Review: Mamma Mia! at Mayflower Theatre

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Phenomenal

Mamma Mia! is full of laughter, sadness, and a whole lot of ABBA. You should definitely see this musical if ever the chance arises.

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The story of Mamma Mia! is familiar to most, with the release of its movie adaptation Mamma Mia! (2008) bringing its joy into most homes. However, this jukebox musical far outperforms its film counterpart; the minimal set transported you to so many locations, the comedy was even funnier, and the characters even more lovable. Everyone should certainly see Mamma Mia! at least once in their life, with Mayflower Theatre a wonderful venue allowing this show to shine as it always does.

Musically, there can be no complaints about this ABBA-infused show. It was opened with a musical montage of all the songs that would occur throughout; these short segments letting the audience get into the ABBA-mood, and know what to expect. ‘Thank You For the Music’ was a song that helped set the scene of this movie too. Being the moment Sophie first meets her three fathers, it has a great mix of harmonies between her, Harry, Bill and Sam that that already indicates the role these three men will share and hold in her life. It has to be said that the whole cast had remarkable voices. Sophie (Emma Mullen) in particular had amazing vocals, which were most expressed in ‘The Name of the Game’. Donna’s (Sharon Sexton) voice too was a standout, with the swift transition between ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ and ‘The Winner Takes It All’ perfectly showcasing these talents, whilst also making for a very teary-eyed audience. Even walking about the hotel, Donna iconically mumbled the lyrics to ‘Fernando’ – we love you Cher.

The pace of the show can’t be faulted either, as it smoothly changed from comedy, to melancholy, all interspersed with having a great time. This was helped with the impeccable casting, as characters perfectly fit with the well-loved film characters most already know. In Act 1, characters and the Sophie wedding/three dads narrative were set up with a mix of dialogue and singing, for those unfamiliar with the show/film. However, by Act 2, when characters and storyline had been grounded, the cast pretty much moved from song to song with just a line or two (if any), which allowed even more ABBA songs to shine. This meant there was never a dull moment, with quick song and set changes – helped by the minimal set of just two halves to a house/the hotel. Though minimal in objects, this set still managed to transport the audience from on the beach, to the hotel courtyard, Sophie’s bedroom and various other locations, and it was all completely believable. During performances the cast also managed to fill the stage, ensuring you could look at any part of the stage and still find something to entertain you. This especially shone through in group dances, where all cast would move as an impressive unit. Most notably, this skill could be seen in ‘Money Money Money’, ‘Under Attack’, ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’, ‘Voulez Vous’, and the ending sequence.

Both lighting and costuming were amazing throughout Mamma Miatoo. As any fans of ABBA or the Mamma Mia! movie will be aware of the bright, floaty and flamboyant nature of these characters clothing, but seeing it in-the-flesh made it even more beautiful. From the many iconic looks of Donna and the Dynamos, to the three dads eccentric looks at the end, all costuming was impeccable. Even smaller moments and characters kept up the costuming standards, such as Donna’s classic dungarees, and the girl at Sophie’s hen do who wore a stunning full denim cowgirl look – everyone always looked great. One more rather impressive costuming moment that has to be mentioned was Donna’s dress change at the wedding. As it’s decided that Sophie will no longer be getting married, but Donna will, Donna vanishes off stage for what has to be less than 30 seconds and somehow manages to change from a pink tight dress to a white tight dress; the speed of which was breathtaking. As for the lighting, much like the minimal set, the use of lighting was subtle but subversive. A blue-hue was set on the background of the stage frequently to transport us all to the small Greek, which certainly worked. During the party scenes,  twinkly lighting was hung from the ceiling of the set onto the cast, whilst similar lights were projected around the audience. As the eery ‘Under Attack’ dream scene unfolded, both smoke and green lighting were used very effectively to transport us into this dream state along with Sophie.

One last thing that has to be spoken about Mamma Mia! is how well comedy was used throughout, portrayed mostly through Donna, Tanya, and Rosie. Tanya and Rosie felt very familiar to Eddie and Patsy from Ab Fab, with Rosie’s (Nicky Swift) ‘Take a Chance on Me’ and Tonya’s (Helen Anker) ‘Does Your Mother Know’ two of the most comical songs. Stage directions aided this comedy well, for instance when Rosie combed Tonya’s hair, armpits, and then genital area, or in ‘Dancing Queen’ when they sang “only 17” with Rosie and Donna simultaneously pulling back Tonya’s face and lifting her boobs. Props were used to effectively gain laughs too, such as when Donna found out Sophie’s dads had arrived, greeting them (Sam in particular) rather aggressively with her drill. Dialogue also gained a lot of laughs, one stand out moment being before ‘Does Your Mother Know’ when Tonya states “I’m old enough to be your mother”, and her young admirer Pepper jokes “well, you can call me… Oedipus”.

Mamma Mia! was a stand-out musical theatre show in every sense of the word: the cast was so well suited to their roles; the songs got everyone dancing, crying and laughing; the set, lighting and costuming made for an impressive, immersive and believable experience; and the comedy throughout was hilarious. For anyone yet to see Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’ amazing musical, I would recommend it in a heartbeat.

Mamma Mia! is on at the Mayflower Theatre until 29th February, and you can purchase your tickets here.

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