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Abba’s “Mama Mia” Hits Broadway

Posted October. 02, 2002 23:00,   


At 2:00 p.m. on Sept. 25. The 50th Street of Broadway in Manhattan, New York was filled with people who came out to see the musical ‘Mama Mia,’ which is now playing in Winter Garden Theater.

“Mama Mia” is a title of Abba’s hit song in the 1970s, and the musical plays a collection of songs of the legendary Swedish group.

Tickets have sold out almost every night since its debut in October 2001. Tickets for the next one week are all booked and you will manage to get only a couple of the day’s tickets by standing in line from early in the morning.

The musical produced by Biyone Ulbaeus and Benny Andersen, two former members of the group, features 22 songs of Abba’s. The story is not about Abba, however, it is about a mother and a daughter living in a small island in Greece.

Donna (Luis Petre), once a glamorous club singer, is now living with her daughter Sophie (Tina Madigan), running a small inn. One day Sophie found an old diary that hints who her farther might be. So she invites three men in the diary, Sam, Bill and Harry to her wedding without telling her mother.

Donna’s old-time friends Rosy and Tanya also come to Greece for the wedding. In fact, the three were singing together in a group called “Donna and Dynamos” in the 1970s.

Seeing the three men from the past again, Donna is now confused with her feelings for them. Then, Rosy and Tanya sing “Dancing Queen” to cheer her up. The two middle-aged women crisscrossed the stage singing and dancing, with hair dryer and comb using as a microphone. The audience burst into laugh seeing their comic dance, while clapping their hands and beating their feet.

On the eve of her wedding, Sophie, eager to find out who her father is, pays a private visit to three men. With Gimme Gimme Gimme played in a fast beat, She asked of their past. Sam sings “S.O.S.” to Sophie, while Bill takes his turn with “The Name of the Game.” Harry makes a duo with Donna for “Our Last Summer.”

“Mama Mia” looks like one of many Broadway musicals with familiar storyline and stage setting. It, however, catches eyes and ears of the audience by matching Abba’s hit songs with the story. “The key to success of “Mama Mia” lies in the wit that laces the story with ever-popular Abba’s songs,” wrote daily Sunday Times.

What’s interesting is that many of the audience are people in their 40s and 50s. They are enjoying live the songs they used to listen decades ago. When the musical ends, main characters take the stage again in sparkling dress from the 1970s. The audience gives a big hand as they begin to sing together “Dancing Queen” and “Mama Mia” once again.

Yi-Young Cho lycho@donga.com