REVIEW: Mamma Mia ★★★★★ – Novello Theatre

“…an all-time, feel-good classic and one of the biggest parties in the West End”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

 

Mamma Mia is a musical written by Catherine Johnson featuring the music of Abba, composed by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, former band members. The musical premiered at the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre in April 1999 before opening on Broadway in October 2001. Mamma Mia was also adapted to the big screen in the 2008 film starring Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep.

The story is set on a Greek resort owned by Donna Sheridan. Her daughter, Sophie, is days away from getting married and has invited her three potential fathers, sending Donna into a hysterical frenzy as she tries to smooth everything over before the wedding.

The musical presents a variety of views and positions on the subject of marriage and relationships. Donna professes to love the freedom of her single life, but secretly longs for companionship after a difficult life raising a child alone, and she doesn’t understand her daughter’s desire to “settle down” so early in her life. Young, idealistic and naïve Sophie believes in love and doing things “the traditional way” by marrying, settling down and having children, and holds a mild resentment of not knowing who her father is and her mother’s unconventional past.  Donna’s two best friends give us yet more hilarious angles on relationships: serial bride Tanya has married and then divorced three times, profiting from each of them; Rosie is determined to stay free and single but in the end succumbs to the charms of the equally wild and spontaneous Bill.

One of the most important themes in Mamma Mia is its championing of the mother-daughter relationship which is explored in great depths in the Donna and Sophie dynamic. The two go through the motions of quarrelling over what Donna sees as a premature marriage that Sophie hasn’t thought all the way through and Sophie’s unresolved anger over not knowing her father, but, in the end, their bond pulls through as Sophie asks Donna to give her away at her wedding. The essence of the relationship is most poignantly captured in the touching number ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’.

Fatherhood, in contrast, is taken light-heartedly, with Sophie having three potential fathers and there is seemingly no conclusion on which one it is, to great comic effect. Like fatherhood, appropriateness in relationships is also taken with a generous dollop of tongue in cheek which adds to the wonderful outrageousness of the show.

The current cast of Mamma Mia is chiefly made up of Sara Poyzer (Rutherford and Son, Othello, Billy Elliot) as Donna, Georgina Castle (Dirty Dancing) as Sophie, Kate Graham (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Billy Elliot, The Producers) as Tanya, and Jacqueline Braun (Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, We Will Rock You) as Rosie, accompanied by a stellar ensemble cast.

Mamma Mia is an all-time, feel-good classic and one of the biggest parties in the West End. It will survive transitions through different casts, venues and cities and still give that infectious feel-good party atmosphere wherever it goes.

Mamma Mia is currently showing at the Novello Theatre (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the Novello, read our guide.

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REVIEW: Hamilton ★★★★★ – Victoria Palace Theatre

“…a slick fusion-musical which is rich with history, detail and patriotism”

★★★★★

West End Theatre Guide

 

 

Hamilton is a musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda which was inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography entitled ‘Alexander Hamilton’. The musical debuted on Off-Broadway and, propelled by its rapid ticket sales, it transferred to Broadway in August 2015, and the eagerly anticipated musical has now opened at the West End’s Victoria Palace Theatre.

It follows the story of Hamilton both personally, with his wife, Eliza, and their children, and also portrays his life fighting in the American War of Independence to gain the colony its freedom from George III, and his contributions to the foundations of the current system of US government, treasury and financial systems.

One of the most important things about Hamilton is the show’s integrity. The musical remains true to the facts and doesn’t try to make Hamilton out to be a perfect man, as may have been tempting while creating a musical in honour of one of America’s oldest heroes. This is unusual, and refreshing to us, living in an age where people in the public eye are often held to some supposed higher morality requirements in their personal lives and are then criticised and ridiculed for falling short of that. Alexander Hamilton made many mistakes, including neglecting his family for work and having a secret affair, yet his contribution to politics and the founding of America is in no way less because of that.

The statements, themes and points made in the musical, both obviously for effect and subtly as audiences leave and dwell on the piece, can be paralleled with modern times. An example of this is the snappy line of “Immigrants: we get the job done” which gives an interesting spin on the xenophobic political trends of late.

Hamilton is an altogether modern take on this period of history, bringing it to life vibrantly, with modern beats and rhythms, the rap-style speech and musical numbers and the diverse cast. Perhaps the most refreshing part of the musical is the conscious casting of actors from a variety of ethnic groups. Miranda explained this as “…the story of America then, told by America now”. This highlights the progress we’ve made in the quarter of a millennium which has passed since the Founding Fathers and, also, a little of what we’ve yet to learn or mis-learned along the way.

In a phenomenal cast of actors, Giles Terera (The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Black Bottom, Hamlet) is sublime as Aaron Burr and gives the standout performance of the show, particularly excelling with ‘The Room Where It Happens’. The relatively unknown RADA graduate, Jamael Westman (The White Devil, Torn) also shines in the title role, particularly with ‘My Shot’. Michael Jibson (Roots, Roadshow, The Comedy of Errors) gave a hysterical performance as the outrageous King George III and gave a wonderful rendition of ‘You’ll Be Back’. Jason Pennycooke (Father Comes Home from the War, Guys and Dolls, Memphis) as Lafayette and Jefferson, Obioma Ugoala (Motown, Richard II, Henry V) as George Washington, Rachelle Ann Go (The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, Les Miserables) as Eliza Hamilton and Rachel John (The Bodyguard, Memphis, Rent) as Angelica Schuyler also gave superb performances.

Hamilton is a slick fusion-musical which is rich with history, detail and patriotism and it delivers expertly crafted, snappy lines of dialogue via many genres of music. Does Hamilton live up to all the hype? That’s a very tall order considering the extensive media attention and theatregoers’ near-hysteria to obtain tickets and at performances, but yes, it most certainly does – and then some!

Hamilton is showing at the Victoria Palace Theatre and booking until 28th July 2018 (to book tickets, click here).   For more information on your visit to the Victoria Palace, read our guide.

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