REVIEW: MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY (O2) ★★★★★
September 27, 2019  //  By:   //  Musicals, Reviews  //  Comments are off

Created by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, Mamma Mia! The Party is a new and unique entertainment experience that puts guests in the heart of the action. Over the course of about four hours, the audience enjoys a spectacular show, a four-course gourmet Mediterranean meal and an ABBA disco, all in one unforgettable evening. Mamma Mia! The Party opened in Stockholm in 2016 and is now in it’s fourth sold out year. Now it’s London’s turn to dine, wine and have the time of their lives as Mamma Mia! The Party opens in a specially designed building inside the O2.

Set in a taverna on the island of Skopelos (where most exteriors of the first Mamma Mia! film were shot) Mamma Mia! The Party is an immersive theatrical dinning experience. As you walk in, you’re immediately transported to Skopelos with greeters, wait and bar staff all playing along and welcoming you to the island. After being shown to your table, you can make a start on a lovely selection of Mediterranean mezes as your wait staff explains how the set menu works, asks of dietary requirements and sets you up with the all-important drinks. Would it be a Greek island without friendly locals and shots of ouzo to begin your stay?

As you get to know the other people at your table, you can take in the atmosphere and Bengt Fröderberg’s incredibly detailed and beautiful set. This multileveled taverna encompasses the entire space offering multiple bars, overhanging trees, religious iconography with tables and seating for approximately 500 diners all revolving around a lovely fountain. Soon after it’s time for starters of a bright Greek salad, spanakopita and charred octopus with ouzo and wild oregano dressing. As were coming to the end of our starters, it was time for the first act of the show to begin!

The plot of Mamma Mia! The Party is a warm, romantic and funny story revolving around the love of a young English lad Adam (staying with his Aunt Kate and her Greek husband Nikos in their restaurant on Skopelos) and his beautiful Greek girlfriend, Konstantina. Thinking Adam is trouble, Nikos doesn’t agree with the union between Adam and Konstantina so intends to send Adam back to the UK which causes a rift between the lovers and his wife. As drama unfolds, the audience meets the family and friends who keep the restaurant running including accident prone chef Debbie, Niko’s tempestuous Grandma, couple Bella and Nina and the aptly named Fernando, who’s come to fix the oven and then just kind of stays for the rest of the show- with no complaints from anyone in the audience.

The London cast at this performance included Fed Zanni (The 12 Tenors European Tour, Delicious for SkyOne and Being Human, Never Better, Hotel Babylon for BBC) as Nikos, Steph Parry (Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street, Donna in Mamma Mia! Mrs Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie) as Kate, Linda John-Pierre (The Empress in Aladdin, Ensemble / First Cover Queenie Show Boat) as Debbie, AJ Bentley (BBC’s talent search Let It Shine, The Band Musical) as Adam, Julia Imbach (Joseph And The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, The Little Princess) as Kostantina, Elin König Andersson (Sweden’s Got Talent, Inferno, Mamma Mia! The Party in Stockholm) as Bella, Kimberly Powell (Doris in Doris in Mrs Henderson Presents, Miss Dinsmore in Singin’ in the Rain, ensemble U/S Sophie in Mamma Mia!) as Nina, Pauline Stringer (Pippin, Man Of La Mancha, The Sound Of Music, Anita in West Side Story) as Grandma and Gregor Stewart (Munkustrap in Cats, Barbara Cook and Friends, Ensemble/Cover Troy Bolton in High School Musical) as Fernando.

The audience started singing along almost immediately as the first act began and Fed Zanni as Nikos and Steph Parry as Kate led us in a rousing rendition of Thank You For The Music. Zanni’s beautiful classical tenor voice and Parry’s powerful belt let the audience know we were in good hands for the evening. Next up, we met accident prone chef Debbie played by Linda John-Pierre as she sang of her recently blown-up oven in Bang A Bomerang, again proving John-Pierre has the vocal agility to lead the audience through an infectious number. AJ Bentley as Adam has a sweet stage presence and a strong voice, proving he’s the perfect leading man as he pleaded with his girlfriend Kostantina in the tongue and cheek number Take A Chance On Me, which the audience loved. After fun performances of hits When I Kissed The Teacher and a hilarious Money Money led by Fed Zanni, we were introduced to Kimberly Powell as Nina and Elin König Andersson as Bella as the cast performed a joyous Nina Pretty Ballerina. As the first act began a number of the audience started to take pictures and videos of the performance. Usually bad theatre etiquette, the newly introduced Nina encouraged our audience to take pictures (without flash photography) of the Instagramable party atmopshere and post them to social media using #mammamiatheparty. Another fun way of immersing the audience and setting out the rules and expectations. To close the first act, we were treated to Honey Honey and Ring Ring which included large lyric cards so the audience could gleefully sing along and our chef Debbie told us the oven was fixed and mains could now be severed.

And what a main course it was! A succulent perfectly cooked Lamb Kleftiko, beef flank in Mediterranean sauce and sides of courgette briam, potatoes yiachni and cracked wheat with pomegranate and herbs. We were given sufficient time to eat, talk about the fantastic first act, have more wine and ouzo before the story continued with act two and we were treated to an audience sing along of Waterloo (for anyone that didn’t know the ABBA hit by heart, lyrics were provided in the menus on our tables). Earlier in the performance the audience was told to tell Debbie not to smoke, she resisted so far but Linda John-Pierre’s Debbie gave in as she sang to her cigarette “Mamma Mia! Here I go again. My, my, how can I resist you?” After this fun number, Nikos continued his quest to send Adam back to the UK, falling out with wife Kate and Julia Imbach’s Konstantina sang a beautifully powerful The Winner Takes It All, to rival queen Meryl herself!

As act two came to a close we’re greeted with dessert which was a lovely Portokalpita orange cake with confit orange and yoghurt. After tea, coffee and some moreish baklava, it’s time for the third and final act of the show as Pauline Stringer’s Grandma brings the show to an end.

Packed with a whopping 35 ABBA hits, the show is performed to wonderful effect around diners in three acts and utilises the entire space. The story mainly occurs in the first two acts and ends with the third act magically transforming the main floor into a 1970s disco, with the cast performing a medley of songs and audience members encouraged to stay to sing and dance to original ABBA recordings after the show has finished.

As immersive theatrical dinning experiences go, Mamma Mia! The Party sets the standard extremely high. With ticket prices starting at £151, with £218 for premium seating, it can seem expensive at first glance. However, considering what Mamma Mia! The Party offers; a beautifully cooked traditional Mediterranean four course meal, an immersive setting, top West End talent in a full musical with 35 songs performed live and entry into a nightclub that plays exclusively ABBA to dance the night away after the show, these ticket prices seem reasonable. Mamma Mia! The Party really is a once in a life time experience for anyone that loves the films, the musical, good food and a party!

INTERVIEW: AJ Bentley talks about MAMMA MIA THE PARTY and the infectious music of ABBA

Reviewed by Stuart James
Photo: Helen Maybanks
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