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Wednesday, April 7, 1999 Published at 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK


Thank you for the musical

Mamma Mia!: It isn't Abba the musical

The critics have been raving about the new Abba-inspired musical Mamma Mia! - almost. [See Critics give their verdict in Related Stories]. But what do the hardened fans think?

Here, Kathryn Courtney-O'Neill, of the Agnetha Benny Björn Frieda Fan Club, gives her verdict.

With 27 Abba songs, superb performances, sets and choreography Mamma Mia! is more like going to a party than attending the theatre.

The BBC's Rosie Millard reports from the opening night
At Tuesday's première, whole rows of theatre-goers swayed in time to the disco classics, singing along with tunes that have conquered the decades.

The musical - based on the songs of the Swedish supergroup - opened at London's Prince Edward Theatre on Tuesday, 25 years to the day since Abba took the Eurovision song contest by storm with Waterloo.

Mamma Mia's music and lyrics are provided by former band members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and in places have been slightly altered to fit the storyline of Mamma Mia!

Anyone expecting a musical about the band may be disappointed. Mamma Mia! is the story - written by Catherine Johnson - of a young woman, Sophie, on the eve of her wedding to Guy, and the plot she hatches to discover the identity of her father.

Star of the show is Siobhan McCarthy, who plays Donna, Sophie's mother.

[ image: 25 years ago: Eurovision winners]
25 years ago: Eurovision winners
The audience discovers that Donna was a 70s swinger who supported herself through single motherhood, running her own bar.

But Sophie has read her diaries and knows that her father could be one of three men - all of whom she invites to her big day.

The storyline moves along through all of the band's best-loved - and some of their lesser-known - songs.

Slipping Through My Fingers isn't a karaoke classic - but if PolyGram is considering the re-release of any tune off the back of the musical, then this must surely be a strong contender.

[ image: Powerful performances]
Powerful performances
Peformances - despite having a desperately difficult act to live up to - are powerful and commanding.

The Winner Takes It All is one of my favourite Abba songs, and Siobhan McCarthy really performs it superbly.

It is sung in the context that although she became pregnant, she was the winner, because she had had the joy of bringing up her child. It is very moving.

The musical as a whole, though, is funny and witty. There are oblique references to Four Weddings and a Funeral, for example.

The party atmosphere continues to buzz throughout, due largely to the superb tight choreography of Anthony Van Laast, and the wonderful stage design and lighting of Mark Thompson and Howard Harrison.

The set is very simply designed and makes maximum use of lighting. The stage floor is transparent and underlit which means that what in one scene is a sandy, cobbled street, turns with the flick of a switch into a stream or a disco floor.

The cast of 28 are the ones who bring props on and off the stage, but it doesn't look clumsy, it looks like they really are having a party.

It is a truly superb show, and one I predict will run and run. It isn't serious, but it is great fun, and one I thoroughly recommend going to.

Do you think this is an Abba revival too far? Has the super group had its day, or will their music endure?

Let Talking Point have your view.

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07 Apr 99 | Entertainment
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Mamma Mia: Critics give their verdict

Internet Links

Polydor's Abba site

The official Agnetha Benny Björn Frida fan club

Official MAMMA MIA! website

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