Belfast Telegraph

Review: Feel-good masterpiece Mamma Mia was a really great show

Mamma Mia! Odyssey Arena

By Andrew Johnston

There's no secret why Mamma Mia! has endured as a hugely successful stage musical for 16 years.

Such is the power of Abba's songs, you could play a worn-out LP of their greatest hits on a dodgy stereo and it'd probably fill arenas for months.

Throw in a cast of good-looking, young - and older - things, a simple but effective stage set, a note-perfect live band and a plot that is more engaging than it has any right to be, and Mamma Mia! should still be running long after all at the Odyssey Arena last night have shuffled off to that great 70s disco in the sky.

Ignoring a tongue-in-cheek health warning that the show would feature "platform boots and white Lycra", the production kicked off its Belfast dates in front of a crowd who were keen to get singing and dancing.

And once the impossibly upbeat likes of Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Does Your Mother Know started coming, the momentum never let up.

Writer Catherine Johnson's tale is the epitome of clear and concise storytelling, with Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson's lyrics ingeniously woven into the narrative.

For the benefit of any readers who somehow haven't seen either the live show or the blockbuster movie adaptation, the plot follows a daughter's quest to discover the identity of her father by inviting the three likely candidates from her mother's past to her wedding on an idyllic Greek island.

The actors cast in the roles last night proved to be fine dancers and even better singers, with no Pierce Brosnan-style caterwauling here (as admittedly charming as the erstwhile 007 was in the film version).

It wouldn't be fair to single out anyone from the ensemble, all of whom were excellent, except to mention Northern Ireland's Niamh Perry, who was a delight as Sophie.

Meanwhile, any concerns about the arena setting were unfounded as the Odyssey delivered surprisingly sharp acoustics and an intimate feel that belied the cavernous hall.

Sure, it was camp in places and there were some preposterous plot twists, but any cheesiness was outweighed by the sheer enjoyability of it all.

Indeed, the only thing that could eclipse this feel-good masterpiece would be if Abba themselves finally gave in to public demand and pulled their own platform boots and white Lycra back on.

  • Mamma Mia! is at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast until Saturday

Four stars

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