On Thursday, September 21st, I was privileged enough to watch the marvel that is the West End version of Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre. I was initially sceptical that anything could come close to the movies, but I found I was wrong.

Merry (belated) Christmas everyone! It may be a week past, but as long as I can still hear “All I Want for Christmas” outside my window I'm still in the festive spirit. Unfortunately, Christmas in London was somewhat unremarkable this year- met with cold winds and a perfunctory drizzle- so I wanted to tell you about this amazing musical instead.

A quick recap of the story: 20-year-old Sophie Sheridan is getting married to Sky Rymand. Having grown up without a father, she discovers 3 potential men through reading her mum, Donna's, diary. She invites them all to the wedding, naively hopeful that no ensuing chaos will occur. The rest of the plot centres, of course, around the ensuing chaos. All while integrating some of the biggest, most fitting ABBA songs to make it the jukebox musical of the century.

I'm not here to critique the plot- it's served just fine for all the years people have been watching the movies. However, one of the main things I can say about the West End adaptation is the marked difference between the first and second acts.

The first is a lighthearted comedy- of the meeting of the three “dads”, the infamous “Lay All Your Love On Me” beach scene and the general chaos of preparing a wedding. The mood quickly changes, though, when, during the final number of the act, “Voulez-Vous”, all the men Sophie invited (Bill, Harry and Sam) decide they want to walk her down the aisle.

Then the second act becomes more sombre and reflective, with Donna facing the consequences of her trysts and some intriguing discussions of life after marriage, the nature of true love and how growing up without a parent can impact a child's life. Star songs from this act include “Slipping Through My Fingers”, “I Have A Dream” and “The Winner Takes It All”, which I'll speak more about later. It does include songs from the film's sequel.

On the set and theatre experience, I was fortunate enough to be sitting in the nosebleeds of the theatre (the highest galleries with a vertical-inclined view of the stage). Unpopular opinion here- I don't think the nosebleeds are that bad. Once you get over the initial vertigo from being at least 30 feet off the ground, you have a great unobstructed view over everyone's heads and the action on the stage. The set design, meanwhile, consists of a few blocks that are crafted to look like Greek house exteriors on one side, but then become generic walls on the other- a simple set but an effective way to make building exteriors, secluded rooms or even a church aisle for the end.

Finally, it's time to talk about actors. We had a good performance from Meg Hateley as Sophie- an energetic performance that captured Sophie's “simple but satisfied” nature. Unfortunately, I still felt that there was an unfulfilled air around the character in her depiction. All the same, it was a valiant effort (and pretty accurate portrayal of Sophie). Kate Graham (Tanya) and Nicola-Dawn Brooke (Rosie) were marvellous as Donna's best friends. They added a new dimension of charm and depth to the play, with Graham perfectly conveying Tanya's sultry nature, while Brooke brought her humorous delivery of jokes and quips- easily the funniest character in the performance.

However, undoubtedly the best performance of the night came from Mazz Murray as Donna Sheridan. I found her extremely mesmerising as she embodied Donna's authority, yet slight anxiety and worry when planning her only child's wedding. We vicariously regret her past when everything starts to spin out of control and sense her longing as she interacts with Sam (Haydn Oakley), her long-lost love. Above all, she gave a rich, tear-jerking, SHOWSTOPPING performance of “The Winner Takes It All”, showing incredible vocal prowess in her sustained notes and conveying incredible emotion. It was enough to deserve rapturous applause from the audience after the number and (unsurprisingly) the loudest cheers and whoops at the curtain call.

Is it a perfect show? No such thing exists. Some parts do wear on a bit long for me, and some (seemingly) unnecessary scenes that we could have done without. An honourable mention goes to the theatre staff, who, if they catch you recording or taking pictures on your phone, will hold up a sign prohibiting videos or pictures and glare at you until you notice them. Extremely funny to onlookers, extremely embarrassing to the perpetrator. All in all, though, if you want to watch something that leaves you feeling elated and thoughtful after leaving the show, Mamma Mia! is the feature for you. Besides, if you’re still feeling the Christmas spirit, go see the show at 2.30pm- when you’re finished it’ll be dark and you can stroll around to look at the wonderful Christmas displays and lights around Aldwych. A total of 8.5 stars out of 10, and wishing you a Happy New Year!