'Mamma Mia!' Vegas Premiere Draws ABBA Stars
Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, once one-half of the Swedish group ABBA, are scheduled to attend an invitation-only premiere of the musical "Mamma Mia!" Thursday (Feb. 13) at the Mandalay BayBenny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, once one-half of the Swedish group ABBA, are scheduled to attend an invitation-only premiere of the musical "Mamma Mia!" Thursday (Feb. 13) at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.
"Mamma Mia!" features 22 songs written by Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus when they were part of ABBA. The hit musical is currently playing on Broadway, as well as in London, Toronto, and Hamburg (in a German-language production with lyrics translated by Michael Kunze). The Las Vegas production is settling into the 1,760-seat Mandalay Bay Theatre for an open-ended run.
Andersson has attended opening nights of "Mamma Mia!" in London, Toronto, New York, and Hamburg. "I have been to all of the opening performances but Melbourne and Tokyo," he tells Billboard.com. "Too long a journey for an old man!"
"Mamma Mia!" is the fourth musical to feature songs by Andersson and Ulvaeus. The first was "ABBAcadabra," which had a short run at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in London during the Christmas season of 1983. "Alain Boublil, who wrote 'Les Miserables' and 'Miss Saigon' was our publisher in France," Ulvaeus told Billboard in 1999. "'ABBAcadabra' was his idea. We didn't have anything to do with it."
Andersson and Ulvaeus then collaborated with Tim Rice on an original musical, "Chess," which has been playing around the world since. "'Chess' is still on in Stockholm," Andersson told Billboard.com. "It has been doing very well. We have been sold out since day one, and we will run until June 15. After that it is being moved to Malmo, in the south of Sweden." The current production marks the first time that "Chess" has been performed in Swedish.
After "Chess," Andersson and Ulvaeus wrote a musical in Swedish, "Kristina Fran Duvemala," about Swedish immigrants coming to the U.S. Ulvaeus explains, "We wanted a really strong story, which wasn't the case with 'Chess.' We said, 'When the English write musicals, they search their literature, so why shouldn't we search ours?' Vilhelm Moberg is one of our most famous authors -- we got the rights immediately because his children thought it was a brilliant idea."
Except for a concert performance in Minneapolis, "Kristina Fran Duvemala" has not been performed outside of Sweden, although Ulvaeus said more than 1 million Swedish citizens have seen the musical. "After spending a couple of years in the drawer, 'Kristina' has been translated by Herbert Kretzmer ["Les Miserables"], with assistance by Bjorn, of course," Andersson says. "We have made some recordings in English, and we are having a chat with some people in New York on our way to Vegas to discuss an American production. I am very excited about that. It needs to be shortened a bit, but most of that job is already done."