It was here in 2001, returned in 2009, and now it’s back again—MAMMA MIA! The Musical!
For die-hard fans of the franchise, you can treat this as a little refresher before the film’s sequel comes out in July (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again); for those new to the scene, this musical is the best way to dive right into it all.
The musical focuses on a lovely mother and daughter duo, Donna (Natalie O’Donnel) and Sophie (Sarah Morrison), who live on a beautiful Greek island together. Sophie is about to get married to her gorgeous fiancé Sky (Stephen Mahy), and is determined to have her dad walk her down the aisle. The only problem is that Donna had some fun in her time and dated three guys in quick succession, who Sophie decides to invite to her wedding—her motives unknown to everyone except her. What ensues is a hilarious, ABBA-fuelled fiasco, featuring some of the greatest best friend characters I have ever seen.
A little background on my love for ABBA: I love them. They might not be my favourite band, but ABBA is the one I go back to, time and time again, because their songs are so damn good. I can’t get them out of my life, let alone my head. I grew up to Dancing Queen and Super Trouper, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched the movie, Mamma Mia!. But I had never seen the musical before the other night; and let me tell you, the singing was phenomenal.
There wasn’t a single weak link in the cast, musically speaking. Every cast member was on fire. They brought their A-game and the crowd let them know they were grateful. There is nothing better for an ABBA fan than sitting in a packed-out theatre with other ABBA fans and feeling the room shake as the crowd stomps their feet to the beat of Voluez-Vous (one of my favourite scenes in the movie and the musical—there’s just something about a group of shirtless guys coming in to crash a party to this song that lights a fire in me). It’s electric—and that’s what this musical is about. It’s about creating an epic atmosphere and appreciating the music that brought a bunch of strangers together for a night of singing and chair-dancing.
The story itself is alright; it’s fun and the majority of the characters are great, but, for me, the story is a vessel for the music. It acts as a way to bring all the ABBA classics together in an entertaining, albeit cheesy, way. They know what we want and they’re giving it to us. But the movie is definitely better than the musical (for one, the musical doesn’t have Meryl Streep or Colin Firth or Dominic Cooper)—there are some nice touches that differentiate the two though, like a few more songs thrown in for fans to get excited about.
The musical’s performers were phenomenal. The two women playing the roles of the lead’s best friends were absolute standouts. Their roles are meant to steal the spotlight, but instead of doing a gimmicky recreation of the originals, they made the characters their own. They had the audience in fits as they gyrated against feather-boas to Dancing Queen, their one-liners never failing to hit the mark. Tanya’s (Jade Westaby) commanding presence on stage was especially captivating, she was probably my favourite of the night. She absolutely rocked Does Your Mother Know, strutting her stuff on stage and showing the younger ones how it’s done.
There were lots of laugh-out-loud moments—sometimes for the wrong reasons.
The rest of the cast were all pretty great; Sam (Ian Stenlake) and Donna were a little stiff together, but I never liked that Sam guy anyway. Mahy, as Sky, found himself the source of unintentionally humorous attention. He seemed to over-articulate and perform everything he said, to the point that it often sounded incredibly fake, causing the people around me to stifle their laughter. He sounded great when he sang though, so you could almost forget he sounded like a robot when he spoke. He was pretty adorable too, which is a different Sky than the ruggedly handsome and gorgeously dependable Dominic-Cooper-Sky in the film. But when Mahy bounced on stage like a puppy, shirt ripped open, displaying an incredible set of abs, breaking out into Lay All Your Love On Me, you couldn’t help but put all the robot-talk aside and enjoy his performance.
The set was simple but well done, mainly relying on a multi-coloured background and cleverly used on-stage lights to bring it to life. The production felt homely and inviting. Instead of slick prop changes, the cast would wheel off equipment, making it a more casual and laid-back affair. That’s what I liked about this production, it was so warm and comfortable—almost familiar. It was like re-discovering your favourite old CD and jamming out for an hour at your parent’s place. It’s an excuse to laugh at cringe-worthy exes and remember great nights with friends. Sure, sometimes the backdrop looks like a green screen, and maybe it’s not the best story ever (the wedding scene always makes me cringe). It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s got the songs we love to keep singing. Despite its flaws, this musical still makes for a fantastic time, with a mini ABBA concert thrown in there at the end to really ramp it up.
So, for lovers of all things ABBA, this musical is made for you. Grab your ABBA-loving friends and treat yourself to a night of great music and hilarious performances.
MAMMA MIA! The Musical is playing at Crown Theatre until July 1.