Sunday, 13 July 2008

Dancing Queen

I have a confession to make. When I was fourteen, I hated Abba. Being more of a headbanging rock chick manque kind of girl, I just didn't get them at all. The suits. The corny lyrics. The whole shebang. My best friend at the time was a keen fan and insisted I was missing out. But nope. I wouldn't be convinced.

When I met my husband I discovered he was a closet Abba fan (well you had to be in those days, they just weren't cool). So much so he watched Abba the Movie, twice, sitting through the programme again. That's a tad obssessive I thought, but remained unmoved by his pleas that I couldn't see that they wrote really really great music.

It wasn't till the 90s, when I saw films like Muriel's Wedding and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, that I suddenly saw the appeal. And making up for lost time went straight into full nostalgia fest and bought Abba Gold. It has been known for my husband and I to come back from a night out and dance to that album for hours. It has also been known for me to do Gimme Gimme a Man after Midnight on karaoke. But alcohol usually has to be involved for that...

Several years ago when I was still immersed in a world of small children and nappies and the chance for a night out in London was fairly slim, my niece persuaded me to see Mamma Mia! the musical with her. I have to confess I wasn't quite sure how they'd make a musical based on Abba songs, but from the moment they pushed the rowing boat on the stage and I realised it was called Waterloo, I knew I was going to enjoy myself. Which I did. I think that occasion was only the second time in my life that I'd danced in the aisles at the theatre, but NOT to dance would have been criminal really.

I saw it again a couple of years back, and it was just as much fun second time round.

So as soon as I realised that they'd made a film of it, I was determined to return the favour and drag my niece to the cinema.

And boy oh boy. Did it live up to expectations.

Meryl Streep is just brilliant as Donna, combining comedy and emotional fragility wonderfully. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski are hilarious as her best friends. Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth (as you have NEVER seen him before) and Stellan Skarsgad also entertain as the three possible dads for Donna's daughter Sophie. While Dominic Cooper (who is rather cute). and Amanda Seyfried who play Sky and Sophie are also really great as the young romantic leads.

What I think I enjoyed most about this though, was that for once we had a love story which features a middle aged couple - the older characters in this have infinitely more to say and do then the younger ones (much as I enjoyed their story too). It's so rare to see that from Hollywood, and I have to say I was nearly dancing in the aisles again when Julie Walters launched into Take a Chance on Me.

Mamma Mia! is fun light summer froth, with great music, and wonderful dancing. It reminded me just how wrong I was to think all those years ago that Abba were crap. They weren't. They wrote fantastic memorable songs, which hit the spot emotionally Meryl Streep's version of The Winner Takes it All was just heartrending, and Slipping Through my Fingers is not only on my soundtrack for Strictly Love, but has huge personal resonance for me as my oldest daughter grows up far faster then I'd like. Just as in the stage show, the film camps up the songs with hilarious results from Does your Mother Know? to a fantastically tenous Chitiquita. And the scene were all the Greek women come out of their houses to join Meryl and co dancing to Mamma Mia! is brilliant.

Mamma Mia! might not be to everyone's taste, but I loved every minute. In fact, I loved it so much, I might just have to go and see it again...


Persephone said...

You did it! You linked this to your other blog! (Now all you have to do is link it back!) And thanks for my link. David Tennant Fan Club??? I don't know what you mean....

That is a fantabulous cast for Mamma Mia, but I'm really really not crazy about ABBA (and yes, I've seen Muriel's Wedding). Furthermore, I read an article about this movie and the director said they cut "Name of the Game" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You", the two songs I actually like by ABBA, because "they didn't advance the plot".

I dunno, even Colin Firth may not be enough to lure me...

Jane Henry said...

Persephone it was thanks to your poking me I got round to it. And will do the same here but haven't had time (Viz today... Stop work at 12.30 to collect mil to take her to see eldest perform in Under MilkWood. Tomorrow husband has day off and two children finish school, Wed have two children off school, plus three extras to help out friends so I can get a day on Friday, Thurs have told the two who are off their reward for getting extra holiday is to help me tidy the house ready for the onslaught, Friday, have swapped back but youngest finishes school at 1.30. And er. That's me done with work till Sept - except for a week when they are all in drama school, during which I am going to have to write like a dervish and not come near the internet!).

I owe you an email too - but haven't had time to write properly.

I think Mamma Mia is one of those things you might enjoy even if you don't like Abba, just because the cast are so great (Colin Firth in particular is very fine and you get to see him in a whole new light!) and it is so lively. Plus it made me want to go backpacking again. But I can see it if its not your cup of tea it probably won't be a high priority.

(It is also worth seeing for hearing how bad Pierce Brosnan is at singing...)