donna and Dynamos

Super Troupers: Helen Anker as Tanya, Sara Poyzer as Donna and Nicky Swift as Rosie. Pictures: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg

Mamma Mia!

Birmingham Hippodrome


Here we go again and how can we resist you as they say as Donna, Rosie and Tanya are back in town bringing with them a splash of Greek sunshine with Mamma Mia!

The songs of Abba are part of growing up for those of a certain age – I was in my prime, or as near as I was ever likely to get to it, when Waterloo blew away the Eurovision Song Contest back in 1974.

Their music has been played and played ever since, with nine No 1s, 20 top 10 hits, the second best selling album of all time in the UK and a combined total of more than four years in the UK top 40 charts – in almost half a century they have become an institution attracting generations of fans.

So, the idea of creating a musical around their music (Judy Craymer) was genius – whatever the plot, this really was a case of Thank You for the Music.

The story is simple, Donna (Sara Poyzer) runs a simple taverna on a small Greek island and has a daughter, Sophie (Jena Pandya) who is about to get married to Sky (Toby Miles) but she has no idea who her father is.

sophie and sky

Jena Pandya as Sophie and Toby Miles as Sky

No idea, that is, until she finds her mother’s diary and discovers there are three possibilities – Donna, it seems, was a pioneer in the cause of equal opportunities and she has no idea of who the father is either.

 So, Sophie, now 21, secretly invites all three to her wedding, none of whom have seen Donna in 20 years, under some sort of impression she might find which one is her dad . . . some hopes.

Thus, we have Bill (Phil Corbitt) a Geordie adventurer and travel writer, single and determined to stay that way, Harry, (Daniel Crowder) a banker with a partner and wealth to spare, and architect Sam (Richard Standing) with two sons but now divorced – so he’s free . . . just saying.

Donna was in a girl band, Donna and the Dynamos, so the rest of the band Rosie (Nicky Swift) and Tanya (Helen Anker) turn up for the wedding as well.

There’s a bit of angst here and there, a stag night and a hen night, Sophie and Sky walk off through the mist into the sunset, everyone lives happily ever after and the audience go home floating on a feel-good cloud. with a smile on their face and a whole catalogue of tunes in their head. 

dad trio

A surfeit of dads: Phil Corbitt as Bill, Richard Standing as Sam and Daniel Crowder as Harry

Keep it simple, keep it fun and let the songs tell the story – 22 of them – and by golly, does it work. Feet were tapping, heads swaying, smiles broadening from the off, all basking in the sound of youth and memories.

Every song was executed well with some imaginative choreography (Anthony Van Laast) from an excellent ensemble. Super Trouper from Donna and the Dynamos, all sleek and silvered, had some lovely harmony but the stand out performance was Donna’s The Winner Takes It All, regularly voted as Abba’s greatest song. Sara Poyzer sings it with real emotion, gentle sadness and wonderfully controlled power. Well deserving the show stopping ovation.

She is involved in most of the emotive songs with her conflicted feelings about Sam coming out in One of Us while Sam has his moment with a lovely version of Knowing Me, Knowing You as he tries to be a dad giving advice and telling Sophie about his failed marriage.

There is also plenty of fun with Helen Anker showing a real talent for comedy as Tanya, who always comes across as the sexy one, while Rosie and Bill give us plenty of laughs with their torrid tango, or terrified two-step in Bill’s case, to Take a Chance on Me.

bill and rosie

Bill fighting for his single life with Rosie . . . he lost 

Bill being a devotee of the single life with Rosie determined, and to be fair, succeeding in converting him – dot, dot, dot as they say in the show.

We have the male ensemble and Sky in a flipper and snorkel dance – don’t ask – as part of the stag night, or the attempts by Pepper (James Willoughby Moore), one of the taverna staff, to seduce Tanya with a display of break dancing in a comic routine to Does Your Mother Know.

The set (Mark Thmpson) is simple, two trucks which are rotated to give walls, the outside of the taverna, or, reversed, the inside courtyard of the taverna while Howard Harrison’s lighting design is a masterclass in how to create mood and drama, highlighting characters and moments. He uses stark, harsh white contrasted with warm, sunny day tones, dimming and increasing when needed to create constant interest and change on a static set.

Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken’s sound design was well balanced and the seven piece band under musical director Carlton Edwards were into the swing of things with that authentic Abba sound from the start.

If you want a fun night out, making even feel-good feel good, then take a chance on this, it’s a night of memories for a certain age and the enduring sound of a true Supergroup for the rest. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, Mamma Mia! is The Name of the Game to 14-05-22.

Roger Clarke


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