Archive for the ‘Musicals’ Category

Mamma Mia! The Party

17 September, 2016

1890A few weeks ago while visiting Stockholm, my partner and I attended Mamma Mia! The Party.

We both went in with low expectations. I’m not a fan of the musical, though I find the movie enjoyable, thanks mostly to the high calibre of the actors. My partner isn’t an ABBA fan at all, but tolerates it.

We were both happily surprised at how much we enjoyed the night. It was exceptionally well produced. The cast were part of the restaurant staff, and the wait staff at times were part of the show.

The premise of the show is that after the movie crew left the Greek island of Skopelos, Nikos, a local tavern owner decided to capitalise on the tourist influx by hosting a Mamma Mia! themed party at his taverna. He has married Swedish woman Kicki, who worked on the movie. Meanwhile Nikos’ daughter Konstantina has fallen in love with Kicki’s son Adam. Much drama and singing ensue, but of course there’s a happy ending and love prevails.

The action is not centred on a stage, but fully immersive, with the actors and musicians performing all over the room, including a couple of songs when the band was up on a landing overlooking the main room, right next to our table.

The party features 23 ABBA songs, including songs and album tracks not featured in the musical and movie, plus of course several hits that are in the musical (see below for the full list). What surprised me was that many lyrics, particularly in the first act,  have been extensively rewritten for the story.

The show ends with a megamedley of eleven ABBA hits to get the audience up and dancing.

Before the first act the starter and entree courses are served, with the main meal served between the first and second acts. Dessert is served after the second act and before the finale. The food is a Greek banquet, shared with all the guests at each table. All the food was excellent quality, and there is plenty for everyone. Beer, wine, and ouzo help get everyone in the mood for a fun night.

The atmosphere of the venue enhances the mood. The set looks just like a beachside Greek taverna, with lighting and other effects cycling from afternoon sun through sunset and into the night.

One thing I think is strange is that the show is performed in Swedish, with the songs in English. During August the show was performed entirely in English. I feel this would limit the tourist market. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be performed in English once or twice a week for non-Swedish visitors.

Still, despite the language barrier, we could follow what was going on. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and if you’re in Stockholm you should spend a night in Nikos’ taverna.  (more…)

What is your favourite ABBA event of 2012?

1 January, 2013

There have been so many ABBA and related events during 2012. What have been your favourites? Chose up to five from the list below, or add anything else to the comments.

What is your favourite ABBA event of 2011?

2 January, 2012

There have been so many ABBA and related events during 2011. What have been your favourites? Chose up to five from the list below, or add anything else to the comments.

Here I go again. Again

4 November, 2009

Mamma Mia!Last week Mamma Mia! returned to Sydney for the “10th Anniversary Tour”.

Friends will know that the first time I saw Mamma Mia! (world premiere, London, 6 April 1999) I hated it, thought it was tacky and pantomime like, thought it would not last more than a few months and would never travel beyond the UK. It seemed a very “British” thing. And I wasn’t the only one.

When Mamma Mia! opened in Melbourne in June 2001 for its first Australasian tour (2001-2005) I saw it again, and either the show had changed or I’d grown accustomed to it, because I didn’t hate it anymore. And it has helped to sell millions more ABBA CDs, DVDs and books, so it can’t be all bad 😉

So now we have a touring version back in Australia. A smaller ensemble and band, but the cast are obviously having a lot of fun on stage, which is quite infectious. Several cast members from the original Australian production have returned to the same roles. Premiere night saw a smattering of local celebrities (Senator Bronwyn Bishop was right behind us, I caught her eye during the encore).

For more information go to See here for some reviews and news stories.

Kristina at Carnegie Hall

4 October, 2009

Last week I travelled to New York for Kristina – A Concert Event at Carnegie Hall, the English language premiere of Benny and Björn’s 1995 masterpiece Kristina från Duvemåla.

Kristina in English has been a long time coming. When Mamma Mia! opened on Broadway in October 2001 there was talk that a draft translation was ready for presentation then. In 2006 a workshop was held with a hope for a full production within a couple of years, however it was not to be as prospective financial backers at the time declared “sad doesn’t sell”.

So finally Kristina has been presented to New York in concert form. The concert starred Swede Helen Sjöholm, who originated the role of Kristina, British tenor Russell Watson as her husband Karl Oskar, Louise Pitre, who originated Donna in Mamma Mia!in North America, as Ulrika the reformed whore, and Broadway star Kevin Odekirk (Les Miserables) as Karl Oskar’s brother Robert.

Kristina tells the story of Karl Oskar and Kristina who, after hardship and famine in Sweden, emigrate to America with family and friends, some of whom are escaping religious persecution. It is based on the Vilhelm Moberg series of novels The Emigrants (Utvandrarna).

English versions of several songs have been heard over the years, but this is the final version that may one day see a full stage production. Lyricist Herbert Kretzmer, who worked on the translation of the French musical Les Miserables, contributed his expertise to the English lyrics.

As a non-Swedish speaker I have long enjoyed the music and had an understanding of the story, but not of the actual lyrics. Unofficial translations have been around on the internet for many years. Finally I, and other English speakers, could enjoy the whole show. The English lyrics are a success, in some cases greatly different from the Swedish versions but changed for the better with the new language. Though cut down from the source novels and cut down further from the Swedish stage version, the major story elements remain intact.

The concert was well received, with Helen Sjöholm receiving a standing ovation for her act two showstopper ‘You Have To Be There’ (Du måste finnas), and another standing ovation for the curtain calls. Over the following days the show received mostly positive reviews in newspapers and theatre websites.

In the photo above I’m in the third row, in front of Kevin Odekirk.

Kristina was recorded for future CD release. Hopefully we won’t have to wait a year, as we did with the 2008 Chess in Concert.

See more first hand reviews @ icethesite.

New York Post blog posts by Elisabeth Vincentelli:
The road to ‘Kristina’ 
Chatting with “Kristina” director Lars Rudolfsson
Benny and Björn on ‘Kristina’
Benny and Björn talk influences
Louise Pitre on her Carnegie Hall debut
Kristina on “Kristina”


Win CHESS In Concert CDs and DVDs

4 September, 2009

Chess In ConcertTo celebrate the UK release of CHESS IN CONCERT 25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION on CD and DVD ABBA World, courtesy of Warner Music Entertainment, has three CHESS IN CONCERT bundles to give away.

Each bundle consists of:
One CHESS double CD

To win simply answer the following question:
What year was the original CHESS concept album released?
a. 1982
b. 1984
c. 1986

 Send your answer with your full name to Competition closes 12 noon GMT 14 September 2009. Winners will be selected at random and contacted by email for their full address. Names of the winners will be published at ABBA World.

Thanks to Warner Music Entertainment. CHESS IN CONCERT screens at cinemas across the UK and Ireland in September. See More2Screen for details.

CHESS IN CONCERT is available now fro pre-order on
Double CD
Single “Highlights” CD

Kristina in New York

23 August, 2009

KristinaOne month from today the Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaues masterpiece musical Kristina från Duvamåla makes its English-language debut in New York.

Kristina – A Concert Event will be held on the evenings of September 23 and 24 at the prestigious Carnegie Hall. The English version has been a long time coming. There has been talk that the translation was completed and presented to potential backers as long ago as the Broadway premiere of Mamma Mia! in 2001.

A workshop was held in New York a few years ago, and the musical was then presented to potential financial backers, whose declined to finance the show citing that “sad doesn’t sell’. Hopefully this concert version will introduce Kristina to the world and see an eventual full English production.

The concert stars Helen Sjöholm reprising her role as Kristina, British singer Russell Watson as Karl Oskar, Canadian Louise Pitre (who originated Donna in Mamma Mia! in North America) as Ulrika, Broadway star Kevin Oderkirk as Robert, and a supporting cast of musical theatre veterans.

Presumably composers Andersson and Ulvaeus will be attending.

ABBA fans, and no doubt fans of the musical and the stars, will be making their way to New York in the hundreds. I’m excited that I too will be there for this auspicous event, along with many friends from around the world, including at least eight making the trek all the way from Australia.

For more information, full cast list and links to buy tickets go to Kristina – A Concert Event at Carnegie Hall.

For all the news on Benny and Björn’s projects see icethesite.

CHESS In Concert

16 June, 2009



May 29, 2009, Burbank, CA — PBS’s Great Performances will air the spectacular London concert revival of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ 1986 cult musical Chess, featuring Reprise Records’ Josh Groban and Idina Menzel as Chess in Concert on Wednesday, June 17th at 9 p.m. ET (check local listings).

Reprise Records will release Chess in Concert as a two-CD set, a single audio CD, and as a stand-alone DVD to retail beginning June 16th, 2009. In addition, a three-disc Special Edition, which includes the two-CD set plus the DVD, will be available exclusively through Groban’s official website, his official fanclub website, and Menzel’s official website: This limited-edition version includes music and video from the performance, a full-color booklet with cast photos and a synopsis by composer Tim Rice, sheet music for “Anthem” and “I Know Him So Well,” plus an MP3 download of the two-CD audio content to be delivered on June 16th.

Groban and Menzel led the cast in this very special 21st anniversary performance of the British cult musical at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May 2008. The book and lyrics are by Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, The Lion King) and the music is by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (Mamma Mia!). Also featured are the West End Chorus and the City of London Philharmonic with Stephen Disley playing the great organ of the Royal Albert Hall.

 To view the trailer:     

Source: Cinemedia Promotions

See also:

Mamma Mia! versus Across The Universe

2 November, 2008

A common accusation on film discussion boards such as the IMDb is that the film Mamma Mia! is a copy of the 2007 film Across The Universe, which was built around the songs of The Beatles – as if the concept of making a musical from existing songs was unique to that film.

Of course this is not true, as the Mamma Mia! stage musical premiered in 1999, and had been in development for several years before that. But the idea of using an existing catalogue of songs goes back much, much further.

In the 1970s, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band(also using the songs of The Beatles, but not limited to the songs on the album of the same name) played on Broadway and was an infamous movie starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton. In 1967 the movie Thoroughly Modern Millie made use of songs from the 1920s, along with a couple of original songs.

But the idea of a full musical using one writer’s existing catalogue can probably be traced back to the 1954 movie There’s No Business Like Show Business, starring Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor and Marilyn Monroe and featuring songs by Irving Berlin.

Mamma Mia! kept its ABBA references to a minimum. Aside from a poster advertising “Fernando’s night club” and the cameos by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, there were nothing to do with ABBA aside from the songs.

Across The Universe on the other hand was filled with references to The Beatles – most major characters were named for characters in songs, so that the songs featuring those names would feature at some point in the narrative – Jude, Prudence, Sadie, Jojo, etc. Scenes appeared to take place simply to stage a song, for example ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’ when the cast stumble across a circus in the middle of nowhere. For the most part the songs sounded nothing like the original Beatles’ recordings, unlike Mamma Mia! which faithfully replicated the ABBA arrangements.

There were other subtle in-jokes aimed at Beatle fans, such as a character cutting a granny smith apple in half, a reference to The Beatles’ Apple Records logo and label.

To me, despite having a more “serious” story than Mamma Mia!(youth rebellion in the 1960s), the whole thing was like one of those exercises in threading songs and references into a story that we all did when we were teenagers – “Fernando and Chiquitita were going on a holiday to Happy Hawaii. Their friend Alice said it was fun. Elaine asked Cassandratake a chance on me and tell me the name of the game“. People need love on arrival in Waterloo.” That sort of thing.

How can I resist you?

10 July, 2008

MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIE premiere at Melbourne Central

Last night was the Australian premiere of MAMMA MIA! in Melbourne.

Thanks to Helga and the ABBA Fan Club, I was lucky enough to attend the premiere and after party, with old friends David, Manuel, Mark and Terri and new friend Jason (who told me he’s a regular ABBA World blog reader – hi Jason!).

Jason, Manuel, Terri, David and Mark

The evening started with the red carpet arrivals and pre-movie champagne in the foyer. We could watch the arrivals on a large screen, though we couldn’t really hear what was being said. Anticipation was high waiting for the arrival of stars Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Dominic Cooper. We got to see them on the screen, and live from three stories up, before being ushered into the cinema.

Every seat in the cinema had a MAMMA MIA! bag with lots of goodes – chocolates, skin care products, make up, discount vouchers, and a MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIE iPod nano sleeve, in glorious pink!

Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Dominic Cooper introduce the movie with MC Adam Richards

Once everyone had taken their seats, the three stars were introduced and said a few words from the front on the cinema, then Meryl took her seat in the cinema (five rows behind our group) for the movie, while Colin and Dominic left. The movie got a great reaction from the audience, with spontaneous applause after several songs. Everyone called out “yeah” when, in the “megamix” section at the end of the film, Meryl as Donna asks us if we want another song.

During ‘Waterloo’ streamers and confetti were shot out over the audience, matching what was happening on screen.

When the megamix ended and ‘Thank You For The Music’ started, Meryl left the cinema to a standing ovation, giving a little bow and wave on the way out.

Dominic Cooper and meThen we were all bundled on to buses to go to the after party at Alumbra at Docklands. The stars were unfortunately mostly inaccessible. First they were in a separate room upstairs, then hidden away in a roped-off corner with security. Colin Firth was kind enough to be photographed with some eager female fans, while Dominic Cooper appeared on the dance floor momentarily and gave autograph and was photographed with fans – I was lucky enough to get one of each. Meryl Streep was hardly seen until near the end of the party, when she was rushed out by her entourage and didn’t acknowledge people calling out her name for a photo opportunity.

Courtney Act performing Mamma MiaDrag queen and singer Courntey Act performed a medley of ABBA hits including ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’ and ‘Mamma Mia’, to backing tracks that sounded like Abbacadabra. This was the first ABBA music of the night, which then led to half of dozen of so real ABBA songs before returning to standard 70s disco music. A few more ABBA songs were played later on, each one filling the dance floor immediately.

There were a few local celebrities in the crowd. Mark Holden (former pop singer and Australian Idol judge), Tim Ferguson (of the Doug Anthony Allstars), Tim Campbell (Million Dollar Wheel host), Hamish and Andy (of radio and TV), apparently other stars of TV that I didn’t recognise. Rhonda Birchmore, Lara Mulcahy and Joylon James who played Tanya, Rosie and Sky in the Australian stage production were also there.

(Mark Holden has a previous ABBA connection: his 1976 hit ‘I Wanna Make You My Lady’ was an English cover of a Ted Gäredestad song. Ted was a Polar recording artist whose early albums were produced by Benny and Björn).

MAMMA MIA! opens in cinemas across Australia (and New Zealand, Norway and the UK) today.

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