Mamma Mia! – The Playhouse, Edinburgh

Music & Lyrics by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus

Book by Catherine Johnson

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd

Choreography by Anthony Van Laast

Runs at Edinburgh Playhouse until September 28th

Well, my, my, my – just how much we missed you. The returning champion of the jukebox musical, Mamma Mia! brings the Grecian sun, drama and sensation to those Autumnal nights in Edinburgh.

We know the story, you know the story, we most likely all saw the movie with a few vinos – but for the unfortunate few who haven’t… Sophie, the bride to be, has an issue. Rather than walking down the aisle with the mother who has been raising her, Sophie turns to seek out her father – a person her mother has kept secret. Narrowing it down to one of three men, she decides to invite all of them to the wedding, what on earth could go wrong? It’s a story of redemptive love, carving your path – but vitally, a tribute to the music of ABBA and realisation of respecting what, or who, you have.

Now, we would be remiss in not extending praise of the highest honour to the powerhouse duo of two incredible women – and we don’t mean Donna or Sophie. No, the real marker of Mamma Mia! lies in capturing the dynamic duo of Tanya and Rosie. Helen Anker and Nicky Swift propel the production from the moment their timing and glorious harmonies showcase for the number Chiquitita. Never has such a reassurance of quality been in safer hands, from a number which, while enjoyable, never sits in the ABBA pantheon to the esteem of Winner Takes It All or S.O.S

And fellas, please remain calm during Does Your Mother Know – you may find it hard to do so, but please keep your ‘standing ovations’ to yourselves, no matter how fantastic Anker is as Tanya.

Never one to stand in shadow, Sharon Sexton’s Donna refuses to allow her friends to have all the fun. Her Donna is fiery, animated and thankfully, keeps Sexton’s Irish accent making for one hell of a formidable woman. It isn’t though until The Winner Takes It All that Sexton strides to the front of the cast, nailing every note, maintaining clarity and gut-wrenching emotion. It’s easy to throw Donna’s character into the comedic pit, but Sexton, with Nikki Davis Jone’s resident direction, captures the mother, as well as the free spirit. Touching, her rendition of Slipping Through My Fingers will stir profound emotions to offset the humour we’ve been experiencing thus far. 

Sadly, there is a minor complication with an otherwise perfect production – it is, however, a subjective one. An exquisite soprano, Emma Mullen’s Sophie can reach peak notes, but wavers when numbers require a deeper tone, especially troublesome with the weaker sound design drowning out the cast in the opening half. Her Sophie feels closer at home in the halls of Downton, than the sun of the Greek islands. Her movements are stiff, peculiar as her dance routines are often flowing. This touring production has a Sophie who feels a tad more neurotic, less like the character is meant to be with stiff – jerking actions in her hands or expression.

The ladies cannot have all the fun though, as our three leading men don their glitter, shoulder-pads and leave a few top buttons off to raise the roof. Rob Fowler, Daniel Crowder and Jamie Kenna offer such joy to the audience in their roles as Sam, Harry and Bill, but Fowler’s vocal ability is sensational – rivalling Sexton for solo’s which raise hairs as they do cheers. Together with Swift’s Rosie, Kenna gains the audiences favour for his comedic subtlety, never stretching himself into caricature.

The cast, particularly in large numbers such as Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! or Voulez-Vous prove their merit, courtesy of touring dance captain Robert Knight, Anthony Van Laast’s original choreography maintains its sharp intensity.

When theatre is this energetic, a pure euphoric sense of enjoyment washes over. Where cares, troubles and the irritations of day-to-day life get left behind as you strut, sing, wiggle them shoulders and let loose. Mamma Mia! will never be known for it’s diverse or rich narrative, but what it will always be is a testament to how solid vocals, excellent composition and a mother-load of hip thrusts can transform even the miserable into dancing queens for one evening.

Tickets Available from ATG Tickets for Edinburgh Playhouse: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/mamma-mia/edinburgh-playhouse/