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THEATRE REVIEW: Mamma Mia @ Empire Theatre, Sunderland

October 19, 2017 1:00 pm

MAMMA MIA! UK Tour 2017 Photo by Brinkhoff M+Âgenburg (4)

Photo by Brinkhoff M+Âgenburg 

Mamma Mia runs at Empire Theatre, Sunderland until Saturday 11th November

Review by Jane Currie

*WARNING: this review may contain platform shoes and white lycra*

The show based on the award-nominated film is back on the road, bringing its wonderful brand of camp, cheesy fun to the North East.

Sophie is getting married tomorrow but her one regret is that her dad won’t be there to walk her down the aisle, which would be difficult since she doesn’t know who he is. But after reading her mother Donna’s diary, she discovers there are three equally likely candidates. So Sophie has invited them all to her wedding, under the guise of Donna, and has 24 hours to work out which is her dad.

Meanwhile, when Donna sees all three men arrive in her hotel she gets blown back to the past and must cope with her almost forgotten feelings from 21 years ago. All of this, with a great supporting cast of comedic characters and set on a glorious Greek island, makes it a hilarious and up-beat musical with the fabulous soundtrack of ABBA’s greatest hits.

With such a character-driven show, the perfect casting is essential to get the most out of the performance, and they were totally successful in this. Young couple Sophie and Sky are played well by Lucy May Barker and Phillip Ryan, but I personally feel this whole show is stolen by the more mature members of the cast. Donna and her friends/ex backing singers, Rosie and Tanya, are fabulous and hilarious, and the three dads are all incredible, with them all being my favourites throughout the show.

One additional comment is some scenes include acting that is almost pantomime-like; for instance, the scenes where both Sophie and her friends, then Donna and her buddies are reunited, I found rather cringe-worthy. Of course, the goal was to demonstrate their unabashed fun and happiness at seeing each other, but I found myself rolling my eyes a little. However, after a little while I inevitably got sucked into the joy and frivolity of the show and loved it for what it was.

Something I’d not really taken much notice of previously is the strong positive message it has for women of all ages. Donna is not sure which of the three men she had a relationship with is the father of her daughter, but the show neither glorifies or condemns her for this. She is depicted as a strong, wonderful mother and is often referred to as the “life and soul of the party” when she was younger, and is not judged for her sexuality, which I find is quite common in arts and media. She is an exceptional female role model, and in fact, the whole show is a fantastic metaphor for girl power.

The stage show does not have the idyllic Greek scenery of the film but this love letter to the music of ABBA does not need it. Mamma Mia is an utter pleasure and my face ached from smiling by the end of the night.



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