Review: Mamma Mia! – Palace Theatre Manchester

The event that I’ve been waiting months for is finally upon us. Oh yes, Mamma Mia! has come to Manchester. Showing at The Palace Theatre on Oxford Road, the global smash hit musical with the songs of ABBA, about a whore* who couldn’t keep her knickers on and her control-freak daughter with daddy issues has landed!

Six years ago a movie was released of the aforementioned show and six years ago I became obsessed. You’d think a little gay boy such as myself would have been deeply into ABBA way before they turned 18, but apparently that wasn’t the case. I was a casual ABBA fan at most, dancing at family parties to ‘Dancing Queen’ because it’s the song that every bad DJ plays. But after seeing Queen Meryl slay the shit out of Donna Sheridan on the big screen and letting Christine Baranski give me literal life goals, jet-setting, three-time-divorcee, millionaire I have been ON IT.

I think I’ve managed to articulate how excited I was for Mamma Mia! and let me tell you, henny, it was everything I was hoping for and more! My face was hurting from smiling with pure glee, my throat hoarse from whooping at the risqué sex jokes and Rosie and Tanya’s howl-inducing performances as Donna’s girl-power ex-bandmates and best friends. It was too much! From start to finish it was an absolute delight. The performances, the musical numbers, the sets, the choreography, everything. The cast and crew created an atmosphere, an ambience of what musicals should be. It was a roaring success! I loved it!

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The two main roles, Sophie and Donna, were played by Lucy May Barker and Sara Poyzer respectively, and they were a super convincing mother/daughter duo. It was cute, it was sassy, it was volatile – all the mums nodding. Lucy was super sweet and innocent but actually a little minx, stealing her mum’s diary and sending letters to three strangers her mum boned on a beach two decades ago! Shocking stuff, but completely believeable – good work!

My only critical thought about the entire show came from Sara playing Donna. In the first act, through ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘Super Trooper’ and her performance in general, it felt a little lacklustre – like her heart wasn’t in it. I was like, ‘Mate, give me a bit more. You’re at a 6 and I need an 11. You’re Meryl Streep, for Christ’s sake!’ That was at first anyway…

I think she must have heard me bitching about her in the interval, though, because straight away when the curtain went up for the second act she stepped up her game and she stepped it up hard. ‘The Winner Takes It All’ was absolutely stunning. I had goosebumps! I’d gone from being, ‘Meh’ to being, ‘Get it, Donna! Sit on Pierce Brosnan’s face!’

Donna’s BFFs, Tanya and Rosie, were absolutely phenomenal. You know when you come across two people and you can’t decide which you’re more like? That was me with Tanya and Rosie. Hilarious and fabulous. They provided most of the laughs, plus Emma Clifford gave me a feelings boner with ‘Does Your Mother Know?’ – help me, Jesus! She was too much!

Emma filled the absolutely divine shoes of Tanya, the fabulous one with loads of money who’s also a super fierce queen! Yaaaaaas, Tanya! Slay me to the GAWDS! (Apologies, she brings out my inner flamer.) Emma was my MVP – she was everything and she owned everything!

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Emma is closely followed by Jacqueline Braun, who filled the more sensible shoes of lone wolf and famous cook book author Rosie. She was hilarious and killed me with her sassiness! I related with Rosie, also: large and in charge, she saw what she wanted – like a hot Aussie traveller – and she grabbed it with both hands. Emma and Jacqueline, I tip my hat to both of you – you were magnificent!

The men of the show were also delightful… And delicious. Like, hold me down and perform the ‘Lay All Your Love on Me’ scene on repeat forever. So many wetsuits, so many abs, so many totally homoerotic (‘but it’s okay because we’re bros’) dance moves. The guys all blended into one sexually-charged blur for me except Sophie’s fiancé, Phillip Ryan, when he was stripped down to his undies by his stags and poured into a wetsuit. I was living and getting all hot and bothered! And also Matt Kennedy, the swing captain, who is super hot by the way. I swear I recognised his face from Grindr or Hornet or another app like that. He stood out for me – the thirsty tweet has already been sent. Banging, and a great dancer; definitely pulling focus with his darn good looks and great hair.

The other main men in the show are Sophie’s oblivious paternity trio: divorced and kinda bitter Sam Carmichael, the intrepid traveller Bill Austin and the absolutely fabulous Harry Bright, played by Richard Standing, Christopher Hollis and Tim Walton. For three characters that share a spotlight, they didn’t half hold their own. Tim I have to give special mention to because I loved him. He was adorable! He was so cute and camp – I want him to be my daddy…

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Everything else in the show was incredible. It was mostly the atmosphere and how fabulous and scandalous the whole thing felt. That’s what I go to a show to see. I want to laugh, and be happy, and be in awe, and Mamma Mia! delivered. It was fabulous! It was all… pretty gay actually. It is ABBA, after all! The opening to ‘Make It Gay’ from The Producers springs to mind:

No matter what you do on the stage, keep it light, keep it bright, keep it gay!
Whether it’s murder, mayhem or rage, don’t complain, it’s a pain, keep it gay!
People want laughter when they see a show. The last thing they’re after’s a litany of woe!**

If you’re in or around Manchester, or have the opportunity or the ability to travel, I would really love you to do yourself a favour and see Mamma Mia! at the Palace or on its UK tour. It’s honestly so, so good, and one of the best shows I’ve seen. It gets 10 hot men in wetsuits out of 10! It’ll have you beaming throughout and it’s showing until 4 June so you have no excuse to not see it, and if you don’t see it you’re a fool – A FOOL, I TELL YOU!!

Tickets are available on the ATG website or at the box office.

*I’m totally not slut-shaming Donna. Hell yeah, get out there and get that dick – more power to her, but when your daughter has three potential fathers, you’re definitely headed for The Jeremy Kyle Show.

**Can you tell I’m dying for a tour of The Producers?