Mamma Mia: The Party
Who doesn’t love a bit of ABBA, well let’s be honest, a lot of ABBA? Okay there are a few of you out there who maybe took against the chart flooding pop makers but you are the few, and if my experience on Saturday is anything to go by, their catalogue of hits has cross generational appeal.
Mamma Mia was a theatrical celebration of that phenomenon and on stage it worked brilliantly. I was less convinced by the film, Meryl Streep seemed miscast and Pierce Brosnan… well let’s’ just leave that hanging there.
Mamma Mia The Party is neither the stage show nor either of the films. It’s something quite different and it simply works brilliantly. Let’s start with the staging. This takes the concept of immersive theatre to the highest level. The setting is stunning, a Greek taverna on a grand scale with fountain, terraces, vines, bougainvillea and swarms of enthusiastic staff welcoming you to your tables and bringing you that first drink. It’s perfectly organised but not regimented, there is charm and a sense that they are having as much fun as we are about to have.
As the large venue fills there is a definite party atmosphere, meze platters are consumed, drinks are ordered and gradually, in amongst us musicians appear and the cast drift between the tables, only identifiable by their microphones.
The story is pretty simple, this is the taverna where the film crew dined, the owner has a daughter, his British wife has a nephew and of course one falls for the other. There’s a cook, a brilliant performance and a superb voice, a sexy plumber, a Greek grandmother, a journalist and her lesbian lover… yes it ticks the diversity box, and they are all trying to get on and move on – to music!
Greek salads arrive and we sit and eat and ponder which ABBA hit they will weave into the plot next, some are used to comic effect and some are far more poignantly placed. Whatever they reason they are there they work.
There are great set pieces, the music is faithful to the originals and the cast are multi-talented for sure. But so are the front of house staff who join in at every opportunity. During a short break I question our waiter – “Did you have to learn those dance routines?” “No, we just get thrown into the mix and pick it up as we go along, it’s great fun!” He’s right, it is great fun.
Main courses arrive and they are good, tender skewers of lamb and chicken with potatoes and courgettes, generous too, it’s an above average offering for sure and later the orange cake is of a similar standard. And our house red is decent too and no more expensive than your average restaurant these days.
The show goes on but as it does the production values go higher and higher, the fountain is given full reign, there are pyrotechnics, aerielists, contortionists, a Greek god fantasy sequence and a happy ending. Then a final break whilst a new central platform is put in place for a full throttle finale, a massive mash up of those greatest hits and an encore of Dancing Queen. There is an ovation and then everyone is up and dancing as the party continues.
Any misgivings I might have had are washed away by the exuberant atmosphere that has been created by the company and by the audience. I don’t think I could have spent a better four hours pretending to be on a sunny Greek island whilst outside the cold wind and rain beat against the colossal structure of the O2.
Mamma Mia: The Party booking until April 3 2022