Mamma Mia has just finished its run at Northampton Derngate and Tré Ventour reviews the hit show here…
Set on a Greek island, the story acts as a landscape to a number of ABBA hits. Twenty year-old Sophie (Lucy May Barker) is about to be married. However, when she’s reading her mother’s secret diary on one occasion, she realises that one of three men could be her father. Inviting all three to her wedding without telling her mother Donna (Helen Hobson), Sophie thinks she’ll know her father as soon as he arrives. Donna doesn’t know. But with her friends Rosie and Tanya, she holds her resolve as the winner takes it all.
Based on the smash hit songs by ABBA, this musical has come to the Royal & Derngate as part of its national tour. Having previously seen the film starring Meryl Streep (Out of Africa) and Amanda Seyfried (Les Misérables), I pretty much knew the story.
Mamma Mia! has a huge enthusiastic cast. And when it comes down to it, this musical is a good time at the theatre. Take the kids. Take the aunties and uncles. Take the grandparents. It’s entertaining and fun folic… but of no real substance. I’m one of the few people who likes the film adaptation, regardless of it being a bad film. The film is so bad that it’s good.
This piece of musical theatre is consistently inconsistent throughout. Lucy May Barker as Sophie has moments of greatness. Flashes of brilliance even. The bits that were fantastic were when we’re witness to drama (not the musical bits). Even though the songs were enjoyable to listen to, I take serious issue with singing in American accents. Whilst the standard dialogue was uttered with English accents, the ensemble songs was sung with American accents (or so it seemed to my ear).
Helen Hobson was a joy to watch as Donna (miles ahead of Meryl). The three dads: Sam, Harry and Bill felt real. Jon Boydon, Jamie Hogarth and Christopher Hollis were sensational (despite the obvious hyper-sexualised Sam). Jamie Hogarth had nuances of Colin Firth (Harry in the film adaptation). But he brought a charm to the role; uncanny to the told tales I’ve heard about Errol Flynn and his time at the Royal Theatre during the early twentieth century. Christopher Hollis as Bill was the obvious comic relief but I didn’t mind because he did it well without making it feel forced (or cringey).
**Insert token topless men here**. I didn’t much care for that at all but women have been subject to the same thing in films and such for centuries. All that flesh flashing didn’t seem necessary to the plot and looked more of a crowd-pleaser than anything else.
On a brighter note, I greatly enjoyed Gillian Hardie as Rosie and Emma Clifford as Tanya. They were fun to watch, and their songs were great. They were animated and engaging; embodying everything the musical theatre genre is and should be. Substance over style, not vice versa as the stereotype suggests.
I despise Sky (Dominic Cooper) in the film and the same sentiment happened in this live production too (Philip Ryan as Sky). Both versions of these characters are arguably miscast. Worse still, in musicals, members of the main cast should not be entirely forgettable. But the lighting mesmerised. Sound was on point. Costume design, makeup and hair were stunning, a personification of the Me Decade for sure.
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, Mamma Mia! is Hollywood through and through. More style than substance with elements that seemed plastic, but nonetheless entertaining.
I suffered, but I was happy about it.