As part of its first ever UK tour, feel-good musical Mamma Mia! kicked off on Wednesday night at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate, and the Chron had exclusive backstage access.
Set in Grecian paradise, the musical is accompanied by 1970s roaring ABBA hits and sees Sophie’s quest to discover her absent father, bringing her mum face to face with three lovers from her romantic past on the eve of her only-child's wedding.
The Chronicle & Echo gained backstage access and went on tour behind the scenes with Mamma Mia! resident director, Nikki-Davis Jones, who is in her first year of the job after performing in the show back in 2014 as Lisa.
Nikki led us behind the glamorous bright lights to two small, dark quick change rooms - disguised by red velvet curtains and fitted out with bottles of talcum powder and skin-tight lyrca - to give our over-enthusiastic ABBA fanatic photographer and I an insight into what it's like to be a full-time all-singing, all-dancing Mamma Mia! cast member.
Just a few steps from the wings, the smaller props with sticky name tags on are placed on shelves with military precision, with the illuminated hair and make up mirror and fold-up table, for two cast members to get dolled up, situated just behind.
Directly behind the main stage, beyond the make-shift wardrobes, lay pairs of silver platform boots, dozens of white and blue chairs lined up for Sophie's wedding, and a white single bed.
Donna Sheridan, who is played by Helen Hobson, has eight outfit changes. But it is undoubtedly her individually sewn Swarovski-clad white lycra number - which is spotted in the Super Trouper scene - that is certainly the most eye-catching.
All of the lycra was especially bought in from a failing business in Italy, because of its thickness, and is used for all Mamma Mia! shows internationally. The company is now thriving as a result.
The 14-month long tour brings to our town 30 cast members, six lorry-loads of stage set, and a further 26 people who man the decks, sing live backing vocals... and help to heavily apply fake Grecian tan.
From West End to global phenomenon, the London production of Mamma Mia! has now been seen by more than 10 per cent of the entire UK population. It is one of only five musicals to have run for more than 10 years both on Broadway and in the West End.
To date, Mamma Mia! has been seen by more than 60 million people, in 50 productions, in 16 different languages with 'Mamma Mia! The Movie', starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, bagging the highest worldwide grossing live-action musical film of all time.
Nikki - whose favourite song is Slipping Through My Fingers - said the actors have a range very much like ABBA but they are not forced to change their vocals to sound the same.
The staging is inventive, with two stone-wall-effect blocks that spin round and metamorphose from restaurant to nightclub and every set inbetween, with only lighting to recreate the ever-changing backdrops.
Mamma Mia is on stage between Tuesday, 23 January to Saturday, 3 February at 7.30pm, with matinees at 2.30pm on Thursdays and Saturdays and on Wednesday 31 January.
Tickets – priced from £15 to £59.50* – can be booked by calling Box Office on 01604 624811 or online at www.royalandderngate.co.uk.