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ABBA musical Mamma Mia! remains popular

By ZHANG KUN in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-16 07:41
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A scene from British musical Mamma Mia! that kicked off its four-month tour of China in Shanghai early this month. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The British musical Mamma Mia! kicked off its four-month tour of China at the Shanghai Culture Square at the start of this month.

After completing a 22-show run in Shanghai, the production will head to seven cities: Beijing, May 31 to Jun 6; Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, June 11 to 16; Nanjing, Jiangsu province, June 21 to 27; Zhengzhou, Henan province; Zhuhai and Shenzhen, Guangdong province; and finally Hong Kong, according to Jiang Kuan, president of AC Orange, the company responsible for the China tour.

This is the show's second tour of China, the first being in 2007, when it was performed in Shanghai and Beijing. In 2011, a Chinese version toured extensively around the country.

The smash-hit musical was written by British playwright Catherine Johnson and is based on songs by the Swedish supergroup ABBA.

It premiered in London in 1999, and on Broadway in 2001. The international touring production, first staged in 2004, will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year in Dublin.

Over the past 20 years, Mamma Mia! has been performed in 42 countries and regions, with 3,500 shows attended by more than 7 million people. It has 50 versions in 16 different languages.

In 2008, the film adaptation, starring Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan, became one of the highest grossing films of the year. A sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, was released in 2018, also winning box-office success.

"We've been trying to get back to China for the last five years and we had to postpone twice," Nick Grace, producer of the international touring production of Mamma Mia!, told China Daily before the premiere in Shanghai.

"Being here now is just a wonderful experience."

Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical named after ABBA's 1975 chart-topper of the same name. One of the most popular and successful pop groups of all time, ABBA was active from 1972 to 1982, when it repeatedly topped the charts all over the world, with songs like Knowing Me, Knowing You, Dancing Queen and Super Trouper among others.

Grace says that the musical is what's called a "feel-good" show. "You can come and forget about everything else in your life, and just enjoy fantastic storytelling and have a great time for two and a half hours."

The touring production changes cast every year, which keeps performances fresh. "There are cast members now who weren't even born when Mamma Mia! started, which makes me feel old," Grace says, beaming.

"I think what's magical about the show is that when you come in and play one of the characters, you have the ability to bring some of your own character to the show as well."

He says that he has seen the musical numerous times, but still enjoys it every time, because there is always something new and fresh, and he adds that little has changed since the musical's launch 25 years ago because the secret is the songs' lasting popularity.

"The songs move the story forward. It's not just a tribute show where you just have a couple of well-known songs. The songs are so important to the storytelling," Grace says.

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