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Songs, not story, carry
ABBA extravaganza

"Mamma Mia!"
Auditorium Theatre
Chicago, IL
Sept. 18, 2008
Mamma Mia Mamma Mia

Story by Andy Argyrakis
Photos courtesy of Broadway In Chicago

Between the blockbuster movie of the same name and the resurgence in ABBA's popularity, there's no better time to revive Broadway's "Mamma Mia!" than the present. The musical may have come to town four times before, but it continues to break records on the road and in the Big Apple (with an unprecedented streak of six fully sold out years). Add in over 3,500 performances in London's West End, an offshoot cast in Las Vegas, plus the group's full authorization of its songs, and the show is sure to give anyone all the ABBA fix they'd ever need.

During this particular appearance, it's apparent why over 30 million people have caught the musical in some capacity and that's the purebred pop soundtrack (as opposed to the story in which they're contained). Rather than the autobiographical "Jersey Boys" (chronicling Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons), "Mamma Mia!" is a jukebox musical where the fictional plot is written to encompasses as many appropriate songs as possible. Sure, the story of an single women owning a small hotel on a Greek island is charming, as is getting ready for her daughter's wedding and trying to identify the father that should walk her down the aisle, but it remains thin in attempts to leave plenty of room for the music.

Tracks like "Does Your Mother Know?" and "Our Last Summer" were greeted by dialogue that seemed particularly contrived, but there were also several instances where it fit genuinely well as background accompaniment, including "Voulez-Vous" and "Take A Chance On Me." Hearing ABBA's catalogue in the live setting also recalls just how influential the Swedish foursome's been in shaping the pop, dance and even club spectrums, with "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)" most recently being sampled in Madonna's single "Hung Up."

Perhaps that's why the most appealing part of "Mamma Mia!" comes after the initial plot is completed, which in keeping with the concert tradition of an encore, features cast members donning their best sequined shirts and platform shoes to deliver three of the band's most massive memories. No matter how high one's cool quotient, it was impossible not to sing-a-long with "Dancing Queen," "Mamma Mia" and "Waterloo," all of which remain just as contagious as the day they were first recorded. In that regard, "Mamma Mia!" may very well be the closest to an ABBA reunion anyone will ever see considering members have turned down multi-millions to reconvene, while also opening a window for carefree flashbacks from the 70s in all their bell bottomed bliss.

"Mamma Mia!" runs through Sunday, September 28 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. For additional information, log onto or

Mamma Mia Mamma Mia
Mamma Mia Mamma Mia

Watch "Honey Honey" from Mamma Mia!

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