Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hay Carumba! Mamma Mia! Is Fun!

Hay Carumba! Mamma Mia! Is Fun!

Never to be confused with great art, the stage musical Mamma Mia! nevertheless has long been one of my truly guilty pleasures.

There’s a combination of reasons. I was always a closet ABBA fan, even back in the 1970s when it was largely considered naff to be so in the States. I even went to an ABBA concert back in 1979 during the Milwaukee swing of their “Voulez-Vous” tour.

But when I saw the West End mounting of Mamma Mia! in September 1999, I was struck by the inherent ingenuity of stringing together a story, however silly or superfluous, using the most catchy if not most nonsensical pop tunes of all time. Yes, there were groan-worthy moments as certain tunes were shoehorned into the production. But with one wink and nod after another, it was clear that those moments were exactly as its creators intended from the start, and that’s what made this show such harmless, even joyous fun.

Long before this granddaddy of all jukebox musicals came along, first in London in 1999, and then in rest of the world (including Broadway in 2001), ABBA had already seeped back into our collective consciousness thanks largely to two Australian films from 1994: “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queeen Of The Desert” and “Muriel’s Wedding.” So it seemed entirely apropos that the film version of “Mamma Mia!” would open Down Under one week in advance of its American debut. And so it also seemed appropriate for me to find a cinema while here in Australia to share the silver screen treatment with the world’s most indisputably biggest ABBA fans.

Sure the storyline is as schlocky as ever. Of course it’s mindless and at times downright mind-numbing. It’s also true that not every cast member has the same vocal talent. And yes, this will never find itself listed as a truly great film.

But thanks to a highly spirited, ultra-game cast, it’s also tremendous fun, particularly watching the likes of Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Waters sing their hearts out through such tunes as the title song, “Does Your Mother Know” and “Take A Chance On Me,” respectively.

But it’s the full-on, well-choreographed renditions of “Dancing Queen” and “Lay All Your Love On Me” that really make this film version shine.

Maybe the future holds no Academy Awards for “Mamma Mia!” But if you sit back, relax and don’t expect too much, you just might find yourself enjoying it for what it is and thanking ABBA for the music that keeps on giving.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 31 July, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

Yay!!! I'm so happy you liked "Mamma Mia!" I totally agree - it was tremendous fun. And I enjoyed the dance numbers, too. While I miss the immediacy and energy of the stage show, somehow seeing that Greek island on the big screen gave the whole story a more dreamy, fantasy-like quality. I've also been listening to the soundtrack quite a bit. There's just something about those songs - they're relentlessly catchy.

Plus, I just saw "Muriel's Wedding" last weekend. And I've seen "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," so I'm all caught up on my ABBA-themed movies.

At 31 July, 2008, Blogger the artist formerly known as jess. said...

I'm still conflicted as to whether I should see this, despite everyone's great reaction to it. I have to say, I DO like ABBA, but...I dunno. Seeing Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth singing may be awkward.

Though just the sight of Dominic Cooper alone is enough reason for me to "change my mind" and be "first in line".

Gah, that was so corny.

At 04 August, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, It certainly helped to get the soundtrack in advance. Although I think Mr. Brosnan's voice may have been modulated a bit, I think everyone else sounds superb.

And so glad you finally saw "Muriel's Wedding." Such a wonderful film. You've got to love both Toni Collette and Rachel Griffith's early performances - definitely harbingers of great things to come.

At 04 August, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

TAFKAJ: Go see it. It's fun. Serious fun. And Dominic Cooper is terrific. And your riff on "Take a Chance On Me" is perfect given the tone of the film.

At 10 August, 2008, Blogger katya said...

I thought it was great fun - the audience groaned and laughed at the same time as not just the songs, but individual lines were fitted into the action. Julie Walters and the lovely incongruity of some of the ensemble scenes were also highlights for me. I think Colin Firth is actually very pleasant to listen to, as is Meryl Streep. I really enjoyed Christine Baranski and Amanda Seyfried's voices. I thought it was good lighthearted fun with beautiful scenery.


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