Mamma Mia the Musical – Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre
By Christine Goode, June 2023
A perfect hot sunny day completes the ideal setting for this outdoor performance at Scarborough’s splendid Open Air Theatre.
A happy audience are buzzing around in the glorious evening sunshine. Hundreds of ABBA super fans are here, most armed with feather boas, all eagerly waiting for the show to start. Most of us know the songs and the history of the unforgettable force that was (is!) ABBA. The atmosphere is superb and feels very different to the usual indoor theatre setting. The show is set in Greece and we have the holiday spirit and weather to match. Everyone wears light summer clothes, although once the sun disappears we perhaps regret not bringing something warmer to put on.
Written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, with music and lyrics by Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus the musical opened in the West End in 1999. It still continues to delight audiences today all over the world. The storyline is relatable and entertaining, as we meet Sophie on the week of her wedding. After finding and reading her mother’s diary she is desperate to find the true identity of her birth father. Secretly she invites her mother’s three ex-lovers to her wedding; will her mother ever forgive her? The story unfolds and we see lifelong friendships play out hilariously; highlighting how true youth stays with you forever.
Sophie (Jess Michelmore) is endearing and her vocals are spectacular, her relationship with her mother Donna (Nicky Swift) is heart-warming and resonates with many, especially in the gut-wrenching scene when mother and daughter reach the next stage of their lives when they prepare for the wedding. Swift’s emotion whilst singing ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ had me in tears, although not for long, thanks to the fantastic comedy duo of Tanya (Sarah Earnshaw) and Rosie (Claire Greenway). Their timing and facial expressions are perfect and hilarious, their incredible voices belting out favourites; ‘Chiquitita’, ‘Voulez-Vous’ and ‘Take A Chance On Me’.
Sam Carmichael (Richard Standing) has a magnetic charm and his vocals are alluring. Pepper’s (Jaden Oshenye) energy is impressive featuring at least six consecutive split jumps, before carrying on with the rest of the ensemble singing and dancing.
The set is simple, reflecting a pretty Greek villa, and a few simple props are all that is needed against a bright blue backdrop to transport us for two and half glorious hours to the fictional island of Kalokairi. The outdoor setting makes the lighting a little difficult to see in the first act, once the sun went down and we returned after the interval the lights were vibrant and we were able to see reflections of the sun and sea as intended.
“Fabulous, fun and vibrant”
The music, as we know, is timeless. The band plays the first chord and it sparks an electric atmosphere. At the side of the stage there are large screens, on which flashes a rare glimpse of the band, who are seated in a room at the side of the stage where we watch them play the overture, via video link.
Costumes are fabulous, fun and vibrant, slipping from casual holiday daytime wear to the iconic ‘ABBA-Esque’ style. My favourite number, ‘Under Attack’ (the dream scene) had costumes to match and, like most dreams was delightfully insane. The final scene has stunning colour clashes, stupendous hats and flamboyant wedding attire.
The choreography is superb, very up tempo and energetic, great partner work with some daring lifts and tricks all of the ensemble cast were captivating, and it is difficult not to miss anything. Dancer, Grace May, particularly catches my eye, she is remarkable. At the end we are clapping, singing and dancing along with the cast and certainly ‘Thanking them for the Music’; with the loudest cheers I’ve ever heard!
‘Mamma Mia’ is at Scarborough Open Air Theatre until 18th June 2023