With exams out of the way and university over for yet another year, Mamma Mia! at the Leeds Grand Theatre is the perfect way to welcome in the summer. The Jukebox musical, written by British playwright Catherine Johnson and based on the hit songs of ABBA as composed by former band-members Benny Andersson and Bjӧrn Ulvaeus, tells an uplifting story of love, friendship and self-identity, set on an idyllic Greek Island.
The show follows the story of Donna Sheridan (Helen Hobson), a free-spirited single mother, whose daughter, Sophie (Lucy May Barker), is getting married and dreams of having the farther she has never known walk her down the aisle. Sophie invites three men, all of whom could be her father (Jamie Hogarth, Christopher Hollis and Jon Boydon), to her Greek wedding and a plethora of musical-induced memories and self-realisation ensues.
The well-utilised artistically lighting gives the show a unique Mediterranean feel, while the minimalistic revolving set adds a high-pace energy to the production. This energy is matched perfectly not only by the barrage of non-stop musical numbers, but also by the high-octane choreography which dovetails flawlessly with the desired ‘summer-holiday’ atmosphere.
As good as the set, direction and choreography is, however, predictably the production’s main asset is its wonderful use of the ABBA back catalogue. Crowd-pleasers such as I have a Dream, Voulez-Vous, Thank You for the Music, Mamma Mia!, Dancing Queen and Take a Chance on Me simply have the audience bopping their heads and tapping their feet as they struggle not to sing along, while other numbers, such as Knowing Me, Knowing You, Money, Money, Money, and The Winner Take It All, more astutely fit the underlining themes of the show.
Special mention must be given to Hobson’s portrayal of Donna, as well as Gillian Hardie and Emma Clifford’s performances as Donna’s fellow ‘Dynamos’, Rosie and Tanya, who not only set the show alight with their strong vocals, but also add an effortlessly entwine a comedy aspect to the show.
Despite approaching its twentieth birthday, Mamma Mia! continues to pull in large audiences around the world with its fresh look, timeless ABBA hits, and its reputation as, “The sunniest of all musicals”. The audience is entertained from start to finish which becomes increasing evident throughout the show, climaxing with seemingly endless standing ovations and audience participation during the encore.
Mamma Mia! will be at the Leeds Grand Theatre until July 18.