Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Thank You For The Music: Happy Anniversary, Mamma Mia!

Thank You For The Music: Happy Anniversary, Mamma Mia!

I've got a confession. I like ABBA. I mean, I really like ABBA. Now that I have that piece of business out of the way, it probably comes as no surprise that my biggest, most delicious guilty pleasure in theatre is unequivocally what is often referred to as "The ABBA musical": Mamma Mia! I honestly don't know when I've ever had more fun seeing a show.

Sure the tuner is silly, and the way that many of the songs are shoe-horned into this mother-of-all jukebox musicals produces audible groans from the audience, but it's simply impossible not to have a good time.

Now, incredibly enough, Mamma Mia! is already celebrating its fifth anniversary on Broadway at the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre, where it will enjoy its 2080th performance today. While it never won a Tony, it was nominated for five awards including Best Musical.

Mamma Mia! came to the Great White Way just at the right time -- previews began less than one month after New York City suffered the worst terrorist attacks the world had ever seen. It helped serve as a sweet salve for the wounded soul of an aching city.

My first opportunity to see Mamma Mia! came on September 1, 1999 at London's Prince Edward Theatre (current home to Mary Poppins), not long after it opened on the West End. I recall being downright delirious thanks to the energy of the original cast and particularly Jenny Galloway, who walked away with a much-deserved Olivier Award (she'll be making her Broadway debut in the revival of Les Misérables, which begins previews next week). She's the one who got to sing "Take A Chance On Me."

But of course, at the heart of Mamma Mia! is the surprisingly enduring affinity for the music of Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog, who together comprised one of the world's best-selling recording groups of all time. Twenty years before I first saw Mamma Mia! I actually went to an ABBA concert during their 1979 "Voulez-Vous" tour of the United States (some have told me that was their only American tour) -- I can still remember it, oh so vividly, as Agnetha waved to my friends and me. Of course, it wasn't cool to love ABBA back then, but I'm thrilled to this day that I have bragging rights to being among the relatively small minority of Americans who can say they've seen them perform live in person.

As for Mamma Mia! -- which is still going strong on Broadway (last week it was filled to 99% of capacity) -- it has joined ABBA as a worldwide phenomenon with sitdown productions around the globe, as well as an American tour (currently in Schenectady). Since ABBA has made it quite clear that they will never reunite, Mamma Mia! has become the next best thing to seeing them in person.

Tonight's 7 pm anniversary performance will serve as a benefit for the Actors' Fund of America's Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative with tickets starting at $62.50 (show only) to $250 (including the post-show party). Tickets are available by calling 212.221.7300 (extension 133). or by clicking here.

Happy anniversary, Mamma Mia!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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At 18 October, 2006, Blogger Erica said...

If you love ABBA have you ever had a chance to see Chess? I love the music from that show. Mama Mia is on my list of shows-to-see.

At 18 October, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Funny you asked, Erica....

I've never seen Chess, but I've owned the concept album since it came out twenty years ago. Like you, I love the music.

As you probably know, the realization of that concept resulted in the 1209 performance run of Chess at London's Prince Edward Theatre in London stretching from 1986 through 1989. The Prince Edward Theatre, of course, is where Mamma Mia! would be staged a decade later. The original production of Chess included Murray Head, Elaine Paige and Siobhán McCarthy (who would go on to the lead role in Mamma Mia!).

Chess made its way to Broadway in 1988, but lasted a mere 68 regular performances at the Imperial Theatre. Judy Kuhn and David Carroll were each Tony-nominated for their work in the short-lived production.

Now for the reason why it's funny you ask. A small production of Chess is being mounted in Minneapolis from October 27-November 19 at the Hennepin Stages Theatre. Since I have never seen it before, and I'm going to do everything I can to take in a performance.

For more information, visit:

Thanks for asking, Erica!


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