When you experience any form of entertainment – whether it be a novel, a film, a play, whatever – you enter into an agreement in which you promise that, momentarily, you will suspend all predisposed ideas of reality in order to fully immerse yourself into this fantasy world that is warped by the creators’ interpretation.
As far as musicals are concerned, that specific point of view is all the more necessary to appreciate this weird reality where people suddenly burst into song and dance when simple words are no longer sufficient in expressing themselves – and this notion is compulsory if you are to enjoy Mamma Mia.
For those who somehow haven’t at least seen the 2008 film adaptation, Mamma Mia is set on the eve of Sophie’s wedding day on the idyllic Greek island she and her mother, Donna, call home. But Sophie has invited three men that might be her father to the wedding – and, unfortunately, Donna’s relationships with these men didn’t end well.
”The energy and love for music that runs through the core of this musical is contagious”
With Abba’s hit songs weaved into the story, this is a complete joyride from start to finish – that is, if you’re a fan of the Eurovision-winning 70s Swedish band. Even if you’re not (in which case, this might not be the best show to watch), the energy and love for music that runs through the core of this musical is contagious – you can’t help but indulge in the whimsy of this world in which Greek locals (including, but not limited to, nuns, chess players and snorkel-wearing young men) randomly run onto the stage and sing their hearts out.
”Georgina Castle, who took on the lead character of Sophie as the role’s first cover, was superb, managing to hold her own against theatre veteran Linzi Hateley”
The acting is wonderful too. It’s almost as if the cast are aware of the kitsch-yet-lovable tone of the show, and yet they ask the audience to look past that and throw themselves wholeheartedly into the show. Georgina Castle, who took on the lead character of Sophie as the role’s first cover, was superb, managing to hold her own against theatre veteran Linzi Hateley, who’s portrayal of Donna was emotionally wrought and wonderfully comedic in equal measure.
Personally, however, I found that Mazz Murray and Jo Napthine stole the show. Playing Tanya and Rosie – the Dynamos of “Donna and the Dynamos” – respectively, they were absolutely hilarious. Some of the best moments in the show were the numbers “Does Your Mother Know” – in which Tanya fends off a much younger man’s advances – and “Take a Chance on Me”, when Rosie asks one of Sophie’s potential fathers to go out with her. Both of these numbers follow two of the most heart-breaking moments of the show, and so work as comic relief to great effect.
”The design was superb, with the sets for the whole show made up of the same few walls, just decorated differently – and the cast shifted them with such efficiency that the scenes blended seamlessly into each other”
Of course, the crew deserve as much praise as the cast. The design was superb, with the sets for the whole show made up of the same few walls, just decorated differently – and the cast shifted them with such efficiency that the scenes blended seamlessly into each other. The orchestra pumped out music that was fuelled with an infectious energy; by the time the cast made their bows, and repeated the songs “Mamma Mia”, “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo”, most of the audience were on their feet, singing and dancing along.
While it may not be the most ground-breaking, innovative musical, it’s impossible not to enjoy yourself. If you’re after a West End show full of passion, great music and comedy, you can’t go wrong with Mamma Mia.
8/10 – Feel-good fun