Posts Tagged ‘Mamma Mia!’

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…)

40 years of ABBAMANIA

2 August, 2015

ABBA, 1975The 40th anniversary of ABBA’s Eurovision Song Contest win and international breakthrough was widely celebrated last year, with new releases and commemorative events. As it should be.

This year there’s another 40th anniversary that’s just as important to the story of ABBA, but less celebrated.

On Sunday, August 3rd 1975, Australian TV programme Countdown played the promotional film clip for ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’. Countdown was a nationally-broadcast weekly music programme on the government-owned ABC network that ran from 1974 to 1987. The show’s producers were always in search of popular music to play. They found that a song called  ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ by ABBA was in the top 20 in Brisbane, the capital of the state of Queensland.

Countdown‘s producers approached RCA, ABBA’s Australian record company, requesting any footage they could play. RCA provided four film clips from the group. Countdown was impressed with the clip for the single ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, but were even more taken with another song, ‘Mamma Mia’.

‘Mamma Mia’ was apparently also broadcast at the end of the show on August 3rd, in Melbourne (the capital of Victoria) only. But the following Sunday evening, ‘Mamma Mia’ was broadcast nationally, and something amazing happened. Though the song was not scheduled to be released as a single, public demand on record stores, radio stations, RCA and Countdown led to RCA requesting from Polar Music in Stockholm permission to release ‘Mamma Mia’.

Stig Anderson initially refused, claiming that “the Australians had released so many damn singles”. In a way he was right: in the 16 months since ‘Waterloo’ had been released, RCA had put out ‘Ring Ring’ (its second local release, in remixed form), ‘Honey, Honey’, ‘So Long’, ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ (separate singles released simultaneously), and ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, plus a four-track EP. After ‘Waterloo’s peak at number four in August 1974, ABBA’s highest chart position had been ‘Honey, Honey’s number 30 peak in January 1975.

Eventually Polar relented, and ‘Mamma Mia’ entered the singles chart at number 52 on September 22nd. In the meantime, ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’ was rushing up the national chart, reaching number one on October 13th. After three weeks at the top, it was replaced by ‘Mamma Mia’, which remained at the number one for ten weeks. The songs’ parent album, ABBA, was caught in the slipstream, entering the album chart on September 8th and reaching number one on December 8th.

The public reaction and quick chart success caught the attention of overseas media. Contemporary UK news programmes reported on the astonishing Australian success of this almost-forgotten Eurovision-winning group, whose latest domestic single ‘SOS’ was gaining international attention thanks to interest in what was happening in Australia. ‘SOS’ went on to reach number six in the UK in November, followed by ‘Mamma Mia’, which topped the UK chart in February 1976.

Back in Australia, ‘SOS’ replaced ‘Mamma Mia’ at number one on January 12th, and a compilation album The Best Of ABBA had been released, topping the chart on March 28th and becoming the first album to sell over one million copies in Australia (ABBA’s Arrival later in the year would be the second).

I didn’t see ‘Mamma Mia’ on Countdown. I wasn’t a regular watcher then. I became aware of the hubbub over the song, but I didn’t really hear it until a party sometime in late 1975. I wrote about that experience here a few years ago.

Interest in ABBA had been waning after after the initial rush of the Eurovision win. But after the events in the last third of 1975, they were never to be forgotten. 

Thanks to Matti Crocker and Trent Nickson (ABBA Charts) for details.

My first ABBA record

24 January, 2010

ABBA LP 19751975’s ABBA LP was my very first ABBA record. I received it for Christmas 1975, having fallen in love with the song ‘Mamma Mia’ (a story I wrote about here in Still my favourite song).

There are times, particularly on a sunny summer morning, when listening to the album brings that feeling of my 12-year-old self hearing the album for the first time.

I still love this album. To me this is everything that ABBA is. Ring Ring and Waterloo showed signs of a group under development. With this, the group’s third album, they finally found their signature sound. ‘Mamma Mia’ is, of course, my favourite of all ABBA songs. But there are so many classic moments – pure ABBA brilliance in ‘SOS’, ‘Bang-A-Boomerang’, Mamma Mia’ and ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’, a little light social commentary in ‘Hey, Hey Helen’ and ‘Man In The Middle’, a touch of reggae and whimsy (and Benny’s accordion) in ‘Tropical Loveland’, a bit of nostalgia in ‘I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do’, contemporary glam rock in ‘Rock Me’ and ‘So Long’, and Benny gets a showcase of his classical influences in the instrumental ‘Intermezzo no 1′.

That was the summer of the ABBA album in Australia. I remember riding my bicycle around the neighbourhood and hearing ABBA songs blaring from stereos in house after house. A sure sign of the universal love that Australia had for ABBA in those years in the mid-70s.

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 www.mamma-mia.com.au. See here for some reviews and news stories.

Mamma Mia!

31 October, 2009

Thank you for the music: Fan-club members (clockwise from rear left) Mark, Ian, Gary, Jason, Louise, Sandra and DavidToday’s Daily Telegraph newspaper (Sydney, not UK) featured an article about ABBA fans getting together to celebrate ABBA in the lead up to Mamma Mia! returning to Sydney.

I was there (back row, second from the left) with friends Mark, Cotton, David, Sandra, Louise, Gary and Jason. It was a fun night at the Gourmet Viking Scandinavian restaurant in Enmore. Some brought along their old memorabilia to inspire conversation. You can see some of it in the photo.

The article was great, and thankfully didn’t make us look like a bunch of loner freaks who live in the past. Some great stories were shared – a shame that not everything could have appeared in the article, though some really good stuff did. Modesty restrains me from saying what it says about me ;-), though it does mention my recent trip to New York for Kristina.

Thanks JP, Alex and Katrina.

(more…)

Finally facing their 'Waterloo'

6 April, 2009

eurovisionToday marks the 35th anniversary of ABBA’s historic win of the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Waterloo’.

To many people this is the defining moment in ABBA’s history. But is it really?

To countries such as the USA and Australia the ESC meant nothing at the time. ABBA’s emergance was probably the first time that many people outside of Europe had even heard of the contest.

It was the 1975 hits ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’ that created the ABBA phenomenon.

So is ‘Waterloo’ and the ESC win really that important to ABBA history?

‘Waterloo’ is completely atypical of what ABBA was capable of. It is nothing like anything else in the ABBA catalogue, except for perhaps ‘Ring Ring’, which was created for the same purpose.

It is true to say that ‘Waterloo’ and the ESC performance was the first time that ABBA really got noticed outside of Europe, especially in the English-speaking world, and without it it’s possible that the later classics may never have gained attention.

But it could also be said that the quality of ‘SOS’ and ‘Mamma Mia’ and then later singles would have become international hits anyway and led to ABBA’s enduring success.

2008 in review

1 January, 2009

Benny, Agnetha, Frida, Björn, Stockholm 4 July 2008 (fantasy photo, thanks to Raffem.com)2008 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.

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.

ABBA reunites – sort of

5 July, 2008
Aftonbladet

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.


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