Mamma Mia! – Review – Hull New Theatre
Mamma Mia! – Review
Hull New Theatre, May 2018
by Rachel Howard
It’s about eight years since I last saw Mamma Mia! – the musical set to the music of Abba, which spawned the very successful movie spin-off starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried. Back then, it was in the West End and I remember being blown away by the cast, the atmosphere and the emotion of the story. Fast forward eight years, and I’m taking my seat at Hull New Theatre for one of the sold-out official previews for the new tour.
Despite the full house and palpable excitement in the auditorium, I’m slightly concerned that a touring show will not match up to a West End experience. But, as the curtain raises, I realise I needn’t have worried. The effective yet basic set and the clever use of lighting immediately transports the audience to the sun-drenched Greek island where our story is set.
For those who don’t know the premise, the show tells the story of Donna and Sophie – a single mother and her daughter who have made their home on the aforementioned island. Sophie is about to get married and decides now is the perfect time to find her father. In her quest to find him, she invites the three possible candidates to her wedding, where all manner of chaos and hilarity ensues.
The storyline is, of course, peppered with Abba’s most well-known and well-loved songs, each one perfectly fitting the emotion and humour portrayed by the immensely talented cast. Heading up the talent is Shona White (Donna), who plays the role with a perfect combination of emotion and humour. The scene with Sophie on the morning of the wedding wins the accolade of the only musical scene that has caused me to shed a tear within a theatre. On the flip side, the scenes between Donna and her two best friends, Rosie (Nicky Swift) and Tanya (Helen Anker) are some of the funniest I have had the pleasure of watching, shedding more tears but this time of laughter.
Lucy May Barker (Sophie) brings a beautiful innocence to the stage, and the relationship between her and fiancé Sky (Phillip Ryan) is filled with chemistry and love.
Although Mamma Mia! is a tale of love, hope and relationships, both romantic and platonic, the comedy element is what sets it aside from many other musicals. Phyllida Lloyd’s production has the audience in stitches for a good 70% of the show – most notably during the scenes between Donna, Rosie and Tanya. These three, played in the movie by Streep, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski, bring absolute comedy genius to the stage. Highlights include ‘Does Your Mother Know’, ’Super Trouper’ and ‘Dancing Queen’.
Although this is a show dominated by powerful female characters, special mention should be given to the three guys playing Sophie’s possible fathers – Tamlyn Henderson (Sam), Daniel Crowder (Harry) and Matthew Rutherford (Bill). Each one brings a different personality to the stage, but all perform equally successfully, joining the rest of the cast in balancing the tricky tightrope between drama and humour.
But of course, the real star of this show is the music. Written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, the songs are known and loved by people the world over. In testament to that, the London production of Mamma Mia! has now been seen seen by 10% of the entire UK population.
Now, I’ll let you into a little secret, I’m not usually a fan of Abba’s music. It’s just not my bag. However… something about this musical makes me want to don some satin flares, stick on my platform boots and transport myself back to the 1970s in true ‘Dancing Queen’ style. It’s a feel-good experience like no other. I don’t think I have ever witnessed as many people on their feet, dancing and singing along at the end of the show as I did here. Men, women, children and grandparents – everyone had their arms in the air hoping there would be encore after encore. Including me!
The good news is that although this short run at Hull New Theatre is a sell-out, the show is back for a full run, from 3rd March to 21st March 2020. Tickets go on sale this week. And for fans of the movie, the sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, opens in cinemas in July 2018.
So… Honey, Honey, send out an SOS, Thank Abba For The Music, Take a Chance on a show, don’t let the opportunity Slip Through Your Fingers, and remember The Winner Takes It All, so be a Super Trouper and become the Dancing Queen you’ve always wanted to be…
And all that from someone who’s supposedly not an Abba fan…!