Mamma Mia!

Definition

Theater

  • The feel-good musical built around the hits of Swedish supergroup Abba that has become an international phenomenon since it opened in 1999. The brainchild oflong-time Abba fan Judy Craymer, it was scripted by Catherine Johnson and opened at the Prince Edward Theatre, London, in a production by Phyllida Lloyd. Despite indifferent reviews, the show became a massive word-of-mouth hit, transferred successfully to Broadway, and has now been seen by some 40 million people in over 150 cities. In March2010 15 separate productions were running worldwide. A successful film version,starring Meryl Streep, was released in 2008.

    The rather slight story is set on the small Greek island where Sophie lives with her emancipated 40-something mother, Donna. On the eve of her wedding, Sophie yearns to discover the identity of the father she has never known, so that he can walk her up the aisle.Accordingly, she secretly invites three men who bedded her mother some 20 years ago back to the island. The songs (by Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaes) provide a witty and sometimes poignant commentary on the complications that follow.

    In terms of theatrical history, Mamma Mia! is mainly notable for spawning a new genre of so-called jukebox musicals, in which plot and character are created around a pre-existing catalogue of hits. Shows to follow in its nowwell-trodden footsteps include Ben Elton's We Will Rock You and Tonight's the Night, featuring the music of Queen and Rod Stewart respectively, and musicals based on the songs of Billy Joel, UB40, Boney M, and Michael Jackson amongst others.

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