I have a confession: I love ABBA. As a kid I had the ‘best of’ album which I listened to probably about as much as my children listen to the Lego Movie Soundtrack. I knew and still know every word to almost every song (although sometimes not the actual words, I was quite young and if you didn’t sing Chicken Tikka tell me the truth then I don’t know what to tell you).
I have another confession: I’d never seen Mamma Mia!
Not the musical, not even the film.
I know right, I’ve had over ten years and there’s even a sequel now (predictably titled Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) which I also haven’t seen.
Having sat through a startlingly cringeworthy performance of Preacher Man – a musical based on the music of Dusty Springfield, whose music I am only really passingly familiar with on account of being a bit young – I decided that musicals based around the music of artists were not for me. Don’t get me wrong, the actors were fine – there was even someone in X- Factor in there I think – but my friend and I agreed that we could have come up with a better and less awkward storyline to weave the songs together given an evening down the pub.
And so, even with the promise of Pierce Brosnan singing to tempt me, I figured I’d give it a wide berth in case it destroyed everything I knew and loved.
How wrong I was I?!
I was offered some tickets to the ABBA musical Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre in London in exchange for a review.
I knew that my friend was a fan so I said yes. I wasn’t expecting to love it but honestly, it was great fun and I’d go again in a heartbeat!
If you, like me, had managed to avoid it entirely until now, then Mamma Mia! the musical follows 20-year old bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan who lives on a little Greek island with her mother Donna, the real heroine of the story.
Donna has brought Sophie up all by herself, never revealing to Sophie who her father is. Three months before her wedding and consumed with a fantasy of her father walking her down the aisle, Sophie comes across her mother’s diary and finds out that her father could be any of three men (it was the 70s after all, free love and all that). Unknown to Donna, Sophie invites them all to the wedding, hoping that she will know instantly which of the men is her dad. Spoiler alert: She doesn’t.
The musical weaves in the music of ABBA in a way which doesn’t seem overly contrived, at least in comparison to the Preacher Man I’d previously cringed my way through. And of course, the music is brilliant and it’s all I could do not to sing along (I’m not sure that would be appreciated…).
Although I wasn’t familiar with any of the cast, not being a regular theatre-goes, I thoroughly enjoyed Mamma Mia! the musical.
If I was being nit picky, I did think Donna’s former boyfriend Sam seemed a little stiff, and it’s very possible groom-to-be Sky had been picked more for his body than his acting ability, but other cast more than made up for this; Donna in particular was fantastic both at acting and singing.
For me the best supporting characters were Donna’s friends and former back up singers; glamorous older lady Tanya, who is fond of marrying millionaires, and frumpy Rosie. They provided physical comedy and snappy one-liners as well as being brilliant singers and knocking out some of my favourite tunes. Tanya’s rendition of ‘Does Your Mother Know’, aimed at her young admirer Pepper, was one of my favourites, and Rosie and Bill’s ‘Take a Chance on Me’ was also gloriously silly.
The choreography for the whole-cast numbers was exciting and vibrant, and the encore section had everybody in the theatre up and dancing in the aisles.
I left the Novello Theatre with a huge smile on my face, promising myself I’d come back to the theatre again soon.
To book tickets for Mamma Mia! the ABBA musical at the Novello Theatre in London’s West End, you can visit the Encore Tickets website.
Thank you to Encore Tickets for providing me with two tickets to this performance in exchange for this review. Words are my own.