Mamma Mia! @ Novello Theatre
Cast Includes Linzi Hateley, Mazz Murray, and Sanne Den Besten
Running Time: 2 hours 35 mins, inc. interval
Mamma Mia the musical featuring the music of ABBA has become something of a phenomenon – as well as playing the West End for 18 years, it spawned both UK and international tours as well as playing Broadway for many years (it was the first show to open in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.) It has also been turned into a hit film starring Meryl Streep in the title role – after nearly two decades, how does the original hold up?
The answer to that is remarkably well. The show is not one that has relied heavily on star casting, which has possibly added to its longevity. Now in its third home in the Novello, the show doesn’t utilise a hugely complex set of special effects. Instead the clear star of the show is the music. ABBA’s timeless classics are what draws in the crowds here and they fit the show well. It reminds us how inherently theatrical ABBA were, and how tightly composed and dramatic the original songs still are, as well as being pop masterpieces. Songs such as “The Winner Takes It All” are exceptionally natural for the stage and conveying the emotions of the characters. Also, all of the major numbers you would expect from an ABBA musical are all present and correct, even if “Waterloo” has to be fitted into the party ending.
Mamma Mia’s plot is also pretty strong for a “jukebox musical” – this is a major strength for the show and whilst the writing is not Shakespeare or Ibsen, it does a good job at fitting the ABBA opus into a coherent, believable and logical plot that is distinctly enjoyable which many other examples of this genre do not have.
There is also a real ensemble feeling to the cast of the show and there no real weak links in the company – in fact, the only criticism one can find is the Sanne Den Besten as Sophie occasionally stresses odd phrases in songs – though when you consider the original group did this, it can be easily forgiven. Of particular note is Linzi Hateley as Donna, who is particularly adept at portraying the emotion in the music, which is key to the role, especially in moments such as “Slipping Through My Fingers” (arguably one of the most touching moments in the show, which was beautifully bought to life by Hateley and Den Besten)
Summary: An excellent example of a jukebox with great music and good plot. Highly recommended for a carefree night out ****