Immersive Theatre is growing rapidly and Mamma Mia! The Party combines top West End stars, iconic ABBA music and delicious Greek food into an extravaganza of an evening.
After its huge success over in Stolkholm, ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus is bringing the immersive dining experience to London this August. Set in a taverna on the island of Skopelos, it tells the story of Nikos and his wife Kate that run a restaurant. The audience are invited into the Taverna for a an authentic Greek evening.
I spoke to Steph Parry, West End star who is playing Kate in this new immersive production at the O2 in London.
“I just think it is a way for people to come and escape their lives for an evening. They’re going to be transported to a Greek island. Maybe it’s November, it’s really cold and they fancy a holiday but can’t get away,” Steph said. “They can just come and be transported to a Greek island and have that feel-good holiday vibe instead. Rather than sitting and watching a show, you get to actually be in it and come on the journey of the story with us.”
Steph Parry has been in numerous West End shows including Mamma Mia. Last year she hit the headlines last year when Caroline Deverill who was playing Donna in Mamma Mia on the West End picked up a calf injury mid-show. When she couldn’t carry on and with no understudy available, they thought they’d have to cancel the show.
Steph was stand-by for Dorothy Brock down the road in 42nd Street and had played Donna previously. They’ve gave her a call and she just hopped down the road and took on the role mid-show.
“Mamma Mia! The Party is a show almost done in real time because the audience are coming to experience a night at Nikos’ Taverna in Skopelos where there is an ABBA show on. There are dramatic things and chaos ensues and ABBA songs are interwoven within it all,” Steph explained.
It’s completely different to the Mamma Mia we know and love, but it’s a story told through ABBA songs. “It’s amazing and so much fun,” Steph said. “It’s hard to describe because I don’t want to give it away, I feel a bit like I’m in Harry Potter having to keep the secrets!
“You know when you’re in something and you just know it is going to be such a great experience? It is probably going to be one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever done,” Steph said. “I’m just a bit gutted that I can’t watch it. I’d have been the first person to buy a ticket. It’s funny because when it was announced I saw it on Facebook and tagged in my mates saying ‘when are we going’. I didn’t actually think I’d end up in it.”
Working on the show is Sandi Tosvig who has written the script and of course ABBA’s own Björn. As a huge ABBA fan, Steph can’t believe that she gets to work with such a legend. “I met him really briefly when we did Mamma Mia at the Olivier awards. But if you’d have said to me I’d be working with him in five years time and call him my boss, I wouldn’t believe it.”
ABBA are a classic band loved by all generations. “I don’t think I could ever tire of singing ABBA,” Steph said. “At the moment I can’t imagine ever not enjoying singing ABBA. Super Trouper came on in the car the other day and I just found myself whacking it up super high and smiling. Because every time I hear an ABBA song it literally just makes me so happy. I always have enjoyed them but now they just mean so much to me.”
Mamma Mia The Party! is set to be ridiculous fun and completely theatrical in every way. Steph regularly sings and hosts at SingEasy, the musical theatre bar in London that has regular performances from West End Stars.
She is a natural with the audience and can’t wait to be able to combine her performance and cabaret skills in Mamma Mia The Party. “It allows me to do everything I love,” she said. “We have just been rehearsing the final number and the idea that I am going to be in some fabulous sequinned crazy 70s outfit with a load of people just having the best night.
“It just won’t feel like a job. My favourite party is when everyone is singing along. The mega-mix in Mamma Mia was always my favourite moment so the idea of basically doing that every night is the dream.”
Until the doors to the Taverna officially open, whilst in rehearsals the show is always going to be missing a lead role – the audience. “They’re going to play such a huge part in the show because we interact with them a lot,” Steph explained. “There isn’t that barrier between the auditorium and the stage. I am nervous but I thrive on it.”
Steph recalled when she first left drama schools and her first job was a Shakespeare play. “I remember my mum saying to me; ‘Well done, it was great but quite depressing. I’d love if you’d do something really feel-good.’ I think about it now and you can’t get much more feel-good than ABBA. It is the fact that the songs just lift you. No matter what song it is, there is something about it that you can’t help but be completely lifted,” Steph said.
“The best thing about this is that people will leave Mamma Mia! The Party on a high having had the most amazing experience, thanks to the way we deliver it and the incredible songs.”
Mamma Mia! The Party opens at the 02 in London, tickets and information can be found on their website.