ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus took to the stage at the Prince of Wales theatre last night to help celebrate the 10th birthday of Mamma Mia!, the hit musical based on their songs, which opened in London on 6 April 1999.
The pair joined producer Judy Craymer and writer Catherine Johnson on stage during the curtain call for the show, which began life at the Prince Edward theatre a decade ago and has since spawned 19 stage productions around the world.
Craymer paid tribute to the cast and creative team, including director Phyllida Lloyd, who was not present last night, and said: “London is our flagship production and it’s where audiences from all over the world return time and time again and it’s where the Mamma Mia! family started.”
Speaking about winning the Eurovision song contest with Waterloo in 1974, which launched Swedish supergroup ABBA to international success, Andersson joked: “35 years ago exactly now, we would have left the stage at the Dome in Brighton. Frida, Agnetha, Björn and I were sitting in the BBC green room trying to keep track of all the points given to Sweden in the Eurovision song contest… I knew there were three countries left, I knew we would win and we would have the chance to meet Judy Craymer and Catherine Johnson.” He added with a smile: “You have to admit, nothing like the Eurovision to launch a long and successful career.”
Though based around the songs of ABBA – including Dancing Queen, Honey Honey, SOS and The Winner Takes It All – Mamma Mia! has an entirely fictional story by Johnson which is set on a Greek island where taverna owner and single mother Donna Sheridan lives with her 20-year-old daughter Sophie. On the eve of Sophie’s wedding, Donna’s past comes back to haunt her as three former lovers arrive on the island. But which one is Sophie’s father?
The original London cast starred Lisa Stokke as Sophie, Siobhan McCarthy as Donna, plus Louise Plowright and Jenny Galloway as Donna’s friends Tanya and Rosie.
Last year Johnson, Lloyd and Craymer adapted the story for the big screen in a film which starred Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters.