LUCY May Barker, who plays Sophie Sheridan in the wildly successful show, tells EDWIN GILSON about its enduring appeal.

IT’S always difficult to judge how successful a show will be in any given city, but one thing’s for sure – a hell of a lot of people are excited about Mamma Mia’s run in Brighton.

The reasons are obvious and numerous – it’s a chance to hear Abba’s golden pop songs belted out in a concert venue, the 2008 film of the same name was adored across the world and the musical is a phenomenon in its own right. Since premiering in London in 1999 it has become a worldwide hit, to the point that there are now several strands of the show currently touring different parts of the world.

Set on a Greek island, Mamma Mia! is based around Sophie Sheridan’s quest to discover the father she has never known on the eve of her wedding. It goes without saying that all Abba’s best-loved hits are woven into the plot. For Lucy May Barker, taking on the role of Sophie meant travelling back in time to her dad playing Abba during car journeys.

“I was obsessed with them,” she says. “I remember playing it when I was walking the dog and me and my mum used to sing along. Abba tick every box – they do feelgood songs and sad songs. They covered the lot.” Audiences can’t help but burst into tune when they hear their favourite numbers and who can blame them. But does that ever get distracting for the cast?

“You certainly get used to it but the first few times it can be a bit like, ‘woah, there are all these people singing back’. There’s a bit right at the end when everyone gets involved and some audience members who have seen it before know the exact time to jump on their seats. Tickets go on sale for this show so far in advance that people have been looking forward to it for over a year sometimes. We all know that feeling of having booked something and the night finally arriving. Hopefully the show delivers. I think it does, but I’m biased.”

Sophie goes through an emotional rollercoaster in the musical as she gears up for her marriage while trying to finally locate her estranged father. Barker admits it can be hard to get into the mindset of the character and channel such extreme emotions.

“It’s an interesting thing to portray, though, that sense of longing and the unknown that comes from not knowing who her father is. My upbringing was gorgeous and my parents were together. But because the story is quite specific it’s easy to tap into. Everybody can find something to relate to in it.”

Barker’s interest in acting started with a pointed statement from her mother when she was a child; “I think you need a hobby”. Barker adds: “We had a look through the Primary Times and found a Saturday acting class. From that point I never wanted to do anything else. None of my family are theatrical at all, apart from my granddad who played the accordion.”

There are a lot of Mamma Mia! superfans out there and now Barker’s parents have joined their ranks.

“They’ve seen the show almost 20 times,” says Barker. “I feel like there should be a family loyalty card.”

Mamma Mia, Brighton Centre, August 15 to September 3, visit: