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Isabella James

Review: MAMMA MIA! at the Novello Theatre

MAMMA MIA! London 2018 - 2019 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg Mamma Mia! is celebrating its 20th anniversary in London this year and even after all that time, countless awards and not one but two movie adaptations, this show is still very much alive and buzzing.

Mamma Mia! is centred around the hits of ABBA with Catherine Johnson’s storyline connecting the musical numbers. Our story takes place on an idyllic Greek island where Sophie lives with her mother Donna. Despite Donna’s protestations, Sophie is planning to marry her boyfriend and so the island is about to be inundated with wedding guests. Unknown to Donna, Sophie has invited three men from Donna’s past who have the potential of being Sophie’s father.

This plot is merely a device to link together as many musical numbers as they can fit into a two-and-a-half-hour show. However, the musical numbers are definitely the best part.

The cast have an absolute wealth of talent and there was not a bum note or misstep all night. Sophie, played on this occasion by understudy Charlotte O’Rourke, was an especially strong vocalist as well as bringing lots of likability to the part. Donna (Caroline Deverill) and her best friends Rosie and Tanya (Jennifer Hepburn and Kate Graham), originally known as Donna and The Dynamos, also give brilliant, comic performances.

The show was full of fun and did not take itself too seriously; even the announcement at the beginning warned patrons of a nervous disposition that “platform boots and lycra will be used in this production.” The actors looked like they were having a blast and that enjoyment was completely contagious. The very nature of the songs, the island setting, the love story and the fact that nearly every scene involved heavy drinking really transported us as an audience and it felt wrong stepping back out into the London drizzle.

However, for a show with a West End budget, there was a slightly cheap look to the production. The set was a vivid blue with a simple stage piece for Donna’s tavern and although there were some extravagant costumes, some looked like they’d been thrown together. The performers shone through these imperfections and it was impossible to get too hung up on minor details, especially during numbers like ‘Does Your Mother Know’ and ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ which were bold, bright and brilliantly camp.