REVIEW: MAMMA MIA (Sunderland Empire) ★★★★★

Telling the story of Donna and Sophie Sheridan, set to the music of Abba, Mamma Mia is a tale of love, empowerment and family.

On the eve of her wedding to Sky (Phillip Ryan), Sophie (Lucy May Barker) confides to her bridesmaids – Ali (Fia Houston-Hamilton) and Lisa (Blaise Colangelo) – she has read her mum’s diary and invited the three men she suspects to be her father to her wedding.

So when Sam (Peter Saul Blewden filling in for Jon Boyden), Bill (Christopher Hollis) and Harry (Jamie Hogarth) all turn up on her island, Donna (Helen Hobson) is beyond shocked and has to confess to having three lovers and not knowing who Sophie’s dad is to her best friends Tanya (Emma Clifford) and Rosie (Gillian Hardie).

Catherine Johnson has written a creative masterpiece, the songs all fit perfectly into the story. And whilst you may think the music of Abba is just cheesy pop, hearing the songs “acted” out in the show proves what amazing musicians Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaues really were. The lyrics tell amazing stories and the emotion in some is intense. Helen Hobson’s version of Winner Takes it All is an emotionally charged powerhouse performance. And whilst we are in tears one minute there are laughs too with Gillian Hardies hilarious and seductive take on Take a Chance on Me and Emma Clifford’s flirtation with Pepper (Morgan Jackson standing in for Louis Stokil) in Does Your Mother Know.

This is a big tour, which has been on the road since April but seems as fresh as if it was their first day. The sets are magnificent in their simplicity turning in seconds into a taverna, a bedroom, a chapel and a beach. The costumes are wonderful, the multitudes of blues and creams making you feel you are right there on the Greek island with them and the music of the live band – Richard Weeden, Tom Chester, Mark MacDonald, Robbie Gibson, Duncan Floyd, Matt Isaac and Gordon Davison is just devine.

This is the ultimate feel good night out, who can resist singing along to the classic songs and having a good sing and dance at the end where there is a real party atmosphere. Afterall, how can you fail to be entertained by a show that warns patrons of a nervous disposition that the show contains platform boots and white lycra?

Reviewed by Lindsay Sykes

Photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg