Who woulda thunk it—ABBA, the 1970s purveyors of pop pap and disco-lite, having a resurgence 25 years later.
Who woulda thunk that the white-blond, Swedish supergroup’s long-forgotten songs would have audiences dancing in the aisles and have gaggles of girlfriends going for repeat visits. From interviews with the retired quartet, even ABBA members are a bit surprised at the embrace of Mamma Mia!, a quirky musical loosely tied around 22 of the group’s songs.
Sometime, somewhere, someone had the strange idea of stringing together ABBA songs into a stage story (written by Catherine Johnson). And despite the implausible plot and similar-sounding songs, Mamma Mia! actually works for those looking for a cute, campy musical outing.
Mamma Mia! is not for everyone, but neither was disco, and years later, you have to admit there was a fun factor in those 1970s pop days. And that’s just what the originators are banking on.
This Broadway road show of Mamma Mia! brings with it a cast brimming with enthusiasm, colorful costumes, a clever set and soundtracks to sell in the lobby. The show also comes with a caution broadcast to the audience right when the curtain comes up: “Warning, white spandex and platform boots ahead.”
The curtain rises to reveal a Greek-island-village setting framed in 1970s aquamarine shimmering to convey the sea. There’s a bride-to-be who wants to invite her father to her wedding. Problem is, her mother won’t tell her who her father is. The daughter steals the mother’s diary, finds out there are three possible papas and invites all three to the Greek island inn where the wedding takes place. Havoc ensues.
The most fun storyline is Mom’s reunion with her two disco divas from a 1970s singing trio called Donna and Dynamos. The three try to recapture the magical moments of times long ago (well, the 1970s), along with the three middle-aged possible papas. The overdone costumes are a scream, as is the predictable howling at middle-aged coots trying to sing and dance like the olden days.
The show is distinctly geared toward a girls’-night-out audience, with double-entendres, half-naked boys and snappy tunes, so if you’re so inclined, pull out your polyester, gather the gals, put pretensions aside and dance the night away, Mamma Mia! style.