Review: Mamma Mia (and memories), Novello

“If you’ve got no place to go, if you’re feeling down…”

Mamma Mia has been on my list of shows that I’ve never quite got round to seeing for ages now. I’d decided that I wanted to go in a large group, on a Friday night, after a fair few Hendricks and Fever Trees, but somehow it never quite happened. In the meantime, the show moved to the Novello to make way for those Mormon boys and then an expected Christmas present landed in my lap as a friend, tired of me saying ‘one day I’ll go’, bought me a ticket.

Though it wasn’t at all like I planned – a single ticket for a Monday evening with a bottle of Diet Coke – it actually proved to be a brilliant way to see the show and to restart my theatregoing for 2014. It was the evening after my first day back at work, I was sat front row centre and the huge geniality of a like-minded audience made it as genuinely pleasurable experience as one could expect from such a long-running stalwart of the West End.

I have no problem at all in admitting that the music of ABBA has soundtracked huge swathes of my life. The cassette of the ABBA Gold collection was the go-to choice on many a family car journey; I can still remember the dance routines to more than one of the songs that my sisters and I came up with; and spending one damp Boxing Day early evening watching the DVD of the film with almost every single female member of my extended family is one of those memories I will treasure for a lifetime.

Of course I loved the show, there was never any doubt about that and I’m kind of kicking myself for leaving it so long to see it. It is easy to forget that Mamma Mia, for better or worse, spearheaded the resurgence of the jukebox musical and whilst it can’t claim to be the original, it can certainly assert itself as one of the best exponents of the genre, not least because the sheer depth and volume of ABBA’s back catalogue means that there really is a song for every occasion (something the Viva Forever team never really took into account).

Sure, it’s corny at times, cheesy even, but it’s always so warm-hearted that I found it utterly impossible to resist. Dianne Pilkington’s bluff northern Donna is a fantastic lead, especially when interacting with Kim Ismay and Jane Milligan as her old buddies Tanya and Rosie, those two pretty much stealing every scene they’re in. Oliver Tilney deserves some kind of award for managing to put on a wetsuit in public in an elegant manner, Dickie Wood’s Pepper (sounds like an artisan cheese or something) is an appealing would-be lothario and Emma Crossley is sweet-voiced as Sophie, the young girl looking for her father from her mother’s various conquests.

So thanks to Sue for the ticket, to ABBA for the music and to the company for as good a Monday night as I’ve had in a while. Next time I come, I promise to stand up and dance at the end 😉

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 25th October

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