Last weekend, me and some of my fellow bloggers were invited for an afternoon in Nikos Taverna on the island of Skopelas. Well, the o2 in Greenwich but close enough. Combining all of my favourite things - Music, Singing, Dancing, Food, Drink and ABBA - I have been wanting to check out Mamma Mia! The Party since it was first announced, but could it possibly live up to my high expectations?
Originally opening in Stockholn in 2016, the London production debuted in its own venue inside the o2 in 2019. After a prolonged closure caused by Covid, Mamma Mia! The Party finally reopened in October 2021 after a closure of 19 months. This wasn't the only closure though - our original visit planned for exactly a month ago was postponed due to a storm ripping the roof off of the o2. Not quite in keeping with the scorching Mediterranean setting we were hoping to experience.
If you are going expecting the plot from either of the Mamma Mia! movies, that is not what this is. The Party takes place on the island where the movies were filmed with the cast being aware of the movies and performing their own standalone story somewhere in the crowd, Created by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, the story was written by himself alongside Calle Norlén and Roine Söderlundh and, adapted for the UK by Sandi Toksvig.
Split across three acts separated by different courses of the Greek feast presented to visitors, the plot may be particularly thin on the ground, only existing to find ways to perform songs from ABBA's extensive catalogue, but would you really want anything else? The story is led by Taverna owner Nikos and his British (Well, Welsh) wife Kate. Nikos' daughter Konstantina falls in love with a boy called Adam who isn't from the island. We also get to meet a girl called Nina, a chef called Debbie, Nikos' mother, a repairman called Fernando (Groan all you want - they don't even sing that song) as well as an ensemble cast of performers and musicians who mill around with the guests somewhere in the crowd, covering every inch of the extensive setting to create a truly immersive atmosphere.
An incredible cast have been gathered to play the roles in the story. Fed Zanni is full of charisma and charm as Taverna owner Nikos while his wife Kate is played by Steph Parry, who made headlines in 2018 when she became "The girl who ran down the road" - running from 42nd Street where she was an understudy to reprise the role of Donna at Mamma Mia! at a moments notice, despite no longer being in the cast. Her experience in the Mamma Mia! world elevates Stephs comparatively small role to something that may not have otherwise been as memorable. The biggest numbers in the show are reserved for their daughter Konstantina who is played wonderfully by Julia Imbach and is a real standout oozing star quality. Her love interest Adam is played by the fantastically talented AJ Bentley, who you may recognise from the TV show 'Let It Shine' where he won a role in the Take That musical The Band. The whole cast prove their talent consistently throughout the show by not only singing and dancing but interacting with the guests and improvising brilliantly (Special mention to Allie Ho Chee as Bella who was amazing with our table).
If you are hoping for an afternoon or evening of non stop ABBA, you are in luck as Mamma Mia! The Party crams in 34 of their songs in a show that spans just under 3 hours (The experience itself lasts 4 hours). Most of their iconic numbers are present in the show, though not all the numbers from the movies. They are joined by some deeper cuts you may not have been completely aware of. Big ballads 'One of us' and 'The Winner Takes It All' are performed beautifully by Julia Imbach while AJ Bentley puts his own stamp on 'Take A Chance Of Me' and Steph Parry delivers a sensational 'SOS'. The cast tackle classics including 'Dancing Queen', 'Waterloo' and, of course, 'Mamma Mia' including a jam packed finale medley which ensures all the guests are on their feet joining in with the party spirit.
Located in a fairly inconspicuous spot near an Adidas outlet shop, you wouldn't expect to be greeted by such a vast and intricate space when you set foot inside The Party. The first warning you are about to be blown away (No, not in the same way the roof was by Eunice last month) is when you are advised to check in your coats as it is 25 degrees inside. To say my jaw dropped when we climbed the stairs to the main space to be greeted by a huge and truly stunning setting would be putting it mildly. Incredibly thought out with clever detailed touches such as the polaroids from the movie adorning the walls, you were immersed in the atmosphere immediately.
With set design from Bengt Froderberg, the grand setting of the space features cast members performing from various balconies, with no inch of the venue going untouched, and a showstopping centrepiece in the form of a fountain which is full of surprises I won't spoil here. The lighting from Patrick Woodroffe is deserving of its own mention for the stunning surprise mid-show when the venue is transformed to a beautiful candlelit space.
The price of the ticket comes with a four course meal - a literal feast for the senses. A special menu collecting all the best Greece has to offer, it includes a traditional Greek salad, a stunning main of lamb and beef and a lemon cake dessert, with other options available for dietary requirements. I may not be a food critic but I know what I like and boy, was it good. If you are anything like me, you may head straight to the cocktail menu and I can confirm they did not disappoint either.
With tickets starting at £99 (plus booking fee), Mamma Mia! The Party may be more on the pricier side but as an experience, it is well worth the money money money. With this, you are not just paying for a theatre show played out in front of you (Where if you're lucky, you might even be part of the action), it also comes with food, drink and the party itself. As an experience it was clear to see while this is a party that is truly in demand.
I knew I was bound to love Mamma Mia! The Party but I had no idea just how much I would love it. Every aspect of this production and setting is incredible. Truly, the best immersive experience in London where singing and dancing is encouraged, this was the perfect remedy to what has been a tough and uncertain time for so many of us lately. To paraphrase Cher in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, this really is the best kind of party. I'm not exaggerating when I say this is a contender for the best night out in London - I danced, I jived and I really did have the time of my life.
Mamma Mia: The Party is currently booking at the o2 until October 2nd 2022. Tickets from https://mammamiatheparty.co.uk
Photos by Luke Dyson