Mamma Mia UK Tour (Theatre Royal Plymouth Review)
Updated: Apr 28, 2022
With a West End run coming up to celebrating 23 years and a statistic that states that 1 in 10 UK citizens have seen it, ‘Mamma Mia!’ is up there with some of the longest running and most well-known musicals in the world and after everything that we have been through in the last couple of years, this tonic of a musical, a Greek holiday wrapped up in stage show, is exactly what we all need right now. Now running again in London, the show is also hitting the road once more on a UK Tour bringing, fun, laughter, dance, sunshine, and ABBA to the UK masses.
Currently playing at Theatre Royal Plymouth, Mamma Mia! Tells the story of Donna Sheridan (played here by Sarah Harlington), and her daughter Sophie (played at this performance by Lucy May Barker) as Sophie invites her three possible fathers to her wedding on a beautiful Greek island behind her mother’s back, leading Donna to revisit her past and Sophie trying to work out who her father is before she walks down the aisle. Combining this family drama with boat loads of fun and comedy with an incredible soundtrack of catchy ABBA songs and it’s a recipe for success.
Alternate Donna Sarah Harlington impresses as the mother having to face her past and do what is best for her daughter, with her vocals raising the roof, especially in the big act 2 moment ‘The Winner Takes It All’. Her chemistry with Barker as Sophie was sweet and believable as was her relationships with Richard Standing, Daniel Crowder and Phil Corbitt as Sam, Harry, and Bill respectively. Lucy May Barker, showing off the power of covers and understudies as she steps back into the tour to ensure that the show could go on, is a perfect fit for the role of Sophie, a role I’ve seen her play in the West End in the past. The character’s plan to bring her three possible fathers in for her wedding is crazy, you could say that the idea she has that she would instantly know which one is a father and solve it all behind her mother’s back is somewhat deluded, but somehow Barker makes it work, she makes it easy to believe. You find yourself willing Sophie on to succeed. Plus Barker’s powerful vocals impress greatly.
Nicky Swift and Helen Anker play Donna’s best friends Rosie and Tanya and a great deal of the production’s comedy comes from this double act as they do their best to cheer up Donna when she is faced with her ex-lovers. The delight in watching the character of Rosie interact with that of Bill is never diluted by the number of times I’ve seen this show, it’s just brilliantly well done and effortlessly funny, as is Tanya’s dealings with young island lad Pepper’s (played here by Lewis Kidd) attempts to woo her. Richard Standing, Daniel Crowder and Phil Corbitt play the three possible fathers, each coming to terms with the situation in their own way. Bill, the adventurer, tries to take it all his stride, whilst Harry, feeling nostalgic, tries to embrace his past spontaneity. Sam is more haunted by his past with Donna, trying to fix former mistakes and make things right, nevertheless, comedy comes also from this character as he finds the coincidence in situations and almost breaks the fourth wall at points.
Toby Miles, no stranger to being half of an iconic musical theatre romance, takes a massive leap from his previous role of Marius in Les Miserables to take on the part of Sky, Sophie’s fiancée. Just as Sophie dreams of finding her father, you could easily describe Sky as a dreamer also, escaping a London life for the romantic idyll of the island yet there is some real passion in this character and in Mile’s portrayal, particularly in act 2. Lewis Kidd and Corey Mitchell play his best friends Pepper and Eddie, both cheeky chappies who drive Donna up the wall when they are supposed to be helping with her business. Act 2 number ‘Does Your Mother Know’ is always a crowd pleaser and earned Kidd one of the biggest applauds of the show. Mariella Mazzilli and Jasmine Shen play Sophie’s best friends Lisa and Ali, showcasing some wonderful comedic timing with Mazzilli providing a snippet of an incredible belting voice when backing up Anker in ‘Does Your Mother Know’.
In terms of the show as a whole, I can see why some are beginning to believe it to be a little bit dated. The costumes, a blur of bright colours and neon patterns, haven’t changed since 1999, neither has the choreography or the basic yet effective set. But here we are, in 2022, and those late nineties choices are still working and still providing the goods. In my opinion, that’s just Mamma Mia! It wouldn’t work, it would look and feel strange, if things were suddenly changed and modernised. It fits with the story, the sense of fun, the party atmosphere and it fits with the music of ABBA on which the show is styled around. It’s an age old saying but it goes, if it Ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Mamma Mia! Is somewhat of a time capsule, and it would just be wrong to change it know.
One thing that did slightly confuse me about this particular production of Mamma Mia! Was that there was a change in the character of Bill, played by Phil Corbitt. Normally in the stage production, the character is Australian, as appose to him being Swedish in the 2008 film version. Originally the character was always an Aussie, made a swede for the film due to Stellen Skarsgârd being Swedish and to add another link to ABBA but in this touring production, the character is Geordie. In no way a bad thing, it just took a little bit of getting used too.
In the first act, if I am being really nit-picky, the sound levels were a little off in places, the mics a tad too sensitive perhaps as you could hear everything. The sound of a prop being pulled away from what sounded like Velcro holding it place, the scrape of every chair being moved, the slap of every step of tap-dancing flipper wearers and even the ruffle of the stuffing of pillows being moved around on a bed. It was just a little bit distracting, being able to hear all of those little noises over the action but thankfully these was sorted out in the second act.
Overall, Mamma Mia! Is a crowd pleaser, a party in a show that is guaranteed to get everybody in that theatre up and dancing by the end of the show. It is really no surprise that it has enjoyed such a long and successful run and has been seen by millions all over the world. It is escapism in its finest form, not taking itself too seriously and inviting the audience to laugh along with them whilst delighting us with incredible performances songs from one of history’s most iconic pop bands
please note, pictures in this review are from the 2019-2020 touring cast and may not reflect the current cast members
Images found via Google, not my own