Mamma Mia ~ Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Mamma Mia stays at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until 24th February, book your tickets here: Wolverhampton Grand Theatre Box Office

Star rating: *****

Mamma Mia here I go again an it is glorious, I’m a huge fan of the show and indeed of Abba’s music and this exceptional piece of musical theatre ticks every box for me. It’s got a cast de force, a list of musical numbers which are instantly recognisable and have my feet tapping and lips synching. Plus with a basic set and a few trucks, we’re transported to Greece – what’s not to love? There’s eye-catching choreography which showcases a talented ensemble too.

The story follows a character called Sophie (played by the excellent triple threat, Lucy May Barker) who is on a mission to find her biological father having been raised by her mum, Donna (Helen Hobson). The reason for tracking down daddy? She’s getting married to the love of her life, Sky (Phillip Ryan) and wants the her father to walk her down the aisle. However, her mother’s diary from around the time of supposed conception cites that one of three men could be responsible for fathering the curious ‘child’. Therefore, Sophie resolves to invite Sam Carmichael (Jon Boydon), Harry Bright (Jamie Hogarth) and Bill Austin (Christopher Hollis) to her wedding in the hope of uncovering which one is the right candidate!

Cue much madcap hilarity as Sophie is reunited with her best friends and bridesmaids, Ali (Fia Houston-Hamilton) and Lisa (Blaise Colangelo) both of whom she reveals her plan to. Donna also has her best friends flying over for the occasion; man-eater Tanya (Emma Clifford) and Rosie (Rebecca Seale) who are just the sort of supportive friends you need when three of your ex fellars are suddenly staying in your Taverna. It’s an interesting journey to the altar, punctuated with classic and well-timed Abba hits, from ‘One of Us’ to ‘Dancing Queen’ to a trippy rendition of ‘Under Attack’ and there’s also my personal favourite ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’.

Helen Hobson is resplendent as Donna, she’s maternal, skittish, witty and game for a laugh – has excellent rapport with her mates and extremely believable chemistry with Sam. Emma Clifford is a laugh a minute as Tanya, she’s elegant then she’s throwing herself into silly antics with gay abandon and ‘Does Your Mamma Know’ was one of the many highlights of the show. A standing ovation must go to Rebecca Seale who stepped in to understudy the role of Rosie, she brought great life and soul to the life and soul of the party, stunning vocal ability from Seale too. Jamie Hogarth made me smile as the somewhat uptight Harry, his strong vocals lent themselves superbly to the hits and he brought a wonderfully awkward quality to the character too. Christopher Hollis was equally engaging as Aussie Bill Austin, his scenes with Rosie were brilliant, a superb pairing. Jon Boydon put real heart into the role of Sam, the feelings the character has for Donna were palpable. All three dads were notably exceptional with effortlessly natural vocals which never waivered.

If you’ve seen it before, go again, if you’ve never seen it… GO! It’s the ultimate feel-good musical and you I know you won’t be disappointed, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!

Mamma Mia ~ Milton Keynes Theatre

Mamma Mia is running at Milton Keynes Theatre until 20 May 2017, book tickets here: Milton Keynes Theatre

Full cast here: Mamma Mia Touring Cast List

Star rating: *****

Mamma Mia is a smash hit West End musical and its easy to see why, I’ve seen it a few times before in the west end – many years ago, now. Therefore I was keen to see how it would work as a touring show. It works a treat is my answer, from the moment the orchestra strike up with the ever popular Abba medley that helps to get the audience all geared up, to the glittering finale that has the whole auditorium on their feet. It’s a show that has stood the test of time and continues to be a delight on its UK tour.

If you’re not already familiar with the story, it’s a very simple and somewhat cheesy plot which makes the most of inserting Abba songs into every possible moment – extremely appropriately too. Girl has met boy, is going to marry him and wants to know who her dad is so she can invite him to her wedding. Girl gets hold of mum’s diary and finds out that there are three possibilities based on her mum’s promiscuous past during a certain short space of time in the summer back in the 70’s. All three potential dads are invited and mayhem ensues, with many surprises along the way. Will the wedding go ahead and who will give the bride away?

Sophie (the daughter) is played by Lucy May Barker who packs energy and verve into her performance, she has an overt chemistry with Phillip Ryan who plays her fiancé, Sky. Lay All Your Love On Me is a number where they really grasped the opportunity to put everything into their performance. In equal measure, Barker plays out a very believable relationship with Helen Hobson who plays her mum, Donna. Hobson has stunning vocal ability and put her own stamp on Donna and there are some hilarious scenes with her two cronies, Tanya (Emma Clifford) and Rosie (Gillian Hardie).  Dancing Queen, Chuiquitita and of course, Super Trooper – the three are a trio to be reckoned with. Clifford is outstanding as the stuck up, man hungry Tanya. It never fails to make me smile when the character loosens up when she’s cheering up her friend during Chuiquitita, but that scene was laugh out loud funny in all the right ways. Hardie is my favourite Rosie, I’ve seen a few Rosies including Julie Walters in the movie version. What I felt that Hardie brought to her interpretation was a perfect balance of humour, empathy and no-nonsense. Her energy in creating the bumbling pal drew my attention to her even when the spotlight wasn’t on her. The harmonies that the trio produced were also quite breath-taking and I felt I could have listened to the three of them all night in their own concert! Stepping up to the plate and making as much of an impression as the girls, were Jon Boydon as Sam Carmichael, Christopher Hollis as Bill Austin and Jamie Hogarth as Harry Bright. I felt that the relationship that develops between the three of them was explored in slightly more depth, or perhaps the considered performances given by the boys provided that insight.

The trademark big numbers such as Money, Money, Money, Voulez-Vous and Mamma Mia were all as spectacular as I remember, eye-catching, slick choreography with flawless interchanges. The set almost appears to be so basic for such a large scale musical, yet you are instantly transported to Greece as it sets the tone and atmosphere immediately.

I always leave this one wanting to go back and see it again there and then – this occasion was no different. You don’t have to be a fan of Abba’s music to take this show to your heart, the songs punctuate the story and they lend themselves to musical theatre, superbly. Don’t miss the opportunity to catch this on tour, you’ll jig in your seat, battle the urge to sing along and be on your feet by the finale, if not before. This has to be one of my all-time favourite show, it was fantastic to be reminded of that.

Photography by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg




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