The glitterati descended on Blackpool dressed to impress for the gala night of Mamma Mia!
Singers, soap stars and television presenters took to the red carpet, which had been laid outside the Winter Gardens ahead of last night’s event.
With a drinks reception in the new Illuminasia attraction followed by the show itself at the Opera House, the stars were preparing themselves for a night they wouldn’t forget.
Linda Nolan admitted she was in the mood for dancing to the smash hit musical based on the songs of Abba.
“I am a massive ABBA fan,” she said.
“I love Dancing Queen and The Winner Takes It All. I’m really looking forward to the show as I’ve never seen it on stage before.
“It’s amazing that the Opera House is putting on summer season shows again, and Mamma Mia! sounds like good fun – perfect for Blackpool.”
TV presenter Jenny Powell said she was looking forward to taking in the Blackpool atmosphere.
She said: “The crowd here is completely different. I did Cinderella at The Grand – I’ve done 14 pantos but that was the best.”
Olympic long distance swimmer Keri-Anne Payne said it was great to see a show, which runs in Blackpool for 12 weeks, outside of the West End.
She said: “To see something like this in Blackpool is very cool.”
Coronation Street actor Joe Duttine (Tim Metcalfe in the soap) said people should support the arts outside of London.
“A lot of people can’t afford to go to London to see the shows so it’s really nice to see something like this in the north,” he added.
By the end of the spectacular show the crowd was on its feet dancing to the final numbers Dancing Queen and Waterloo.
Blackpool-born cast member Ashley Luke Lloyd, whose parents and family were in the audience, said afterwards: “It was just amazing. I’ve been looking forward for so long to bring this show to Blackpool and it was fantastic. The crowd was great and I’m so looking forward to the next 12-weeks.”
Nick Grace, associate producer of the Mamma Mia! international tour, told guests at the aftershow party in the Spanish Hall: “Over the last nine years we have been to 36 countries and major cities from Shanghai and Tel Aviv to Monte Carlo, but there is nothing better than coming back to the UK.
“Clearly after tonight there is nothing like coming to Blackpool! You are an amazing audience and the cast love performing here.
“No disrespect to the South Koreans or Swiss, where we have been for the last eight months, but it rocks here thank you.”
Mr Grace paid tribute to those who had worked hard to bring the production to Blackpool.
And he added: “ I’m really proud and passionate about the Mamma Mia! company and we’re going to make this the best summer season ever.
“All I can say is here’s to Mamma Mia!, Blackpool and the best summer season in the UK for 2014.”
Mamma Mia! could lead to more summer West End shows for Blackpool
The success of Mamma Mia! will hopefully see more West End shows arriving in Blackpool.
That is the dream of Coun Graham Cain, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for tourism and leisure.
He said he hoped Mamma Mia! was the first in a return of summer season shows in Blackpool.
Coun Cain, who could not hide his excitement and pride as he bounded onto the stage at the end to present the cast with flowers, said: “I’m ecstatic.
“Everyone was up dancing. The atmosphere was totally electric.
“There was a real buzz about the place and the general feeling is just fantastic. This show ticks every box.
“Together with the success of Rod Stewart playing here at the weekend and now this what a few days we’ve just had.”
He added: “We are looking to bring in more West End productions to Blackpool, so it’s vitally important that everyone in the town gets behind Mamma Mia!, including businesses and hoteliers.
“This is our opportunity to really show what we can do and what we have to offer.
“I know people in the industry are watching us and want to bring productions of this quality to the Opera House and that is what I’m working on.”