Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Mamma Mia

Judy Craymer & Catherine Johnson
Palace Theatre, Manchester
26 April 2011 to 18 June 2011

Most musical theatre producers would be content if you walk away humming a handful of songs from their show . . .

Here the audience always arrives word-perfect, their skills honed by karaoke-soaked immersion in music that has achieved a continuing familiarity no-one would have guessed at back in the 70s heyday of Swedish hit-makers Abba.

While everyone else purged their memory of those years of stack heels and gleaming Lycra musical producer Judy Craymer listened to the music all over again, and spotted the stories embedded in each of the songs.

Threaded together in a narrative supplied by writer Catherine Johnson it became Mamma Mia! And the rest, as they say, is musical theatre history . . .

Melding the drama of the music to a jolly romp of a story makes it something of a musical masterpiece. Indeed with its Mediterranean island setting and intricate plotting it’s a story Shakespeare himself would not have been ashamed to shake a quill at . . .

Now on its second visit to Manchester this international tour is busy mopping up the remainder of the world’s population who may not yet have experienced the phenomenon.

Naturally it’s a well-drilled travelling production, and can manage without star names in a show where it has always been the songs given top billing.

No-one however, can stop Sara Poyzer wringing every emotional drop from One of Us, or provoking a parental lump in the throat at Slipping Through My Fingers, while sidekicks Kate Graham and Jennie Dale are much less subtle in their respective roles.

Indeed the whole production has acquired an added bump and grind that now anticipates the demands of its Hen Party following.

But be warned, not content with the world domination of Mamma Mia!, Judy Craymer has now turned her attention to the Spice Girls. Why didn’t the rest of us think of that?

Reviewer: David Upton


Comment by Alan Hulme

Seemingly unstoppable but viewed rationally, without the hysteria that appears to be obilgatory for this sort of show these days, it's a pleasant enough, clever enough re-use of the Abba songbook that whiles away a couple of hours without stretching one's intellect.

Why it has been and remains so popular is a mystery to me but I'm pleased for director Phyllida LLoyd, whom it has made rich beyond anything she can have dreamed of when she was one of the very best artistic directors the Royal Exchange ever had.