We get a special sneak peek of the latest project by Abba's Bjorn Ulvaeus, Mamma Mia! The Party, a rollicking dinner theatre in Stockholm.
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN-Sipping a glass of wine with ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus under an olive tree bedecked with fairy lights, I momentarily forgot that outside, the city is shrouded in a freezing fog.
That’s because the venue for my dinner date with the Swedish star is a Greek taverna, complete with tinkling fountain, Grecian sunset and sun-kissed waiters.
I’m here for a sneak preview of Mamma Mia! The Party. It’s the latest project from Ulvaeus, and although I am promptly sworn to secrecy, I can reveal that the interactive musical extravaganza is based around a story involving characters from the film Mamma Mia!, which Björn composed.
Guests will enjoy a multi-course meal (washed down with plenty of red wine), served by wait staff who burst into song at various points throughout the evening. A core group of cast members act out a simple storyline, the main purpose of which is to shoehorn in the ABBA hits.
“The storyline isn’t the most important bit — the songs are,” Ulvaeus tells me. “The inspiration was that whole Mamma Mia world. I wanted to create the same feeling people get when watching the film — that uplifting, joyous feeling of getting away from it all for a while. And I wanted people to have a kind of party, but in a restaurant, with fantastic Greek food — the whole Mamma Mia environment.”
The venue for this extravaganza is the Tyrol, a former beer house in the Grona Lund theme park on Stockholm’s Djurgårdsvägen island. I come to this beautiful part of Stockholm because Ulvaeus, who I’ve interviewed before, invites me to a rehearsal.
I also happened to be the only journalist at the sneak preview, because press night will take place on opening night — Jan. 20. The show will be hi-tech, with gravity-defying acrobatics, an astonishingly detailed set that includes the frontage of a Greek souvenir shop and a backdrop of screens showing a technicolour Grecian sunset, which changes throughout the evening. It’s an animation, but Ulvaeus revealed that paying guests will see the real thing.
“The sunset’s being filmed in Greece as we speak,” Ulvaeus whispers.
Ulvaeus watches the rehearsal intently, constantly scribbling notes and discussing proceedings with a small army of sound engineers, lighting technicians and choreographers. I wonder if he’d be watching me, too, and if I’d end up manically clapping.
I needn’t have worried. I wouldn’t describe myself as a diehard ABBA fan, but I love it and by the end of the night I’m tapping my feet, singing along and even strutting my stuff on the dance floor.
“It’s been a huge job,” Ulvaeus tells me over a shot of ouzo supplied by the waiter, who’d dragged me onto the dance floor earlier. It appears there’s nothing Ulvaeus can’t do.
The Eurovision song contest returns to Sweden next year and Ulvaeus admits that although the band will be turning down the requests for a reunion — as they always do, every year — he might have one more musical in him.
“Benny (Andersson) and I were talking about Mamma Mia! the other day. And we both said that we felt as though we had one more musical in us. It’s just about finding the right moment.”
You heard it here first.
Tamara Hinson is a UK-based writer. Her trip was sponsored by EasyJet and Mamma Mia’s partner hotel, PopHouse Hotel.