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Canterbury: ABBA musical Mamma Mia! comes to the Marlowe Theatre

By Claire McWethy

When there was an announcement at the beginning of Mamma Mia! warning that the show contained platform boots and white Lycra, I must confess had my reservations.

Is this really for me? Do I even like ABBA? Did I only enjoy the film because it meant I got to spend an hour and 49 minutes with Pierce Brosnan's face?

Well I needn't have worried.

Lucy May Barker (Sophie Sheridan) with friends Blaise Colangelo (Lisa) and Fia Houston-Hamilton (Ali) in Mamma Mia!

Lucy May Barker (Sophie Sheridan) with friends Blaise Colangelo (Lisa) and Fia Houston-Hamilton (Ali) in Mamma Mia!

Just like a pair of sequinned flares - of which there are plenty - it appears a little in-your-face, a little ludicrous at first. But once you allow yourself to slip into the silliness you find yourself ready to enjoy a joyous romp through the music of the 1970s - and that's exactly what this show is.

Set on a Greek island paradise, Mamma Mia! is a high-energy jukebox musical, using the songs of the Swedish supergroup to tell a story of love, friendship and identity.

Bride-to-be Sophie (Lucy May Barker) is on a quest to discover the father she’s never known, and brings her mother face to face with three men from her distant romantic past on the eve of the wedding.

Jon Boydon (centre) as Sam Carmichael with Chris Hollis as Bill Austin (left) and Jamie Hogarth (Harry Bright) (right)

Jon Boydon (centre) as Sam Carmichael with Chris Hollis as Bill Austin (left) and Jamie Hogarth (Harry Bright) (right)

 The movie starring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan is the second highest grossing live-action musical film of all time, while the stage version has been seen by more than 60 million people.

It's easy to see why.

Everything about Mamma Mia! is sunny, from the songs and costumes to a set design so evocative of the Greek islands you'll wonder why you never had to show your passport on the way in.
 
Helen Hobson shines as Sophie's mum Donna while Gillian Hardie quickly becomes an audience favourite, being every bit as charming, funny and outrageous as Julie Walters' Rosie.
 
Helen Hobson (Donna Sheridan) and Lucy May Barker (Sophie Sheridan) in Mamma Mia!

Helen Hobson (Donna Sheridan) and Lucy May Barker (Sophie Sheridan) in Mamma Mia!

A personal highlight was watching her pursuing reluctant love interest Bill Austin (Christopher Hollis) around the stage, belting out a Scoused up version of Take A Chance On Me.
 
And the soundtrack is unerringly infectious, from the opening Honey Honey to the Dancing Queen encore which got everyone up on their feet.
 
Writer Catherine Johnson reportedly said she thought the show would only be a hit among ABBA fans. One thing's for sure, whether or not you're a paid-up aficionado, you'll be thanking them for the music by the end.
 

Mamma Mia! is at the Marlowe Theatre until Saturday, July 29. Tickets cost £8.75-£60.75. To book call 01227787787 or click here.

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