Roald Dahl 100: Dahl on Stage (part 2)

Have you ever thought about writing for children? Do you have a Fantastic Mr Fox, James and the Giant Peach or The Twits inside you? Join us for part two as David Wood takes us back inside a world of Whizzpoppers, Quogwinkles and Mugglewumps:

If you’ve just arrived on our blog, check out part one of Roald Dahl 100: Dahl on Stage first.

Are you ever influenced by Quentin Blake’s designs?

I’m really led by the text. When I began to adapt Dahls work, there were several books which Quentin Blake hadn’t yet illustrated, they’d been done by other people. But after Dahl died, his estate decided that Blake should do all of them and so they got rid of all the illustrations by other people which I think rather annoyed them. In my head there may have been occasional times when I pictured characters like Blake’s illustrations, but our designer, Susie Caulcutt didn’t use those illustrations apart from as a guide to the odd thing such as the sandals that the BFG wears which are actually the type of moccasins that Dahl used to wear. Dahl’s parents were Norwegian so there were occasional little references like that which could be used.

Quentin Blake first collaborated with Dahl on The Enormous Crocodile

Have you ever had any knock-backs?

Yes! Patrick Garland who was running Chichester at the time wrote to me and said “we’re seriously thinking about doing The BFG here in Chichester for Christmas”. So I wrote back and said I thought that was an interesting idea and as it was on tour, I gave him the date list and a few weeks later he wrote to me again: “Dear David, I went to see the BFG and I’m very very sorry but I really don’t feel I can do it at Chichester because I do feel that it’s a complete cop-out that you never see a real giant”. It was then I realised that he’d left at the Interval! I thought, well I can’t put him right, so I wrote back and said I was sorry!

After Dahl died, I actually thought the show might never be done. But it was. And luckily his widow, Liccy (Felicity) came to see The BFG about six months later and thank god she loved it. The real Sophie also liked it. And subsequently I came to be given another one to do, The Witches. That was my second Dahl adaptation, and I’ve adapted eight now.

What do you make of big budget adaptations like Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

Willy Wonka
Willy Wonka: A very different kettle of fish

It would be lovely to write a huge hit musical like that but the point is I probably couldn’t. Matilda is a show that I admire very much but I don’t feel that it’s written for children – it’s broader and more sophisticated. Stiles & Drewe and I worked on Matilda over 20 years ago – they wrote some lovely songs and I wrote a lot of scenes. We did a little showcase, just the three of us without actors – I read, George played and Ants sung, but everyone you can think of was applying for the rights and eventually Dahl’s estate gave them to the RSC.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a different kettle of fish. When Warner Brothers got the rights to do the original Willy Wonka film with Gene Wilder, they were given the stage as well as the film rights. Nothing happened stage-wise for quite a long time until Warner Brothers did the second film, the Johnny Depp version. The realisation that they had the stage rights and that Disney had done rather well with Lion King and Beauty and the Beast led to them agreeing to collaborate on a stage version.

Have a generation of Matilda's really changed so much?
Have a generation of Matilda’s really changed so much?

Have children’s shows changed dramatically over the years?

I’ve been writing children’s plays for 49 years now and when I started there was very little around specifically for children. At Christmas there might be Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland but it really was mainly Pantomime. Peter Pan was only ever really done in London – nobody was allowed to do it as a regional production. So my dream was to do work that children would respond to – particularly primary school children who don’t normally get the chance of going because their parents won’t take them. I had a belief that theatre was a trigger to the imagination and that every primary school child should be taken to the theatre for free at least once. Well we’re still not there yet but what has happened is that there has been an explosion in the work and now it’s looked upon as commercially viable which it never was before.

It intrigues me that if you look around now at the big musicals, Lion King, Shrek, Mary Poppins, Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they’re all based on children’s books. And what Producers realised, as the scales fell from their eyes is that if you took a children’s favourite classic title you had the widest common denominator as far as your audience was concerned.

Willy Wonka 2
Producers realised… you had the widest common denominator

What, for you, is the difference between a children’s show and a family show?

The difference between those big family musicals and what I do, is very simple. A children’s show is a show to which children are taken, whereas a family show you would have no hesitation about going to on your own as an adult. And you can tell very often too by the performance times – a children’s show you would normally expect to be a matinee show. My Dahls actually do go on at seven o’clock because Dahl does have a wide appeal and sometimes adults do come on their own. There’s a sort of crossover there.

How important is it that theatre is entertaining for children?

I am aware that every audience will contain first-timers and I want to keep those first-timers. If I bore the pants off them, or do something which they won’t understand, they’re going to turn off. I call it “The Loo Count”. If any child leaves to go to the loo then I’ve failed! They’re devious creatures, children – they know if they say “I want a wee” most adults won’t risk a wet seat and will take them out! Everything I do is about wanting them to want to stay to know what happens next, it’s the equivalent of the page turning quality of a book. And it’s the same with an interval – if I’m adapting a book, what’s the first thing I look for in that book? It may sound flippant, but I look for the interval. Because I’ve got to have a good moment where you can stop, leaving people wanting to come back. Otherwise they might just say “well, that’s it then” and leave – which would be terrible.

I always look for the interval
I always look for the interval first.

What are the key elements in a show, or a book, for children – and why does Dahl get it so right?

Amongst all things that children like, for example food, animals, magic and music, one of the things they like most is justice. They are very hot on justice, children, and one of the first things they learn to say is “it’s not fair” – if you give a child one piece of chocolate and another two pieces, “it’s not fair”. And this is why so many of the classic stories, Cinderella being an absolutely perfect example, are to do with unfairness. We root for Cinderella because she’s being unfairly treated and we want her to win through. It’s not rags to riches so much, it’s her getting her happiness because she’s a good person. So in many of my plays a similar theme comes up whereby one character is being unfairly treated by another. I know that will trigger something in the mind of a child just as it would in an adult.

What Roald Dahl does so brilliantly is look at things from the child’s point of view, which is what Roald Dahl does so brilliantly. He understands how children’s minds work. And it’s very significant that a lot of children are the protagonists in his stories: Sophie in The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, Danny the Champion of the World, the boy in The Witches who isn’t named in the book, and George’s Marvellous Medicine – children are the main characters. And why does Dahl do that? Because he knows that the reader is going to identify with them. It’s very basic and very clever – he used every ingredient that I could ever have thought up – they’re all there. He uses food a lot – James and the Giant Peach, and in The BFG there’s Frobscottle the drink and Snozzcumbers which the giants don’t like eating.

He uses magic and fantasy in the books, and animals like the Mugglewumps in The Twits. I think that when he decided to write for children, which wasn’t an automatic decision for him at all, Dahl genuinely drew on classic themes – the Giant Peach is like the Beanstalk, Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge – they’re the Ugly Sisters and the whole idea of the giant in The BFG – giants are very classical. And there’s nothing wrong in that – they are all ingredients and they work with children because they will emotionally involve them. A lot of people criticised Dahl early on and didn’t want their children to read his books because they were dark and subversive. The heads of the Army and the Airforce in The BFG are mercilessly satirised. You could question whether The BFG and the Whizzpop – the whole idea of farting being a thing that you celebrate – is something we want for our children? Well he enters those taboo areas but at the same time, nobody could say that those books are proclaiming immorality or badness because every single time, evil is overcome.

I'll stop when
I’ll go on doing this until I stop getting a buzz…

Do you think you’ll ever stop writing and just put your feet up?

I’ve always said I will go on doing this until I stop getting a buzz from being at the back of the theatre when the children are really enjoying themselves, because that, to me, is such a challenge and such a difficult thing to do. There are so many actors who wouldn’t survive if you put them on at ten o’clock in the morning in front of a thousand children!

Missed part one? Our interview with David Wood starts here.

David Wood wrote Book & Lyrics for The Go-Between which is currently playing at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. You can read our Go-Between interview here.

Mad about Roald Dahl?

You can still buy tickets for Matilda The Musical here and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tickets are also on sale – the show ends on January 7th 2017 so don’t miss out!



Stars of Kinky Boots party at Mint Leaf for first birthday

Top London nightspot Mint Leaf rocked into the wee small hours last night as the venue played host to the new cast for Kinky Boots 1st Birthday. London’s tightest, brightest, kinkiest show celebrated the big day a whole week early, with champagne flowing and celebrity guests joining in with the sorts of shenanigans that would make a drag queen blush.

Sinitta - the press pounce before the partying gets wild!
Sinitta arrives at the Adelphi – the paparazzi pounce before the partying gets wild!

Read more

Shhhh…Strictly’s West End Secrets Revealed!

The glitter ball is back…and it might be borrowing more from the West End’s Theatres than you think! This weekend is the Series 14 launch of Strictly Come Dancing and since the show began back in 2004, we’ve seen hundreds of celebs shimmy, foxtrot and cha-cha-cha their way across the sequin-strewn dance floor. Little surprise then that so many of the judges, contestants and professional dancers have appeared in the West End, prior to, or in some cases as a result of appearances on TV’s top rated entertainment show! Join us for a waltz around the world of Strictly West End Theatre.


Strictly Come Dancing owes much to the traditions of light entertainment, where TV personalities learned their trade in the theatres and musical halls of Britain’s towns and cities.

Bruce Forsyth hosted Strictly Come Dancing for ten years
Bruce Forsyth hosted Strictly Come Dancing for ten years

Bruce Forsyth (2004-2013)
West End Credits:
1962 Every Night At The Palladium, starring alongside Morecambe and Wise
1964 Little Me – Cambridge Theatre
1978 The Traveling Music Show – Her Majesty’s Theatre

Brucie also appeared in numerous films, including Star! with Julie Andrews and Bedknobs and Broomsticks with Angela Lansbury.

Ronnie Corbett came to the rescue when Bruce Forsyth fell ill
Ronnie Corbett came to the rescue when Bruce Forsyth fell ill

Ronnie Corbett (Guest host)
West End Credits:
1963 The Boys from Syracuse – Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
1965 Twang!! – Shaftesbury Theatre

Ronnie Corbett is one of only five people ever to present the SCD main show…the others being Bruce Forsyth, Tess Daly, Natasha Kaplinsky and Zoe Ball.


Strictly’s judges, past and present, have a huge number of West End shows under their collective belts and dance tights…

Strictly judges - fine figures from the many worlds of dance
Strictly judges – fine figures from the many worlds of dance

Bruno Tonioli (Judge 2004-Present)
West End Credits as a choreographer:
1993 Viva España – Arts Theatre
1998 Steve Coogan’s The Man Who Thinks He’s It – Lyceum Theatre
2006 Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens – The Venue/Leicester Square Theatre

Craig Revel Horwood (Judge 2004-Present)
West End Credits as a performer:
Cats (Munkustrap), Miss Saigon and Crazy for You (Dance Captain)
West End Credits as a choreographer: Spend, Spend, Spend, Beautiful and Damned, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, Hey Mr Producer!

Arlene Phillips (Judge 2004-2008)
West End Credits as a choreographer: Time, Fire Angel, Starlight Express, Grease, Saturday Night Fever, We Will Rock You, The Sound of Music, Flashdance and The Wizard of Oz.

Darcey Bussell (Judge 2009-Present)
An illustrious career at the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden propelled Darcey Bussell to worldwide fame as a Prima Ballerina. Before joining the Royal Ballet School at 13, Darcey attended Arts Ed.

Judge Arlene Phillips was a member of Hot Gossip, a dance troupe who backed Sarah Brightman in I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trouper


The Strictly pros are all uber talented, and many have now brought those talents to the West End stage…

Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace
Vincent & Flavia have enjoyed West End seasons at the Phoenix Theatre (Midnight Tango) and Aldwych Theatre (Dance ‘til Dawn). The pair returns in 2016 for The Last Tango.

Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor
Kristina and Robin fronted the 2013 return of Burn the Floor (see also Ali Bastian & Brian Fortuna) at the Shaftesbury Theatre. The show also featured the then less well-known Kevin Clifton, Karen Hauer and Aljaz Skorjanec.

Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag
Anton and Erin Cheek to Cheek was seen as part of the 2009 Sadler’s Wells Dance Season at the London Coliseum.


There are so many Strictly contestants who have come from or gone on to appear on the West End stage that it’s hard to know where to start. So, to quote Julie Andrews, “let’s start at the very beginning…”

Series 14 celebrities line up for the 2016 season
Series 14 celebrities line up for the 2016 season

Claire Sweeney (Series 1)

West End Credits: Roxie Hart (Chicago), Adelaide (Guys & Dolls)

Lesley Garrett (Series 1)
West End Credits: Mother Abbess (The Sound of Music), Nettie Fowler (Carousel)

Aled Jones (Series 2)
West End Credits: Bob Wallace (White Christmas)

Jill Halfpenny (Series 2)
West End Credits: Beverly (Abigail’s Party), Cora (Calendar Girls), Roxie Hart (Chicago), Paulette (Legally Blonde)

Emma Bunton (Series 4)
West End Credits: The Narrator (Charity Performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show)

So tell me what you want, what you really really want...
So tell me what you want, what you really really want, Emma

Kelly Brook (Series 5)
West End Credits: Jeannie (Fat Pig) and Celia (Calendar Girls)

Letitia Dean (Series 5)
West End Credits: Ms Darbus (High School Musical*) and, as a juvenile, Pepper (Annie)
*Hammersmith Apollo isn’t Strictly the West End we know…

Phil Daniels (Series 6)
West End Credits: Various roles at the National Theatre, Royal Court, and earlier in 2016, Thenardier (Les Miserables)

Jessie Wallace (Series 6)
West End Credits: Maureen (Rent Remixed)

Tom Chambers (Series 7)
West End Credits: Jerry Travers (Top Hat), Phil Davis (White Christmas)

Tom Chambers tapped his way to Strictly Champion
Tom Chambers tapped his way to Strictly Champion

Lynda Bellingham (Series 7)
West End Credits: Anita (Vincent River), Chris (Calendar Girls)

Ali Bastian (Series 7)
West End Credits: Burn The Floor, Shaftesbury Theatre (2010)
*Ali is the only Strictly celebrity to perform on the West End stage with her professional partner (Brian Fortuna).

Felicity Kendal (Series 8)
West End Credits: Judith Bliss (Hay Fever), Sheila (Relatively Speaking), Mrs Warren (Mrs Warren’s Profession), Florence (The Vortex), Julia (Fallen Angels) plus many more performances at the National Theatre and throughout the West End.

Kara Tointon (Series 8)
West End Credits: Eliza Doolittle (Pygmalion), Evelyn (Absent Friends), Giny (Relatively Speaking).
*Away from the West End, in 2015, Kara played Maria in the live TV broadcast of The Sound of Music to rave reviews.

Kara and Artem...possibly Strictly's most beautiful couple
Kara and Artem…possibly Strictly’s most beautiful couple

Rory Bremner (Series 9)
West End Credits: Crestwell (Relative Values)

Anita Dobson (Series 9)
West End Credits: Mama Morton (Chicago), Joan Crawford (Bette & Joan), Chris Harper (Calendar Girls), Mrs Meers (Thoroughly Modern Millie) Gladys (Pyjama Game) and Budgie with Adam Faith.

Jason Donovan (Series 9)
West End Credits: Joseph (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat), Tick/Mitzi (Priscilla Queen of the Desert)

Russell Grant (Series 9)
West End Credits: The Wizard (Wizard of Oz)

Jerry Hall (Series 10)
West End Credits: Cherie (Bus Stop), Mrs Robinson (The Graduate), Mother Lord (High Society), Celia (Calendar Girls)

Jerry Hall: No stranger to the West End
Jerry Hall: No stranger to the West End

Denise Van Outen (Series 10)
West End Credits: Roxie Hart (Chicago), Herself (The Play What I Wrote), The Girl (Tell Me on a Sunday), Maureen (Rent Remixed), Paulette (Legally Blonde)

Kimberley Walsh (Series 10)
West End Credits: Jovie (Elf) and Princess Fiona (Shrek! The Musical)

Series 3 and 11 are the ONLY series where we couldn’t find a contestant with links to West End Theatre.

Pixie Lott (Series 12)
West End Credits: Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
*Pixie trained at Italia Conti and appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Palladium aged just 13.

Simon Webbe (Series 12)
West End Credits: Curtis Shank (Sister Act) and Big Bad Wolf (The 3 Little Pigs) 

Snake hips Simon Webbe: like ketchup, best with the top off
Snake hips Simon Webbe: like ketchup, best with his top off

Helen George (Series 13)
West End Credits: Woman in White and Love Never Dies

So, what sequinned surprises lie in store for the contestants of series 14? Well, keep a close eye Eastenders’ Tameka Empson who has West End form and put in a fine comedy turn as Billie in Our House, Pop Star Will Young whose performance as the Emcee in Cabaret earned him an Olivier Award nomination, and Lesley Joseph whose packed career includes a West End stint as Miss Hannigan – a role she has shared on tour with Judge Craig Revel Horwood.

SCD Series 14 contestants also include: Anastacia, Claudia Frangapane, Daisy Lowe, Danny Mac, Ed Balls, Greg Rutherford, Laura Whitmore, Louise Redknapp, Melvin Odoom, Naga Munchetty, Ore Oduba and Robert Rinder.

Tess and Claudia - back on our screens...we can't wait!
Tess and Claudia – back together for series 14…and we can’t wait!

The new series launches on Saturday 3rd September BBC One at 6.50pm and runs until 8.15pm and will be available on BBC iplayer immediately after broadcast. It seems likely that the full series 14 will then begin on Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th if BBC scheduling runs to form, with the series finale broadcast on Saturday 17th December (the weekend before Christmas).

Be sure to vote for your favourites and most important of all…keeeeeep dancing!

Half A Sixpence: Flash, Bang, Wallop what a show!

Five Star hit transfers are getting to be a habit with Chichester Festival Theatre as another Musical Theatre classic now makes the move from the delightful South Coast town to the bright lights of London’s West End. In just the past few years, Sweeney Todd and Gypsy have made that same move, and have a clutch of Olivier Awards to prove it.

Half A Sixpence is probably best known for the hit 1967 movie adaptation of the David Heneker musical starring Tommy Steele, but Chichester’s production, with new songs by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles (whose other work includes Betty Blue Eyes, Mary Poppins and Honk!) looks set to make an even bigger star of leading man Charlie Stemp who gives a madly infectious and utterly beguiling performance as Kipps.

Charlie Stemp: Utterly beguiling as Kips
Charlie Stemp: Utterly beguiling as Arthur Kipps (c) Manuel Harlan

We got the inside scoop last year when we had the great privilege to chat over coffee at the Hospital Club with lyricist Anthony Drewe:

Olivier Award winner Anthony Drewe
Olivier Award winner Anthony Drewe

“ [Cameron Mackintosh] wanted us to do exactly what we did with Mary Poppins which was to put some new songs in, in the style of David Heneker, to unpick some of the songs already there and to write in some new sections and also to undo the “star vehicle” quality – I think there were seventeen songs in the original show and Tommy Steele sang fifteen of them! The book, Kipps, by H G Wells makes more of a social point than the original stage show. Cameron asked us to take on the project with Julian Fellowes who we worked with on Mary Poppins. So far I’ve added some sections, written a new lyric to an old tune and also penned a completely new number which George is setting to music.”

Arty & Ann (c) Manuel Harlan
Sweethearts Arty & Ann (c) Manuel Harlan

You can read about Half a Sixpence in part two of our interview with Anthony Drewe here and well as part one in which Anthony discusses how he and George Stiles began writing and just how it feels to win an Olivier Award.

Here’s what the critics are saying about Half a Sixpence

So warm you’ll feel like you’re basking by the seaside – Dominic Cavendish

Flash, bang, wallop, what a show! Welcome to the undoubted hit of the summer, perhaps even the year, courtesy of Chichester, easily the country’s finest purveyor of musical theatre. – Fiona Montford

Don’t miss out – book tickets for Half a Sixpence – on sale now!

Flash Bang Wallop - What a Picture!
Flash Bang Wallop – What a Picture!

Previews from 29 October 2016
Noel Coward Theatre
St Martin’s Lane

Seven things you never knew about Mamma Mia!

We’ve all been there: You have 3 one night stands in a row, fall pregnant and then 20 years later your daughter tracks all three possible fathers down on her wedding day using only the songs of ABBA. Sound familiar?

That’s the basic premise of Mamma Mia!, the hit musical featuring the songs of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. The show has now been running in London’s West End for an incredible 18 years and since then, national tours and productions have sprung up around the world. So what is it that makes the show such an enduring hit? And who are the characters? Let’s take a tour through the Greek Islands to the fabulous world of Mamma Mia:

Here we have our Seven Things you never knew about Mamma Mia!, followed by pretty much everything there is to know about the show

  1. During early London previews, audiences laughed so hard at the actors’ serious delivery of dialogue like “Chiquitita, tell me…what’s wrong?” that scenes had to be hastily redirected with tongues firmly in cheeks – it worked and the show became a monster hit.
  2. Producer Judy Craymer met Benny & Björn while they were in London promoting their first musical, Chess. She loved the theatricality of The Winner Takes It All and suggested a musical using ABBA’s back catalogue. At first the boys were less than enthusiastic but thankfully Judy changed their minds!
  3. Mamma Mia! has strong female leads – and the team behind the show was also comprised of three amazing women: Producer Judy Craymer, writer Catherine Johnson and director Phyllida Lloyd.
  4. The cast gets through 121 bras per show – That’s a lot of underwire!
  5. And is the 8th longest running show in West End history. It first opened in the West End in 1999 at the Prince Edward Theatre, transferred to the Prince of Wales in 2004 and in September 2012 it transferred to the Novello Theatre.
  6. 33,000 Rhinestones have to be individually sewn on to the costumes used in Super Trouper. If just one rhinestone were to come loose, it’s believed the whole Swedish economy could collapse.
  7. Mamma Mia! is the shows with the most number of people per booking – more than The Lion King – with an astonishing average of 3.5 tickets per single booking. Groups of women, maybe? We don’t know, but it could be as there is plenty of male flesh on show in the show…

Meet the characters (in order of appearance):

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Sophie Sheridan
Sophie managed to grow up in Greece without a trace of a Greek accent. She is getting married to Sky. Her mother, Donna, has a terrible habit of leaving her diary lying around. Sophie’s main hobbies are reading other people’s diaries and singing Abba songs.

Lisa & Ali
Lisa & Ali are Sophie’s best friends. They perform important Musical Theatre duties such as singing, acting and explaining elements of plot which cannot otherwise be explained through Swedish Pop Music.

Best friend of Donna, Tania has developed a deliciously cynical view of the world. Once a member of “Donna and the Dynamos” she has since made a living by divorcing as many times as possible.

An unmarried British author and other best friend to Donna. Rosie also sang with “Donna and the Dynamos”. Now dumpy frumpy and middle aged but still a up for a laugh, she remains quite a man-eater if left unwatched.

Donna Sheridan
Mamma Mia is set on a Greek Island, so book writer Catherine Johnson decided to name the lead character after a kebab. To complete the cliché, Donna owns a taverna and wears dungarees – presumably to cover the chilli sauce stains.

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Sky is the boyfriend of Sophie and soon-to-be-son-in-law of Donna. He set off around the world in search of himself, but only made it as far as the West End. He now earns a living designing Greek versions of Tripadvisor and taking his top off.

The slightly crazy sidekick/best man to Sky, Pepper (not to be confused with the cartoon pig) tends bar for Donna and is quite the smitten kitten when he bumps into her best friend and Musical Theatre cougar, Tania.

One of Sophie’s three possible fathers. A writer and adventurer, Bill falls in love with Rosie. Bill is only Swedish in the film – presumably to keep Scandinavian cinema-goers, the chef in the muppets and the rest of ABBA happy?

An architect and the second of Sophie’s three possible fathers. Sam broke Donna’s heart 20 years before when he returned to his wife-to-be. But Sam soon realised he loved Donna and returned to win her back, only to find she had found a new way to keep her kebabs warm.

The third of Sophie’s three possible fathers, Harry confesses that Donna was the first – and last – woman that he loved. He then realised why – and ended up with two dogs and a husband.

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

The Creative Team

The Writer
Catherine Johnson wrote the book for both the Stage and Screen versions of Mamma Mia, spurred on by earlier successes including writing many of the best lines in series 9 of Byker Grove.

The Producer
Judy Craymer reportedly made £90m from the success of Mamma Mia. She later turned her back on success by developing Viva Forever, a musical featuring the songs of the Spice Girls. Sadly it turned out to be Viva Not Forever and the show quickly waved Goodbye.

The Director
Now a CBE, Phyllida Lloyd directed Mamma Mia on both stage and screen. She loved Meryl Streep so much that she stalked her until she finally gave in and agreed to play Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

Mamma Mia: The Movie
Following the incredible success of Mamma Mia on stage, in 2008 the decision was taken to make as much money as possible by releasing a movie version. This also gave several screen hunks, including Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth, the chance to demonstrate why singing is sometimes best left to the professionals. Despite some bum notes, the film became the highest grossing British movie of all time.

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Top Five reasons people love Mamma Mia on Stage:

  1. It reminds them of being on holiday
  2. The show is packed full of great Abba songs and Pierce Brosnan doesn’t sing any of them
  3. The cast is full of young pretty people dancing and singing
  4. You always leave the theatre on cloud nine
  5. The French and Saunders spoof of Mamma Mia for Comic Relief

Mamma Mia also has its own YouTube channel, where you can find a series of behind-the-scenes videos, see them all here:

Abba Songs featured in Mamma Mia (in order)

Act I
Honey Honey (Sophie)
Money, Money, Money (Donna, Tanya, Rosie, Pepper & Ensemble)
Thank You for the Music (Sophie, Sam, Harry & Bill)
Mamma Mia (Donna & Ensemble)
Chiquitita (Donna, Tanya & Rosie)
Dancing Queen (Donna, Tanya & Rosie)
Lay All Your Love on Me (Sky, Sophie, Male Ensemble)
Super Trouper (Donna, Tanya, Rosie, Female Ensemble)
Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) (Male ensemble)
The Name of the Game (Sophie and Bill)
Voulez Vous (Ensemble)

Act II
Under Attack (Sophie and Ensemble)
One of Us (Donna)
SOS (Donna & Sam)
Does Your Mother Know (Tanya, Pepper & Ensemble)
Knowing Me, Knowing You (Sam)
Our Last Summer (Harry & Donna)
Slipping Through My Fingers (Donna & Sophie)
The Winner Takes It All (Donna)
Take a Chance on Me (Rosie & Bill)
I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do (Sam, Donna and Company)
I have a Dream (Sophie)


Mamma Mia (Company)
Dancing Queen (Donna, Tanya, Rosie & Company)
Waterloo (Company)

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

So, what are you waiting for? Unleash your inner Dancing Queen and book tickets for Mamma Mia today – it’s about the most fun you can have in a theatre!

Mamma Mia is now showing at London’s Novello Theatre.
Running Time (including interval): 2h 45m

Could you see Mamma Mia again and again and again? Check out our feature on Musical Theatre Superfans!

MAMMA MIA! London 2016 - 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
MAMMA MIA! London 2016 – 2017 cast. Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Shows beneath the stars: 2016

Looking for some ideas for late, great Summer Nights outdoors? This weekend temperatures are set to soar as summer returns with a roar. So what better way to enjoy the rising mercury than to pack a picnic, fill an icebox with champers and head off to one of the UK’s glorious parks and gardens for some inspirational open air theatre? From Sing-a-longs to Shakespeare, brush up on your bard and enjoy some unforgettable entertainment beneath a blanket of stars…. Read more

The 20 Worst Musicals in History

We all have our favourite shows, the Book of Mormons and Harry Potters that keep the West End tills ringing…but every once in a while a show comes along that we love for all the WRONG reasons. Join us as we high-kick our way through 20 terrible West End Musicals which left their investors weeping and the critics licking their lips:  Read more

Groundhog Day: Secrets of the Old Vic

This week sees the first preview of Groundhog Day, the brand new musical based on the 1993 hit movie. The show, written by Danny Rubin, reunites Director Matthew Warchus, composer and lyricist Tim Minchin, choreographer Peter Darling and designer Rob Howell, four of the creators of the international sensation Matilda The Musical.

If you’re lucky enough to be seeing Groundhog Day you’re in for a treat! Not only is it a sure-fire hit, it’s playing in one of London’s most historic and best-loved theatres. Read more

Bryan Batt: Mad about Cabaret

Tonight, Bryan Batt returns to London’s premier Cabaret venue, Crazy Coqs with his new show BRYAN’S SONG. The MAD MEN, Broadway and film star grew up in New Orleans, a city that fostered his love of music and theatre – and now he brings his unique talent to the heart of London’s Theatreland. We took a few moments to catch up with the Man who’s Mad about Theatre:

Read more

Harry Potter & The Cursed Child: Preview Reactions Round Up

Could the Palace Theatre be seeing the end of Press Nights as we know them? There are a month of previews, but already the internet is ablaze with comments from audience members, soundbites and buzz from the Part One of the hottest ticket in the West End: Harry Potter & The Cursed Child. So what are people saying? Read more

One Night Only: Pink Singers at Cadogan Hall

This Saturday, 4th June, Europe’s longest-running LGBT choir bring glitz, glamour and pizazz to London’s Cadogan Hall with one fabulous night of West End, Broadway & Opera classics. One Night Only features songs from Les Misérables, Wicked, Anything Goes and Little Shop of Horrors as well as classic works by Verdi, Rossini and Sondheim.

There’s something spine-tingling about hearing nearly 90 voices performing full choral arrangements in the beautiful Read more

School of Rock flies in to the West End

Based on the hit 2003 movie and now adapted for the stage by Julian Fellowes, School of Rock The Musical follows failed, wannabe rock star Dewey Finn as he turns a class of straight-laced, straight-A prep school students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. Can this loveable, crazy buffoon get them to the Battle of the Bands without their folks – and the school’s strict headmistress, finding out? Read more