- Gareth K Vile
- 30 September 2019
This article is from 2019
The music of the past with a timeless message
Despite suffering from some of the jukebox musical's traditional challenges – songs that don't quite fit the narrative, and reworkings of familiar numbers through a limited musical palette – Mamma Mia achieves its intention of being an elegantly formed and dynamic feel-good work of entertainment. With an ensemble which throws itself enthusiastically into the spectacular routines, and a series of leads who bring appropriate melancholy and joy to the more reflective moments, the script makes the most of the simple plot to showcase both the talent of the performers and the versatility of ABBA's extensive songbook.
While 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' has been fixed as the theme for hopeless chat-show hosts through the Alan Partridge series, many of ABBA's tunes have survived their light disco origins to become either stomping classics or precise portraits of emotional introspection, and this balance of fun and thoughtfulness transforms the musical into an emotional journey. The more that the choreography embraces surrealism and camp, the more the production enthrals.
With Emma Mullen capturing the innocence and optimism of protagonist Sophie, and the scenography conjuring a suggestive Greek island paradise, the spirit of ABBA's repertoire is translated into a vision of life that accommodates hen-party wildness, karaoke comedy and nostalgia in a celebration of youthful pleasure, middle-aged regret and optimism, and the importance of a love that can conquer all.
Reviewed at Edinburgh Playhouse. Now touring the UK.