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The high-energy musical Mamma Mia! celebrated its fifth anniversary at Mandalay Bay recently and the show, which debuted on March 23, 1999 in London, is still fresh and going strong in Las Vegas.
When the show premiered in London in 1999, it was filled with songs made popular then 25 years ago by the group ABBA that hadn’t done anything since the 1970s and disbanded years ago. “We really had no idea how it was going to be received," said the producer Judy Craymer whose initial concept in 1989 was to use those existing ABBA songs within the format of a new, original musical. At the premiere, “the audience went wild. They were literally out of their seats and singing and dancing in the aisles.” In 2008, with many of the songs used recorded over 35 years ago (the show itself takes place in 2000); people are still singing to the familiar tunes and keeping the memory of ABBA alive. A movie version is due out and there is a book by Catherine Johnson.
The music used in Mamma Mia! were composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA with additional music by Stig Anderson. Although the title of the musical is taken from the group's 1975 hit "Mamma Mia," the musical's plot has nothing to do with the story of the group itself but the fictional story of a wedding. Ulvaeus and Andersson have been involved in the development of the show from the beginning. Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA has been involved financially in the production, while Agnetha Fältskog (also of ABBA) has not, but did attend the Swedish premiere.
The musical includes such hits as "Super Trouper", "Dancing Queen", "Knowing Me, Knowing You", "Thank You for the Music", "Money, Money, Money", "The Winner Takes It All", "Voulez Vous", "I Have A Dream" and "SOS".
The plot of Mamma Mia is both contemporary and traditional. In a small Greek island, 20-year-old Sophie is engaged to be married in three months and discovers through reading her mother’s diary that her mother slept with three men during the time of her conception. Sophie invites all three men to her wedding, convinced that she will know who her father is when she meets him.
The next act is the day before the wedding when all three men arrive from different continents with vastly different lifestyles. There is Sam from New York, Bill a writer from Australia and Harry, a banker from London. Donna, Sophia’s mother, was a singer when she met all three men and it was because of her broken heart with Sam that she had a one night stand with both Bill and Harry. Donna’s two best friends, Sky and Tanya, are also part of the cast as well as staff of the hotel Donna built and manages on the small Greek Island.
The character of Sophia encompasses all that is part of a 20-year-olds psyche, knowing yet insecure, over confident and yet unsure of what she really wants out of life. Donna, the 40something, still nurses a broken heart after 20 years and tries to bury herself in her work while trying to forget the past. The three “dads” are funny in explaining how they have all changed in 20 years and how their lives turned out so differently than they planned.
The music fits in beautifully and the words come to life with a special meaning. Remember, at the height of ABBA’s success, there was no MTV to give a visual sense to their songs. The dancing is energetic and costumes from the 1970s are used in one scene by having a “theme” party when Donna and her best friends relive their glory days in their 20s. The intersecting love stories are timeless for all generations and Moriah Angeline as Sophia and Carol Linnea Johnson as Donna are standouts in this production.
The show is due to close in January 2009, so go enjoy while you still have the opportunity to enjoy.
3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Tickets are priced at $100, $75 and $45 plus tax.
Show times are Sunday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday show times are 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. The show is dark on Fridays.