…or, Lis and Charlotte’s Christmas night out.
I am, as a general rule, indifferent to both weddings and the music of Swedish pop behemoths ABBA. And yet, Mamma Mia! in Glasgow made me happier than any show about one girl’s search for the patriarchy her slattern of a mother denied her has any right to.
It’s the show widely regarded as having kickstarted the modern-day “jukebox musical” trend – and, certainly, the most successful one of those. So there’s no point viewing Mamma Mia! through a traditional critical lens. With a plot straight out of a telenovela, calculated for maximum shoehorned ABBA references, the show would be easy enough to knock – but it’s also full of heart, amazing roles for older women and hilarious, heartfelt depictions of long-term female friendships as well as the central mother-daughter relationship.
Oh, and the movie adaptation is also our Charlotte‘s favourite film, and she’s only dreamed of seeing the musical since she was (even) small(er) – so no pressure, Theatre Royal.
While the 2008 Hollywood adaptation is a relatively faithful one (give or take four or five songs – oh, and the frankly bizarre underwater dream sequence that opens the second act), Mamma Mia! on stage is a very different proposition from Mamma Mia! on screen. Everything is, understandably, bigger; peppered with moments of perfectly choreographed physical comedy that at times border on slapstick – and it’s impossible to escape a little audience participation, particularly for that “Super Trooper” lyric.
Mamma Mia! takes place around the wedding of 20-year-old Sophie Sheridan (Lucy May Barker), on the Greek island where she lives and runs a hotel with her mother, Donna (Helen Hobson). Sophie dreams of her father walking her down the aisle on her wedding day, but her mother has never divulged his identity. Reading her diary reveals three potential candidates – banker Harry (Jamie Hogarth), author-adventurer Bill (Christopher Hollis) and architect Sam (Jon Boydon), the love of her mother’s life – so she invites them all. Inexplicably, they all show up to the wedding of the daughter of a woman they have not seen in 21 years and the inevitable shenanigans, soundtracked by some of the most recognisable hits of the 1970s and 80s, ensue…
But here I go again… because the minute you attempt to put Mamma Mia! into words you start to lose what makes the stage experience so magical. It’s the gaudy costumes and pre-curtain warning for viewers of a nervous disposition that “this performance contains platform boots and white Lycra”; it’s the audience trying to talk themselves out of singing along; and it’s, above all, a cast that completely sells it. Lucy May Barker plays a charming Sophie you can’t help falling in love with while Helen Hobson will have you muttering “Meryl who?” by the time she slays her heartbreaking “Winner Takes It All” (to say nothing of the sheer joy bursting from her face during the “Dancing Queen” aftershow. But it’s Emma Clifford as Donna’s filthy, flirtatious pal Tanya who steals the show for me, putting a would-be toyboy in his place during a raucous “Does Your Mother Know”.
Mamma Mia! is on at the Theatre Royal until 30th December, so why not round up your besties and make a Christmas night out of it? I promise you, you’ll be glad that you did.
Catch Mamma Mia! at Theatre Royal, Glasgow until 30th December (no shows Sundays, Christmas Day). Show is 7:30pm with a 2:30pm matinee on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.