I don’t get to go to the theatre much nowadays due to the fact that my radio show finishes at 8, and I am rarely in London at the weekend. So because I was presenting the LBC Breakfast Show last week, I decided to go totally overboard and on Thursday I went to not just one show, but two!
My goddaughter Zoe was nine in March and I couldn’t decide what to get her, so I did what all useless uncles do and asked her mother, my sister Sheena. “Well,” she said. “I really want to take her to see Mamma Mia, but I can’t believe the price of the tickets.” “OK, deal I said,” and booked tickets for the matinee on Thursday afternoon. What I hadn’t bargained for was for the Nigel Evans verdict to be announced shortly before I got to the theatre. My mobile phone rang. It was Matt, my LBC Drivetime producer. “This is going to be a bit bizarre, but will you come on Drive and talk about Nigel Evans?” So he was asking me to go on my own show and be interviewed by another presenter called Ian, (Payne). Weird. Anyway, back to Mamma Mia.
I waited a good few years to see Mamma Mia. Being a bit of an Abba purist, I thought I’d hate it, but so many friends reassured me that I’d love it so back in about 2007 I went to see it with Nadine Dorries. We ended up dancing in the aisles at the end of it. Luckily no pictures survive. As we took I our seats I was rather horrified at the number of young children in the audience. Some can’t have been more than 3 or 4 years old. Why would anyone take a three year old child to see a musical, especially when the tickets cost upwards of £90? Madness.
Anyway, it was a brilliant show. The actress who played the lead part of Donna was particularly impressive. She was the spitting image of LBC’s Petrie Hosken so I kept imagining Petrie blasting out DANCING QUEEN and SLIPPING THROUGH MY FINGERS. Another of the lead characters, one of Donna’s two close friends, was a cross between Julia Hartley-Brewer and Susan Bookbinder. Sorry, but you had to be there.
The appeal of Mamma Mia endures and I suspect this is one musical that will run and run for many years to come. Having seen the film a couple of times too, the one thing I took away from this performances was the genius of fitting the songs into the storyline. Ye, the storyline may be somewhat weak and formulaic, but the lyrics of the songs were rarely inappropriate. There were the usual moments of high campery from the often half naked friends of Skye. My sister managed not to leave her tongue hanging out during one or two of their moments of stardom, as did I, of course.
The only weak performances were by the three men who Sophie suspected of being her father. They were each worse singers than Colin Firth in the film version, and that’s some achievement. Former Coronation Street star (and former Tory candidate!) James Gaddas looked stiff and uncomfortable most of the time and was totally miscast. But that shouldn’t hide the fact that it was a thoroughly enjoyable show which got a standing ovation from much of the audience. Quite some feat for a show which has been going for years.
Stars: * * * * *
COMING TOMORROW: My review of HANDBAGGED.