Friday 14 February 2020

Mamma Mia the Musical at Mayflower Theatre

I have a little confession to make, I watched Mamma Mia (the film) for the first time in 2019 so I didn't understand the love for it until recently but oh my was I missing out! When it was announced Mamma Mia the Musical, where the film inspiration comes from would be at Mayflower Theatre, I couldn't wait to see it.

Mamma Mia the Musical is renowned as the world's sunniest and most exhilarating smash-hit musical and it's in Southampton for three weeks from 11th February. The show is set on a Greek island which explores a story of love, friendship and identity told through the timeless songs of Abba. 

It follows Sophie's journey to discover the father she's never known which brings her mother face to face with three men from her past on the eve of a wedding they'll never forget. It's fun, exciting and one that you can't help tapping your feet along to the music. 

The story of Mamma Mia begun a little over 35 years ago when the shows creator Judy Craymer first met Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson, the songwriters behind ABBA. Judy approached the pair about an original book musical. In 1995, Björn said if Judy could find the right writer and story then they'll see what happens - both Björn and Benny were understandably hesitant. 

Soon, Catherine Johnson was on board as the writer and Phyllida Lloyd as director and the all-female creative force for Mamma Mia was born. Finally, on April 6th 1999, the anniversary to the day of ABBA winning the Eurovision song contest with Waterloo 25 years before, Mamma Mia opened for the very first time to much success and has continued to be adored by many to the present day. 

Mamma Mia celebrated its 20th Anniversary last year and has now been watched by over 35 million people across the world. The love for the show grows year on year and I can honestly say it was one of the best musicals I've ever watched. 

I loved every single moment and have had the soundtrack on repeat since the night I watched it. 

You just can't beat a bit of ABBA, can you? 

Before we took our seats for the evening's show, we were invited backstage for a set tour and the chance to interview some of the lead cast. It was such a brilliant experience seeing the costume wardrobes, the sound area which blew my mind and of course the props - every single piece including the floor gets packed and unpacked at each theatre they tour. I'd never really thought about how much needs to be moved each time and it's mind-boggling. I would love to watch from backstage and see everything from that point of view during a show - I think it would be fascinating. 

Once we completed our tour, we took our seats with Emma Mullen (Sophie) and Toby Miles (Sky) and asked them some of our burning questions: 

What has been your biggest challenge taking on each of your roles for Mamma Mia?

EM: I think for me, it's been going for twenty years, it's so successful, there's been a film and they're popular characters, people know them very well so I think my biggest challenge was not getting it wrong whatever that may be and making it my own. 
TM: For me, it's the fitness side of it and being topless on stage. It's much more daunting that I thought it would be so I've had to step that up - it's been a nice challenge, but still a challenge. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue a career in musical theatre? 
 EM: I think resiliance & positivity, it's going to be really hard but it's so rewarding when it goes right. Just keep going, it's tough but if you believe in yourself, you'll be fine - it's all the usual things people say but it's so true. 
TM: It's hard - you hear people say don't do it unless you really want to which is true, don't do it because of fame or money, do it because you love it and it's your passion. You need to be resiliant, hearing no can be hard. 

What is your favourite Abba song? 
 EM: I'm going to say Super Trouper because it says Glasgow in it and that's where I'm from.
TM: Gimme Gimme Gimme I think - it's super catchy.

If you could play any other character in the show, who would it be? 
EM: I think I'd like to be Tanya, I love Tanya - she's great fun and she makes it look really fun to play too. 
TM: I'm going to mix it up and say Donna for the journey, she has so many funny moments, so many serious moments - there's a lot going on in that role. 

Mamma Mia is the feel-good musical you need in your life, the entire production is crammed full of dazzling sequins, fun costumes, iconic ABBA hits plus fun and funky dance routines. Emma Mullen takes the lead of Sophie in her first musical theatre lead and oh boy does she impress - her voice was impeccable and the versatility was astounding as she belted out hit after hit. 

Honey, Honey was a personal favourite of mine. 

Toby Miles played a fun and enticing Sky, the chemistry on stage really brought their characters to life and the stag do scene was absolutely brilliant with the help of the fabulous ensemble. 

The ensemble was extraordinary and a real treat - from the costumes and singing to the dancing, there was something to keep you captivated the entire way through. It was hard not to get up and start dancing. 

Donna Sheridan is played by Sharon Sexton and WHAT a voice! Donna is my favourite character in Mamma Mia and Sharon was quite literally born to play this role (it was the first show she auditioned in London when she first moved there!). She's fun, loveable and brings Donna to life, it was such a pleasure watching her on stage - it appears it's where she's completely at home. 

The Dads are played by Daniel Crowder (Harry Bright), Jamie Kenna (Bill Austin) and Rob Fowler (Sam Carmichael). We met each of the actors before the show and spent some time with them and their love of Mamma Mia and their characters was so apparent - it was really great chatting with each of them. 

Helen Anker (Tanya) and Nicky Swift (Rosie) were also fabulous as Donna's best friends AKA The Dynamos! My favourite ever scene features Tanya and Does your Mother Know and this was the best bit of the entire show for me, Helen was excellent and looked incredible too - I am totally envious of her legs! 

There is actually nothing I could fault about Mamma Mia, I felt completely wrapped up in the show from start to finish and I really didn't want it to end. In fact, I'd quite like to go and see it again before it leaves Southampton 29th February.

Tickets are still available to purchase, visit Mayflower Theatre or call Box Office: 02380 711811.

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