Mamma Mia!, the musical comedy juggernaut, has hurdled from London to Toronto to San Francisco. Riding a wave of enthusiastic word-of-mouth, it is presently scheduled to settle into Broadway's Winter Garden next October 18th. The original London cast album displays a remarkably cheery seventy-four minutes of song.
The plot is no doubt familiar to most readers: Once upon a time, a fiery teenage lass became pregnant by one of three men; twenty years later, her budding daughter brings the men together to figure out which one is dear old dad. The score is perky, indeed, compiled from a parade of 1970s song hits by the group ABBA. (That first "B" is supposed to be backwards, but I'll be damned if I can figure out how to do that on my PC.)
What old and nonrelated songs can not do, of course, is contribute to the action and/or characterizations. These lyrics don't give you any idea whatsoever what they are all singing about. Informative lines of dialogue, scattered about during musical introductions or interludes, are helpful; there are also a very few lyrics which seem to have been revised for the show. All in all the score sounds like - well, like a parade of vintage 70s-ish song hits (written by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, "and some songs with Stig Anderson"). And some are incredibly catchy, like the title tune.
As for those lyrics — you might do well not to listen too closely to some of them. There's one song where they rhyme "Notre-Dame" with "jam," "Eiffel Tower" with "flower-power," and "the Seine" with "the rain" (twice). Maybe that's how they pronounce French in Swedish? This is a rather pretty song, mind you - "Our Last Summer," it's called — although one wonders how it fits into the plot. As I gather from the lyric, the guy is singing about the last summer he spent with the Mamma. But what about the other two guys? How many summers did they all spend together?
Siobhán McCarthy sings Mamma, Lisa Stokke sings the daughter. Both appear to be pretty good, but you can't judge their acting (musically speaking) from the CD, as most of the songs are interchangeable. Paul Clarkson, Nicolas Colicos, and Hilton McRae play the paternal candidates.
All told, this is an entertaining disc featuring a lively bunch of song hits. Some might be tempted to compare Mamma Mia! to other pop-song musicals like Saturday Night Fever or Footloose, but it is impossible to even begin to make such a comparison. Those other musicals were pretty much dead on arrival, theatrically speaking. From the evidence on this CD, Mamma Mia! will prove a massive hit on our shores.
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