The performance opens with a warning for sensitive viewers: “Please note that platform boots and white lycra will be worn during this show”. The audience laughs in rueful recollection. The enjoyment has begun.
ABBA was one of the great bands of the seventies. The group sold over 350 million records then, with ABBA Gold and More ABBA Gold still selling 3500 copies every day around the world.
Surprisingly, this musical, which is constructed around ABBA’s hits, is successful and seems unforced and natural. The setting is a Greek island, the storyline is that of a young girl, Sophie Sheridan (Emily Dykes), about to be married who finds, and reads, her mother’s diary, to discover the secret her mother has always kept from her… who her father is. She invites the three men who may be her father to her wedding, allowing each of them to believe the invitation is from her mother, Donna Sheridan (Jackie Clune).
The musical includes all my ABBA favourites (and for the person who couldn’t understand why they didn’t play Y.M.C.A. that’s because it’s a Village People number). I mouthed the words to Chiquitita; Dancing Queen (the gay community love that one); Gimme Gimme Gimme; I do; Knowing Me, Knowing You; Money, Money, Money; S.O.S; Take a Chance On Me (actually I was too busy laughing at that one to concentrate on mouthing the words); Super Trouper; and The Winner Takes it All.
Before the show, the press was briefed that there are currently more productions (eleven, two which are touring productions) of Mamma Mia! playing around the world than any other musical. My expectations were raised, and I was not disappointed.
The costumes and sets are simple, but lovely, the singing and dancing is good and the acting is credible. The show has energy, life and vigour. My feet tap along with enthusiasm.
There were sound problems in the first half, and the audience strained to hear the dialogue – some of which was completely lost – and some of the lyrics, but these problems were resolved after the interval. The lighting worked well, especially the retro-look which accompanies the musical interlude after the interval.
Over 27 million people have seen this musical, and 18,000 people see it every night throughout the world. What gets the audiences to shell out their money (and the tickets aren’t cheap) is the clever interweaving of a plausible plot – and much humour in the script – into the universal appeal of ABBA’s timeless music, performed by competent entertainers.
ABBA fans will love Mamma Mia! for the music alone, but they’ll also get a fun evening of general theatrical enjoyment thrown in.
Thank you for the music.
Mamma Mia is on at the Opera, South African State Theatre, until 20 August. Book at Computicket.
Moira, the Faerie Godmother