Theatreblogger | Mamma Mia! at Birmingham Hippodrome
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Mamma Mia! at Birmingham Hippodrome

Off-stage, Sara Poyzer shows no signs of saying “mamma mia, here we go again”. And that’s somewhat surprising given that she’s played the lead role in the Abba jukebox musical for more than 1,000 performances in 22 countries, writes Lizz Brain.

She’s Super Troupered in South Korea, Gimme Gimme Gimme-ed in Greece and Money Money Moneyed in Malaysia.

Now the Nottingham actress is in Birmingham for the summer, enjoying the Hippodrome’s air-conditioning during this week’s heatwave. “At least I can get into the lycra in one fell swoop,” she laughs, “but I think audiences love coming to a show like this even more when the weather’s great. It’s that kind of show. Have a drink, have a laugh, dance to Abba.”

Again, no-ne is arguing. With a global audience of more than 60 million people, Mamma Mia! sets its story on a Greek island, where single mum and ex-singer Donna is preparing for her daughter Sophie’s wedding. Sophie doesn’t know who her father is, and after reading her Mum’s diary, secretly invites all three potential dads to the wedding.

Packed with Abba classics from Dancing Queen and Knowing Me, Knowing You to Take A Chance On Me and The Winner Takes It All, it’s a fun, feelgood chance to party, with a sweet story to back it up.

“It’s such a great family show because it really has everything,” says Sara. “Love story of Sophie and her boyfriend, the “who is the Dad” story, the arrival of Donna’s best friends and the fantastic reunion they have. It will make you laugh, make you cry, and we’ve not yet had a performance where the audience isn’t dancing at the end. It’s become a bit of a cult classic since it opened in 1999.”

Not that it gets the same reaction everywhere. “South Korea was SO different,” she laughs, “beautiful country, amazing people, but a totally different culture. Audiences there think they are being respectful to sit quietly and not react until the end, so doing a show like this with very little interaction, no laughing at the comedy, was very odd. And some of the jokes just don’t translate at all – it’s a very british show. Lines like “you want 20 years for a Dad and then three come along at once” aren’t funny in Switzerland – because they don’t understand buses being late!”

One might imagine that performing in the same show for three consecutive years might play havoc with your own personal life, but it seems Sara has that sewn up too. Her co-star is Richard Standing, Coronation Street’s Danny Hargreaves and her husband.

“I get to marry him on stage every night. I’ve married him over 1,000 times so far,” she laughs. “And while yes, there are some nights when I sing “I don’t wanna talk” a little more truthfully than others, it’s been an amazing opportunity to travel the world together, working in the same show. There are acting couples who are always working at opposite ends of the country, there’s a guy in our company who has a five-year-old child and was working in South Korea for six months. It’s hard and we’re incredibly lucky. We don’t live in each others’ pockets though, I spend a lot of time with the girls and he goes off and does boy stuff.

“We’ve worked together on five different shows though so we’re used to it by now – and I get one night off a week so once a week he gets to kiss and marry someone else!

“But the great thing about this show is that it’s lasted 17 years in London, but this is a new tour: there’s a fantastic energy about it, the songs are still catchy and popular after 50 years and a show this size really feels like it’s “the” show to see. It’s brilliant.”

Mamma Mia! is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 3 September, 2016. Call 0844 338 5000 or visit birminghamhippodrome.com

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