Mamma Mia! review at Bristol Hippodrome – ‘a knockout’
Mamma Mia! is about to celebrate its 17th birthday in the West End, and remains a globally unstoppable force with new non-replica productions opening this year in Reykjavík, Panama City and Lima. The international touring edition of the show has previously played in British cities outside London, but now the first bespoke UK/Irish tour has been launched, based on the West End original, and it’s a knockout.
The show has spawned any number of dismal knock-off jukebox imitators that folded songs by Queen, Rod Stewart, the Spice Girls and countless others into new musicals, but Mamma Mia! still towers over the rest. Thanks to Catherine Johnson’s witty book and Phyllida Lloyd’s vibrant production, it’s an irresistibly silly, sexy and tuneful rites of passage story about an expat mother on a Greek island, her twenty year old daughter, friendship and identity.
Best of all, Abba’s songs – which are perfect miniature expressions of feeling, emotion and uplift – seemingly lend themselves naturally to theatricalisation, though in fact it takes a great deal of craft to make them work so well.
Then there’s the energy, punch and sheer joy of the cast in putting them across so freshly, not least Sara Poyzer’s powerfully sung performance as Donna, the mother with a past, three men from which pay an unexpected call on the day her daughter is getting married.
The touring edition also fields truthful, witty performances from Emma Clifford and Jacqueline Braun as her best friends, and Tim Walton, Christopher Hollis and Richard Standing as her returning former suitors. The younger generation are generously endowed with vitality (the girls) and muscle (the boys), led by Lucy May Barker as the daughter and Phillip Ryan as her husband-to-be.