Mamma Mia! The Party

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.  Continue reading “Mamma Mia! The Party”

2008 in review

Benny, Agnetha, Frida, Björn, Stockholm 4 July 2008 (fantasy photo, thanks to turned into one of the most phenomenal years in ABBA’s 36 year history, another peak in the ongoing ABBA revival.

Of course, this was mainly due to the film version of the musical based on the songs of ABBA, MAMMA MIA!

Following its premiere in London on 30 June, the movie became the number one film in many countries, even up against such blockbuster fare as the Batman sequel The Dark Knight. MAMMA MIA! has gone on to break box office records, becoming the highest-grossing film ever in the UK.

The movie divided critics and fans, but there’s no denying that it propelled ABBA back into the limelight. To date it has grossed more than US$570 million.

The Stockholm premiere of MAMMA MIA! on 4 July saw that rarest of events, the four former ABBA members at the same place at the same time. Agnetha and Frida danced together with actress Meryl Streep on the red carpet, and for the first time in over 22 years the four were photographed together, albeit alongside the film’s cast and crew. This disappointed many, but within hours Photoshopped pictures of “the ABBA reunion” (like the one above) were spread around the world.

The movie’s soundtrack CD was also a huge hit, topping the Billboard Album chart – the first ABBA-related album to top the US charts. The recently released DVD has already broken sales records in less than two months.

ABBA’s original recordings also made an impact this year, with the flagship compilation ABBA Gold topping the chart again in the UK, becoming the oldest number one album ever, and  it also topped the Billboard Pop Catalogue chart for the first time.

Other compilations including The Definitive Collection, Number Ones, 18 Hits and even the new box set ABBA – The Albums made chart appearances.

Updated versions of ABBA Gold, More ABBA Gold and the box set Thank You For The Music attracted new buyers, as did The Albums box set. A vinyl reissue of ABBA – The Album commemorated the 60th anniversary of the 12 inch 33⅓ rpm long-playing record.

Agnetha released a new double CD compilation of her Swedish and English solo songs, My Very Best.

Many unique ABBA books were released during the year, including ABBA & Me (a Dutch fan’s story), Historia de ABBA en ArgentinaMade in Suécia: o paraíso pop do ABBA (from Brazil), ABBA Let The Music Speak (a musician’s guide to ABBA), ABBA: The Scrapbook (a pictorial history), ABBA – The Story (the first full-length ABBA biography in Swedish, also in Norwegian and Danish versions), plus an updated version of the definitive English biography Bright Lights Dark Shadows.

Stig Anderson’s daughter Marie Ledin wrote a memoir of her father, Min pappa hette Stikkan. Benny denounced the anticipated tell-all, but in reality it was a loving tribute without the expected salacious gossip about the split between Stig and ABBA.

ABBA also joined the lucrative games market, with Singstar ABBA for PlayStation.

For a group that came to an end 26 years ago, that’s a lot more action than could be expected over many years, let alone all in one.

In sad news, drummer Ola Brunkert died in March at the age of 61 following an accident, and photographer Bengt H. Malqvist died in November at the age of 80.

And what of the future? There are those, including Benny himself, who see ABBA as over after this year.

2009 sees the 10th anniversary of the stage musical MAMMA MIA! along with the 35th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win; no doubt there will be commemorations for the twin anniversaries. ABBA’s Voulez-Vous album was released 30 years ago in April, and if past history is anything to go by, we may get a Deluxe Version of the album.

ABBA the Museum was to open in Stockholm in June, but due to problems with the site the opening has been postponed indefinitely. In the meantime the museum’s collection will be touring the world.

Benny Anderssons Orkester (Benny Andersson’s Orchestra, or BAO) will tour Sweden again in the northern Summer, and will also perform its first-ever concert in London in July. There is also talk of an English-language album – some songs have already been recorded.

Björn, Frida and Agnetha will probably remain as they have for the past few years, mostly maintaining their private lives with the occasional public appearance.

And while the music lives on, so will ABBA.

ABBA radio is back

ABBA RadioABBA radio is back on Sirius Satellite Radio.

On December 12, Channel 3 becomes ABBA Radio, which will broadcast ABBA music 24/7 for one week and will feature all the hits originally performed by the group. The channel will also feature tracks from the original cast recording of the hit stage musical phenomenon, MAMMA MIA!. In addition, SIRIUS XM listeners will hear two-time Academy Award®-winning actress Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth sing ABBA songs on the soundtrack to MAMMA MIA! The Movie; the film is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray Hi-Def on December 16.

On Sirius Satellite Radio:

On XM Radio:

More news at ABBA World.

Mamma Mia! versus Across The Universe

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?

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.

ABBA reunites – sort of

from left: Benny Andersson, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Ruess, Christine Baranski, Colin Firth, Catherine Johnson, Phyllida Lloyd, Judy Craymer, Björn Ulvaeus and Dominic Cooper. Photo: Scanpix/Mats Andersson; Aftonbladet

Last night saw the long anticipated ABBA reunion – sort of.

There had been speculation for several weeks that “ABBA would reunite” for the Stockholm premiere of the MAMMA MIA! movie.

Many had predicted that all four would not turn up, or all would turn up but remain separated (myself included), as they did when the musical opened in Stockholm in February 2005.

Anni-Frid, Agnetha, Benny and Björn appeared on the balcony of the Hotel Rival, alongside the lead actors from the film and the director, producer and screenwriter. Though they still managed to remain separate – Benny and Björn to the far sides of the group, Agnetha and Frida together in the middle.

Meryl Streep, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid RuessMuch to the delight of ABBA fans everywhere (and the attending media) Frida and Agnetha together embraced star Meryl Streep on the red carpet, and then the three joined together in a circle dance. Video can be seen at Aftonbladet and probably all over YouTube.

As fabulous as it is to see Agnetha obviously enjoying herself with her former collegues, I do wish she would get herself a stylist when she goes out in public. She has worn this same outfit of white top – with a hint of black lace showing from underneath – and black pants for at least two or threee of her recent reported public outings, and it’s not particularly flattering. We all remember that black wrap-around mesh thing she wore to the stage musical’s opening in 2005. Women of a certain age should not go sleeveless. She’s still an attractive woman, she just seems to want to dress down her image.

This is the first time the four ABBA members have been seen together by the wider public since singing ‘Tivedshambo’ on video for a Stig Anderson television tribute in January 1986. Though it is not the first ABBA reunion since then – they have sung together several times for close friends’ birthdays, the most recent known occasion was Görel Hanser’s 50th birthday in June 1999.

See ABBA World’s MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIE mini-site for the latest news on film premieres.

Coming Soon: ABBA Radio

ABBA RadioOn July 7, SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 3 becomes ABBA Radio, an exclusive channel dedicated to international pop supergroup, ABBA. ABBA Radio will debut exclusively on SIRIUS in conjunction with the release of MAMMA MIA! The Movie. ABBA Radio will broadcast ABBA music 24/7 for two weeks and will feature all the hits originally performed by the group. The channel will also feature tracks from the original cast recording of the hit stage musical phenomenon, MAMMA MIA!. In addition, SIRIUS listeners will hear two-time Academy Award®-winning actress Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth sing ABBA songs on the soundtrack to MAMMA MIA! The Movie, being released by DECCA, on July 8, 2008.

The limited engagement channel will also feature stories and insights from former ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus about their many pop classics. The channel will also feature celebrity fans sharing their favorite ABBA music and personal stories, including stars from MAMMA MIA! The Movie Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, as well as Dionne Warwick, Alanis Morissette, songwriter Desmond Child and Joan Rivers among others.

More news at ABBA World.

Here I go again…

MAMMA MIA!Well, tonight in Sydney with a group of ABBA fans and cinema full of subdued D-list invitees I saw a preview screening of MAMMA MIA! Apparently it was the “third official screening in the world”, though there was also one in Melbourne tonight.

I’m having conflicted thoughts about the movie at the moment. I first saw the show in London when it opened in 1999, and I hated it – the story was barely there to string the songs together, the staging seemed cheap and the whole atmosphere was very pantomime. Frankly I thought it would flop in a few months and would never appeal outside of England.

When I saw it again a couple of years later when it played in Australia I quite enjoyed the show, but it was still not great, and the storyline was still rubbish. To date I’ve seen it five times in London, Melbourne and Sydney (yeah, I know what you’re thinking, he hates it but he’s seen it five times, I have that same thought quite often).

Seeing the same show, albeit slightly modified, on the big screen with high calibre actors like Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan singing those familiar ABBA songs was a bit of a bizarre experience.

I’m not going to review the movie – if you’re interested in a highly detailed review, go to Ryan’s Incredible World, but be warned, there are spoilers galore.

One thing I will say is that seeing and hearing ‘When All Is Said And Done’ (minus the third verse) as a celebratory song rather than being “the ABBA song about Benny and Frida’s break-up” gives it a whole new context and an entirely different emotional response, which quite surprised me.

And maybe that moment illustrates the magic and continuing success of ABBA music – it can mean all things to all people, which is why it appeals to young and old, men and women, straight and gay.

I did quite enjoy the movie, though it took a couple of hours and a couple of beers to process it in my mind. It’s really a lot of fun. Go see it. I think it’s going to be as big a hit as the musical has been.

And if it introduces even more people to the real ABBA music and sells more copies of ABBA Gold and the rest of ABBA’s back catalogue, then all the better.


MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIEABBA World presents the new MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIE mini-site, with everything you need to know about the upcoming film – cast, release dates, posters, trailers, website links, news, reviews and more.

In latest MAMMA MIA! news, there is a new poster (see right), the CD soundtrack cover and tracklist have been released, official movie websites have been updated with all new interactive content, premiere dates have been changed or cancelled, and a new television documentary is on the way.

You can find the details of all this and much more at the MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIE mini-site.

MAMMA MIA! opens in cinemas around the world from July 2008.


MAMMA MIA! movie premiere dates

Several cast members of the MAMMA MIA! movie will be travelling the world in early July to attend various premieres of the film.

Expected (so far) at most of these dates are Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Amanda Seyfried. Presumably the world premiere in London and the New York premiere will see all the cast. Producer Tom Hanks is confirmed for the New York event.

Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson will apparently be in attendance at the London (world premiere) and Stockholm events, and presumably also New York. Anni-Frid Reuss and Agnetha Fältskog have been invited to the Stockholm opening, but have apparently declined, despite media reports of an ABBA reunion that night. Word is Björn and Benny are definitely not going to Australia.

World premiere: Odeon Leicester Square, London: 1 July 2008 *
Amsterdam: 2 July
Berlin: 2 July *
London: 2 July (charity preview)
Stockholm: 4 July *
Sydney: 8 July (press junket only?) *
Melbourne: 9 July *
New York: 16 July *

(* announced cast attendance)

Additional information:
Meryl Streep coming to Australia for Mamma Mia
Buy tickets for the Prince’s Trust world premiere of Mamma Mia! The Movie
Attend MAMMA MIA! Film NY premiere + VIP after party

See ABBA World‘s Mamma Mia! The Movie section for all the latest news and more.

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