARRISON
SOUND DESIGNERS – ANDREW BRUCE, BOBBY AITKEN