Mamma Mia!

Dec 1 2016 | By More

★★★★★   How can I resist you?

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 29 Nov 2016 – Sat 7 Jan 2017
Review by Martin Gray

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.

Sara Poyzer (Donna Sheridan) and Lucy May Barker (Sophie). Photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Sara Poyzer (Donna Sheridan) and Lucy May Barker (Sophie). Photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

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 Andersson 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).

emotional intelligence

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

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:

Tour Website:
Twitter: @mammamiamusical
Facebook: MammaMiaMusical

MAMMA MIA! on tour:
Tue 29 Nov 2016 – Sat 7 Jan 2017 Edinburgh
0844 871 3014 Book online
MAMMA MIA! on tour 2017:
Tue 17 Jan – Sat 25 Feb Plymouth
Theatre Royal
01752 230440 Book online
Tue 28 Feb – Sat 25 March Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
Tue 28 March – Sat 15 April Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 11 21 21 Book online
Tue 18 – Sat 29 April Stoke-on-Trent
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649 Book online
Tue 2 – Sat 20 May Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
08448 717652 Book online
Tue 30 May – Sat 8 July Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
Tue 11 – Sat 29 July Canterbury
The Marlowe Theatre
01227 787787 Book online
Tue 1 – Sat 12 August Bournemouth
Pavilion Theatre
0844 576 3000 Book online
Tue 15 Aug – Sat 3 Sept Brighton
Brighton Centre
01273 290 131 Book online
Tue 19 Sept – Sat 14 Oct Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
Tue 17 Oct – Sat 11 Nov Sunderland
Sunderland Empire
0844 871 3022 Book online
Tue 14 – Sat 25 Nov Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online

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Comments (3)

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  1. Suzanne Senior says:

    I saw this show on 2nd January, and was greatly disappointed by a lot of what I saw and heard. Having grown up with Abba songs but not having seen the film, I came to it with no production preconceptions – only the expectation of hearing some cracking pop songs.

    However, right from the beginning, I was instantly irritated by all of the characters, and I think it comes down to the direction, which was completely unsubtle, producing a rather pantomime-like effect. It was heavily reliant upon big gestures, which I think took away from what should have been the emotional heart of the piece. It seemed as if the director had aimed to produce a “crowd pleaser”, at the expense of depth.

    The big ensemble numbers came off best, but even they were packed with corny choreography, with a movement for each syllable, rather reminiscent of YMCA!

    I was also not impressed with the singing of the two female leads, Donna and Sophie. Sophie, in particular, was not always in tune, and some of the quality of tone was quite painful to listen to. Donna was a little more successful but I was wincing at her rendition of the Winner Takes It All, especially on her high notes.

    The overall sound quality of the production didn’t help as it made the voices sound tinny. This compares starkly with the excellent sound of Five Guys Named Moe, where the voices were enriched, rather than diminished, by the sound engineering. The singing of the principle men was better, however.

    In a puzzling move by the Playhouse, the audience were instructed not to sing along; if this had not been the case there would have been a better atmosphere, as was demonstrated when the audience finally stood up and sang to the three excellent encores. It was only then that I felt the show came to life.

    The production improved in the second half, but I would class it, at best, as “mediocre”, with plenty of “room for improvement”.

    • Suzanne Senior says:

      And, I forgot to mention the accents – Sophie sounded Australian, whereas her mother, Donna, seemed to hail from the Midlands. Most incongruous!

  2. Michelle Hunter says:

    Having read the previous comments from Suzanne Senior, i think she must have been listening to a different production. I have been to see the show 4 times while it has been in Edinburgh with various different people and everyone of them has enjoyed every moment of it.
    Sara who plays Donna has an amazing voice as do the rest of the cast and at no time was anyone asked not to sing along when we were there.
    This is an amazing production and thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. A real feel good show.
    A big well done to everyone involved