You’ve seen the stage production, you’ve watched the film and now, you can immerse yourself in the heart of the action: Mamma Mia! The Party, an immersive experience based on the film that was based on the play, itself built around the songs of Swedish pop sensations ABBA, has landed in London. The production – produced by ABBA’s own Björn Ulvaeus – comes to the O2 Arena in Greenwich from Stockholm in Sweden, where it’s been running since 2016. Having been, seen and sung-along, Holly O’Mahony reports on what to expect…
What does an immersive Mamma Mia! experience entail?
A trip to the Greek island of Skopelos – where the first Mamma Mia! movie was filmed – and specifically the Nikos Taverna. Here, you’ll dine on a four-course feast while listening to your favourite ABBA tracks from the Mamma Mia! Movies sung live (plus some of the band’s b-side tracks only die-hard fans will be familiar with), while a love story unfolds around you.
There’s already a production of Mamma Mia! in the West End. How does this differ?
It differs in many ways. For starters, Mamma Mia! The Party is less of a musical, more an immersive, musical dinner. Confused? Think cruise ship entertainment, or a live show in Disneyland. Secondly, this is not the Mamma Mia! plotline you’re familiar with; The Party has its own fictional storyline, set in the ‘real world’ on the island of Skopelos, after Mamma Mia! the movie was filmed there. As such, it makes references to the cast, rather than the characters, as well as ABBA the band.
The plot itself follows Greek local Kostantina (Julia Imbach), whose relationship with British holidaymaker Adam (Aj Bentley) is put on hold when Kostantina’s father, taverna owner Nikos (Fed Zanni), refuses to give his consent.
Is it any good?
The singing and dancing is excellent, there’s no question about that. The setting is also stunning and looks every bit a square in a charming Greek town, complete with a fountain, olive trees and striking pink bougainvillea. The production has plenty of other tricks up its sleeve, making it a visual spectacle impress. But don’t come expecting a fully-fledged piece of theatre: without giving too much away, the plot is thin, hidden behind big smiles and wide-eyed wonder.
What about the food?
There’s a welcome drink of either ouzo or prosecco, after which drinks must be paid for – which seems a little steep, given the ticket price. Still, the feast itself is as hearty as you’d expect from an authentic Greek taverna. The meal begins with a mezze selection of bread, dips, olives and tomatoes. Then come the starters proper: Greek salad, deliciously charred octopus and bite-sized squares of spanakopita (spinach-filled pastries). Don’t be tempted to call for more bread, though, the main event is yet to come and it’s worth saving room for: thick slices of lamb kleftiko and beef flank, plus grilled vegetables, sweet potato wedges scattered with feta and bowls of pomegranate couscous.
By the time dessert comes – orange cake with yoghurt and mini pieces of baklava – you might find yourself so full you’re forced to hatch a plan to take it home.
This sounds up my street… but how much do tickets cost?
Here’s the thing: tickets to Mamma Mia! The Party don’t come cheap. Prices start at £151.20 and no, they don’t offer discounts. So it’s really one for special occasions: hen parties, big birthdays, corporate outings. But if you’re a serious fan of both ABBA and the Mamma Mia! films, and fancy treating yourself to a night revelling in your love of both, this immersive experience is as close as you can get to Skopelos without leaving London.
As of November 22, guests can travel by Party Express boat to the Mamma Mia! experience. The bespoke Thames Clippers run from both the London Eye Pier (suitably close to Waterloo) and London Bridge City Pier on Friday and Saturday evenings. The journey takes 35 minutes and guests can enjoy a glass of champagne as they glide.
Mamma Mia! The Party is on at the O2 Arena, Peninsula Square, Greenwich Peninsula, London SE10 0DX. Booking until February 16 2020. Admission: £151.20+. www.mammamiatheparty.com
Fed Zanni (Nikos) and Steph Parry (Kate) in MAMMA MIA! The Party. Photo: Helen Maybanks