Culture Writer Tatiana Zhelezniakova reviews a fun and enjoyable production of Madagascar the MusicalWritten by Tatiana Zhelezniakova on 1st August 2018
Review: Mamma Mia! at the Wolverhampton Grand
Culture Critic Holly Reaney reviews the 'beautifully life-affirming' touring production of Mamma Mia!, the feel-good musical featuring the music of ABBA
I am not the biggest musicals fan - I have nothing against them, and I’ve seen the films of Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables, but I don’t know the words and scores of every musical on Broadway or the West End, nor do I have that passionate die-hard adoration that musical theatre often generates. Until seeing Mamma Mia!, I just didn’t totally understand it, but now I have the firm belief that everyone should go and watch at least one musical on stage. The spectacular production of Mamma Mia! currently playing at the Wolverhampton Grand is beautifully life-affirming, and the perfect antidote to the stresses of uni life.
Opening with a warning of white Lycra and platform boots, obviously to prepare those of a more nervous disposition, you know you’re going to be in for a fun-filled evening that only 70s throwback and some classic ABBA tunes could provide. A simplistic rotating set accompanies a backdrop which brings the beautiful Mediterranean ocean to the middle of Wolverhampton.
“The spectacular production of Mamma Mia! currently playing at the Wolverhampton Grand is beautifully life-affirming
The story of the dynamic duo, single mother Donna and daughter bride-to-be Sophie, is well known and most people will have already seen the 2008 film. Helen Hobson’s performance of the infamous Donna is superb, carrying the performance forward with a fierce independence paired with her struggling reality, which brings a fascinating level of changeability to her character. Lucy May Barker is a likeable Sophie, who simultaneously encapsulates a gentle innocent and the aggressive spunk of her mother; there is a fire to her character which is refreshing to see.
The leading men, Donna’s three reunited ex-es, Harry, Sam and Bill (Jamie Hogarth, Jon Boydon, Christopher Hollis) were hilarious and each had a clearly defined personality and sense of humour, with Boydon’s singing significantly superior to his on-screen counterpart. Whilst the men offered a solid trio, it is the women that really steal the show. The Dynamo’s, consisting of Donna (Hobson), Rosie (Rebecca Seale) and Tanya (Emma Clifford), had a brilliant chemistry and really rocked some of the musical’s most famous hits, especially Dancing Queen and Chiquitita.
With an explosion of flippers, feather boas and fabulousness, the touring production of Mamma Mia! is electric. With plenty of laugh out loud moments, it was much funnier than the film, most notably throughout Does Your Mother Know, which might just be my stand out performance of the evening. It was effortlessly cool and casual, with Clifford’s Tanya teasing and mocking the talented yet cheeky Pepper (played by Louis Stockil) as he attempts to flirt with her, despite the fact she’s ‘old enough to be his mother’.
Concluding with rousing renditions of Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo, the cast had everyone on their feet, singing at the top of their voices, clapping joyously and dancing along - even the inevitable sceptics in the room. It was a moment of collective release as throughout the entire production there was a concerted effort by each audience member to hold back from singing along with every classic hit (though on occasion a few people did get caught out, notably in the pause whilst when waiting for one character’s response to the proposal - though I shan’t spoil the plot in case you haven’t seen it).
“Concluding with rousing renditions of Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo, the cast had everyone on their feet, singing at the top of their voices, clapping joyously and dancing along
Trading a cold, bleak night in Selly Oak for an evening of singing, dancing and a paternity mystery on Greek island, Mamma Mia offers the perfect heartwarming escape before the ‘here we go again’ of lectures, seminars and the dreaded assessments.
Mamma Mia! plays at the Wolverhampton Grand until Saturday 24th of February, before continuing on its tour. More information can be found here.
(Trailer includes previous cast).