With the release of Mamma Mia 2 only weeks away, it’s not surprising that the Kings Theatre had a full house, even on a Tuesday evening, for the hit musical turned movie, Mamma Mia.
Located in the heart of Portsmouth, the Kings Theatre was built by Frank Matcham in 1907, and often plays gracious host to many touring musicals, Mamma Mia being no exception. Mamma Mia follows the story of Sophie and Donna, a mother and daughter duo who live on a Greek Island, preparing for Sophie’s wedding to a young man named Sky. Sophie has never known her father, as her mother has never divulged who it could be, but whilst snooping through her mother’s belongings she discovers three potential candidates and invites them all to her wedding. It sparks many blasts from the past for Donna, as her three previous lovers, Harry, Bill and Sam, arrive on the island. We follow her coming to terms with her youth, with the help of her sisters from different misters, Rosie and Tanya. Of course, Mamma Mia is nothing without the hearty, powerhouse tracks from Eurovision champions of 1974, Abba.
The venue is, as expected, aged and in-keeping with early 1900’s stylings, with small seats and painted signage from the times. This adds to the charm and appeal of the building, however even as a woman of only 5ft 5in, I struggled with being so cramped in next to others. The interval was a welcome opportunity to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. Navigating the building on arrival was slightly difficult as we were instructed, from the main entrance, to head up the stairs and back down to reach the stalls but in the process were misdirected and ended up on the wrong side. Oops!
Once seated, there was an opportunity to admire the set and stage before the show began. The set itself was comprised of 2 pieces, resembling white stone houses found in a Greek village, with various doors and windows to represent multiple rooms of the complex on the island. These pieces were configured throughout the show for different scenes, for example the Hen party scene on the veranda and for the interior scene with Donna and the Dynamos. Stage crew were also dressed as villagers and hotel staff, giving the transitions a seamless and natural feel throughout the performance. The use of such a dynamic and simplistic set is something I admire as it makes shows more adaptable for various venues and minimises the opportunity for malfunctions.
The show itself was interesting, but of course it’s difficult to forget the iconic film version starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Amanda Seyfried when it comes to casting choice. I personally felt the casting for this show in particular was lacking in some of the roles. However, the roles of Tanya and Rosie were cast impeccably, both Helen Anker (Tanya) and Nicky Swift (Rosie) owning the stage in every scene. They are as charismatic and as comical as their film companions Christine Baranski and Julie Walters – both vocally and with their stage presence – and I found them engaging and heart-warming throughout the show. I found myself begging for more every time.
There were a number of scenes which I felt were rather lacklustre, particularly seeing as the songs that accompanied them are hits. Saying that, the finale was what the audience were waiting for. Performing as Donna and the Dynamos, the older leads came back on stage in their sparkly lycra and platform heels. The audience were on their feet clapping and singing along, when the male leads entered in matching attire. The finale was good fun, high-energy and made up for the scenes that were lacking.
Overall, I did enjoyed the performance. I felt the cast were really hard-working and I would recommend it to fans of Abba, and anyone looking for a good evening out. But if you’re expecting it to be anything like the film, you will be disappointed.
Dates and times at the Kings Theatre Portsmouth can be found on their website, following the link.