The two male members of the legendary singing group, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus put their heads together to create a musical based on their songs. With Judy Craymer as the producer and award-winning British playwright Catherine Johnson as the storywriter, twenty-two ABBA songs were given a rebirth in this new form.
"Mamma Mia" has not been staged in Korean theaters yet, but it has played in numerous cities around the globe since its premier on April 16, 1999 at the Prince Edward Theatre in London. The musical has been featured in 18 cities in the U.S., including New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, two Australian cities, and Toronto, Canada. Hanover in Germany is expected to host the show in November of this year.
The musical is performed on a minimalist set consisting of two main pieces, which rotate to distinguish between the inside and the outside of a hotel. On this stage, the story comes into action. Donna Sheridan, a middle-aged single mother who has not yet lost the beauty that she used to possess in her twenties, has raised her daughter Sophie alone on a Greek Island, where she has opened a small hotel. Sophie is twenty years old and is very excited about getting married to her love, Sky. Donna cannot quite understand why her daughter wants to get married at such an early age.
Sophie dreams of having a big white wedding with all the traditional ceremony, including a father to walk her down the aisle. Unfortunately, Donna never told Sophie who her father was, and Sophie has no lead until she finds Donna"s diary. Sophie learns that while Donna was part of a crazy girl group, she had affairs with three different men (Bill, Sam, and Harry) in the summer that she would have been conceived. Sophie sends invitations to all three possible dads to her wedding with Donna"s name on them, in hopes that she will be able to figure out who her father is before the wedding. Not surprisingly, all three accept the invitation.
The musical begins on the day before Sophie"s wedding, as guests begin to arrive on the island. We are then taken on a fun ride as Sophie tries to learn the identity of her dad, Donna reunites with her girl group buddies (Tanya and Rosie) and deals with lost love, and the audience is treated to twenty-two ABBA songs as the backdrop.
In general, the songs are effortlessly interwoven into the story. Situations and scenes are painstakingly crafted to match the lyrics of the songs. But going to the musical with some prior knowledge of the songs makes it even more enjoyable. With lyrics in mind, there is the added joy of anticipating how each song will work itself into the story. And they do work beautifully. Donna and Sam discuss their past, Donna naturally slides into "I don"t wanna talk," the first line of "The Winner Takes It All," and "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do" is obviously a perfect fit at the wedding.
One of the most exciting parts of the show is the encores. After the story ends, the actors and actresses come out to take their bows and applause just like at any other show. One would expect the show to end soon.
However, all of a sudden, the cast comes out again and turns the theater into a concert hall. Beginning with "Waterloo," a song that did not make it into the storyline, the entire cast sings and dances to a medley of ABBA songs.
This is an intoxicating and energetic two-and-a-half-hour rock musical, and nobody will be able to get out of the theater without humming, tapping his/her feet and air drumming to the tunes of the ABBA. If you want to dance, jive, and have "the time of your life" (like the "Dancing Queen)", "Mamma Mia" will certainly not disappoint you.