Mamma Mia! Twee, Fun & Uplifting
Phil Hopkins, Theatre & Travel Correspondent
The Abba musical Mamma Mia! may have a storyline straight out of a tacky Greek soap but it was destined to be a great show long before it was even written.
Not because it has some unique je ne sais quoi or even a mystical quality never seen on stage before, but simply because it features the music of Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus, the bearded duo from Sweden's greatest export. In this instance, the music is the show.
It is also the ultimate 'girlie' show, marginally ahead of Dirty Dancing, and people in the Leeds Grand Theatre Press Room were in shock when they learned that I had neither seen the film or the stage version before.
Which made me like the little boy in the King's New Clothes.......everyone loved the musical but I saw something totally different, and just about kept awake as I cringed my way through Catherine Johnson's script.
Sophie Sheridan is born out of wedlock but, because her single mum Donna was putting it around on a Greek island some 20 years earlier, she doesn't know whether Sam, Harry or Bill is her dad. She learnt about them, by the way, from mum's secret diary.
So (yawn!) unbeknown to mum, she invites them all to her Greek Wedding (neither big or fat) in the belief that she will instantly recognise her dad. She doesn't.
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At best, it is twee and many of the numbers are musically abridged to accommodate dialogue. However, what this show does do, is draw your ear to the lyrics which you are called on to assimilate and listen to in a way you may have never done so before.
Abba were a talented bunch and it's taken them several decades to be accepted as cool. No doubt this musical will enhance their reputation still further as it joins that elite band of shows that run and run and run.
At its core Mamma Mia! is a known quantity. It leaves you feeling good, it is fun, has great music, a happy ending and every single song is known, and loved, by every member of the audience. People know what they are getting before they have even phoned the box office.
Personally, I would not rush back but, the fact that Leeds Grand was packed to the rafters and this show has the rare honour of a six-week run, says it all.
Emma Clifford was great at the slinky, man eating mate of mum, Tanya, whilst Gillian Hardie as Rosie - mate number two - was the fun, bouncy Scouser. Helen Hobson as Donna gave a great performance and Lucy May Barker as daughter Sophie, was wishy washy, not because 'she' was wishy washy but because the part was wishy washy; nice voice though!
For me this was a fun, but uninspiring show. If you love Abba and enter the Leeds Grand's main doors in the right frame of mind, you'll have a great night. You've got six weeks to make up your mind.
Runs until July 8th (2017)
Mamma Mia! Twee, Fun & Uplifting, 1st June 2017, 14:52 PM