West End Production
Novello Theatre, London
Monday 14th January 2013
In their new home at the Novello Theatre, the original jukebox musical continues to run in the West End after 14 years, and it is easy to see what keeps drawing in the audiences. Energetic performances of much loved songs, integrated through a well thought-out story and funny script - not to mention the smash hit Hollywood film of 2008.
The current cast are engaging, enthusiastic and consummate, not least through the distractions of the unwell audience member in Row A of the Stalls. All of the scenes are bright and imaginatively staged, with brilliant dance routines and witty direction. I love the simplicity and yet diversity of the set, which is designed to allow for the many different scenes to take on seperate locations with the smallest of adjustments.
On first viewing, which for me was over 10 years ago, one of the joys of the show was to gradually see how the lyrics of the familiar songs are interwoven into the story - each number was met with giggles as the audience understood the direction of the scene and sensed which ABBA hit was on it's way next. A second viewing and, more so I fear, a familiarity with the movie version, remove that nuance of enjoyment. That isn't to say the show is unenjoyable on second viewing - not so at all - but it is certainly not quite the same as that first time.
As my theatre buddy at this performance noted - ABBA songs are deceptively difficult to sing, and were written very specifically for two female voices - so the arrangement and execution achieved in the musical version should certainly be applauded. A fun-filled evening out with something for everyone to enjoy, featuring some very funny performances and excellent singing talents.