Everything you need to know about ‘Mamma Mia!’ in London
Packed with ABBA's greatest hits and now a global movie phenomenon, how can we resist Mamma Mia!, the original musical? Set on the sunny Greek island of Kalokairi, this upbeat, easygoing show sees a young woman discover family secrets just before her wedding day. Walking down the aisle has never been so dramatic.
For over 20 years, West End audiences have unleashed their inner “Dancing Queen” and said “Thank You For The Music” at the Novello Theatre. One of London’s longest-running musicals, it’s no surprise that ABBA fans travel from far and wide for their own slice of ABBA heaven in Mamma Mia!
What is Mamma Mia! about?
Sophie has a dream. Before she marries her fiancé, Sky, she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. Trouble is, there’s three potential men that could be her dad. How to solve this? Easy. Invite all three to the wedding. Hiding them from her mother Donna, Sophie interrogates the trio of men to work out her paternal heritage. It’s difficult to hide on this Greek island for too long, with Donna stumbling across her old flames. Shaken by the news, Sky and Sophie wonder if a wedding really is for them. Love really does conquer all in Mamma Mia! ending in a surprise wedding for all.
Aside from blossoming romances, there’s friendly reunions between Donna and the Dynamos, who take over proceedings to pretend they’re young again. Set to a soundtrack of ABBA songs, the story of Mamma Mia! has popularised the Swedish band for a new generation.
When did Mamma Mia! premiere?
Although ABBA are a Swedish pop group, Mamma Mia! premiered in London. The musical opened at the Prince Edward Theatre on 6 April 1999, where it played for just over five years. Mamma Mia! then transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre on 9 June 2004, enjoying its third and final move to date at the Novello Theatre from 6 Sept. 2012.
The North American premiere of Mamma Mia! came a year after the West End production, opening in Toronto in May 2000. Eventually, the Broadway production opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on 18 Oct. 2001, where it ran for 12 years before transferring to the Broadhurst Theatre. Mamma Mia! eventually closed on Broadway on 12 Sept. 2015, however it made history as the longest-running jukebox musical on the Great White Way.
Who wrote Mamma Mia!?
Mamma Mia! features an original book by Catherine Johnson, a British writer whose works have been produced nationally. Mamma Mia! is her only West End playwriting credit, with further London credits including Little Baby Nothing and Shang-a-Lang at the Bush Theatre.
As well as the stage production of Mamma Mia!, Johnson wrote the screenplays for the musical’s film adaptation and subsequent sequel.
Who wrote the songs in Mamma Mia!?
Music and lyrics in Mamma Mia! are by the two male members of ABBA: Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. Mamma Mia! marked Andersson’s second English musical, previously composing songs in Chess. There are no new songs in Mamma Mia! though, as the production is a jukebox musical filled with ABBA songs.
Who is in the cast of Mamma Mia!?
Currently, the Mamma Mia! cast in London is unknown, as all prior cast and crew members were released from their contracts. Before West End theatres were shut in March 2020, the cast included Lucy May Barker as Sophie Sheridan, Mazz Murray as Donna, Kirsty Hoiles as Tanya, Cameron Burt as Sky, Melissa Nettleford as Ali, Sophie Matthew as Lisa, Taylor Bradshaw as Eddie, Danny Nattrass as Pepper, Ricky Butt as Rosie, Richard Trinder as Sam, Neil Moors as Harry and Stephen Beckett as Bill.
What theatre in London is Mamma Mia! playing at?
The West End production of Mamma Mia! is at the Novello Theatre, where it has been performed since 2012. Opening in 1905, the theatre is named after Welsh composer Ivor Novello, who owned a flat above the theatre. Previous shows at the Novello Theatre include Crazy For You, Betty Blue Eyes and a Royal Shakespeare Company season.
What is the running time of Mamma Mia!?
The running time of Mamma Mia! in London is 2 hours and 35 minutes, including a 15 minute interval.
What are the songs in Mamma Mia!?
Even if you’ve never seen Mamma Mia! in London before, every theatregoer will know some of the songs in the musical, as they’ve been released by ABBA. You’ll hear the tracks in a new light, including “Voulez-Vous” in a party scene and a heartfelt scene between Donna and Sophie in “Slipping Through My Fingers.” Here’s all the songs in Mamma Mia! below:
"Honey, Honey" - Sophie, Ali & Lisa
"Money, Money, Money" - Donna, Tanya, Rosie, Pepper & Company
"Thank You for the Music" - Sophie, Sam, Harry and Bill
"Mamma Mia" - Donna & Company
"Chiquitita" - Donna, Tanya & Rosie
"Dancing Queen" - Donna, Tanya & Rosie
"Lay All Your Love on Me" - Sky, Sophie & Male Ensemble
"Super Trouper" - Donna, Tanya, Rosie & Female Ensemble
"Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" - Female Ensemble
"The Name of the Game" - Sophie & Bill
"Voulez-Vous" - Company
"Under Attack" - Sophie & Company
"One of Us" - Donna
"SOS" - Donna & Sam
"Does Your Mother Know" - Tanya, Pepper & Company
"Knowing Me, Knowing You" - Sam
"Our Last Summer" - Harry & Donna
"Slipping Through My Fingers" - Donna & Sophie
"The Winner Takes It All" - Donna
"Take a Chance on Me" - Rosie & Bill
"I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" - Sam, Donna & Company
"I Have a Dream" - Sophie
"Mamma Mia" - Company
"Dancing Queen" - Donna, Tanya, Rosie & Company
"Waterloo" - Company
What are the reviews of Mamma Mia!?
Mamma Mia! was praised by critics for its constant high energy. In a review for LondonTheatre.co.uk, Peter Brown said: “The show bounds along with endless energy and enthusiasm. The mixture of Abba songs, camp dance routines, platform boots and Lycra costumes based around a soppy romance comedy script creates a delightful evening of sheer fun and pleasure. This is pop music set to pop culture… No doubt one of the reasons the show is a success is because it does not try to be anything other than popular entertainment, and the production has the confidence to recognise this fact and does not take itself too seriously.”
For The Times, David Sinclair said: “this is a production of tremendous warmth, vitality and technical excellence that offers an evening of unbridled fun without entirely ignoring the cares of the modern world.”
What awards has Mamma Mia! Won?
Although Mamma Mia! is loved by audiences and critics alike, awarding bodies did not agree. The production has not won many stage awards, with award wins in bold.
Best New Musical
Best Actress in a Musical - Siobhan McCarthy
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical - Jenny Galloway
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical - Louise Plowright
Best Book of a Musical - Catherine Johnson
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical - Louise Pitre
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical - Judy Kaye
Best Orchestrations - Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Martin Koch
Is there a film adaptation of Mamma Mia!?
A film adaptation of the Mamma Mia! musical was released in 2008, featuring an all-star cast. Meryl Streep plays Donna, with Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, Christine Baranski as Tanya, Julie Waters as Rosie. Dominic Cooper plays Sky, with the three fathers played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Forth and Stellan Skarsgård respectively. Mixing ABBA, a musical movie and this star-studded line-up was a guaranteed box office hit, quickly becoming one of the most commercially successful movies of the 2000s. A movie sequel was released in 2018, with Lily James playing a young Donna Sheridan.
Are Mamma Mia! and ‘Mamma Mia: The Party’ the same in London?
Can’t get enough of the Mamma Mia! fun? There are two productions dedicated to ABBA in London. The O2 is home to Mamma Mia! The Party, an immersive theatre production where audiences can imagine themselves on a Greek island. Mamma Mia! The Party opened at the O2 in September 2019, and in a LondonTheatre.co.uk review is “Not so much a show as an interactive 3D experience, all-singing and dancing, Mamma Mia! the Party could be subtitled, 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again - again.”
What are some fun facts about Mamma Mia!?
Phyllida Lloyd directed the West End production of Mamma Mia! as well as the two movie adaptations.
Mamma Mia! has been seen by over 50 million people worldwide.
To create the “Super Trouper” outfits, 400 metres of Lycra are used.
How do I get tickets for Mamma Mia! in London?
Mamma Mia! Tickets are available now.
Photo credit: Mamma Mia! Cast (Photo courtesy of Mamma Mia!)