Monday, April 22

Mamma Mia – Opera House, Manchester

Mamma Mia! The smash hit jukebox musical opened tonight to a raving full house of ABBA fanatics and theatre enthusiasts, all head- bopping to the renowned hits from the overture to finale. As soon as the band began taking us through a medley of ABBA’s greatest hits during the overture, I could feel the electric energy and could tell this would be an unforgettable night of musical theatre. 

The creative team is comprised of highly acclaimed and accomplished theatre professionals. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, choreographed by Anthony Van Laast and musically directed by Carlton Edwards – this collective is a powerhouse, creating a truly triple-theatre piece of theatre right from the get-go.

During the show we were greeted by a simplistic set. This was used to created a multitude of varied settings, from a young women’s bedroom, to a tropical beach to Donna’s bed and breakfast courtyard. The cast did the minimalistic set justice (using various levels, entrances and exits to add variety) however I believe a few more details could have been added to take the set to the next level, help further immerse our audience to the array of settings and help us keep up with the rather intricate plot.

The lighting plot was immense, this was particularly apparent during certain full-ensemble numbers, such as ‘voulez vouz’ and ‘gimme gimme gimme’. The strobe lighting gave these number incredible impact – almost creating a concert-style-setting. I constantly found myself having the urge to sing along during these specific ensemble number, and could tell everyone seated around me felt very similar.

Our leading lady Sophie Sheridan was played by the delightful Jess Michelmore.

The constant chirpy, cheery nature of this character shone through, while still being highly adaptable and delving into hard-hitting and emotional scenes when needed (this was shown powerfully during Donna/Sophie Mother/Daughter scenes). A truly skilled performer.

Sara Poyzer played our Donna Sheridan. Her breath-taking vocals left not a dry eye in the house, specifically during ‘slipping through my fingers’. Her very rich-toned voice gave such clarity and strength – an absolute joy to listen to, and had our audience waiting in anticipation for the next cameo.

Very honourable and memorable performances included Jaden Oshenye as the hilariously silly, class clown-type character ‘Pepper’ and Neal Craig as ‘Harry Bright’ who brought a delicate softness and comedic unawareness to this well-known role. Each performer (ensemble and leads alike) constantly told a story throughout all numbers and scenes, whether they had bundles of dialog, or were floating at the edge. I loved zoning in on a particular ensemble member throughout, and watching their scene and general character development.

Something I found an interesting take was casting performers with a similar vocal tone to those of the film. This was particularly apparent with the characters of Sophie and Donna. I think this was done justice, however a very bold move from the creative team. Nevertheless, this was extremely successful. From the opening number ‘I have a dream’ the audience knew the direction the casting had taken and were simultaneously holding their breath to see how this choice would unravel.

From start to finish, our full house was provided with a night of enjoyable entertainment and were certainly left humming the songs down the streets of Manchester – the ending cameo from Donna and the Dymamos certainly left me feeling uplifted, positive and most definitely dancing in my seat!  

Mamma Mia! The Musical is currently on its UK Tour, stopping at Manchester Opera House from 31st January to 11th February. I would highly recommend catching it before is sets off on the rest of the UK wide tour – it will certainly be a night to remember.

Reviewer: Grace Annabel

Reviewed: 1st February 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★