Mamma Mia! – Review – Hull New Theatre
By @RogerCrow, March 2020
Mamma Mia! has been with us for so long it’s hard to remember a time before the mother of all jukebox musicals reminded us how wondrous every featured ABBA track was, and is.
I first saw the stage show before the film was released, and then of course we had the phenomenal sequel. I didn’t need a musical or follow-up to tell me how great the band were. I was the guy who sat through ABBA: The Movie twice at my local fleapit back in the days when they had continuous screenings and you could do that sort of thing.
But my my! What a show Mamma Mia! is. The set is a masterpiece of minimalist design. The blocky revolving Greek pods that form Donna’s hotel and home is stunning, especially when lighting changes the mood and gives the impression of interior or exterior.
Then of course there’s the cast. The joy of the films was the ‘dad dancing’ and the honking Pierce Brosnan, whose rendition of ‘SOS’ felt like a cry for help in more ways than one. Though he couldn’t carry a note, it didn’t matter. The fact he was game for a laugh was inspiring.
The dynamic in this version is very different. Or maybe it was true to the original stage version. Hard to tell as there been so much water under the bridge since that first production.
Though there’s nobody ‘famous’ in it, when it dawns on me that Rob Fowler and Sharon Sexton play two key leads, I’m thrilled. Both were phenomenal in the Bat Out Of Hell musical, and to see them in this is hugely rewarding. Her glorious Irish accent gives matriarch Donna a different naturalism, while Rob’s alpha male Sam is equally terrific.
The plot, in case you didn’t know, involves Sophie (Emma Mullen), a young woman who sends off three letters to her potential dads ahead of her wedding. When Sam (Fowler), Bill (Jamie Kenna) and Harry (Daniel Crowder) rock up at her mum Donna’s Greek hotel, the scene is set for comedy shenanigans.
A special mention must also go to Helen Anker (Tanya) and Nicky Swift (Rosie), whose rib-tickling turns as Donna’s old friends is a joy from start to finish.
The performance at Hull New Theatre is as good as anything you’ll see in the West End or on Broadway. The sound is phenomenal; the cast work brilliantly well together, and because of that ‘all killer, no filler’ collection of songs, there’s little wonder my foot is tapping throughout.
Okay, I could have done without ‘Under Attack’ and ‘Our Last Summer’, preferring ‘Eagle’ or one of the lesser known ABBA tracks, but there’s always the odd song to give you a breather inbetween those solid gold classics.
And like the original film, when Donna belts out ‘The Winner Takes It All’, it’s one of those moments where you’ll want to stand up and clap. Given the thunderous (seated) applause, safe to say I wasn’t the only one knocked out by that show-defining moment.
Mamma Mia! is such a well-tuned production, I could have gone back to see it a day later. It has that feelgood factor that inevitably had the masses on their feet for the foot-stomping finale. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more. The cast or the audience.
I do know it’s one of the best productions you’ll see all year, whatever age you are. And if you’ve never seen the show or films, take a chance on this. You’ll be so glad you did.
images: Brinkhoff M + Agenburg