Mamma Mia The Musical announced its arrival in Edinburgh this week for a ten-day run at the Edinburgh Playhouse. One of the country’s most iconic live shows, the musical is adapted by two members of the Swedish pop superstar group ABBA – Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.
Now people who know me will know my musical tastes. I was never a fan of ABBA and I’ve never seen the film version of Mamma Mia which apparently stars Julie Walters, Cher and Colin Firth among many others. But, in the line of duty for the Edinburgh Reporter, I thought I would head for the Playhouse on Friday for an evening of cheesy 1970s/80s music and dodgy clothing.
But, if truth be told, it turned out to be a hugely entertaining evening.
The show begins with 20-year-old Sophie Sheridan – played by Emma Mullen – preparing for her wedding on an idyllic Greek island with her single mother Donna, played superbly by Sharon Sexton. It’s a dual narrative – Sophie never knew her father but wants whoever he is to give her away on her big day. Donna, on the other hand, has tried to forget the events of 21 years ago when she conceived her daughter, principally because she’s unsure who the father is – perm any one from three men she had a relationship with at the time! Sophie is aware of this – the show begins with her posting wedding invites to all three!
This is the premise of the story and the musical performances which follow are suitably apt. Clearly, Messrs Andersson and Ulvaeus saw the potential of the story in their songs and together with playwright Catherine Johnson they have created a musical that is funny, touching and has a real feelgood factor throughout.
Fans of ABBA – and even those who aren’t – will have their memories rekindled of simpler times with a plethora of the group’s classic numbers. Chiquitita; Dancing Queen; Knowing Me, Knowing You; Take a Chance on Me; The Winner Takes it All and, of course, Mamma Mia along with many others are all performed with such boundless energy and the cast’s love of the show radiates from the stage.
I’ve been to many a show at the Edinburgh Playhouse and some of the stage settings are extravagant. The set for Mamma Mia is simple – it’s a show that lets the performers grab your attention.
The cast are relative unknowns but the performances from all are top notch. I was particularly impressed by Nicky Swift who played the gallus Rosie. Ms Swift clearly loves playing the part and this shone throughout the entire show. Sharon Sexton’s portrayal as Sophie’s mother achieved the considerable feat of making you laugh one minute and having a lump in the throat the next. But all the cast were excellent and their performances faultless.
In these troubled times, Mamma Mia is a show that will make you forget your troubles for a couple of hours and have your feet tapping and hands clapping. Certainly, the sell-out audience at the Playhouse loved it and the standing ovation for the cast at the end was fully deserved.
Mamma Mia is on at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 28th September. It’s a show that will make your heart sing! Tickets here
Edinburgh Reporter rating ★★★★★