Words by Simon Button
Here he goes again! ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus cashing in on his own legacy by following the Mamma Mia! stage musical, film version and subsequent sequel by executive producing something called Mamma Mia! The Party.
Oh and the Abba-themed Super Troupers exhibition, which Bjorn has also endorsed, is readying itself for a December opening directly opposite the venue.
For me personally, though, there’s no such thing as too much ABBA and it was clear from the capacity crowd singing their hearts out and eventually dancing their asses off on the night I attended this so-called party at London’s O2 that I’m far from alone in that respect.
As cheesy as the feta that comes as a starter and as intoxicating as the ouzo that greets you on arrival at the giant purpose-built Greek taverna, it’s actually a weird hybrid of musical theatre and dining experience with a disco tacked on at the end.
The waiters are all actors and singers and the setting is in service to a between-courses show that sort of starts up where the films ended. We’re still on the Greek island of Skopelos but there’s no Donna And The Dynamos to serenade us (hardly surprising since they killed off Meryl Streep’s Donna in the movie sequel).
Instead, we get a wafer-thin story about a British boy wooing an island girl much to the disapproval of her parents that’s just an excuse to shoehorn in as many ABBA tunes as possible.
And even though the script has been adapted from the Swedish version by none other a witty wordsmith than Sandi Toksvig, it makes the Mamma Mia! musical seem like Shakespeare.
But who cares when it’s silly, tremendous fun that starts with ‘Angel Eyes’, ends with ‘Dancing Queen’ and manages to cram in more than 30 classics, curiosities (‘Nina Pretty Ballerina’ anyone?) and reprises before they taverna floor turns into an ABBA disco?
And the performers really give it some welly, especially the hugely likeable AJ Bentley (from Gary Barlow’s ‘Let It Shine’ TV talent contest and ensuing Take That jukebox musical ‘The Band’) as the lovestruck Adam and Julia Imbach as the girl he’d give all the money, money, money in the world to be with.
Then on the night we were there we had Linda John-Pierre as chef Debbie - amazingly an alternate to usual-Debbie Joanna Monro who stepped up to steal every scene she was in.
She got the biggest laugh of the night when she sang ‘Mamma Mia’ not as an ode to an errant lover but as a love song to the cigarettes she’s trying to quit.
At a starting ticket price of £135 that doesn’t include booze it’s a costly night out. But you do get four courses and four hours of fun, frolics and an overdose of ABBA that’s enough to satisfy any fan’s craving.
Mamma Mia! The Party is at The O2, London, and is currently booking until February 2020. For great deals on tickets and shows click here.
Images by Helen Maybanks