Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream



Zoe Ball


Judges: Alan Carr, Jessie Ware, Amber Riley, Samantha Barks

Guest judge: Mazz Murray (episode 6 only)


Thames for ITV, 22 October to 16 December 2023 (8 episodes in 1 series + 1 highlights show)


Talent show to find the next two people to play Sophie and her love interest Sky in the West End show Mamma Mia!.

Take a hit West End musical. Create vacancies for key characters. Televise the recruitment process. We'd seen the idea before - half-a-dozen casting shows had taken the idea and refined it near perfection. But the last serious attempt was over a decade earlier, and we've all moved on since then.

Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream took the classic theatre casting show, and made some changes. Out went the shiny floor studio, replaced by a sumptuous villa on Crete, where they filmed the movie of the musical. Out went Andrew Lloyd Webber, who has nothing to do with this show; in came Mamma Mia! creator Judy Cramer. And out went the public vote, all eliminations before the final would be done by the judges, we only got to pick the two winners.

Stephanie sings while walking through the rose garden at dusk. On a cold November night, we all want to be there.

By not having a public vote, by not concentrating on the singing, the producers made space for serious acting challenges. How well will you work with your on-stage mother? Do you connect with the words, do you sound convincing? Does your pair of Sophie and Sky have that spark of attraction? Contestants were assessed on their stagecraft, dancing and acting and mostly singing.

The judges: Samantha Barks, Amber Riley, Alan Carr, Jessie Ware.

The judges were led by Samantha Barks, who made the final of I'd Do Anything and has made her home on the West End. She was joined by Amber Riley, from Glee and Showgirls. Alan Carr was a curious booking, he doesn't have musical theatre experience, can't sing, and rarely contributed anything of note. Jessie Ware, the pop singer, gave excellent technical advice on how to improve singing and dancing; sometimes this positive critique was edited out as too technical for a mass audience.

Mamma Mia! is a musical shoehorning the songs of ABBA into a bizarre romance novel. Almost inevitably, most of the performances were ABBA songs - but because there's only so many tracks known to the audience, some weeks used more general musical theatre songs.

The judges picked the final four.

After group performances in the first week, there was an elimination each show thereafter - one from the Sophie candidates after they'd all performed, one from the Sky candidates after they'd done their part, and then one from each side until the final two emerged. Whoever we picked in the final would be a solid and reliable actor – but we absolutely knew this after the solo performances had finished. The competition never felt like it was any great stakes, it felt like the prize was adding "as seen on ITV!" to your billing.

Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream wobbled around the schedules between 6pm and 7.30 of a Sunday evening, moving mostly to finish before the Strictly Come Dancing results show. Was this too early in the night to attract viewers? Was the mass audience no longer interested in sprightly young performers singing and dancing? Viewing figures were adequate, between 1.5 million and 2 million viewers, and both the musical Mamma Mia! and sponsors Jet 2 Holidays will be satisfied with the results.

Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream was perfectly fine television. An undemanding watch, a short but useful journey for all the contestants, and a pleasant diversion from the dark winter outside. Will it translate into extra sales for Mamma Mia! at the theatre? That's the unanswered question.


Winners: Stevie and Tobias.


Format by Fremantle Media Ltd, produced in co-operation with Littlestar (Judy Cramer's company, which owns the musical Mamma Mia!) Mazz Murray was credited as "Creative Consultant".


The judging lineup wasn't entirely consistent through the series. Samantha Barks was unavailable for episode 5. Jessie Ware was booked for other performances for part of episodes 6 and 7, her place on the episode 6 panel was taken by Mazz Murray, who plays Donna in the show and will work alongside the winners.

The programmes also featured input from Judy Craymer, the creator and producer of Mamma Mia!, and her employees: choreographer Anthony Van Lasst, musical maestro Martin Lowe, and casting supremo David Grindrod. They advised the judges, but did not make any final decisions.

What happens in Mamma Mia!? On the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi, 20-year-old Sophie is just about to marry her fiancé Sky. Sophie is conflicted because she doesn't know who her father is, and finds three potential suspects from her hotelier mother Donna's old diary: Sam, Bill, and Harry. Not wanting to marry without knowing her father, Sophie invites all three men to the wedding without her mother's knowledge. What is Donna to do when three exes show up at once? Sing the hits of ABBA, crowbarred into the plot with all the subtlety of ITV's premium-rate competition.

Web links

The show publicised the hashtag #MammaMiaDream.

The show had a presence on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and Tiktok.

See also

Weaver's Week review

Other shows that have a similar format in chronological order: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, Any Dream Will Do, Grease is the Word, I'd Do Anything, Over the Rainbow, Superstar. Also see Let It Shine, where they tried to cast a whole group.


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