First Night: Camp feast of Lycra and pop and palindromes
Mamma Mia! Prince Edward Theatre London
Wednesday 07 April 1999
It is certainly sing-along time with a difference when the couple let out a defiant chorus of "Portaloo, Wouldn't escape if they told us to. Portaloo, Oh, oh, oh..."
All right, only kidding. In fact, Abba's Eurovision triumph is one of the very few hits they don't manage to shoehorn into the show. By the standards, though, of those K-Tel compilation West End musicals, Catherine Johnson's book does a nifty integration job with an original plot involving a young girl on the verge of marriage and her relationship with her mother when she discovers that any one of three men could have fathered her.
The real drama, however, is less between the characters on stage than between the audience of fans and the music. A defiantly camp note is struck from the opening announcement: "We'd like to warn people of a nervous disposition that platform boots and white Lycra will be worn in this production."
The show proceeds as though the fans have generously donated the songs to it for the evening and will sit there ready to exult at each deliriously outrageous way the makers engineer the next opportunity for a ditty.
It's certainly handy that the prospective bride's mother (the excellent Siobhan McCarthy) used to front a Seventies rock band and that she has invited her old backing singers (Louise Plowright, a leggy comic broad, and Jenny Galloway, who plays a very funny mini-mountain of a Rosie) to the wedding on the Greek island where she owns a taverna.
No excuse, then, for them not to break into an "impromptu" rendition of "Dancing Queen", with hairdryers, vibrators and roll-on deodorants as microphones, that is designed to bring out the dancing queen in the straightest soul.
Indeed, even the most avid collectors of kitsch cues for a song might find themselves amazed as the two friends comfort the mother with mock- solemn solace of "Chiquitita", or as one of the possible fathers unwraps Alan Partridge's Pringle sweater from Knowing Me, Knowing You and improbably warns the bride-to-be of the pains of divorce.
The island setting allows for camp underwater dream sequences of a Jacques Cousteau-meets-Esther Wil-liams variety. But there are also moments of heartfelt feeling as when McCarthy helps the daughter dress for her nuptials and sings, in pulsing voice, "Slipping Through My Fingers", here a lovely lament for the way one's children continually elude one until they finally leave.
Phyllida Lloyd's handsome production generates a terrific mood of airborne silliness and the songs, a curious mix of the buoyant and the haunting, are genuine golden oldies. Abba is pop's pithiest palindrome and, whichever way you read it, Mamma Mia! looks like being a hit.
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 3 Ayyan Ali: Pakistan's top model now appears in the courtroom rather than on the catwalk
- 4 Fifa corruption: Europe plots to stage an 'alternative World Cup' in place of Russia 2018
- 5 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
Photographer who performed naked shoot in China's Forbidden City sparks outrage
Ed Miliband returns to the backbenches but it's all a bit awkward as he tries to avoid eye-contact with fellow Labour MPs
Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the 'demon drink' - latest news
Isis tortures 14-year-old Syrian boy and films it in graphic video for 'propaganda purposes'
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history
£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced creative web and...
£17000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity is now ...
£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...