Mamma Mia! celebrates ABBA's music, a popular 1970s Swedish group. Many actors consider it an homage to ABBA, and it's a welcome break from the opera-Esque classical soundtracks of most musicals.

Mamma Mia! ranks among the best Broadway shows in New York, like The Lion King. It contains more than 20 original songs from ABBA, with the legendary song Mamma Mia also included in the musical.

The story is based on a book by a British author, Catherine Johnson, and the soundtrack is written by ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.

A theatrical group dressed in medieval folk costumes dancing on stage while the audience cheers them on. Many of the top Broadway shows have budgets rivaling and at times exceeding many small-tier movies!
Many musicals like The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia! have played for years on Broadway and off-Broadway. Many shows premiered in West End and then crossed over the pond, such as The Phantom of The Opera (Source: Unsplash)
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ABBA's Ties To Mamma Mia!

In 1970, ABBA, a Swedish band, began its musical career and reached mainstream popularity after winning the Eurovision songwriting contest in 1974.

The group's name came from the first letters of each member's name: Agnetha Faltskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Ani-Frid Lyngstad.

Not only did they dominate the Swedish charts, but they also gained momentum internationally when their songs started gaining popularity in the United States.

They became synonymous with the disco era, and their music seemed to capture the ethos of the post-Vietnam war era, reminiscent of feathered hair, disco balls, and bell bottoms.

Their songs evoke a sense of musicality and free-spiritedness, with Dancing Queen going on to top the charts in the US and around the world and many other groovy numbers under their belt. Most of these top hits are included in Mamma Mia!

An empty multi-tiered theater room with dim lights and red seats as seen from the stage. The Palace is one of the most famous theaters in Broadway, New York, known for its high-end shows
In contrast to more satirical plays like The Book of Mormon, which features a mellowed tone, Mamma Mia! is all about musicality and dance, and it embodies the vivaciousness of the 1970's disco era (Source: Unsplash)

The eponymous musical playing in Broadway, NYC, is based on Catherine Johnson's book, which tells the story of a girl named Sophie, who is about to get married and is unaware of who her father is.

She lives on a Greek island and invites three individuals – Harry, Bill, and Sam – to visit. The goal is to figure out which of these three men is her actual father so she can have him walk her down the aisle.

Her attempts do not come to fruition and her mother, Donna, ends up walking down the aisle. Meanwhile, she also realizes she does not want to get married and goes off with her fiancé to tour the world while Donna marries Sam.

If you haven't noticed, the storyline seems to evoke feelings similar to a comedy of errors. The story is interspersed with musical bops like Does Your Mother Know, Super-Trouper, and the eponymous Mamma Mia!

Most of these songs are not actually used in the same lyrical context but used as a device to move the story further and as key parts of the musical.

The funky soundtrack distinguishes it from other musicals like The Phantom of the Opera and The Book of Mormon.

How The Idea of Mamma Mia! Bore Fruit

The credit for conceptualizing this musical masterpiece goes to Judy Craymer, who came up with the idea to use popular ABBA songs as the base for a musical.

Her idea surely seemed to work, as it went on to become a staple for Broadway shows in New York since its premiere two decades ago.

While Björn and Benny had tried their hand at writing a musical in the 1970s, the concept never got executed. With Craymer's conception and visualization on hand, they seemed keen on lending their songs to the musical, and finally, Mamma Mia! was born in May 1999.

With a ten-year lapse between the original conception and the premiere, producers were obviously worried about the audience's reception since ABBA had long retired.

However, contrary to their belief, the musical went on to become an overnight success. It first debuted in Britain to full theaters and then moved on over to the United States, where it became one of the top Broadway shows in New York.

It premiered in America in 2000 and has since been regarded among the famous Broadway shows, playing in many Broadway and off-Broadway theaters nationwide.

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While the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles is seen as a landmark for the world of showbiz and movies, the elaborate entrances and neon signs of theater houses in Broadway, New York evoke a similar feeling for thespians (Source: Unsplash)

Legacy

Like Wicked, Mamma Mia! has been playing in countless theaters around the nation, beating most other competing shows. It is particularly popular with Baby Boomers and the generations that came to age in the 1970s. If you're a thespian and love the groovy vibe of the seventies, you wouldn't want to give this a miss.

Today, Mamma Mia! has had a viewership of more than 20 million people worldwide, making it one of the most popular Broadway shows in NYC and the United States.

It has toured all the nation's major cities, with some stopovers in minor cities as well, and still runs on Broadway.

It is certain that Mamma Mia! is one of the top Broadway shows because you can find several different casts performing the musical at any given time in different locations.

If we're talking worldwide, the show has toured and locally adapted in countless locations, including Japan, UK, continental Europe, and ABBA's home country Sweden.

This musical that premiered in Broadway, New York, has now found popularity and cult status in non-English speaking countries.

Like ABBA's music, which has fans worldwide, this musical also trends internationally, with its soundtrack being translated into different languages.

Unlike other musicals like Chicago, which draw on themes of tragedy and self-growth, this masterpiece is purely renowned for its groove and funkiness.

Audiences usually end up singing along to the soundtrack, especially during the encore, which includes three songs. This musical is appropriate for all ages as it's family-friendly. The soundtrack, the storyline, and the themes within the show cater to all generations.

While the generation who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s will always have a nostalgic value for ABBA's songs and relate to the show more strongly, the funky soundtrack caters to younger generations as well, especially those who want to get an appreciation for the groovy seventies and the culture of that time, reminiscent of disco, Studio 54, and shag haircuts.

The combination of ABBA's trendy bops coupled with an engaging story makes Mamma Mia! the hit it is. It evokes a nostalgic sentiment, and a large part of its popularity is due to that.

Baby Boomers and Gen X will always view the musical in light of ABBA's songs and their youth. But younger audiences can get a chance to familiarize themselves with some vintage music and the heavy synth and disco elements of seventies music.

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Ian