West End Theatre Guide
Mamma Mia is a musical written by Catherine Johnson featuring the music of Abba, composed by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, former band members. The musical premiered at the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre in April 1999 before opening on Broadway in October 2001. Mamma Mia was also adapted to the big screen in the 2008 film starring Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep.
The story is set on a Greek resort owned by Donna Sheridan. Her daughter, Sophie, is days away from getting married and has invited her three potential fathers, sending Donna into a hysterical frenzy as she tries to smooth everything over before the wedding.
The musical presents a variety of views and positions on the subject of marriage and relationships. Donna professes to love the freedom of her single life, but secretly longs for companionship after a difficult life raising a child alone, and she doesn’t understand her daughter’s desire to “settle down” so early in her life. Young, idealistic and naïve Sophie believes in love and doing things “the traditional way” by marrying, settling down and having children, and holds a mild resentment of not knowing who her father is and her mother’s unconventional past. Donna’s two best friends give us yet more hilarious angles on relationships: serial bride Tanya has married and then divorced three times, profiting from each of them; Rosie is determined to stay free and single but in the end succumbs to the charms of the equally wild and spontaneous Bill.
One of the most important themes in Mamma Mia is its championing of the mother-daughter relationship which is explored in great depths in the Donna and Sophie dynamic. The two go through the motions of quarrelling over what Donna sees as a premature marriage that Sophie hasn’t thought all the way through and Sophie’s unresolved anger over not knowing her father, but, in the end, their bond pulls through as Sophie asks Donna to give her away at her wedding. The essence of the relationship is most poignantly captured in the touching number ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’.
Fatherhood, in contrast, is taken light-heartedly, with Sophie having three potential fathers and there is seemingly no conclusion on which one it is, to great comic effect. Like fatherhood, appropriateness in relationships is also taken with a generous dollop of tongue in cheek which adds to the wonderful outrageousness of the show.
The current cast of Mamma Mia is chiefly made up of Sara Poyzer (Rutherford and Son, Othello, Billy Elliot) as Donna, Georgina Castle (Dirty Dancing) as Sophie, Kate Graham (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Billy Elliot, The Producers) as Tanya, and Jacqueline Braun (Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, We Will Rock You) as Rosie, accompanied by a stellar ensemble cast.
Mamma Mia is an all-time, feel-good classic and one of the biggest parties in the West End. It will survive transitions through different casts, venues and cities and still give that infectious feel-good party atmosphere wherever it goes.