Mamma Mia!, now the world’s biggest-selling musical, celebrates its fifth anniversary tonight (Tuesday, 6 April 2004) with a gala performance attended by stars including Abba’s Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, around whose pop classics the show is built (See Features, 5 April 2004).

Since its opening on 6 April 1999, Mamma Mia! has sold out every night at the West End’s 1,600-seat Prince Edward Theatre, being seen by more than three million theatregoers and grossing in excess of £100 million at the box office. Next month, from 27 May 2004, the show moves to the newly refurbished 1,100-seat Prince of Wales Theatre, where it’s currently booking up to 5 March 2005. Its last performance at the Prince Edward will be on 22 May 2004, ahead of the December opening of Mary Poppins (See News, 20 Oct 2003).

Worldwide, Mamma Mia! has now been seen by more than ten million people, having premiered in more major cities (60 in less than five years) around the world faster than any other musical in theatre history. There are currently 11 simultaneous productions playing, including ones in Japan, Holland, Germany, Australia, Las Vegas, Toronto and on Broadway, with others opening in the coming months.

Set on a Greek island, Mamma Mia! centres on a young woman who, preparing for her wedding day, has invited three of her mother's former lovers in an attempt to discover the identity of her father. 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 current London cast features Vivien Parry (as Donna Sheridan), Alexandra Jay (Sophie Sheridan) and Kim Ismay (Tanya). The production is directed by Phyllida Lloyd and designed by Mark Thompson, with choreography by Anthony Van Laast, lighting by Howard Harrison, sound by Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken and musical supervision by Martin Koch.

Other celebrities expected at tonight’s gala event include Pete Waterman, Peter Andre, Tamsin Outhwaite, Mo Mowlam, Ian McKellen, June Whitfield, Matt Lucas, Michele Collins, Christopher Biggins, Vanessa Feltz, Gloria Hunniford, Twiggy and Kiri Te Kenawa. Mamma Mia! is produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East and Abba’s Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal.

- by Terri Paddock