Wednesday, July 6

ABBA MANIA – Shaftesbury Theatre

“You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life…!”

There really are no better lyrics to sum up Shaftesbury Theatre’s grand re-opening after what has been a challenging and lengthy journey out of lockdown.

The night kicked off with an emotional welcome from the theatre’s CEO, thanking the audience for returning to the West End, and showing honest appreciation to his team for sticking with him during the pandemic. You could sense from everyone a real gratitude that we were back, and the words “thank you for coming” repeated throughout the evening holding a true sincerity and purpose. It was impossible not to start the evening feeling emotional and it provided the perfect foundation for what proved to be a lively and exhilarating experience for all. 

However, that said, it was abundantly clear that nothing would stop this audience from enjoying themselves! There was a real vibe in the auditorium, a shared sense of community and an understanding that not only were they back in the theatre, but also held a shared desperation to get up, dance and genuinely enjoy the magic of live theatre regardless of masks, social distancing, and the various unoccupied seats.

This production of ABBA MANIA is billed as the world’s number one touring ABBA tribute and has performed around the world. It really is truly a crowd pleaser with something for everyone, young and old. Not so much a ‘tribute band’, but more like an exhilarating two-hour recreation of ABBA’s last ever concert that brings to life the uplifting, dance-inducing, and sometimes heart-breaking songs from the original Swedish ‘Supergroup’.

The ABBA band members, Agnetha (Rhiannon Porter), Frida (JoJo Desmond) Björn (Edward Handoll) and Benny (Loucas Hajiantoni) approached the performance with gusto, and it really paid off for them. They sang with total enthusiasm and within a few minutes brought the audience up out of their chairs and dancing in the aisles.

Most of the ABBA favourites were there including: ‘Waterloo’, ‘Mamma Mia’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Winner Takes It All’, ‘Fernando’, and many more. Agnetha (Porter) and Firda (Desmond) delivered a few excellent solo performances, with Björn (Handoll) also grabbing centre stage for a lively and humorous performance of ‘Does Your Mother Know’.

Supporting the group was a talented and equally enthusiastic band, Paul Gregory (Drums), Dan Hall (Bass Guitar) and Anders Rye (Guitar) and fantastic replica costumes by Paul Aspinall, staging, lighting and effects supervised by James Gouge and overseen by Artisan Productions.

ABBA MANIA is the perfect excuse to party your way out of lockdown and highly recommended.

Following its West End season, ABBA MANIA goes on to perform at Sounds in the Grounds at York Racecourse on 26th June, West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire on 10th July and Kirtlington Park Polo Club on 14th August, and various summer dates as part of the Legends festival before embarking on tours of UK regional theatres, the USA, Russia and France in late 2021/2022.

For tickets and further info visit www.abbamania.com

Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin

Reviewed: 21st May 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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