Viewpoint 1: Jasmine Sandhar
Knowing my undying love for ABBA and knowing how successful the show’s 20-year tour has been, it was no surprise that MOM MIA! the musical was an absolutely extra (-ha!) ordinary evening at the Hippodrome last night. The seamless marriage of character dynamism with bittersweet plot nostalgia has never been lacking in the franchise, whether in book or film form. However, undeniably, its true homeland can only be found in the campy glitz and glamor of the theater. For it is in this liminal space, where “we are releasing the rules of the world and collectively adopting a new set of rules governed by the expectation of drama”that people can really understand the line: ‘Without a song or a dance what are we?’
Indeed, it was hard not to be engrossed in the virtual reality of the show when everything was so vibrant and engaging. The setting itself was almost the spitting image of Donna Sheridan’s villa-turned-hotel from the film with its blank white walls, turreted roof and arched peepholes. This coupled with a hanging shrub decoration that was hoisted up and down accordingly and incredible lighting that acted like the sun casting realistic shadows immediately transported the audience to the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi. So do other cinematic aspects, such as the high-resolution images of the moon projected onto the background screen and the tendrils of smoke drifting dreamily across the stage in a pool of fog during “I Have A Dream.” , which made it all seem so real.
Nonetheless, it was of course the performers who really brought the show to life. From the moment the show opened with Sophie (Jena Pandya) soloing on stage as she mailed letters to her three would-be dads to the curtain falling during Donna (Sara Poyzer) and Sam’s passionate kiss ( Richard Standing) after the third encore, every cast member gave it their all – though it probably helped that Poyzer and Standing are actually husband and wife offstage, also! The ensemble of backup dancers and singers was sensational, providing an unparalleled energy that constantly propelled the show forward to perfectly recreate a whirlwind summer romance. The counter melodies they provided mimicked those on the ABBA records perfectly and in terms of dancing justice was certainly done to Anthony Van Laast’s award winning choreography as no one missed a single beat with arm movements evenly crisp and fully extended and meticulous footwork. , even when the boys were wearing snorkeling fins to prepare for Sky’s (Toby Miles) bachelor party!
Although the main characters of the series executed their roles perfectly – with Poyzer sending notes left and right and center in the very moving “The Winner Takes It All” and Pandya effortlessly gliding up and down in his register in “Honey, Honey” – for me, it was the slightly smaller pieces that really stood out. Take, for example, the hilarious and cheeky duet of “Does Your Mother Know” between Tanya (Helen Anker) and Pepper (James Willoughby Moore), which featured various understated dance moves re-enacting sex positions and some brilliant Moore breakdancing segments. in his attempt to woo the former Dynamo. Another highlight should be Rosie’s (Nicky Swift) and Bill’s (Phil Corbitt) joint performance of “Take A Chance On Me,” which included the fabulous physical comedy of the pair hopping in the pews one the other.
In fact, it was the group numbers that consistently shone, as all of the cast members had remarkable chemistry with each other. This was particularly clear through the trios of female characters, which presented a wholesome theme of solidarity and friendship between women – something that is becoming increasingly important these days, as evidenced by the recent reports of potential reversal of US abortion rulings. The striking parallel between Sophie and her two best friends Lisa (Mariella Mazzilli) and Ali (Jasmine Shen), and Donna and the Dynamos, made even more visible by the echo of feminist jokes between the two trios, recalls how this theme of the he unity between women stands the test of time and is transmitted from generation to generation.
Despite these individual groupings, there was still a sense of cohesion among the cast due to the phenomenal style and design of the costumes. Of course, there were the stereotypical but iconic pieces that everyone would expect, like Dynamos’ frilly flares and feather boas, Donna’s classic denim overalls and Sky’s surfer necklace. However, I really loved the other creative choices that were made throughout, like the sunset color palette and hats for the wedding day or the trendy and sparkly Y2K outfits for the bachelorette party. Sophie’s life as a young girl. In my humble opinion (because I’m no fashion expert by any means!), the winning looks of the night were worn by Tanya, who pulled off a stunning v-neck jumpsuit and gorgeous floral beach skirt to match her candle personality.
Everything about this show has been extremely well thought out, from the small details to the big picture. Special credit must be given to music supervisor Martin Koch, who managed to produce such exceptional sound that the entire audience rose from their seats singing, dancing and clapping at the end. This continuous ovation was a roaring “Thank you for the music” that I had never seen in any other show before, and the confetti that burst above our heads at the very end is an unforgettable moment that left me beaming from ear to ear. all the way back and by the time I got into bed. I can only hope the Hippodrome will continue to ‘Gimme! Give me ! Give me!” more outstanding performances like this.
POV 2: Jess Rushton
Based on the incredible music of ABBA, Mama Mia! is a classic jukebox musical that has won acclaim since its first production opened in 1999. Benny and Bjorn’s music and lyrics have created one of the most well-known musicals around, and it’s easy to understand why the show was such a hit and adapted into two amazing films. With a great story and captivating music, this is one of my favorite musicals to watch, and I was not disappointed on my third visit.
Jena Pandya as Sophie has one of the most exquisite voices I’ve ever heard, and every note she sang was clear and effortless. Sophie’s character shone through her performance, and the character’s emotions felt really realistic throughout the show. She has also proven to be an integral part of ensemble dances, proving to be a true triple threat performer. The same can be said for her onstage mother, Sara Poyzer, who brought Donna Sheridan’s character to life in the best way. The voices throughout the show gave me goosebumps, but ‘Slip through my fingers’ in the second act with the two of them, it was so moving to watch Donna help Sophie prepare for her wedding.
The ensemble’s talent and stamina were exceptional, with each dance appearing effortless. The dances were all so in sync and full of energy, but their enthusiasm never wavered and their stage presence was immense. Particularly in the first-act finale, Sophie’s Hen-do, the entire cast worked together to create a festive atmosphere within the theater, full of high-energy dancing and emotional revelations as Sophie tries to uncover who is his father.
Each actor had so much character and made me feel almost like I was at a party in Greece. Special praise must be given to James Willoughby Moore as Pepper, who had all the audience laughing at several points during the show, especially during ‘Does your mother know’ which is one of my personal favorite songs – that scene definitely stood out as the best comedic moment of the night.
Nicky Swift as Rosie and Helen Anker as Tanya also provided some of the show’s best moments, including ‘Dancing Queen’ and even before they were introduced on stage, I could immediately tell which characters they were; their characterization was spot on throughout.
The atmosphere in the audience during the greetings and during the songs performed afterwards was electric and everyone in the room was dancing, clapping and enjoying the show alongside the performers on stage. It was a spectacular way to end the evening, giving the audience the opportunity to join the singers and celebrate the show with them. There is nothing I can criticize about the show or any of the performers; they all put incredible effort into making the show and it really paid off. Mama Mia! is a musical that I will never get tired of seeing!
The show made me smile, laugh and cry and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a joyful evening at the theatre. It is play at Birmingham Hippodrome until May 14 and the tour continues until April 2023.
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