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Review: Mamma Mia! at Birmingham Hippodrome

Oh, Mamma Mia! How can I resist you?

Sara Poyzer (Donna) and the cast of Mamma Mia
Sara Poyzer (Donna) and the cast of Mamma Mia

The cast of Phyllida Lloyd’s smash-hit musical did not disappoint Abba fans at the Birmingham Hippodrome. The audience witnessed two-and-a-half hours of fabulous choreography, dazzling costumes, and some wonderfully outrageous moments. With the iconic music of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus at its core, this highly exuberant musical is one heck of a super trouper treat.

Helen Anker (Tanya), Sara Poyzer (Donna), Nicky Swift (Rosie) and the rest of the Mamma Mia cast

Above all, Mamma Mia! is a tale of love, friendship, and family. It follows 20-year-old Sophie Sheridan, played excellently by Jena Pandya, as she approaches the day of her wedding to fiancé Sky, played by Toby Miles.

Longing to find out the identity of her father before her big day, Sophie sends out an invitation to all three of her potential candidates. And to her delight – they all agree to attend.

Set on a secluded Greek Island, the musical exudes warmth both in the lighting designer’s (Howard Harrison) colour palette and through the depiction of familial relationships.

It celebrates friendship and togetherness ­and emphasises the importance of retaining that youthful sense of fun.

The simplicity of the set ­– with the white stone walls and blue shutters ­– really emphasised the idea of inclusion. Mamma Mia was not an experience to be shared purely within the cast, but with the audience as well. It is a tribute to those fans – both young and old – who have loved these ageless tracks throughout their Dancing Queen years and beyond.

Mariella Mazzilli (Lisa), Jena Pandya (Sophie), Jasmine Shen (Ali) in Mamma Mia

The Mamma Mia cast explodes with talent all-round. Sara Poyzer is captivating in her role as the fiercely-independent mother of the bride – Donna Sheridan. She takes centre-stage for many of the iconic Abba hits and seamlessly transitions between the different numbers.

I was particularly impressed by her renditions of Slipping Through My Fingers and The Winner Takes It All.

The juxtaposition between the soft melancholy of the first track and the fervour of the second, is a testimony to her strength as a performer. A show-stopping number. I felt every single lyric of The Winner Takes It All, as 20-years’ worth of pent-up pain and heartache came pouring out.

Sara Poyzer (Donna), Richard Standing (Sam) in Mamma Mia

Nicky Swift and Helen Anker were both spectacular in their roles of the Dynamo singers. They received some of the biggest laughs of the night, delivering infectiously feel-good performances.

Their voices complimented each other beautifully, particularly during their harmonies in Chiquitita when they decide to ‘patch up’ their best friend who is miserable after seeing her ex-lovers on the island.

My favourite number of the night was performed by Anker as Tanya and James Willoughby Moore as Pepper. Does Your Mother Know was powerfully delivered by the pair through their palpable sexual tension which set the bar for the rest of the show.

James Willoughby Moore (Peppa), Helen Anker (Tanya) and the cast of Mamma Mia

As a first-time viewer of Mamma Mia the musical ­– but a huge fan of the film – I particularly enjoyed the use of certain Abba songs to explore the relationships between Donna and the dad’s – Sam, Harry, and Bill. They all played their respective roles brilliantly.

Richard Standing, in particular, commanded the stage in his role as Sam and was a fitting counterpart to Poyzer’s Donna Sheridan. His rendition of Knowing me, Knowing You, was honest and mature, as he tries his best to give the free-spirited Sophie a piece of fatherly advice.

Phil Corbit (Bill), Richard Standing (Sam), Daniel Crowder (Harry) in Mamma Mia

I can honestly say that I had the time of my life at last night’s performance. It was a joy to witness Abba fans clapping, singing along and dancing in the stalls to the show’s finale. Fit with fabulous flares, platform glittered boots, and confetti, I certainly left wishing the cast would Gimme Gimme Gimme more.

Mamma Mia! runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Wednesday, May 11.

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