Skip to main content

Review of Mamma Mia! at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Ahead of my trip to see Mamma Mia! in Northampton, I had enough conversations about the show to discover that there appears to be no in-between with people over their love or hate of the work of ABBA (music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus). For your information, patient reader, I fall firmly in the love department and an audience member of Mamma Mia! like myself is always going to ride on a tidal wave of joy as this jukebox churns out an incredible selection of their numbers (and truly reveals a substantially great back catalogue, that even a hater could not deny), however, is the show they are weaved around actually any good?

The answer is mostly, yes. It is though, a typical popcorn musical where you are just required to switch your brain off for two hours or so and ride that tidal wave to Kalokairi, and observe the bright colours and frivolous nature of the plot.

The plot, such as it is, involves 20-year-old Sophie, who is heading towards marriage. Upon discovering an old diary of her mothers, she posts a letter to three men, who she has narrowed down as her options to be her unknown father, and invites them to her wedding.

For a jukebox musical, the music at times feels nicely appropriate despite being written decades before, although some obscure plot devices are needed to sledgehammer a few classics in, it never feels forced. It is also a curious thing coming to this musical having only seen the film before, as you can't help but remember the stars of that film as each character are introduced, and it is uncanny how the film and stage shows are so similar. Surpassing the film though with this stage show is the quality of the singers, Jon Boydon, for example, casts aside any trauma caused by Pierce Brosnan singing I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do (please don't Pierce...).

Characterisation of the three potential dad's is a delight, all brilliantly contrasting one another, however, my favourite, without question, was Jamie Hogarth as Harry Bright, while very much making the role his own, but with shades more of how Hugh Grant might play the role curiously rather than the films Colin Firth. It is though, his own version and I particularly enjoyed his rendition of Thank You For The Music especially.

There is a tremendous performance from Helen Hobson as Donna Sheridan, extremely strong vocals and a delight of a creation of the character, from leading the brilliant Super Trooper segment with panache, and onto the sorrowful and sweet rendition of Slipping Through My Fingers. Elsewhere Gillian Hardie is truly brilliant as Rosie, culminating in one of the best routines, Take A Chance On Me. She manages to ebb every ounce of humour out of the glorious character (probably the best in the show) and her situations.

Emma Clifford has her moments as the surgically treated Tanya, which develops towards one of the best musical numbers of the show, Does Your Mother Know. It's an excellent sequence in itself, but the cast bring brilliance to it, and it allows one of the support characters, Pepper, played by Louis Stockil, his moment in the spotlight and he snatches it, with his enthusiasm and brilliant physical skills.

I always like to big up some of the supporting cast in these large ensemble shows, and as well as Stockil, I felt performing beyond the requirements of their character was a really wonderful performance from Blaise Colangelo as Lisa. She simply made the most of her lesser role and lit up the stage.

Less impressive, and perhaps the only real disappointment from the cast was a rather spiritless performance from Phillip Ryan. He fails often to have any real presence on stage and his vocals at times were noticeably below the other performers. He does, however, look the part alongside his love
interest Sophie, who played by Lucy May Barker, provides the heart of the show. Barker managing to portray much of the confused emotion for the role.

Technically it is a pretty impressive production, despite some curious quivering spotlights at times. Scene changes are sublime though, with an impressively clever, revolving set, which happily creates all of the locales of this little Greek island. My inane observation of set changes left me with a glowing feeling especially from the slinky appearance and disappearance of 23 chairs (yes, I had to count them) for the chapel scene.

It is certainly not a cheap show to go and see (and no matter how big it is, £6 for a programme is far too steep for a touring show), however, this production, for the most part, looks great value on stage. It has a substantial and talented company, and with a band, albeit only seven in number, pumping out some bone-shaking sound. All the songs are nicely recreated and the dance numbers mostly work within the confines of the stage, both of these thanks to the ensemble, clearly bringing huge depth into the sound of ABBA as well as the bold performance numbers.

It's all just lightweight fun and the perfect evening of entertainment and by the second half the audience has returned well "watered" and much more in the spirit of the show, perhaps too much with some of them. By the time the curtain call arrives, many are up on their feet joining in. (One tip, take someone, as I did along, who can sing, as it helps diminish the pain of some of the sound going on around you.)

If you are a fan of ABBA, or indeed musicals with limited substance in general, you can't really go wrong with Mamma Mia! It does everything you would expect it to, and perhaps a little more with its clever integration of the songs, and as a result, you just might find it even more entertaining than you even expected.

The ultimate evening for any ABBA fan and perhaps just enough fun to convert a few others.
⭐⭐

Performance reviewed: Wednesday 24th January 2018 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.
Mamma Mia! runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 3rd February 2018 before continuing its tour until July 2017. Tour details at http://mamma-mia.com/uk-tour

For further details about the Royal & Derngate see their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk


Photos: Brinkhoff M+Âgenburg

Popular posts from this blog

Review of the University Of Northampton BA (Hons) Acting Graduate Showcase at Leicester Square Theatre, London

The Graduate Showcase was pretty exciting even for me, so heaven knows how it was for the actors actually taking part. Here I was in a gathering of around twenty people (all others infinitely more important than me) at a special closed event at a West End theatre, complete with free drinks and buffet. Fortunately I had Mr Jim aka @mudbeast76 to keep me on the straight and narrow of juices after the one alcoholic one went straight to the head drink. Then as if it wasn't a surreal world as it was, there only goes and walks in Lukewarm himself, Christopher Biggins!

However, this isn't about me, this is about the thirty six ultra talented individuals who after I have followed them for a bit over a year are about to venture forth into the big competitive world of the acting community. They have though the double advantage of not only coming through the excellent three years University Of Northampton training and also being rather talented to help them in this.

This being my first s…

Review of Touching The Void at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

For those unfamiliar with this story, this review tells more than you might want to know ahead of seeing it. So, the short review for those who don't know the story of Joe Simpson, go and see this play and then come and read this review if you wish.

Staging the 1985 tale of Joe Simpson and his somewhat unbelievable, if it wasn't true, escape from surviving three days without food and water, a 150 foot fall previous, and following breaking his leg a previous, previous, seems an insurmountable challenge, but with the clever work of writer David Greig, director Tom Morris, and designer Ti Green and the rest of the creative team, we manage during a long and pulsating evening of theatre to reach that peak.

Following a short sequence of flashes of what is to come, we join Simon (Edward Hayter), Richard (Patrick McNamee) and Sarah (Fiona Hampton) at the wake of Joe Simpson, imagined for the stage and a neat way of introducing us to the story. Here Sarah, Joe's sister becomes the …

Review of Benidorm Live at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

I arrived at Milton Keynes Theatre to see this touring stage version of ITV comedy hit Benidorm with a distinct lack of knowledge. Having never seen the show, my information stretched as far as knowing it was set in a holiday resort in Spain (the title helps there), and that the humour generally resorted to the cruder end of the spectrum. However, having graced the screens for ten years, it was clear that Derren Litten's show had garnered quite a following, and indeed it was clear from the reception of the audience on the night, that this following was pretty much filling the theatre.

The plot, such as it is for this stage show, is very much drafted from an episode of Fawlty Towers, and made a great deal more adult with its humour. The hotel manager, Joyce Temple-Savage (a sharp performance by Sherrie Hewson) gets wind that a hotel inspector is in, and the scene is set for seeking them out and all the obvious cases of mistaken identity. It's thin and doesn't fill the show,…