Bristol Hippodrome

Mamma Mia! March 2016

Thank you for the music


Mamma Mia! which opened at the Bristol Hippodrome this week is an ABBA-solutely fabulous, feel-good campfest.

The musical sports every fashion affront from the exaggeratedly flamboyant glam rock 1970s and almost every song recorded by the most commercially successful pop band of all time ABBA.

Like the films Annie and Frozen everyone in Christendom including Tom, Dick and Harry - only in this case it is Bill, Sam and Harry - knows the story having seen it either on screen, stage or DVD including the sing-along versions, so nothing I say will be a spoiler.

Even before curtain up the ‘turn off your mobile phones’ command includes a warning ‘for those of a nervous disposition this performance contains platform boots and white Lycra’.

Ha-ha this was going to be fun – and it was.

I would go as far as saying I liked Mamma Mia! the show more than the film as the latter left me asking ‘who’s the daddy?’ while on stage it didn’t seem to matter two hoots that there was no closure or calls for DNA testing.

Playing a young convict actor Ray Winstone in the 1979 film Scum would have soon told them.

Anyway who cares whether the choice is between a gay banker who bonked the mother as a sixth-form exchange student, a stereotypical loud Australia writer who arrives with his bush tucker in a camouflage rucksack or a hunky chunky first ‘true’ love London-based architect?

This time round I didn’t need closure and this was no Greek tragedy – although as a comparison I did prefer the storyline of Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell the 1968 film starring Gina Lollobrigida who also claims her child could have been fathered by a ‘holy trinity’ of American soldiers or Marriage Italian Style with Sophia Loren which features ‘secret’ love children.

Luggage seems an all defining clue to the life-baggage carried by the characters with some wheeling on business-class suitcases or Louis Vuitton-style designer trunks while others travelled light with a backpack or single grip.

Luckily in the case of Mamma Mia, although I did like the film, Meryl Streep aged 59 dressed in dungarees playing the mother of a 20-year-old bride-to-be did stretch the imagination though performing a jumping split while bouncing on a bed was a redeeming factor.

Don’t think this was possible on stage on the movable bedstead unless the performer wanted to land tits-up in the stalls.

Single mum and former Dynamos lead singer turned Greek taverna owner Sara Poyzer as Donna Sheridan and her sidekicks roly-poly feminist cookery writer Jacqueline Braun as Rosie and posh multi-divorcee Emma Clifford as Tanya had a tough act to follow as Ms Streep was ably assisted in the film by the best in the business comedic actresses Julie Walters and Christine Baranski.

But Sara and her former band mates were brilliant singing, dancing and laughing although the high splits was left to the diminutive best man Pepper/bartender/toy boy lover played by athletic Louis Stockil to the sounds of Does Your Mother Know.

The bare-chested beach boys figure-hugging underwater gear and the dance wearing diving flippers are fantastic.

Donna’s daughter Sophie is played by Lucy May Barker and as in the film it is a bit of an insipid goody goody part but Lucy gets better and better and I wished her bridesmaids had more to do because they were great too.

There are some funny hairbrush karaoke moments just before the hen-do which I will ‘airbrush’ over for children reading this and some really poignant musical moments.

The synchronised dancing gets full marks.

The ‘older’ male leads Christopher Hollis  as Aussie Bill Austin, Richard Standing as Sam Carmichael and Tim Walton as Harry Bright all outshone their on-screen counterparts of Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard because they can sing.

There were lots of laugh-out-loud minutes and some sad ones too.

The set was simple – two revolving (manually) stone walls, sun-bleached blue doors and a hanging vine with the furniture/props having walk-on parts - the star here was the atmospheric lighting and silhouettes and unexpected finishing touches like the hilarious finale with Abba lookalikes.

Mamma Mia! is Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on a Greek island paradise.

To date, it has been seen by more than 60 million people in 49 productions in 16 different languages while Mamma Mia! the movie is the highest worldwide grossing live-action musical film of all time.

Stage, screen, soap and radio star Sara; leading stage and solo artist Jenna Lee; European performance company founder Jacqueline; film and Bristol Old Vic performer Emma; Holby City and Coronation Street cast member Richard; director/dancer and actor Tim; Horror film, dramatic art graduate and television regular Christopher; British stage and screen actress Lucy May and all the wonderful cast including boyfriend and backing dancers took a 10-minute well-deserved standing ovation at the end of Tuesday night’s show.

They were all super troupers.

Alison Walker who works at Specsavers Portishead is a big fan of musicals.

She said: ““What a brilliant show.

“Having grown up with Abba’s music I didn't know what to expect as I must be the only person not to have seen the film.

“This is a story of a mother her daughter and the daughter’s quest to find her father from a choice of three men on the eve of her wedding - a story of friendship and love. 

“The familiar songs are cleverly interwoven into the plot which makes you laugh, makes you cry and makes you want more.

“And the finale gives you the opportunity to find you inner Dancing Queen.

“I wouldn't hesitate to see this again I absolutely loved this show.”

Student Erin Silvester said: “There was such a buzz as we left the theatre.

“Everyone was chatting and smiling and saying it was so good.

“I didn’t hear a bad thing said as we were walking along outside.

“I loved it.”

It plays Bristol until Saturday, May 7.

To book online click HERE.or visit box office at St Augustine’s Parade.

Carol Deacon

  • MAMA MIA! photos of West End company by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg © LITTLESTAR

PREVIEW: Mama Mia! new 2016 tour


The first ever Mama Mia! UK tour will premiere at the Bristol Hippodrome next year.

Programmed to run from Friday to Saturday, March 25-May 7, 2016 tickets are on sale now.

Mama Mia! is Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs with an enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on a Greek island paradise.

To date, it has been seen by more than 54 million people in 49 productions in 14 different languages.

Mama Mia! the movie is the highest worldwide grossing live-action musical film of all time and one in four households in the UK has the DVD, which is now Amazon UK’s biggest selling DVD ever.

From West End to global phenomenon, the London production of Mama Mia! has now been seen by more than 10 per cent of the entire UK population.

It is one of only five musicals to have run for more than 10 years both on Broadway and in the West End, and in 2011, it became the first Western musical ever to be staged in Mandarin in the People’s Republic of China.

With music and lyrics by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus, Mama Mia!  is written by Catherine Johnson, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast.

The production is designed by Mark Thompson, with lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Andrew Bruce & Bobby Aitken, and musical supervision, additional material & arrangements by Martin Koch.

Cast for the UK tour will be announced in due course.

Creator and producer Judy Craymer said: “It’s fabulous that the first ever UK tour of Mama Mia!  will debut in Bristol.

"It’s an exciting new journey for the show with its celebration of much-loved music and feel-good story.

"We’re looking forward to welcoming new audiences, as well as those who would love to see it again, to come and join us for the party.”

Writer Catherine Johnson said: “I’m delighted that the Bristol Hippodrome will be the first stop on this exciting new UK tour of Mama Mia! 

"It’s especially meaningful to me that we will be starting in my home city.

"I hope Bristol audiences will embrace the show again and have a great time.”

Bristol Hippodrome marketing manager Steve Jones said: "We are thrilled to be welcoming Mamma Mia! back to The Bristol Hippodrome having been visited by the International Tour in 2007.

"The show was a feel-good hit with audiences and we’re hugely proud to be the inaugural venue on an exciting new UK tour.”