Unlike other Jukebox musicals Mamma Mia! doesn’t revolve around the featured artist’s life, instead introducing us to a completely new story, breathing a new meaning into ABBA’s timeless hits. To do this well, the audience needs memorable characters that they can immediately latch onto and bring just as much star power as ABBA themselves. Donna Sheridan, her daughter, Sophie and her friends Tanya and Rosie certainly fit the bill. On the night I saw it, Shona White played Donna instead of the regular, Dianne Pilkington, but she brought fresh life to the role and blew everyone away with her spellbinding performance of “The Winner Takes It All”. Another stand out performance came from Gabriella Williams, playing Sophie Sheridan. Mamma Mia! is her West End debut but you wouldn’t believe it from the way she commands the stage. She’s one of those talents that your eyes keep going back to; even in the large ensemble numbers due to the amount of enthusiasm and warmth she projects.
The audience responded the best to the double act of the show, Rosie and Tanya, played by Jo Napthine and Mazz Murray. They are the driving force behind the feel-good factor of the show with their comic timing and over the top expressions. 'Dancing Queen' and 'Chiquitita' were definitely highlights of the first act and brought a smile to the faces of everyone in the audience. The three dads of the show also brought plenty of humour to the show. Harry Bright (a.k.a Head Banger) was played by Alasdair Harvey, Bill Austin (the Australian travel writer) was played by Charles Daish and Sam Carmichael (the one that got away for Donna) was played by Richard Trinder. Special recognition has to go to Richard Trinder for bringing 'SOS' back to life, a song I believed to be viciously murdered by Pierce Brosnan in the Mamma Mia movie.
The moment I realised that this was going to be an amazing show was right from the Overture. It’s such a cool part of musical theatre but Overtures are often forgotten nowadays, it was wonderful to hear the orchestra give us a taste of the music to come. Musically, the show just kept going from strength to strength. I was surprised at how many songs they actually managed to fit in to the story! All of them were very strong but at times it does feel a little over saturated. Nevertheless, each musical number was full of life and 70’s glamour due to the fabulous choreography and talent from the actors. Mamma Mia! has an incredible ensemble which made songs such as “Voulez Vous”, “Lay All Your Love On Me” and “Money, Money, Money” all the more visually exciting.
I didn’t realise that so much of the film’s dialogue was taken directly from the musical and the cast really give Hollywood’s finest a lesson in belting out those classic tunes. However there were some added bonuses such as “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Under Attack” and the hilarious, if slightly bizarre, dream sequence at the start of Act 2. I think the second act was a lot stronger than the first, mainly because the audience hadn’t really had enough time to warm to the characters but the whole thing is a real treat for the eyes and ears. It says it all when the pre-show announcement warns you about the use of platform boots and white lycra! It really is a timeless musical for everyone to enjoy! I would highly recommend Mamma Mia!