Music and Lyrics by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus
Book by Catherine Johnson
Palace Theatre, 26 April 2011
What could be more topical than a musical about a wedding?
Mamma Mia! is perhaps the preeminent example of what Larry Stempel, in his magisterial work Showtime, calls ‘the jukebox musical’. That is, the musical which takes songs from a certain period (say the 1950s) or which has been built around the back catalogue of a well known artist or group. The great advantage of such musicals is that the songs are already familiar and well loved; the main downside is that the songs weren’t originally meant to express the emotions of the characters who get to sing them. They may feel contrived when sung on stage.
It has to be said that the above mentioned disadvantage is hardly felt in Mamma Mia! Indeed, the two dozen or so ABBA songs slot seamlessly into place. As well as the songs, the dance routines are spectacular and there’s a lot of humour and vivacity to this production, especially from Jennie Dale as Rosie.
And the story of a child searching for her biological parent will always pack a certain primal punch – wasn’t the film Oranges and Sunshine built on just this premise?
This was exhilarating entertainment, but watch out for those platform boots!