From the sun-soaked Greek island set, to the time-honoured singalong songs, this performance is guaranteed to lift the lowest spirits. The premise of the show at first seems a tad contrived, but actually the idea to write a story that contains as many ABBA songs as possible is probably the work of a genius. Those songs are through us like a stick of seaside rock, whether we grew up listening to them on Top of the Pops or were introduced through the sound tracks of Muriel’s Wedding or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the tunes and words are just so familiar.
The musical has been touring for 17 years to massive audiences and comes to His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen from 19 September to 14 October, the furthest north in the UK that the tour will reach. Many of the backstage roles are filled by local people wherever the tour lands, such as scenery movers, dressers and laundry staff. One of the highlights of our backstage tour was getting the opportunity to see the full-on ABBA outfits close up. The mother, Donna and her two best friends used to perform in a band together, and appear twice in full stretchy sparkly disco regalia, once all in white and silver, then in bright colours, with platforms to match.
The show starts slowly, but builds up to an audience participatory frenzy, with everyone out of their seats clapping and singing along, even on
a Wednesday afternoon. A particular highlight is the dream scene, where Sophie is surrounded by the ensemble in short wetsuits, flowery swimhats and flippers, dancing and flinging the bed about in a splendid Esther Williams-esque display of flipperography. The show is funny, sad and entertaining and the songs have been adapted so that men and women can sing them, either solo or in harmony. There are also several love stories intertwined through the performance, both tender and hilarious.
Mamma Mia has to be one of the best feel-good musicals of all time, the perfect antidote to a grey sky or a Monday morning.