Theatre Review: Mamma Mia - Edinburgh Playhouse ✭✭✭✭✭

Review by Anne Mackie

‘Mamma Mia… How can I resist ya?’

That’s exactly the question. I couldn’t. I irrefutably couldn’t. 

The 2016 UK tour of Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus’ smash hit musical Mamma Mia’ sails into the Edinburgh Playhouse and indubitably proves to be everything you could ask for this Christmas seasonWith an array of sequined lycraplatform boots, ABBA melodies and an infectious narrative - this is a production that pulls out all the stops. For want of a better phrase, this jukebox sensation is abba-solutely brilliant.

The hard-core ABBA regulars will know exactly what they’re in for as the illustrious overture strikes up, but for the more unfamiliar amongst us, 'Mamma Mia' exceeds all expectations, proving an utterly fabulous night of theatre that tugs at the heart and lifts it up - all in one slickly-choreographed move! Forget the 2008 film adaption (sorry Meryl), the current stage production is in a league of its own, as it proves infinitely more poignant and joyful than its cinematic counterpart. The narrative - a captivating yet hilarious tale of family and friendship (and marriage!) unfolding on the paradisiacal Greek island is instantly enchanting whilst the iconic music and lyrics prove not just beautiful, but utterly relatable.

Director Philippa Lloyd employs the perfect cast throughout the production and although the show proves to be a predominantly ensemble based piece, there were a number of standout performances across the board. Leads Lucy May Barker (Sophie Sheridan) and Philip Ryan (Sky) encapsulate a gloriously infectious chemistry as the sun kissed love birds, executing magnificent pitch perfect, well delivered vocals – both individually and in unison. Meanwhile, Sara Poyzer as the once carefree Donna Sheridan packs all the emotional punches as she bounces between nostalgic glamour and anguished single mother – her pinnacle moment notably arising during her powerful rendition of The Winner Takes It AllHowever, the undeniably uproarious show stealers came in the form of Jacqueline Braun (Rosie) and Emma Clifford (Tanya) as Donna’s aging but playful best friends, both of whom initiated jocular yet exuberant laughter (amongst the audience) whenever they appeared onstage. A particular highlight being when the three women reminisced their time as ‘Donna and the Dynamos’ with an epic rendition of the classic ‘Dancing Queen’. A number so good, they reprised it during the finale! It would, of course, be unjust not to mention ‘the three dads’ – Sam, Bill and Harry, of which the narrative places much of its focus. Portrayed superbly by Richard Standing (Sam), Christopher Hollis (Bill) and Tim Walton (Harry), the trio of gents encapsulated their retrospective roles to a tee, allowing their specific character driven quirks to push the plot forward with pace, humour and emotion. 

Aesthetically the show is hugely appealing. Production Designer Mark Thompson and Associate Set Designer Jonathan Allen bring the idyllic Grecian taverna setting to life in the form of a simple, stand alone white stone structure that expertly transitions from terrace to bedroom as the production progresses. This is, of course, aided beautifully by Howard Harrison’s lighting design which further resembles the romantic summer coast line ambiance throughout. 'Mamma Mia' is simple in its construction but enormously effective.

Kudos must also go to Choreographer Anthony Van Laast who unquestionably captures the authentic vibe of ABBA’s iconic music in conjunction with the narrative as he employs a stylisedsharp yet dynamic movement throughout the production, executed with gusto by the whole company – principal and ensemble alike.

Long story short, 'Mamma Mia' is whimsical, poignant, playful and fast paced gift of a production. Every number in the expertly crafted score is as iconic and magical as the last which only begs one question: should you ‘take a chance’ on 'Mamma Mia' this Christmas? Abba-solutelyYou will dance; you will jive… You will have the time of your life.

Mamma Mia is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 7th January 2017