Stephen Fry once compared ABBA to a bottle of coke. It wasn’t because their bubbling pop music was sweet and saccharine. It was because the original glass bottle was so well designed – becoming a design classic – it could withstand a hundred times more pressure from its contents than it needed to. A case of over-design. Just like ABBA. Their work is so well designed, so perfectly engineered and far, far better made than it ever needs to be – that they too have become classics. If Benny and Bjorn had created songs half as good they would still be some of the most outstanding pop music in the world. And “Mamma Mia”, that staggeringly successful stage show, stands testimony to the words and music of those talented Swedes and their well-designed pop classics.
The auditorium of the Birmingham Hippodrome last night was awash with dancing queens and super troupers of all shapes and sizes all with surprisingly varied approaches to theatre etiquette. Some whooped, some hollered, some kept sighing admiring but all without question were engaged, enchanted and delighted, because this show does what it says on the can and sings it was it says on the album cover and we loved it.
Sara Poyzer, with drill and dungarees ablazing, leads the triple (if not quadruple) threat cast with stunning vocals and a deft handle on the comedy. More than able support came from Nicky Swift and Helen Anker as her best friends and the errant husbands (Richard Standing, Daniel Crowder and Phil Corbitt) added comic twists of paternity which almost, but not quite, become farce. Catherine Johnson’s well-judged book avoids the obvious comedic pitfalls. Jena Pandya and Toby Miles as the star-crossed lovers both displayed a maturity beyond their years.
If you pushed me to find a fault, I suppose I could say the band sounded a bit thin and the plot’s emphasis on girl-power and its nineties sense of feminism seemed a little dated now, but if I did say that you’d be well within your rights to say, “Stop whinging and enjoy the show!” So, I did, and I did. You should, too.
“Mamma Mia” runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until the 14th May. If you miss it this time, it’ll be around again and for many years to come. It’s the kind of show which etches itself into the soul of a community and refuses to leave. And that’s not such a bad thing these days. So, go see it this time, and why not treat yourself to a bottle of coke, too?
Reviewer: Peter Kinnock
Reviewed: 4th May 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★