Mamma Mia – Review
As a family Christmas present, we bought our Daughters and Mother tickets to see Mamma Mia at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. I remember as a child listening to ABBA’s greatest hits with my parents, so I knew that the show would be ideal for my Mother. However, strangely my daughters 12 and 8 knew many of the songs too. Before we knew it January 22nd 2020, came around and it was time to see, what all the fuss was about!
Mamma Mia the Musical
Mamma Mia has been stunning audiences for the past 20 years and it seems to be still going strong. With ticket sales as strong as ever and the tour returning to theatres, it must be doing something right. Does a show based around a collection of pop hits stand on its own or is it the ABBA factor that is pulling it along?
The story is based around two central characters, mother and daughter Sophie and Donna. After reading through her mother’s diary, Sophie discovers that he father (who she’s never known) could be one of three men. Not wanting to never know who he was, she decides to invite all three of her “Dads” to her wedding. It would be a little less awkward if, she’d told Donna beforehand, but what’s the worst that could happen?
Donna Sheridan (Sharon Sexton), has single-handedly brought up her daughter Sophie on a greek Island. Working hard at keeping her greek taverna/guest house running and bringing in the money, money, money! Oh yes, I’m sure your well aware that the ABBA sings are interwoven throughout the story (or is it the other way around). Sharon’s performance was outstanding and fulfilled the part perfectly. She totally balances up the singing of hits but blending them into storytelling.
There is a rule of threes that often pops up in productions. In Mamma Mia, Donna and her two friends (Tanya & Rosie) used to be in a band called Donna and the Dynamoes. They too have been invited on to the island for the wedding. The characterisation of these two plays a good dynamic in comparison. Tanya is tall, glamorous and sassy. Rosie is down to earth, lovable and very funny.
I can’t deny that there are several moments that the introduction to a song is a full-on cheese board! One scene that stands out is when Donna is freaking out about her ex-partners being on the island. She runs off and hides in her best friends bedroom, dives under the covers and they ask… “Chiquitita, tell me what’s wrong?”. However, the song introduction also had its comical benefit with “Take a chance on me”.
Sophie Sheridan (Emma Mullen), has perfect vocals that are crystal clear. Her casting as an optimistic, in love, life adventurers is en point. Her husband to be Sky (Toby Miles) in contrast doesn’t have as big a part in the show as it is mainly about the Sheridans. However, he has definitely been cast to look the part with muscles, chiselled jaw and surf dude blond hair.
Mamma Mia UK Tour Stage Setting
A stage show is pulled together from many angles, but for me, one of the important parts is the set design. Even though the actors can transport you anywhere through storytelling, the staging is key to fixing that concept.
Mamma Mia’s set is a very simplistically design that doesn’t change that much. At first, I was slightly disappointed, but as it evolved I fully backed it. The simplistic whitewashed / rendered walls form the streets of the Greek island, the bedrooms, the Taverna etc. Made from two sections of curved walls, it was rotated and placed like Tetris to change the scene. The blue waved backdrops clearly giving a concept of the Mediterranean sea.
The lighting design is very important lifting the plain white walls adding blasts of colour that reflect ABBA’s music so well. Finally, the lighting rig plays a huge part at the end of the show and adds the perfect closing vibe.
With over 22 ABBA hits in the show, you can’t help but leave singing a few. This was also true for my two young ones. Although during the show you’re advised to not sing or stand up and dance, for some this seemed a challenge. Behind me, I heard “whisper singing”! Slightly distracting hence the request for silence. However, for the finale after the curtain call, it turns in to a free for all. Most people were up dancing, even my mother rocked her walking stick like she was at a concert. We all loved the show and it seemed to appeal for all our age groups, but there are a couple of slightly fruity moments in the story.