Touring – reviewed at Edinburgh Playhouse
Reviewer: Martin Gray
How can we resist you? The winner takes it all at the Edinburgh Playhouse, as the Mamma Mia! tour arrives for an extended run over the festive season.
On a tiny island off the coast of Greece, Sophie is about to get married. She knows that’s what she wants, but she’s not sure she knows who she is. Raised by her fiercely independent mother Donna, Sophie doesn’t know the identity of her father. But Donna’s diary, made over the course of one wild summer 21 years earlier, reveals that there are three suspects. And without telling them why, or informing her mother, Sophie has invited them to the wedding…
Mamma Mia! is a musical whodunit, but it’s not the mystery Agatha Christie would write – nobody dies. Indeed, everyone has a wonderful time. Sure, there are a few stressful moments for Donna, Sophie and tragically named fiancé Sky, but they’re all accompanied by favourite Abba hits, so how bad can life be?
Since Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’ superior jukebox musical was last in Edinburgh we’ve had the big screen version and it’s a delight to be reminded of how great the show is with a cast able to carry a tune without a bucket.
Chief among them are Sara Poyzer as feisty Donna, who isn’t great at a convincing Northern accent, but boy, can she own an Abba number. Whether it’s a ballad (Slipping Through My Fingers) or a belter (The Winner Takes It All), Poyzer is perfection. She also plays well with others, including potential dad Harry – the sweetest man in Creation as played by Tim Walton – on Our Last Summer; and the man who left her, Richard Standing’s Sam (SOS).
The vital relationship, with Sophie, convinces, Poyzer having great chemistry with Lucy May Barker, who also knows her way around a song. She even manages to make the rather cloying I Have a Dream not just bearable, but lovely.
Christopher Hollis (Bill), Richard Standing (Sam) and Tim Walton (Harry) . Photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
There’s a joke in our house going back to the days we watched X Factor – an Abba Week would be programmed, the young wannabes would murder great songs and Simon Cowell and co would say how tough Abba numbers are to sing. It’s not true – if you have not just the tonsils but also the emotional intelligence to put the Seventies classics across. And the cast of Mamma Mia! have both in spades; there’s not an off-note in this touring production.
The hits are adaptable, lending themselves not just to familiar renditions but able to be stretched to carry the story along, as with Jacqueline Braun and Richard Hollis’s hilarious take on Take a Chance on Me, or Braun and Emma Clifford’s quirky Chiquitita. Oh, and there’s extra interest for Scottish audiences in that Sky is played by talented local lad Phillip Ryan, one of the many buff young chaps in the show thoroughly objectified by Catherine Johnson’s amusing book. Tut.
As for the ensemble, they can do it all – friends of the happy couple one minute, Greek islanders the next and as nimble with the sceneshifting as they are with the choreography. They really come into their own in Money, Money, Money and the surprisingly dramatic Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!, which sees Sophie confront her maybe-Dads one by one during a wild night at her mother’s taverna.
Mamma Mia! is a treat from quiet beginning to megamix end, proving that festive period productions don’t have to have snow – and you can’t get much further from the stuff than a Greek island – to put you in a magical mood.
The simple village set allied to smart lighting design evokes Greece even better than the impressive tans, the dancing is lively and the live orchestra is both tight and bright. You won’t be taking a chance if you buy a ticket to Mamma Mia! – it’s a dead cert for a terrific time.
Running time: Two hours 40 minutes, including interval
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
Tuesday 29 November 2016 – Saturday 7 January 2017.
Daily, not Sun: 7.30pm. Matinees Weds & Sat: 2.30pm.
Christmas shows: Fri 23 Dec: 4pm & 8pm; Sat 24: 2.30pm only;
Extra 2.30pm matinees: Thurs 1, Tue 27, Fri 30 Dec, Thurs 5 Jan.
Tickets and booking details: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/mamma-mia/edinburgh-playhouse/
Tour Website: www.mamma-mia.com/uk-tour/
MAMMA MIA! on tour:
Tue 29 Nov 2016 – Sat 7 Jan 2017
0844 871 3014
MAMMA MIA! on tour 2017:
Tue 17 Jan – Sat 25 Feb
Tue 28 Feb – Sat 25 March
01603 63 00 00
Tue 28 March – Sat 15 April
08448 11 21 21
Tue 18 – Sat 29 April
0844 871 7649
Tue 2 – Sat 20 May
Milton Keynes Theatre
Tue 30 May – Sat 8 July
0844 848 2700
Tue 11 – Sat 29 July
The Marlowe Theatre
Tue 1 – Sat 12 August
0844 576 3000
Tue 15 Aug – Sat 3 Sept
01273 290 131
Tue 19 Sept – Sat 14 Oct
His Majesty’s Theatre
Tue 17 Oct – Sat 11 Nov
0844 871 3022
Tue 14 – Sat 25 Nov
0844 871 3020