Mamma Mia!, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre - review and pictures
When a show starts with a warning that white Lycra and platforms will be worn during the performance, you know you’re in for an evening of Abbatastic fun!
Mamma Mia! bursts onto the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre stage this week with feather boas, flippers, sequins and snorkels, proving that the mother of all jukebox musicals is still the global phenomenon it promised to be when it hit the stage for the first time back in 1999.
Having been an admirer of resident director Nikki Davis Jones’ work on stage, I was interested to see how she would fare directing rather than performing. No need to worry, as this production is polished, drilled and disciplined and yet still gives the impression of being as realistic and relaxed as the Greek island on which it is set.
Catherine Johnson’s wacky storyline is never going to win any literacy awards and yet somehow, she manages keep you guessing and to stir emotions, resulting in a massively uplifting, inspiring, heart-warming evening’s entertainment that even the most cynical musical theatre-phobe would enjoy. Together with theatre producer, Judy Craymer she has created a show which is set to run and run.
Single mom Donna and her only daughter Sophie own a run-down taverna under the beautiful Greek sunny skies, but struggle each day to make ends meet. Curious about her parentage, bride-to-be Sophie decides to invite three of Donna’s old flames to her wedding, in the hope that she can identify her real father.
The world-wide hit songs composed by the male contingency of Swedish supergroup ABBA reign supreme throughout the show, including Thank You For The Music; Honey, Honey; Dancing Queen; SOS; Knowing Me; Knowing You; Money, Money, Money and of course the title song to name but a few. Did I mention it is a jukebox musical? Well there are so many songs I could go on and on, and the audience knew every line.
As soon as you hear an ABBA song, the woes of the world seem to melt away, your toes begin to tap and the lyrics linger on your lips. They are, in short, unforgettable. But these are not easy songs to sing, having been originally written specifically for the exceptional voices and harmonies of Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, but naturally this outstanding cast rise to the challenge and more than carry them off.
Helen Hobson, though not the strongest vocalist, certainly captures the personality of wild child Donna, wringing every drop of comedy out of the script, while Rebecca Seale is uninhibited and amusing as Rosie.
Emma Clifford gives a stand-out performance and is sensationally sassy as Tanya and her number, Does Your Mother Know That You’re Out? with Pepper, played to perfection by Louis Stockil and the boys, is definitely a huge highlight of the show.
Lucy May Barker hits all the right notes as Sophie and together with Philip Ryan as Sky, they make the ideal young couple in love. Sweet.
Jon Boydon as Sam offers strong vocals and is perfectly cast as the handsome hero who brings some romance into Donna’s life, while Jamie Hogarth is the perfectly daft English gent as Harry and Christopher Hollis as Aussie, Bill Austin is funny and a master of the 'dad dancing'.
The whole production simply bursts with energy and happiness, courtesy of the fresh, vigorous choreography by Anthony Van Laast (MBE) executed by this young, strong ensemble, with dance highlights including Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and, at the end of act one, Voulez Vous? which is simply hypnotic.
Having previously seen the show at a much bigger venue, I really hoped that the current UK touring version would fit nicely into the more intimate setting of the Wolverhampton Grand and it does. Perfectly, in fact. It draws you in so far that you can almost smell the lemon trees and hear the crickets. The split set moves effortlessly to depict the different scenes and the clever movement of props by the cast is unobtrusive and slick. Add to this atmospheric lighting effects and the whole scene is very easy on the eye.
No musical is complete without an amazing band and these exceptional musicians romp through hit after hit with expert timing, admittedly aided by recorded tracks, but then how else would you create that distinctive ABBA sound?
A show-stopper of a finale with every single audience member on their feet dancing, singing and clapping along only goes to prove that Mamma Mia is one of the most popular, successful musicals ever written - and long may she reign.
So, I guess all that is left to say to this remarkable cast is My My, How Can I Resist You?
Mamma Mia! this show is a delight and Thank You For The Music.
Runs until February 24. Call 01902 429212 or visit www.grandtheatre.co.uk for tickets.