Dancing Queen—A Celebration of the ’70s
Reno, NV 89501
The disco ball of history spins slowly backward, gathering speed and washing the packed audience in solid, whirling blues, reds, purples and potent, sugary promise. The whirlwind of disorganization and frenzy takes the form of an accelerating techno thump. Dancers scrambling on and off stage through a scrim curtain add to the building intensity. It builds and builds, rises and rises until reaching a state of near-hyperkinesis. There must be a climax. The music must resolve. Something must happen or the fabric of space-time will be ripped to shreds.
I half expect the Kool-Aid man to burst through the wall and shout, “Oh, yeah!”
The gleam of a spotlight brilliantly illuminates a white staircase in the middle of the stage. The music drops off and tension relents then begins again with a familiar note and a throbbing beat. Four singers in white, patent-leather platform shoes and skin-tight white jumpsuits descend the stairs in ABBA’s casually stylish, iconic fashion, belting out a rendition of the show’s namesake, “Dancing Queen.”
Becky Maclean, Adam Hills, Julia Mansfield and Duncan Heather lead the show as an indefinite likeness of the famed Swedish disco foursome: Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid. ABBA.
Backed by the inexhaustible energy of nine female and six male dancers, the campy quartet blazes through the ABBA songbook to mixes of hip-hop, rock, jazz, techno and heavy disco beats, stopping for musical tributes to Motown and favorite pop songs of the disco-era.
Inspired by the hit ABBA-esque musical Mamma Mia!, which started playing in 1999 and is still running on and off Broadway, “Dancing Queen—A Celebration of the ‘70s” is 72 minutes of slap-happy energy by an all-United Kingdom cast.
Having played on U.S. soil a total of just 13 times in their heyday, ABBA remains a strange, catchy Swedish riddle that a lot of fans just can’t seem to get out of their heads.
On the heels of the British Invasion, the Swedish Invasion of the late ‘70s was never fully realized except by softcore adult movies and, later on, by that other four-letter acronym for stylish Norwegian living, IKEA. After all, Sweden hadn’t successuflly invaded anything since Greenland.
Nonetheless, ABBA’s wall-of-sound and unashamed synthesizers and vocals once dubbed by Rolling Stone as “fluff pop” is enjoyable and doesn’t challenge a person to think. At all.
Hits like “Fernando,” “Take a Chance on Me” and “Waterloo"—who else could write a snappy pop-song about the Napoleonic wars?—taken as a whole, are an opera of much forethought and entirely no afterthought.
The deliriously catchy, naively optimistic, one-off celebration of kitsch that is Dancing Queen is the theatrical equivalent of eating dessert for dinner … over and over again. The choreography is tight, the lighting is superb and the lead players come off preeminently tacky and pleasantly lame.
Just in case any audience members haven’t been infected by the catchy songs, the cast pounds the ABBA vibe into the very pores with a divine hammer during the encore. Even starchy button-down types were up and dancing while the faux ABBA belted out the final refrain of “Dancing Queen.”
”Dancing Queen—A Celebration of the ‘70s” fulfills every promise. In full, dynamic disco bloom.