Mamma Mia! Bristol Review
The Bristol Hippodrome
Friday 25th March – Saturday 7th May 2016
The first ever MAMMA MIA! UK Tour is premiering at The Bristol Hippodrome from Friday 25th March to Saturday 7 May 2016 and the Practically Perfect team (comprising my Mother, youngest two sons and myself) couldn’t wait to take our seats at Tuesday’s performance.
I was a little girl in 1974 when Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo”. Those were the days when we all sat down to watch television together as a family after a full day of free-range play, getting muddy on the building site near our house (before ‘health and safety’ had been invented) or pressing petals from Dad’s rambling roses to produce some dubious potion we proudly preferred to as perfume. Abba’s music was spot on as it appealed to Mum and Dad as much as it did to us and how could you not fall in love with Agnatha and Anni-Frid’s sparkling eyes, dazzling costumes and that glamorous blue eyeshadow which we tried so hard (and failed so spectacularly) to emulate….?
Yes, Abba was a big part of our youth and one of the most successful bands ever, so why did producer Judy Craymer come up with the vision of a musical which wasn’t about the group at all, nor does it even refer to them? Instead she cherry-picked the band’s timeless songs and wove them into a musical tapestry of family, friendship and romance. But the evidence suggests that she wasn’t crazy after all. To date, Mamma Mia! has been seen by more than 54 million people in 49 productions in 14 different languages. The film is the highest worldwide-grossing live-action musical film of all time and one in four households in the UK has the DVD, which is now Amazon UK’s biggest-selling DVD ever!
Mamma Mia Story Synopsis
Mamma Mia is a multi-generational tale of friendships and romance unfolding on a Greek island paradise, where independent mother and businesswoman, Donna (Sara Poyzer), has juggled running the taverna she’s built while single-handedly bringing up her daughter Sophie (Lucy May Barker). On the eve of Sophie’s wedding, before she ties the knot with her sweetheart Sky, the twenty-year-old wants her father to walk her down the aisle but unfortunately, she doesn’t know who he is. Unbeknown to her Mother she’s secretly invited three paternal possibles to her wedding, hoping that she’ll know her real father as soon as she sets eyes upon him. Unfortunately for Sophie, life neither on nor off the stage is that straightforward. When Sam Carmichael (Richard Standing), Harry Bright (Tim Walton) and Bill Austin (Christopher Hollis) arrive on the island she has no idea which one is Daddy and so the chaos begins!
Mamma Mia! Highlights
We have a fair idea of what we’re in for when we arrive at the Bristol Hippodrome: we oldies know the music like the back of our hands and my boys have been busy revisiting the film – yes, even the seven-year-old has seen it before, but they like to be prepared and enjoy this particular homework!
A medley of popular abba songs opens the show coupled with a serious announcement warning us of impending platform boots and white lycra and the giggling begins.
I love the way the scene changes are carried out – a simple revolving structure transports us from the taverna courtyard into bedroom scenes or to the shore. Villagers pick up chairs and set them at tables where they then sit in a manner which feels casual and not staged.
The choreography, lighting and acting by Donna and the ensemble in Money, Money, Money blow me away
“Chiquitita” is great fun with Donna’s two British friends, Rosie (Jacqueline Braun) and Tanya (Emma Clifford) from their old band “Donna and the Dynamos” being silly and trying to cheer her up but the comical highlight of the evening (based on both our opinion and the audience’s ‘laughometer’) is Jacqueline Braun’s rendition of “Take A Chance On Me”, whilst chasing her romantic target around the set.
The stag boys’ flipper dance during “Lay all Your Love on Me” is hilariously ridiculous and I have to warn you to look away if you think you might be offended by the sight of the funny, gymnastically talented, muscular, topless young male chorus!
The end of act one is powerful and chaotic with the stags and the ‘Dads’ having crashed the hen do. The frenzied party atmosphere of “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” and “Voulez-Vous” takes us dramatically to the interval.
The second act opens with a full-on, funny bedroom dream sequence, complete with synchronised swimmers – a welcome addition to the film.
I enjoy Harry Bright singing the romantic song, “Our Last Summer” to Donna, especially poignant as she was the first and last girl he ever loved.
The finale is everything a finale should be. Great songs, fun outfits, energetic dancing and, from our position in the stalls, everyone I can see is standing up, smiling and clapping along.
There’s a little mild bad language and there are a fair few sexual allusions. The young women are laddish, dry humping and groping each other’s boobs from the start and young Pepper ramps up the sexual stakes with his advances on Tanya during “Does Your Mother Know?”. But in place of actual sex scenes, we hear talk of “dot,dot, dots” – the way they used to do in the olden days!
I really want this to be a family show as the children enjoy the story and music, so on this occasion, I’m prepared to turn a blind eye to the moments I’d rather not let my seven and nine years see and hope they don’t notice!
Would I take them again? Yes, of course. Ok, so young boys may not be the primary target audience but they love it!
The music is a little loud at times making it hard to hear all the voices and I find it strange that Sam sings “Knowing me, knowing you” as a solo. It’s so beautiful as a group song because of all the harmonies and different voices coming in, so I keep hoping someone else will join in with him, but they don’t.
If like most of us, you’ve watched the film, you’ll find plenty of similarities but also enough differences to make the show feel fresh and funny. I relate to this stage show much more than I do to the film because of its Britishness and the slightly more logical way the story’s told. In place of the over-the-top American cringeworthy humour are genuinely funny scenes. I enjoyed the film but I’d choose the show over the DVD any day.
Lucy May Barker acts Sophie wonderfully. As you would expect in a production of this calibre, the whole cast is strong, but it’s the mature women, Donna and her friends, who really steal the show. Sarah Poyzer’s powerful singing and acting really hit the spot.
There’s lots of action, world-famous pop music, an interesting plot, great acting, voices, dancing and choreography. In fact, Mamma Mia is as sparkly as Tanya’s silver platforms, as funny as Rosey’s cheeky smile and as lively as Donna’s swinging bell bottoms.
If you fancy a fun, girly night out that’ll leave you smiling and with Abba tunes in your head for days after, go and join the party!
Great show, highly recommended.
Cast and Credits
Sara Poyzer plays Donna Sheridan.
Jenna Lee James plays Alternate Donna.
Jacqueline Braun plays Rosie.
Emma Clifford plays Tanya.
Richard Standing plays Sam Carmichael.
Tim Walton plays Harry Bright.
Christopher Hollis plays Bill Austin.
Lucy May Barker plays Sophie Sheridan.
Phillip Ryan plays Sky.
Micha Richardson plays Ali.
Blaise Colangelo plays Lisa.
Louis Stockil plays Pepper.
Sam Robinson plays Eddie.
Completing the cast are Matthew Ronchetti, Jacob Fisher, Jennifer Harding, Stuart Hickey, Linda Holmgren, Rachel Ivy, Matt Kennedy, Georgie Leatherland, Mark Peachey, David Ribi, Ellie Rutherford, Parisa Shahmir, Michael James Stewart, Hannah Varnham, Rhodri Watkins, Jamie Wilkin and Dawn Williams.
With music & lyrics by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus, MAMMA MIA! is written by Catherine Johnson, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast. The production is designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Andrew Bruce & Bobby Aitken, and musical supervision, additional material & arrangements by Martin Koch.
Mark Hilton is Resident Director.
The MAMMA MIA! UK Tour is produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East & Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal and NGM.
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DISCLOSURE: WE RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW.
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