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4 November 2005
Mama Mia, here I go again
The touring production of Mama Mia opened at the Sacramento Community Theatre last night. I reviewed it three years ago and am now preparing to review it again.
For those who aren't aware of more than the title of this show (I can't believe you haven't at least heard the title, since it is now the most performed show in the world), this is a show which was patched together from songs of the musical group ABBA, the phenomenon which came out of Sweden in the late 1970s.
ABBA brought you such songs as: "Dancing Queen," "Fernando," "Waterloo," "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do," and, of course, "Mama Mia," among many, many others which you may or may not recognize from the radio, commercials, etc.
It was in 1999 when Judy Craymer decided to take a bunch of the songs, use the lyrics, and weave a story around them. We happened to be in London when the show was about to open and, to my disappointment today, decided not to see the show which has now become a theatrical phenomenon. In 1999, its fifth anniversary, it had played over 2,000 performances and been seen by over 3 million people.
In March of 2002, Mama Mia became the highest grossing show in North America, taking $3.7 million in a single week. The original cast recording is consistently in the Top 20 of the Billboard Catalog Charts, selling more than 4,000 copies a week in the U.S. alone. It is still playing on Broadway today, with a weekly net gross for the New Year's week, 2004, of $1,102,780.
It has toured Australia, and I just missed being able to take Peggy to see it in Perth, though she subsequently saw it and loved it.
There is a German language production, a Japanese language production, a Dutch language production, a Korean language production (and perhaps other).
It is estimated that over 15,000 people see the show around the world every night and it has been seen by over 10 million people worldwide. It has played in over 60 major cities since it first premiered, making it the fastest worldwide premiere musical in history.
Now, don't you feel bad for having missed it?
In a wonderful example of serendipity, I was in the right place at the right time.
I was marginally aware of ABBA music, I was familiar with a song or two (I thought) but the little girl who lived next to Peggy in Perth was a big ABBA fan and asked Peggy to download some of the music and make a CD for her. This was in the Napster days before all the rules and regulations changed things.
Peggy didn't know much of ABBA either, but as she worked with making this CD she discovered that she really liked it.
I got intrigued by all the raves about ABBA music and asked her to make a copy of the CD for me too.
When the CD arrived and I began to play it, I discovered that I knew many more of the songs than I realized I did. I remember playing it first on a drive down to San Francisco and being able to at least hum along with almost all of the tunes.
The CD stayed in the CD player in the car and I played it often.
When Mama Mia came to town in 2003, I was ahead of the game because I was already familiar with so many of the songs. One of the fun things about seeing this show is not knowing which song is coming up, but trying to guess by the context of the plot. They list the songs that are used, but cleverly don't tell you in which order they are sung. I remember that there were some groans from the audience as they recognized a blatant set up to a particular song (I didn't notice that last night).
I loved the show in 2003 and I loved it again last night. It's an irresistible toe-tapper, and at the curtain call, where two additional songs are done, there is swaying in the audience, and some waving of arms in the air. Even the crusty old reviewer sitting next to me reluctantly (it seemed) allowed himself to clap a little bit in time to the music.
What surprised me was how many women who appeared to be in their 80s or perhaps older, were there. One thing is for sure--only the most profoundly hard of hearing would have had difficulty enjoying the music from this hyper-loud musical! Or maybe they are just enjoying reliving the days of their youth.
You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Sacramento Community Theatre