**** 4 Stars
“ A Dancing Queen that still sparkles”
Its hard to believe its 20 years since the smash hit musical “Mamma Mia” first came to the stage in London’s west end, 2 decades later, several touring productions and not to mention two major motion pictures, mamma mia is back for a brand new International tour kicking off in Edinburgh’s stunning Playhouse theatre.
For those who have been living in a musical theatre deprived cave, Catherine Johnson’s book tells the story of a mother and daughter who live the ideal life on a Greek island, however when the daughter Sophie Sheridan (played with dream like charm by Emma Mullen) decides to get married, she must confront the fact that her mother Donna Sheridan ( Sharon Sexton who delivers a true Irish charm to the role.) informs her that she has three possible dads. Enter Harry Bright (Daniel Crowder), Bill Austin (Jamie Kenna), and Sam Carmichael (Rob Fowler) and the search to find her real dad begins. Add to the mix Donna’s best friend and one-time band members Tanya (Helen Anker) and Rosie (Nicky Swift) and the stage is set for a comedy drama of musical that plows the hits of Abba for all they are worth.
Whilst the performances are universally excellent, it’s the production elements that take the shine off the show. The biggest bug bear is the sound, associate sound designer Brian Buchanan has not followed the original design by Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken. From the best seats in the stalls of the playhouse the vocals simply aren’t loud enough and are further drowned out by the band, it’s a niggle which is persistent through the entire performance. It needs to be fixed so the entire audience get the same quality of sound throughout.
Associate set designer Jonathan Allen has been fully inspired by the original of Mark Thompson although this production feels smaller and brought much further forward almost as if it reduces costs and makes the set even more tour able.
Mamma Mia continues to soar because of its rich warm heart, and that’s on show in spades in this production the cast give it their all especially in Nichola Treherne’s choreography which is both sharp and delivered with punch.
The timeless hits of Abba are delivered by an excellent 7-piece band under the musical direction of Mark MacDonald and highlights include a faultless “Dancing Queen”, a wistful “I have a Dream “and a powerful “The Name of the game.”.
The packed audience of the playhouse were in playful mode probably helped by glass of wine or two, but it added to the incredible atmosphere that the cast were clearly feeling on stage and let it flow with triumphant power across the footlights.
All it was left by the final curtain was the traditional mega mix of hits that unleashed the ultimate party across the theatre. In that lies the truth of Mamma Mia’s success that keeps audiences returning time after time. This is indeed the peoples show!
The new international touring production of Mamma Mia is indeed a dancing queen that still sparkles, if they cant get the sound sorted it will be a queen that soars even further still.
Judy Craymer, Richard East and Bjorn Ulvaeus present Mamma Mia, Edinburgh Playhouse, runs until Saturday 28th September, International tour continues. For tickets go to: www.atgtickets.com/shows/mamma-mia/edinburgh-playhouse/