DON’T ask me how I have missed out on this musical before. I mean, it’s now 20 years old and there have been not one but two hugely successful films in the meantime, writes Sarah Scott.

The vision behind it – that of Judy Craymer – was to use ABBA’s music in a story which was not about ABBA. Receiving the full backing of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, the songwriting powerhouse of ABBA, the show has a fabulous song list. The result is a lovable, cleverly planned, relatable tale with a killer soundtrack.

If you’ve been living on a deserted (Greek) island for more than 20 years, perhaps you wouldn’t know that the story is a whodunnit – a young woman, on the eve of her wedding has contacted three potential fathers having scoured her ma’s 21 year old diaries.

There’s a healthy dose of ‘Who Cares?’ about who people may or may not choose to sleep with in this show and it’s also a nod of appreciation to families with a lone parent.

In addition, it’s a great one for characters – and actors over the age of 30 and the company is very well cast.

The production is itself has been meticulously crafted and choreographed by original director Phyllida Lloyd and choreographer Anthony Van Laast and set up so there is not a single wasted moment.

Each onstage gesture is as carefully orchestrated as an ABBA masterpiece.

The songs take a gradually more significant role in the show, so what at first might be a few lines culminates in a stunning full-length version of The Winner Takes It All – take your bow, Sharon Sexton for a wonderful performance.

Sexton’s voice as the middle-aged mama whose busy summer 21 years ago is the cause of all this is earthy, rich, full of emotion.

Much of the singing is superb and a fitting tribute to the Swedish Superband themselves.

The set is, like the production itself, slick, efficient and effective.

The Greek setting gives the show a timeless quality (and the odd cultural stereotype). There are some pretty dazzling 1979s creations.

In the pre-show announcement we are warned about platform boots and white lycra, but this is white shimmering stretchy loveliness direct from heaven. Clever lights ripple like the reflections of water as well as delivering the glitz on demand as well.

The quality of the sound and some of the orchestration itself is, for me, what, moving forward needs to be changed to keep this show fresh. It sounds very 90s – a synthed-up homogenous sound which I’d love to have pared back again.

I’ll send out an SOS for a real Spanish guitar sometime in the future. Of course we end up with a glorious dance and singalong. A multi-generation celebration of a fantastic show and, in ABBA a part of the 1970s that we will never want to forget.

  • Mamma Mia, is on at Theatre Royal until Saturday, February 8. For tickets ring 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge) or go to