The blue carpet has been rolled out in Edinburgh for the arrival of MAMMA MIA! at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Before the show can begin, the audience is given an announcement to warn those of us with a nervous disposition that there will be plenty of white lyrcra and platform boots in tonight’s performance. That’s when you know the party has really come to town.
MAMMA MIA is without a doubt one of the best jukebox musicals out there. Based around the timeless ABBA back catalogue of songs, it scores even more credit for having Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus involved in the production of the show from the very beginning.
If you haven’t seen the show, or the film adaptation that was out in 2008, then you should know the plot centres around Sophie’s quest to discover the identity of her father before she gets married. So on the eve of her wedding, she invites her three possible dads to the big day without her mum knowing. What happens next is a heart-warming adventure set to a soundtrack of songs you can’t help but fall in love with all over again.
We first see Lucy May Barker who plays Sophie as she opens the show with “I Have A Dream”. It’s a role she slips into perfectly as she plays a sweet and loveable character that is just looking to find out who she really is. It’s not long before we meet her husband-to-be and real life boyfriend Philip Ryan who plays Sky. It’s a role that comes with many whistles from the female members of the audience every time he takes off his shirt. However, it’s not just about his looks and the two provide a great routine to “Lay All Your Love On Me” alongside the male ensemble, dressed in wetsuits and flippers, as he heads off for his stag party.
Sara Poyzer who plays Donna, and her two best friends Rosie (Jacqueline Braun) and Tanya (Emma Clifford) provide some of the highlights of the whole show. They have so much chemistry, that it’s hard to believe they really haven’t been friends all these years. The trio comes together on hilariously staged “Chiquitita” and classic dance floor anthem “Dancing Queen”, both of which are stand out performances in the first act.
In the second half, Poyzer is really given the chance to let her voice shine. Her rendition of “Winner Takes It All” is powerful and heartfelt, and it’s not hard to believe there a few members of the audience wiping tears from their eyes by the end of it.
It’s not just about the women though, there are three fantastic male characters who have been lured to the island unaware their daughter is waiting for them. Richard Standing as Sam Carmichael, Tim Walton as Harry Bright aka head banger and Christopher Hollis as Bill Austin all give brilliantly funny performances. Their characters are so diverse, yet slot into the story perfectly and their ensemble performance of “Voulez-Vous” is nothing short of brilliant.
The set might be a little on the sparse side and some of the costumes could do with an update, Sophie and Sky look like they’re going on a safari when they set off travelling, but tonight’s performance proves that MAMMA MIA! still has what it takes to compete with some of the newer musicals on the scene.
The show ends with an encore of “Mamma Mia”, “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo” and everyone in the theatre jumps to their feet singing the words at the top of their voices. It’s hard to find any reason not to see MAMMA MIA! while it’s in town. So head down to the Playhouse this month and be transported to a Greek island for the best feel-good show you’ll catch in Edinburgh this Christmas.
Review by Sarah Moyes