Mamma Mia! review - Show brings splash of Greek sunshine to Sunderland Empire theatre until July 16

If you’re looking for a show to lift the spirits, look no further than the performance bringing a splash of Greek sunshine to a sort-of grey North East evening.

There’s so much about iconic musical Mamma Mia! – based around the songs of ABBA – that lifts your mood, it’s hard to know where to begin.

It’s got romance and friendship, beautifully choreographed dance numbers and, let’s not forget, a soundtrack packed to the rafters with bangers.

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But I think you’d be hard-pushed to find a person who couldn’t admit to even half-liking just ONE song from the Swedish supergroup’s back catalogue. Even if it’s grudgingly.

Now, Mamma Mia! was due to have its two-week run at Sunderland Empire in September 2020, as part of the show’s 20th anniversary celebrations.

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So it’s been a long wait to get our ABBA fix – but theatre-goers were in fine fettle and ready to sing along as the curtain went up and we were transported to a Mediterranean paradise.

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Mamma Mia! brings the music of ABBA to Sunderland. Picture: Sunderland Empire/Brinkhoff-Moegenburg.

For those who don’t know the story, Mamma Mia! follows the tale of mother and daughter Donna and Sophie, as the latter prepares for her wedding day.

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Having never met her dad, Sophie wants him to walk her down the aisle on the big day, and embarks on a quest to find him.

There are three potential fathers from Donna’s past, so chaos and hilarity ensue when all three arrive on the Greek island to play a part in Sophie’s big day.

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Give me a leading lady like Donna Sheridan any day of the week.

Here come the girls! Picture: Sunderland Empire/Brinkhoff-Moegenburg.
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Sara Poyzer's portrayal of the chaotic, exciting and wildly independent mother and businesswoman was like getting wrapped up in a wonderful warm hug.

She isn't perfect and definitely doesn’t have it all figured out, but that’s what makes her so likeable and relatable.

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In every theatre show, I’m always looking for some cast members to shout out for how strongly they shine through. And the best ones for me have a bit of quirk about them.

In Grease; Frenchie. In Hairspray; Penny Pingleton. In Chicago; Amos Hart. In Rock of Ages; Dennis Dupree.

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Mamma Mia cast get ready for the show at Sunderland Empire Theatre. Donna and the Dynamos!

For Mamma Mia, it’s Bill (Phil Corbitt), Rosie (Nicky Swift) and Tanya (Helen Anker) who do it for me.

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Rosie and Tanya have got to be up there with some of theatre’s most incredible ladies.

They’re Donna’s confidants and hype women, bring comic relief and sass to the show in spades. I want to be in that gang!

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And shout out to ‘Geordie Giant’ Bill – if you know, you know – who got a lot of love and laughs despite being behind enemy lines on Wearside.

Picking a musical highlight from such a strong soundtrack is hard, but I have to give props to the party atmosphere of Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and Voulez Vous, the hilarious chemistry between Rosie and Bill during Take a Chance on Me and the power of QUEEN Tanya in Does Your Mother Know.

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ABBA gives anyone an excuse to sing along! Picture: Sunderland Empire/Brinkhoff-Moegenburg.

We’ve all had that dream of a whirlwind romance on a gorgeous Greek island – but absorbing yourself in a fictional one on a less-than-sunny July evening will do just fine.

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Mamma Mia! is at Sunderland Empire until Saturday, July 16.