'Mamma Mia!' the musical
Old ABBA hits go from radio to stage
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The most hardened cynics may dismiss the music of ABBA as pure bubble gum. But chew on this: "Mamma Mia!", based on the Swedes' biggest hits, is a worldwide smash on stage.
The wedding story, framed around 22 ABBA songs, may be the theater world's most quirky treasure and most guilty pleasure.
Founding ABBA members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus developed the production, which is drawing crowds in London, England, where it debuted, Toronto, Canada, and Los Angeles, California.
The United States production moves to Chicago, Illinois, on May 18 and then goes to Boston, Massachusetts in August before landing in New York on October 5. Another production opens June 9 in Melbourne, Australia.
No 'tacky revue'
The U.S. show's star, Louise Pitre, hesitated when she first heard about the musical.
"I thought it was a tacky revue of ABBA tunes. What else would you think when you saw that title and didn't know the song 'Mamma Mia'?" said Pitre, a silver-haired Canadian who plays a single mother on the eve of her 20-year-old daughter's wedding.
"Then I finally saw the show and I said, `I can do that. I could have fun doing that.' "
Sound engineer David Partridge mixes all the fun and games with a cockpit full of audio instruments, aiming to emulate the multitrack vocals that ABBA used for such classics as "Dancing Queen" and "The Winner Takes it All."
"It's a fastidious replication of exactly what ABBA did with very specific parts, very specific sounds," he said.
ABBA, which disbanded in 1982, sold 350 million records worldwide, and now "Mamma Mia!" keeps selling out.
"Maybe we're just sick of being grossed out and scared and upset and depressed," Pitre said. "There's not a murder or maiming in `Mamma Mia!' Just a simple song and dance in this '70s show."
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