The cast of MAMMA MIA! celebrate 24 years of the show on the West End
It’s cast member Norman Bowman (Sam)’s belief that trips to the Novello Theatre should be prescribed on the NHS. It’s true that MAMMA MIA! offers a hit of infectious joy unlike much else, so irresistible that it’s now celebrating its 24th year in the West End. Packed full of sunshine, ABBA hits and enough paternity confusion to relaunch Jeremy Kyle, MAMMA MIA! is a true musical theatre sensation.
We caught up with the current cast of the show to talk about their favourite songs, what ABBA means to them and how MAMMA MIA! has shaped their relationship with these tunes.
Christopher Dickins (Harry)
My favourite ABBA song is ‘Super Trouper’. I’ve always loved it. It’s happy and sad at the same time and is beautifully structured.
I don’t perform it in MAMMA MIA! as it’s women only, but it’s just before ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’, which I am onstage for, so I always come down early to listen to it in the wings. The song I most like to perform singing in is ‘Thank You for the Music’, just because, story-wise, it’s an amazing moment of connection between Sophie and Harry, and a real turning point for him. Up to then he’s been worrying that he’s made a bit of a mistake coming to the island, particularly because of the two strange men he’s been lumped with. But then seeing the guitar awakens a twenty-year-old memory, and makes him realise Donna has held on to the memory as well.
ABBA was the band I secretly listened to as my elder brothers were listening to The Smiths and Depeche Mode. My sister was given the vinyl album of Voulez Vous, which I nearly wore out, as she was more into Toyah Wilcox and Joan Armatrading. I’m very glad my secret taste, which felt like a guilty pleasure, has stood the test of time!
Stephen Beckett (Bill)
‘One Of Us’ is my pick, although I prefer performing ‘Waterloo’, cos it’s the closest we get to being pop stars!
I’m old enough/young enough (delete as appropriate) to remember ABBA the first time round. I had the album ABBA Gold. They were the soundtrack to my childhood. Since joining MAMMA MIA! my whole appreciation has changed though. I’ve met Benny and Bjorn! Also, I understand the complexity of their music so much more, thanks to our beloved musical director, Marcus Savage.
Norman Bowman (Sam)
‘Super Trouper’. When it first came out I was around 10 years old and remember the tune being so full of energy. The album cover, with the band dressed in all white and under a bright spotlight, was kind of magical too. But when I heard the song mention Glasgow, this young Scottish boy went mental!
I like performing ‘S.O.S.’ most on stage. This song, along with the other that Sam sings, ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’, were always two of my other favourite ABBA songs, way before MAMMA MIA! was born. So it’s a nightly pleasure to sing them for a living.
For me, like many people, ABBA represents more than just music. Their songs are experiences that take you on mini journeys with the most amazing riffs and lyrics. They also just feel like the best soundtrack to one’s life. I remember hearing and watching ‘Waterloo’ in the Eurovision Song Contest. I can’t remember exactly what I felt, but I do remember getting caught up in the catchiness of it.
My love for ABBA only grows with every day I hear or sing the songs. And just to put this into perspective, this is my second outing as Sam, with the last time being 12 years ago, when I stayed for two years. In between then and re-joining the show I’ve done so many ABBA gigs and still, whenever I hear the music, I almost feel a sense of pride to be in any way associated with it. Not to mention the joy I get from telling people I’m in MAMMA MIA! or on the odd occasion being recognised by people who have seen the show. I’ve always maintained that the show should be prescribed on the NHS. Such joy.
Jake Bailey (Pepper)
My favourite ABBA song is a tough one. There’s a few. ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’ and ‘Voulez Vous’ are all absolute classics that you can’t help but love. If I had to pick one out of all of them though, it would have to be ‘Voulez Vous’. The song just makes you want to dance the night away. And the show makes me love it even more, especially getting to hear it with a live band every night! The beginning gets me so hyped up before running on and then the whole number is just brilliant.
ABBA to me is about family. I don’t remember hearing it for the first time but I always remember it coming out at parties and my mum always listening to it in the car, so it reminds me of home and family which makes me smile. If anything, my love for ABBA since being a part of MAMMA MIA! has just grown. The music will never ever get old and is something that no matter what your mood you will want to dance to. Also I now pay more attention to the lyrics and how amazing they are!
Lucca Chadwick-Patel (Eddie)
‘Does Your Mother Know’ is an absolute banger! I knew it before I joined MAMMA MIA!, but listening to the album before we started, that song just stuck out – it’s brilliant. It probably is the song I enjoy doing the most in the show too – we always leave the stage beaming after it.
My parents love ABBA, so I have lots of fond memories of listening to their music as a kid, and of then finding their music for myself as I grew older. It’s such a universal one I think, everybody loves ABBA.
Miles Henderson (Sky)
I loved ‘Waterloo’ before doing the show, but for very different reasons. It’s definitely my favourite to perform – it’s a banger, the whole company is on stage together, and the audience are all going crazy for the last song.
I grew up with my parents playing me ABBA, so for me these songs remind me of car journeys as a child with ABBA Gold blaring out through the radio! I don’t know how much my relationship with ABBA has changed since then, I still love them. But I definitely know more – if not all – of the song lyrics now!
Olivia Lallo (Lisa)
I always used to play ‘Does Your Mother Know’ before going out. It puts me in such a good mood!
I remember playing ABBA on some of our first family holidays. It always reminds me of summertime and being with my family and just having fun! I definitely know a lot more about them now, and about their music, but I love it just as much as I ever did.
Natasha Heyward (Ali)
My favourite ABBA song in the musical is ‘Thank You For The Music’, and it was actually one of the first songs I ever remember learning in choir as a child. I don’t perform the song on stage, which means I’m lucky enough to listen to it every night.
Some of the first memories I have of singing and performing are to ABBA’s music. It’s special and nostalgic to me because of that – it’s intrinsically linked to my childhood and my journey as a performer. The band have definitely become more important to me since then though. I have a wider knowledge of their music, and their songs now have a special connection to my career. I’ll always listen to ABBA and reminisce on the incredible times that we have on that stage.
Meg Hateley (Sophie)
Mine is ‘Our Last Summer’, for the pure happy nostalgic feeling it gives me (also because I get to sit and listen to it every night whilst I sit behind the truck before the wedding dress scene…)! Ever since my mum was in the show playing Donna, I have always loved this song. I think it’s a lovely pause in the mayhem of MAMMA MIA!
My own highlight is ‘The Name of the Game’ though. It’s such a vulnerable moment. But I also love performing ‘Honey Honey’ at the start of the show for the pure joy of getting to do it with the absolute best girls. I have so much respect for ABBA, these songs are not easy to sing!
Josie Benson (Tanya)
I’ll never forget one of our first rehearsals, hearing Mazz Murray sing ‘The Winner Takes it All’. She sings it with such passion, it’s an iconic showstopper!
ABBA’s such a global phenomenon. Their songs are timeless classics, I’ve just always known the music but I’ve acquired such respect for the band. I mean, these songs aren’t easy to sing. Abba has a way of making them sound effortless!
Gemma Goggin (Rosie)
My favourite to sing is ‘Dancing Queen’, but my favourite to listen to is ‘The Name of the Game’. Before I joined the show it mostly had connotations of big nights out dancing with a glass in hand, but now, with my fellow Dynamos, it feels like a song of friendship as much as anything else.
I don’t remember hearing ABBA for the first time, though that’s mostly because half my brain cells have died since having kids! But ABBA songs have always been the songs that immediately get me, and everyone else, up on the dance floor, singing along way too loudly and waking up with no voice the following morning. My husband – who never really sang them before – is always humming them around the house since I joined the show. They have a magical blend of being super catchy, and encapsulating all the emotions at play – be they joy or sadness.
I think when you become part of MAMMA MIA!, you become part of this epic machine. The show (both on stage and off) feels like a family, but at the same time you can see the effect the songs have, and the responsibility of taking that baton and doing the music, and the play, justice. And that flows through to the respect for ABBA – their craftsmanship, their resilience and their longevity. It is a privilege to do this show and be a tiny, tiny part of what they have achieved and continue to achieve. None of us take that for granted.