Mamma Mia! Reviews

“It is 25 years ago to the night since Abba won the Eurovision song contest and it is part of the cheekiness of Mamma Mia! that Waterloo is the one song you keep expecting to hear but never do. Practically every other Abba hit is here. And like the songs, the evening is catchy, enjoyable, melodic but overall a bit bland… Part of the fun is in guessing in which order the songs will pop up and in admiring the ingenuity of the book’s author, Catherine Johnson, in bending the scenario to the lyrics, although even she seems flummoxed by what to do with Supertrooper and Dancing Queen. It’s an immensely good-humoured affair with the feelgood factor of a brief Greek island holiday, and its greatest strength is in sending up its own naffness. “Why have they all turned up? It’s like some horrible trick of fate,’ observes Siobhan McCarthy’s Donna on the arrival of her former lovers. ‘It’s very Greek,’ replies her friend Rosie. It’s pretty good too on the hairdrier- and hairbrush-as-microphone joke. But it is far naffer than it thinks it is, and although Phyllida Lloyd’s production and Mark Thompson’s design provide value-added class, they are slightly at odds with the emotional tug of the piece, which is more seventies disco than nineties cool and which often mistakes the emotional pull of melody for the real thing. It is a rare moment when situation, music and lyric come together…” The Guardian

“…This is no throwback concert or weak-kneed compilation. The lovely surprise of a thoroughly enjoyable new musical with two dozen old Abba songs is a proper story which exploits the jangling, nostalgic score to great effect… The songs of Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus are linked to dramatic scenes and encounters neatly devised by the playwright Catherine Johnson. Phyllida Lloyd’s production is far happier than previous attempts to hijack the pop music of, say, the Kinks, or even Madness, to the musical stage. Much as I quite like Abba’s carefully-crafted, anthemic songs – I’ve discoed bravely to Dancing Queen in my time, like the rest of you – they do have a branded, poppy sameness about them. But we can now relish their calculated melody, up-front beat and surging tingle factor… Miss McCarthy sings her heart out and brings amazing expressive range to the lyrics. A comparatively unknown song such as Slipping Through My Fingers becomes a poignant mother and daughter duet. The time is today, with a shadow of the past flitting across designer Mark Thompson’s white Greek walls and deep blue sky, where a fishing boat named Waterloo lurks nearby. Lisa Stokke and Andrew Langtree are fresh and delightful as the kids on the brink. The nostalgia factor rises in Anthony van Laast’s Mediterranean jive choreography. And watch out for Jenny Galloway and Louise Plowright as Donna’s old friends from the rock era. Those girls not only mean business. They deliver it, no messing.” The Daily Mail

“…What makes the musical – a tacky but ridiculously enjoyable wallow in some of the most mind-bending songs ever recorded – is the cheek with which each number is cued up. An actor only has to say: “Here I go again” or: “I don’t want to talk” and the whole cast is off on yet another Number One record, the audience whooping with recognition even before the orchestra kicks in… Mostly this is camp tosh with terrible jokes… The songs never stop and Catherine Johnson’s book linking them up is quite shameless. Still, it works and Abba fans will go berserk for it. So take a chance on me and go for a laugh.” The Express

“Thank you for the musical. Mamma Mia! is heaven for Abba fans and a bit of fun for everyone… The show does not pretend to be anything other than a collection of the Swedish super group’s old hits. A wedding on a Greek island for a girl who was the product of a holiday romance provides the backdrop. But it is just a flimsy excuse to sing together a selection of songs that topped the charts back in the 70s… Every corny cue for a song was greeted by cheers and applause… The blushing bride to be, who sets out to find which of her mother’s three former lovers is her dad, is sweetly played by Lisa Stokke. Siobhan McCarthy is wonderful as her feisty mum and comes close to stopping the show belting out Winner Takes It All. It is funny and feel-good and keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek. The hits come thick and fast and no frills are necessary… Thank you for the music. Thank you for the musical…” The Mirror

“Even between consenting adults, there are certain predilections to which one does not lightly confess. In my case, a fondness for Shirley Temple’s movies is one such. Now it is joined – herewith vanishes my social life – by the fact that I actually enjoyed Mamma Mia!, the new musical based on the Abba songs of the 1970s. People have been ostracised for less, and many of my heretofore dearest friends will cast stones at me. Still, the charm of Mamma Mia! is not inconsiderable. Not least the music, which has an effusive innocence and open-hearted exuberance almost extinct in the modern musical. Real pop music of this sort is so much more appealing, so much less pretentious, so much more suitable for infectious theatrical entertainment than the tawdry bombast of most Lloyd Webber and all Boublil-Schonberg. Abba’s music (music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus) has certainly been overrated; but – and I speak as one who turned away from pop music in my early teens in 1970 – Mamma Mia! proves that Abba have been underrated, too. Songs like “Dancing Queen” and “Just One Look” burst upon your senses, sweet and instantly sensational. The show’s makers ironise about these Abba songs right, left and centre. Every other time a character starts to sing one of the famous numbers, the timing is so shameless that the audience chortles. But not for long. Even when the staging goes deliberately retro and evokes Abba’s old costumes and makes a Big Number out of something like (say) “Super Trouper”, something big and simple rises through the thick fabric of the music and transcends the archness and campness of the situation… Part of the fun turns out to be the sheer suspense of finding how on earth 22 Abba songs can fit into all this; but nine out of 10 do. Catherine Johnson has given the story just enough emotional depth and dramatic variety to hold the attention, and just enough transparency to suit the songs. And, yes, irony. Admittedly, the most exuberant occur in Act One; and Act Two ends very low-key. But then, like Saturday Night Fever, when the plot is over, the show enters its own 1970s pop nirvana and explodes into one hit reprise after another… As for the staging, its best features are Mark Thompson’s simple and flexible sets, and the central performance of Siobhán McCarthy as Donna, bringing the same ardent naturalness to both singing and her role… Phyllida Lloyd and her choreographer, Anthony van Laast, elicit generally good performances all round. Jenny Galloway and Louise Plowright make much of their roles as Donna’s old girlfriends. You shouldn’t take Mamma Mia! seriously: which is precisely why it proves to be one of the few good musicals on the London stage today.” The Financial Times

“…By the standards, though, of those K-Tel compilation West End musicals, Catherine Johnson’s book does a nifty integration job with an original plot involving a young girl on the verge of mat marriage and her relationship with her mother when she discovers that any one of three men could have fathered her. The real drama, however, is less between the characters on stage than between the audience of fans and the music. A defiantly camp note is struck from the opening announcement: “We’d like to warn people of a nervous disposition that platform boots and white Lycra will be worn in this production.” The show proceeds as though the fans have generously donated the songs to it for the evening and will sit there ready to exult at each deliriously outrageous way the makers engineer the next opportunity for a ditty… The island setting allows for camp underwater dream sequences of a Jacques Cousteau- meets- Esther Williams variety. But there are also moments of heartfelt feeling as when McCarthy helps the daughter dress for her nuptials and sings, in pulsing voice, “Slipping Through My Fingers”, here a lovely lament for the way one’s children continually elude one until they finally leave. Phyllida Lloyd’s handsome production generates a terrific mood of airborne silliness and the songs, a curious mix of the buoyant and the haunting, are genuine golden oldies. Abba is pop’s pithiest palindrome and, whichever way you read it, Mamma Mia! looks like being a hit.” The Independent

There is a very clever irony about how they’ve worked hit after hit into a hilarious story. I really didn’t realise how much I loved ABBA’s music until I saw this show.” Chris Tarrant, Capital Radio

Book Tickets for Mamma Mia!