Theatre Review: Mamma Mia! @ The Regent

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An expression in Italian that can cover a whole range of emotions and situations. Never can a title be more appropriate for this exquisite piece of musical theatre that takes the audience on a magical journey.

Well known to most theatre-goers through the highly successful film of the same name, it tells the story of Donna – the owner of a taverna on an idyllic Greek island. Proud of having had the independence to raise her daughter as a single parent, her world is turned upside down when her daughter announces that she is to be married to Sky. The major problem is that Sophie has lived her life not knowing the identity of her father. Anxious to discover who can walk her down the aisle, Sophie is shocked to find that there are three possible candidates so tricks all three into attending the forthcoming nuptials. Will there be a solution to the mystery? And what effect will all this have on Donna?

Jena Pandya is a beautiful Sophie with a delightful singing voice and she is well cast as a young girl in love. Her pairing with Toby Miles as Sky is a piece of very accurate casting.

However, unusually for much of musical theatre, the young cast members are not the most important characters and the more mature members of the cast are given the chance to steal the show.

Helen Anker and Nicky Swift bring sass and versatility to their roles as Donna’s former bandmates Tanya and Rosie. They play their parts with great vocal ability and great humour. There are equally entertaining performances from would-be parents Daniel Crowder (Harry), Phil Corbitt (Bill) and Richard Standing (Sam) with their acting and singing qualities bringing an extra zest to the production.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Sara Poyzer who is perfect as Donna. Her part in the film was played by Meryl Streep and it would be fair to say that Poyzer gives the Hollywood star more than a run for her money. Her powerful voice produced a rendition of The Winner Takes It All that brought the house down and will live long in the memory.

With the production woven around the music of Abba, the show is bound to have a great score and the well-known tunes had the audience swaying away from the first notes but this is not merely a tribute act. The songs are adapted to suit the action in the play and fit excellently into the plot.

Mamma Mia is the perfect package. Alongside the score, there is excellent choreography from a talented ensemble ranging from the synchronised movement of Money, Money, Money through the comedic Lay All Your Love On Me and Does Your Mother Know – excellent work by the very likeable James Willoughby Moore – to an exuberant version of Voulez Vous that closed Act 1 and an eruption of joy for the medley that closed the show that had the packed audience of all ages on its feet and roaring for more.

With the simple set and lighting, a slice of Greece is brought to the stage and the cast did the music of Abba and the whole production proud. With laughter, movement and contrasting poignancy – the wedding dress scene is particularly heart-rending – this is a must-not-miss event. Do I give this show five stars? I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do!!!

The production has a running time of 2 hours 35 minutes and is at the Regent Theatre until May 21st. For ticket information contact 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/stoke