Let’s be honest here, if you’re attending Mamma Mia! you should know full well what to expect. This astonishing hit based around the music of ABBA has become a global mainstay, a bedazzling jukebox jewel. So to you, yes you, those who are being dragged along (kicking is optional) I beseech you: take a chance
Stretching a narrative over a decade worth of ABBA’s repertoire comes as no simple task, but in 1991 Catherine Johnson managed. Young Sophie, daughter of independent and outspoken Donna (Sara Poyzer) is getting married. Which of her three possible fathers will walk her down the aisle? As Mark Thompson’s clean, simple but well-conceived set design delivers us into a small Grecian Isle, there are very few shadows beneath the projected moon in which secrets can hide for long.
Whilst the story is touching, the relationships between the characters and the interlacing comedy and score are what sells the tickets. Well, what really sells the tickets is the list of musical numbers we’re all familiar with, sober or otherwise. To list them would be fruitless but three punch out: Does Your Mother Know?, Take A Chance On Me and The Winner Takes It All. What they all have in common are the firmest vocals, two paired with the finest comedic performances, another with the rawest emotion.
Can we request a spin-off where Donna, Rosie and Tanya (Emma Clifford) travel Europe in a Ford Thunderbird? All three leading ladies slaughter the competition, their previously mentioned musical numbers garner the clearest appreciation. Jacqueline Braun as Rosie especially is tremendous. Her body control, facial expression and reactions off other cast members propel the evening. If only this same natural ability could be extended to Philip Ryan as Skye. Only so much flesh can hide weak vocals.
Johnson, ABBA and Mamma Mia! know exactly what you want. This is not the production for a deeply analytical exploration of a mother’s connection to her daughter, and nor should it be. Everything we need to feel can be summed during Slipping Through My Fingers. What this production does to maintain its place as the centre of jukebox musicals is touch it’s audience with a simple but pleasant story wrapped in some of Sweden’s finest exports.