Hull New Theatre – until 21 March 2020
Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams
Mediterranean blue shimmered on the backdrop, the band struck up with a medley of Abba tunes and the packed audience at Hull New Theatre started to tap their feet, nod their heads and quietly sing along as they settled back in their seats for a cracking night at the theatre.
From the start it is clear that this is going to be a superlative performance as Sophie (Emma Mullen) sings “I have a Dream” as she posts her letters. The sets are so simple but so wonderfully effective the white and blues evoking the feel of a Greek island, the lighting adding that shimmer of the Mediterranean.
Mamma Mia! is a romantic comedy set on a small Greek island. Sophie (Emma Mullen) is trying to find the father she has never known as she is about to get married and has invited three possible fathers to her wedding. This brings her mother Donna Sheridan (Sharon Sexton) face to face with her past , as she has to deal with the repercussions. Mamma Mia! has a very strong and highly talented cast with a lovely mix of all the youngsters who are Sophie’s friends and the older cast members who are Donna’s friends.
Whilst Mamma Mia! uses the music of Abba it is not a jukebox musical, the songs are carefully placed to meet the emotion needed. Tempos may be slowed down to ensure that the words and feelings are very clear. There is the full range of joy, sadness, regret and even bitterness here.
Sharon Sexton is simply stunning as Donna Sheridan, totally believable from start to finish and her voice is sublime. Her rendition of “The Winner Takes it All” had it all, power, regret, hurt, anger, loss and those notes she reached – unbelievable. This had just followed the emotional “Slipping Through My Fingers”, when every mother and daughter in the theatre must have been holding their breath. But she also conveys the sheer joy of life as she performs “Super Trouper” with her friends Tanya (Helen Anker) and Rosie (Nicky Swift).
One of the joys of Mamma Mia! is the interaction between the characters and the friendships, Helen Anker (Tanya) and Nicky Swift (Rosie) were perfect as they cheered up their friend and had fun together.
The three fathers hit the spot beautifully, Rob Fowler as Sam Carmichael was just right as he tried to get his head around what was happening and tried to get Donna to listen to him. Daniel Crowder (Harry Bright) was a treat as he came out of his shell and began to have some fun, “Our Last Summer” is one of my favourite songs and I loved his performance of it. Jamie Kenna (Bill Austin) was great and “Take a Chance on Me” performed with Nicky Swift (Rosie) was a highlight of the show.
Emma Mullen made a beautifully sweet Sophie, with a superb singing voice and (to those of us who are older) had that annoying arrogance of knowing she knew everything at 20 to perfection! Her relationship with Sky (Toby Miles) was lovely.
This is a highly talented all singing, all dancing cast who really do justice to the story and the songs. The ensemble singing and dancing was superb, the quirky “Under Attack” was brilliant. Their vivacity and joy of life fills the theatre and this joy is carried out of the theatre by the audience.
This is not the film, this is so much better than the film, this is live performance. The music from the wonderful band (Musical Director Mark MacDonald) fills the auditorium and you can literally feel it in your bones, the raw emotion oozes off the stage, whether it is joy or regret, sheer joy will fill your heart, this is an experience that you will feel with all your senses (I swear I could smell the ouzo as they partied!!). To paraphrase an Abba song “Thank you for the music, the songs you’re singing, thanks for all the joy you’re bringing”
This is one not to miss, grab yourself a ticket – and enjoy!