Reviewed at: London’s Novello Theatre
Mamma Mia, the musical set to back catalogue of Abba hits, recently celebrated its 18th birthday in London’s West End. The musical originated from an idea by Judy Craymer has now played to over 60 million people in 440 cities around the world. It’s also been turned into a hugely popular and successful movie starring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan of which I am a huge fan. So I’m not really sure why it’s taken me this long to see it.
The show follows the story of Sophie and her mother Donna who live on a Greek Island. Sophie is due to marry Sky and wants her father to give her away. The only problem is Sophie doesn’t know who her father is. Using her mother’s diary, Sophie finds out there are three possible fathers; Sam, Bill, and Harry. Sophie secretly invites all three to the wedding hoping that when they arrive she’ll easily be able to tell which is her father. It’s a hilarious story and great fun.
A fantastic cast performs with such high energy. Linzi Hatelely is strong as Donna, bringing great heart and good vocals, she soars in the big numbers including ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘The Winner Takes It All‘. Jo Napthine is fabulous as Rosie and is hilarious in the second half duet of ‘Take A Chance On Me’. Mazz Murray gives a show-stealing turn as Tanya. She is stunning and just marvellous to watch. She is great fun and has such a strong voice which is put to great use during ‘Does Your Mother Know?’. Together the three ladies form ‘Donna and the Dynamos’ and they provide a fine rendition of ‘Super Trooper’ at Sophie’s hen do.
The performances of the three dads are fantastic too. Richard Trinder is full of charm as Sam Carmichael. Alasdair Harvey rocks as the headbanging Harry Bright. Dugald Bruce-Lockhart is brilliant and really brings fun as the Australian Bill Austin.
There is some great support too from both Jemma Revell as Ali and Amy Webb as Lisa, who are Sophie’s best friends and bridesmaids. Filippo Coffano is full of energy as Pepper. Richard Carson as Sky, Sophie’s fiance, is also great. The whole ensemble is really worth a mention, they’re such a talented company that brings the show to life.
It’s the performance of Sanne Den Besten as Sophie which steals all the plaudits from me. Right from the opening scene, she is instantly watchable. She has such a beautiful voice and a great stage presence. I’d be very surprised if she doesn’t go on the many great things in her career, she clearly has the talent and the ability.
The shows set is very well designed that you feel like your on the Greek island. The set revolves to inside and outside the islands taverna. The costumes are vibrant and bright, especially the ones for the Donna and the Dynamos, none more so than the encore which even sees the three potential fathers get involved.
Of course, the music makes the show, and Abba’s songs are timeless. There are countless brilliant musical numbers; ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘S.O.S’, ‘Thank You For The Music’, ‘Waterloo‘ and probably my favourite number ‘Voulez-Vou‘. The superb live band truly make the show special. You really can’t beat live music.
It’s really not hard to see why the show continues to do well and I’d expect it to continue. It’s a feel-good 2 and a half hours and with everything going on in the world and the minute this is what you really need. Pure sunny escapism. We were sat front row and you felt almost part of it, so loud and immersive. Really enjoyable.