The Corner Shop

22nd August 2018

Augustin Wecxsteen writes how one ABBA musical has completely defined his life and relationship with his family.

For mysterious reasons, Mamma Mia, the ABBA musical, as well as its film adaptation and its new sequel, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, has played a big part in my life. To be fair, it’s got everything you want in a jukebox musical: Abba songs, a fun parental mystery, secrets, Abba songs, shenanigans, a Greek island, mother-daughter bonding, Abba songs, hilarious secondary characters, camp, camp, camp, and most of all, Abba songs. What I have a hard time explaining to people is how deeply engrained the show is in my family history.

Sadly, or thankfully, that’s not because I never knew who my father was until I found out through my mother’s journal that there were three possible candidates because of one fateful and eventful summer in the 70s. No, the Mamma Mia Broadway Cast Recording was one of the very select few CDs that could be played in the car during long journeys. We knew the songs by heart, or we thought we did, because none of us really knew how to speak English at that time, so we would just sing gibberish, or “yaourt” in French, and boy would we sing it loud.

During one of his business trips to New York, my father saw the show on Broadway, and he loved it so much that he subsequently took my mother to see it for their anniversary, he also took my sister for her eighteenth birthday to see the show, and we all went to see an internationally touring production in Paris and in Brussels. Musicals in continental Europe don’t usually have permanent stays like they do on Broadway or in the West End. Tours come and go quickly, so when Mamma Mia announced its dates in Paris, my family was hysterical. Luckily, it was not the dubbed version that has all the songs translated in French, but an English version with French surtitles.

After thoroughly interviewing my father, it’s my understanding that all productions are more or less exactly the same, from the glittery costumes to the stage directions, to the set representing the Greek island the characters find themselves on. But identical doesn’t mean bad. It’s a comforting show that will always be exactly as you remember it. The film also offers some great comfort and it’s not surprising the sequel has been very well-received. It also inspired iconic goddess Cher to release an album of Abba covers. Is there anything this musical can’t do?

My parents love the show so much they put on an amateur version of it with their friends, to the point where it looked actually quite professional, with about 40 people involved in creating their production. My sisters and I wrote a Mamma Mia parody to celebrate my mother’s **th birthday, and, inspired by the show, I co-wrote and created a musical based on French popular songs for my last year of high school. My mother has also learned to sing Our Last Summer with her choir, and loves to sing it unprompted at dinner. I know Meryl Streep’s The Winner Takes It All hand choreography by heart, and I dream of my mum singing Slipping Through My Fingers to me while combing my hair on my wedding day.

Mamma Mia truly is a gift that keeps on giving, leaving my family with so many singalong memories and bonding times. The day Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again came out, after leaving the cinema, the only thing I wanted to do was to go back home and drag my parents and sisters to go see the film, just so we could all experience it together, again and again and again.

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