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Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia!

Sophie’s quest to discover the father she’s never known brings her mother face to face with three men from her distant romantic past on the eve of a wedding they’ll never forget.

Whatever age you are, you can’t help but have the time of your life at MAMMA MIA!

Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes including an interval.

Mamma Mia! Tickets

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Our review on Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia! at the Manchester Opera House - Wednesday 1st February 2023 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating

It’s a cold, icy, grey Manchester February day and yet I woke up with the excitement of someone going on holiday to a hot, dreamy island – because I knew that later that evening I was being transported, with my hand luggage of happiness, to a Greek Island.  Mamma Mia!  It’s here again!  And I have been bubbling over with excitement all day.  The music of ABBA has formed a huge part to the soundtrack of my own life, has forged (mainly bad) family jokes and routines (saying “Mam I’m ‘ere” when arriving at the parentals, jokingly turning the song off after ‘I’m nothing special, in fact, I’m a bit of a bore,’ because “We don’t want to listen if she’s boring,” or my dads staple Indian food order being renamed ‘Chiquitita’The point is, ABBA music is threaded into my bloodline, my heart.  It is home.



And upon arrival, listening to the chatter of an eager audience to be, whether it was in the  foyer, the queue for the merchandise stand (which was so bustling I didn’t manage to make the purchase I had my eye on god dang it), the bar – heck even the toilets – I wasn’t the only one who had white lycra, sequins, and platforms on my mind!  It somehow felt like a reunion of old friends, all there to celebrate the music that means something to us, the music that may be a wedding dance, remind us of our friends, our guaranteed dance floor filler, or our favourite karaoke classic.



Mamma Mia is technically a jukebox musical as its songs are all pre-existing ones, and whilst this terminology is sometimes seen as a slight, a swear word if you will, Mamma Mia has transcended such gumf, and indeed has arguably encouraged others to try and follow suit.  It has had international success, a film made out of the musical, a second follow up film made (which I pray one day will be turned into a stage show), has a core fan club and people who follow it all across the globe.  Creator and Producer Judy Craymer is inspiring.  Surrounding herself not only with the best people, she ensured that Benny & Bjorn were included in the creative process from the start, giving the whole show authenticity, class and kudos.         



If you have somehow escaped the phenomenon that is Mamma Mia, I want you to know that the rest of us aren’t angry, we’re not disappointed, we are just excited to introduce you to this feel good, serotonin sun drenched musical.  Set on a Greek Island, Donna lives with her daughter Sophie and runs a hotel – what’s left of it anyway, for it has seen better days.  But Sophie is getting married to Sky, and so of course the hotel needs a bit of a makeover.  That’s not Sophies biggest wedding headache though.  She wants her dad to walk her down the aisle, sounds simple enough.  Except Sophie has no idea who her dad is, and when she pours through her mums old diaries with her two best friends, she discovers not one, but three possible candidates!  So she sensibly goes to talk it all over with her mum…… if!! 



Sophie invites all three of them to the wedding, hoping they’ll intuit the undertone that she wants her dad there, and so the real slim shady will turn up.  The thing is, none of them know Sophie existed and so have no idea if they’re her dad, and certainly don’t pick up on her subtle subliminal message, so they all turn up – desperate to rekindle with the one and only Donna.  Donna freaks out and tries to avoid them all, which when they’re staying at your hotel on a small island is not the best plan, and so comedy, friendship, and love ensues.  There are lots of twists and turns along the way, we watch as Donna’s best friends get jiggy with surprise guests, are pursued by infatuated youngsters, and we celebrate with a wedding – but whose?


Mamma Mia blissfully starts with an overture!  Thank you!  These seem to be a dying breed but I love me a good overture, and when your music is ABBA – even better!  We are treated to a smorgasbord of hits as blue light dapples upon the curtain in ripples, instantly creating the sea vibe.  Curtain up, and Sophie is there, straight into ‘I Believe in Angels,’ sat in front of a typically white Greek style building.  This set proves to be as versatile as the wonderful cast.  Made of two pieces, it twists and turns itself into a variety of positions to create various parts of the hotel, the church, a beach bar and just about everything else that is needed.  The set is simplistic but so full of attention to detail, such as rust around the letter box, gorgeous blue doors set against the white to reflect the colours of the Greek flag, trees and fairy lights dropped from above to help dictate a location, vibe, or mood of a scene.  It certainly captures that laid back ambiance throughout and for those willing to suspend their disbelief, really does transport you to an idyllic Greek Island.  The stunning lighting plays a huge part in this too.  From an island disco / club scene, to a moonlit beach, the lights blend so subtly that it’s magic just happens and takes you to exactly where you need to be.  It is beautiful.



I’m genuinely not sure how to begin describing the performance given by Sara Poyzer (Assassins, Rutherford & Son) as Donna without sounding like a fangirl of the highest degree.  Poyzer is funny, funky, fierce and flippin’ brilliant!  Her interactions with every cast member are unique, creating a fully rounded character, making it utterly believable that three men who haven’t seen her in 20 years immediately returned to the island when beckoned.  And I need to stop and take a moment here to give a standing ovation for her rendition of ‘The Winner Takes It All,’ because I wanted to during the show, but the show is so fast paced I couldn’t.  What a masterclass in story telling!  That’s how it’s done.  The emotive response of the audience said it all.  Poyzer let us into Donna’s heart and soul with her struggle to explain to Sam how he broke her heart and why she now must protect it.  But as I said, her interactions with the cast come across so real and genuine, none more so than with Sarah Earnshaw (Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, April In Paris) as Tanya and Nicky Swift (Shirley Valentine, Les Mis) as Rosie.  These three together are so much fun and had the audience laughing time and time again.



 They have a freedom, a liberation about them and in songs such as ‘Chiquitita,’and ‘Dancing Queen,’ the camaraderie, strong female friendships, empowerment, and hilarious use of props shines through as the beating heart of this musical with a carefree abandonment.  The subtle expressions, nuances and moves performed by Earnshaw and Swift during these numbers whilst trying to coax a fraught Donna, are so brilliant, they can’t be underestimated in the value they bring to the performance.  Earnshaw’s Tanya is not only everything I wanted it to be, it was also what I never knew I needed it to be.  Strong, sophisticated, sassy and confident.  Capable of breaking you with a glance, yet saving you with a swinging hair dryer.  Her rendition of ‘Does Your Mother Know,’ got one of the biggest reactions from the audience, for she was in control the entire time with a power to be respected, instead of intimidated by, as is often seen when women are given any kind of power in theatre.  Swift gave a riotous performance of ‘Take A Chance On Me,’ and again was just so funny.  Her comic timing is spot on and she uses pause as a tool to entice you with anticipation.  Swift is such a generous performer that likeability radiates off her and makes you feel like Rosie is your own pal up there on stage.



The three potential dads are performed outstandingly by Richard Standing (Macbeth, Coronation Street) as Sam, Neal Craig (Jekyll & Hyde, founder member of 1623 Theatre Company) as Harry, and Phil Corbitt (Tempest, A Street Car Named Desire) as Bill.  Each has a clear cut character and they define them through what cannot be ignored as brilliant acting.  Acting can often be overlooked in a musical by the singing, dancing and general jazz handiness, but all must play an equal part and Standing, Craig, and Corbitt remind us of this.  Standing packs a punch with some really emotional scenes with both Donna and Sophie, Craig has us belly laughing at his escapades with Rosie, and Corbitt has a beautifully reminiscent and touching moment with Donna in ‘Our Last Summer.’



Jess Michaelmore (BBC Proms, Magic At The Musicals) and Christopher Foley (Hairspray, 42nd Street) as Sky have a wonderful chemistry and both really bring a youthful and care free island vibe to the stage with a combination of charm, enthusiasm and energy.  Michaelmore flourishes more and more as the show goes on, developing Sophie from someone who is a little lost, to knowing exactly who they are.  Jaden Oshenye (From Here To Eternity, The Bodyguard) is so energetic and exuberant as the love struck Pepper.  He box jumps his way into everyone’s hearts, and along with the likes of Tanisha Butterfield as Ali, Freya Humberstone as Lisa and Archie Flynn as Eddie, the younger half of the cast bring numbers like ‘Voulez-Vous’ to life with such a building tension of explosive energy that it penetrates into every audience member, allowing us to clap along, tap our toes and happily succumb to the luxury of an ABBA song.



With whopping hit after whopping hit, it is impossible to pick out highlights, and each song is so divine that you really have to take a moment just to appreciate the quality of music, the heart breaking honesty and storytelling of the lyrics and captivating hooks and beats woven into its melodies.  The crowd pleasing, ‘Mamma Mia’ allows this incredible cast to come together in perfect harmony, and it’s brilliantly timed beats see heads pop out of unexpected places to join it.  The sophisticated and stylised ‘Money, Money, Money,’ was fantastic at holding back and showing restraint in order to build itself up into choreographed heaven.  This was a personal favourite of mine with its Fosse style influences and intricate, staccato timings.  The nostalgically tear jerking ‘Slipping Through My Fingers,’ had me fighting back tears at its honest beauty and simplicity.  All the big hits are there, and just incase once isn’t enough, we are treated at the end to a mini concert of hits by Donna And The Dynamos which had the entire theatre on its feet, completely swept up in the music and partying like we didn’t have a care in the world, because in that moment, we didn’t.  Looking round, I saw every generation possible, smiling, singing, happy, all brought together by the music of ABBA and this sensational cast of Mamma Mia.  It was a moment of beauty and one I shall never forget.



Mamma Mia is also famous for having a trio of women lead the creatives, with producer Judy Craymer, book by Catherine Johnson and directed by Phyllida Lloyd.  The empowerment of women shines throughout the entire show, embracing our strengths, our abilities, our individualities.  It is stunning to watch cross generational friendships and relationships between these women standing strong and centre too, for though on the surface it may seem that the show is focused on romantic love between male and female, the real strength of love demonstrated is that between mother and daughter.  Second is the love between female friendships.  Then and only then does romantic love take its place.



I cannot recommend Mamma Mia enough because it just has something special, that je ne sais quoi (I did try to find the Greek translation here, but I’m sadly not that clever with languages).  When the film came out in 2008, I was training in Bristol with a bunch of drama folk and we descended on the cinema.  One member of our group was Cypriot and so we had a running commentary on the actual island they used to film as it was known to her.  Before we knew it, she had got everyone up in the cinema and we were literally dancing in the aisles.  Not one person complained, everyone united and we probably all had the most memorable cinema trip we’ve ever had.  Whilst I’m still in touch with the people from my training, I have no idea who those other folk were in the cinema that day, but for that moment in time, the music of ABBA united us all as one, and that sentiment is played out whenever Mamma Mia is performed on stage.  It unifies its audience, connects them for that moment in time, and that it is a beautiful thing.  So, treat yourself to a bit of musical theatre therapy.  Allow yourself to feel free, to daydream, to belt out some irresistible tunes with Donna And The Dynamo’s and remind yourself that friendship, family and love are the things that keep us wealthy and healthy.  I guess the ultimate question to capture how good this show is, and how much it feels like a warm hug, is, if given the chance, would I say yes to going again?  My answer?  “I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!”    




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