Anyone who doesn’t know an Abba song must have been living in a cave for the last 40 years. Abba were set for stardom after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974 with Waterloo. Abba may no longer perform as a band but their songs live on. Mamma Mia is a musical based on the hits of Abba. It tells the story of Sophie who is about to get married. She was raised on a Greek island by her single mother, Donna and doesn’t know who her dad is. Well that is until she finds her mum’s diary and narrows it down to three possible suspects. So being a young 20-year-old what does she do? She invites them to her wedding. After all she has a dream…of her dad walking her down the aisle. Of course, this was always going to be a bit awkward and when Donna finds out she is shocked to say the least. Sophie opens the show with I Have A Dream. Sophie is played by Lucy May Barker and she is perfect as innocent Sophie, so full of hope. Lucy has a stunning voice and gives the Abba songs a lovely innocence as she sings them. Donna is played by Shona White who is sensational and is the glue that really holds the show together. The Winner Takes It All was an emotional experience. Shona plays Donna very well and allows Donna to be a strong independent woman who underneath it all is still a bit vulnerable. Donna is supported by her two best friends, Tanya and Rosie. Tanya is very posh and a bit partial to a rich man, younger man, well men in general actually. She is played by Helen Anker and gives such a great performance that I actually preferred her interpretation to her film version. Does Your Mother Know is especially enjoyable beach scene where Tanya shows Pepper (a younger man) what a fierce woman she is. This scene was performed to perfection. Rosie is completely opposite from Tanya. Very down to earth, practical and a bit of a feminist. Nicky Swift plays Rosie and gave the role a lot of humour. Her Take A Chance On Me was very funny with Bill eventually giving in to her attempt to be flirty.
The three possible Dads all have different personalities. There is Harry, the headbanger who used to be really rock n roll but now has a sensible job as a banker. He is played by Daniel Crowder and Daniel gives a great performance trying to recapture Harry’s wild years. There is Sam, the architect who designed the taverna on the back of a napkin 20 years ago and is played by Tamlyn Henderson who has a great voice and delivers a heart warming performance as he tries to win back Donna’s heart. Bill is a wild adventurer and a real lone wolf. He is played by Matthew Rutherford and Matthew gives a fantastic performance with a lot of humour in the role. There are some amazing production numbers. Under Attack opens the second half of the show and is a dream sequence with Sophie panicking on who is her dad. Another outstanding moment is Lay All Your Love On Me where it is the stag night and all the men are dressed in wet-suits and deliver some fantastically funny choreography. Another great number was Donna and Sophie getting ready for the wedding. Slipping Through My Fingers is a very poignant song about a daughter growing up. My mum used to sing it to me and now here I was in tears watching the scene as Donna is preparing to give her daughter away. It is difficult to watch your children become independent adults – as parent we miss the moments we thought we would have. This song captures this so beautifully.
The sets were simply designed but hugely effective. The lighting was also very effective and really helped give some drama to some of the scenes. The songs are stunning and especially when the full cast sing together, they really bring something special to the show. The songs include all the hits you would expect, such as SOS, Mamma Mia, Waterloo, Dancing Queen, as well as some that you may not be as familiar with such as Under Attack, One Of Us and Our Last Summer. The finale is a spectacle and gives the audience a chance to get up on their feet and sing along to a few of the huge hits. Sure enough outfits are a huge feature and you could not get any louder or 1970’s glam than the outfits they wear on stage. I have seen this show many times but can say with clarity this is the best cast I have ever seen.
For me personally, I was lucky enough to see Abba perform at Wembley in 1979, their last ever UK tour, so although I cannot begin to compare this show to seeing the real Abba, Mamma Mia has all the passion and affection for those songs that are the background to our lives.
Go see Mamma Mia. You will have a blast!
Mamma Mia! is at Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury until 30 June.