The international touring production of hit Abba musical Mamma Mia! will receive a three-month run at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, running from 7 November 2006 to 27 January 2007. The Manchester stint will mark the first performances of the musical in England outside London, where the West End production at the Prince of Wales is currently booking until 27 January 2007 (See News, 3 Nov 2005).

Set on a Greek island, Mamma Mia! centres on young Sophie who, preparing for her wedding day, has invited three of her mother's ex-lovers in an attempt to discover the identity of her father. Mother Donna’s former band members come along for the festivities too. The musical's original book, by Catherine Johnson, is interspersed with Abba disco classics such as "Dancing Queen", "Thank You for the Music", "Take a Chance on Me" and the title song. The production is directed by Phyllida Lloyd and designed by Mark Thompson.

Mamma Mia! had its world premiere at the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre in April 1999 and, after five years, moved to the refurbished Prince of Wales in May 2004. Since opening in the West End, the musical has gone on to become a global phenomenon with currently 11 productions around the world including on Broadway, in Las Vegas and on an international tour. It has been seen by more than 24 million people in over 115 cities.

The tour - produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East and Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal, Stage Entertainment and NGM - has already performed in Estonia, Portugal, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Commenting on the production’s run at the Palace, area general manager Rachel Miller said: “Attracting the world’s No. 1 show is a fantastic coup for the Palace. Mamma Mia! is sure to be a huge hit in Manchester, and we are delighted that we have been selected as the next port of call for the international tour.”

Judy Craymer anticipates the show’s success in the North West: "It’s fantastic that the Mamma Mia! international tour is coming to Manchester. It’s such a vibrant city, well known for its love of arts and culture, and we hope Manchester takes Mamma Mia! to its hearts as has happened all over the world. We are looking forward to making it a Christmas to remember in Manchester."

Meanwhile, new cast members will join the London production of Mamma Mia!. From 6 March 2006, Helen Hobson (My Fair Lady, Blood Brothers, EastEnders) will play Donna, Joanna Monro (Emmerdale) will play Rosie and Geraldine Fitzgerald (The Rocky Horror Show, The Bill) will play Tanya. Tasha Sheridan will play Sophie.

Other members of the new cast include Iain Fletcher, James Lailey, Paul Hawkyard, Gareth Derrick, Miriam Elwell-Sutton, Louise McCarthy, Ben Heathcote and Graham Tudor. At certain performances the role of Donna will be played by Lucy Harris. The musical celebrates its seventh anniversary in the West End on 6 April 2006 at the Prince of Wales theatre.

- by Caroline Ansdell