Review - Mamma Mia! at Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Mamma Mia
Mamma Mia
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Maybe it's the sunshine, glamorous Greek island setting or flamboyant Abba party feel to the musical Mamma Mia! that makes me keep coming back for more.

My visit to the production's run at Northampton's Royal and Derngate was my fifth time of seeing the hit show. Just call me a Super Trouper stalker.

First brought to the stage in 1999, the musical, which comprises the music of Swedish superstars Abba, is now familiar to many; not least because it was also made into a film in 2008.

As the story goes, Donna prepares for the wedding of her 20-year-old daughter Sophie, without realising the youngster has invited all of the men who could potentially be her dad to help celebrate her forthcoming nuptials.

Drama, emotion and comedy ensues as the battle to discover Sophie's real father unfolds, but is this really what the bride-to-be is searching for?

So, how did latest production match up with the former, West End shows I had visited? In my view, the success of Mamma Mia hinges on the quality of singing, the charisma of Donna, the comedy provided by Donna's two friends Rosie and Tanya, and the energy provided by the three possible dads: Sam, Harry and Bill.

The musical seems to start slowly with characters failing to gel convincingly in their roles. But as the play progressed, so did the momentum and it seemed easier to suspend reality and connect with the characters being played on stage.

Emma Clifford as Tanya and Gillian Hardie as Rosie did a wonderful job as Donna's two friends, with highlights including their duet Chiquitita, which prompted some of the first big laughs of the night.

By the second act, the on stage action had achieved some of the momentum lacking in its first half and there is a brilliant series of songs led by Helen Hobson as Donna, including a beautiful rendition of Slipping Through My Fingers, which, as a mum to two girls, always makes me hope I am not going to burst into embarrassing tears in the middle of an otherwise cheery musical.

There is a reason Mamma Mia! always shows to packed theatres and that is, even though the story is a little far-fetched and the tale a mere canvass on which Abba songs can be showcased, there is also depth in the tale if you look for it, and audiences can identify with this. It also reminds us what a talented band Abba really was.

Mamma Mia! continues at Northampton's Royal & Derngate until February 3. For booking information, visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk