Mamma Mia!

Music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and some songs with Stig Anderson, book by Catherine Johnson
Judy Craymer, Richard East and Bjorn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal Stage Entertainment and NGM
Palace Theatre, Manchester, and touring

Mamma Mia! production photo

If statistics are to be believed, at least seven performances of Mamma Mia! take place around the world each day. Last night one of them was the launch of the international tour at the Palace Theatre in Manchester.

After a 12-year theatrical run, a surfeit of awards and a film adaptation that broke box office records, it's difficult to find anything new to say about Mamma Mia!. Yes, the 22 ABBA songs on which the narrative hangs are absolute corkers. Yes, the storyline is faintly preposterous. And yes, it is correct that 45 million people have seen the show.

But dwelling on the musical's plot or musing on the below-par voices of a handful of cast members is pointless, as is lamenting the shaky set and the blue backdrop which resembles a bad optical illusion. The point about Mammia Mia! is this: it is sheer, unadulterated fun.

As the actors frolic on stage, reeling off such ABBA hits as Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me and Voulez Vous, so the audience forgives each note missed and every production flaw. No matter that most people know the script backwards and many could sing Dancing Queen in their sleep; familiarity in this instance does not breed contempt. Instead, the audience of both young and old throw themselves into the show and embrace it with gusto.

The success of this new touring production of Mamma Mia! owes much to Sara Poyzer and her vigorous portrayal of the central role of Donna. The entertainment hits its peak when she is on stage, particularly when indulging in musical shenanigans with Jennie Dale and Kate Graham, the actresses playing the two best friends.

The remainder of the cast, including Charlotte Wakefield as Donna's daughter Sophie, and former Coronation Street actor Richard Standing as Sam Carmichael, one of Donna's former lovers, are, to put it bluntly, fine. But then the actors were never intended to be the star turns of Mamma Mia!: the songs are the celebrities.

So even if you've seen the film and you've embarrassed yourself at karaoke with a harrowing version of Dancing Queen, go and see Mamma Mia! the musical. As one little girl said during last night's interval: "Mamma Mia! is well good.".

"Mamma Mia!" runs until 18th June, 2011 at the Palace Theatre

Reviewer: Helen Nugent

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