Ten years ago, the first star-studded film in a largely successful franchise released, starring Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep and Stellan Skarsgard. This year, fans enjoyed its long-awaited sequel. But the enduring romantic comedy Mamma Mia! has been entertaining audiences ever since the tail end of the 90s, when the jukebox musical first premiered on the West End.
The script follows the young bride-to-be Sophie as she hunts for her real father, with little help from mother Donna and a cracking soundtrack by the 70s Swedish pop group Abba.
On October 19, West End performers will bring the universally loved story to Abu Dhabi’s du Arena, as part of Yas Movies in the Park.
The three-day big screen extravaganza, which runs from October 18-20, will showcase the 2008 film Mamma Mia! while dancers and actors from the UK perform and sing along to Abba’s biggest hits, from Money, Money, Money to Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me and Thank You for the Music.
“The music is so well-known worldwide by all ages, so I think they will love it as much as we will,” said Blaise Colangelo, who plays the protagonist Sophie.
Colangelo describes the character as a “passionate, loving and determined young lady.” She first auditioned for the role back in 2015 in the UK and toured the show for two years. The actress counts herself lucky to return to it for this one-off production.
But while it’s one thing to put on a straightforward musical or a play, it’s another to perform on cue with the film playing in the background. For Nicholas Maude, who plays Sophie’s potential father Bill, it came very naturally.
“I think we’ve all done it at home. I know when Grease or The Greatest Showman are playing, I’m singing along and dreaming of being either John Travolta or Hugh Jackman,” he joked.
Played by Skarsgard in the films, Maude said his character Bill has a carefree spirit and is a good man at heart. But the British actor struggled with nailing his Swedish accent.
“Bill is a traveller, and so in my defence, he has picked up a lot of accents from around the world. Hence his on-and-off American, English, Swedish, Birmingham accent,” said Maude.
Meanwhile, EastEnders actress Lizzii Hills was thrilled to take on the role of mother Donna, played by Streep in the films. She found her to be a no-nonsense “strong female warrior”.
“She’s had her share of men and life experience, works hard to keep her business going, and shows her daughter that women are strong and can do whatever they want to do,” said Hills.
The cast were in intensive rehearsals for a week prior to the show and shared their favourite moment of the show: the finale.
“It is so uplifting and gets everyone up on their feet,” said Colangelo.
Maude was mostly taken by the costumes in the last number: “They may find their way into my suitcase on the way home.”
Yas Movies in the Park is free to enter with online pre-registration. It kicks off on October 18 with a 6pm screening of the animation Moana, followed by a 8.30pm showing of Jurassic World, and an 18+ showing of horror movie IT at 11pm. On October 19, the Mamma Mia! production will take place at 7.30pm, followed by a showing of the romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days at 9.30pm. Finally, on October 20, The Lion King will screen at 6pm, followed by Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at 8pm.