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THEATRE REVIEW: Mamma Mia!/Kings Dock Arena

Ian Moore says thank you, thank you, thank you for the music

Published on June 4th 2010.

THEATRE REVIEW: Mamma Mia!/Kings Dock Arena

IT seems fitting that, the week after the Eurovision Song Contest, a smash-hit show which was created by the most successful group ever to win the event, comes to Liverpool.

ABBA won Eurovision in 1974 with Waterloo which, strangely enough, is one of the few songs not to make it into the main plot of MAMMA MIA! the story of a mother, a daughter and three possible fathers which became a phenomenon on stage, then a block buster movie and has toured continuously across the globe for over a decade

The songs, written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus are the making of this ultimate feel-good show.

However, playwright Catherine Johnson has to be commended on weaving almost 20 of their most unforgettable tunes into a sunny, funny tale which unfolds on a Greek island paradise on the eve a wedding.

But this wedding is no ordinary nuptial affair, rather a smoke-screen in the bride’s quest to discover the identity of her father as she brings together the three main “suspects” - men from her mother's past - who last visited the island 20 years before.

Over 50 million people all around the world have fallen in love with the characters and it is the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs which propel this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship.

MAMMA MIA! works its theatrical magic with wonderful lighting effects, an idyllic white-washed Greek Taverna setting and vibrant performances. A production of tremendous warmth, vitality and technical excellence, it is an evening of unbridled fun. While being swept along by the ingenious choreography and witty dialogue, the show offers the chance to “examine” ABBA’s lyrics in a new light.

The piece 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.

Songs, such as Chiquitita, Take A Chance On Me, Does Your Mother Know are ingeniously slipped into the storyline, and the audience bursts into favourable applause each time it happens.

Jackie Clunes’ Donna is the indubitable star of the show, her powerful singing voice is superb. Her co-stars, Leanne Rogers and Kate Graham, who play friends Rosie and Tanya, both give great comic performances, as well as having great vocal strength too. The three create a great comic trio and completely dominate the show.

Choreographer Anthony Van Laast's dance arrangement is excellent, particularly for Sophie’s dream sequence, at the top of the second act, which is both daring and ridiculous and as a result is a hilarious success.

The show bounds along with endless energy and enthusiasm. The mixture of songs, camp routines, platform boots and Lycra costumes, based around a soppy romantic comedy script, creates a delightful evening. This is pop music set to pop culture, pure unapologetic seventies tackiness that makes for a great evening’s entertainment.

This show is strictly for people who like ABBA songs and like to have a good time listening to them, so don't go expecting any gripping story line.At the end the whole audience is on its feet and swaying blissfully along to the hits, including, as a finale, the iconic ‘Waterloo’.

MAMMA MIA! is no longer just a West End hit, yet the story is one of simplicity and truth.

Rumours of ABBA reforming for a one-off gig still abound, however MAMMA MIA! is a superb substitute should those reports prove unfounded.b>9 / 10

*Until June 20.

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