FEATURE ‌ Hot Mamma 

A cash-cow stage musical runs on ABBA songs. How hard can it be to duplicate?

click to enlarge Lisa Mandel, Laurie Wells, and Laura Ware shine in the touring Mamma Mia!
  • Lisa Mandel, Laurie Wells, and Laura Ware shine in the touring Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia!
March 6, 7, 8 at 7:30 p.m.
March 9, 10, 11 at 8 p.m.
March 10 and 11 at 2 p.m.
$40-$60
North Charleston Performing Arts Center
5001 Coliseum Dr.
554-6060

So you think you know a good idea for a play or a movie when you hear one, do you? How's this grab you for a premise: a young girl on a Greek isle is about marry her fella. She's desperate for her father to be present at the ceremony, but the girl's single mother has been mysteriously silent on that subject all her life, so she knows nothing about her dad's identity. While reading her mother's diary, however, she finds references to long-ago trysts her mother had with three men. Suspecting one of them must be her father, the girl secretly invites all three to her wedding, where the dramatic shit, as they say, hits the fan.

In between are lots and lots of ABBA songs.

It ain't exactly ripped from the pages of Aristotle's Poetics, but the musical Mamma Mia! obviously has something going for it. Namely, lots and lots of ABBA songs. The 1999 stage musical, penned by British playwright Catherine Johnson, has been seen by something like 30 million people -- roughly equivalent to the entire population of Canada (draw your own conclusions) -- and has premiered in more cities worldwide faster than any other musical in history, opening in more than 140 major cities since the first production in London eight years ago. It's also raked in over $2 billion in gross receipts. If you don't make it to one of the eight performances from the touring production at the North Chuck Performing Arts Center next week, you'll likely be able to catch it at the Palmetto Grande sometime early next year -- Tom Hanks is helping produce a film adaptation starring Meryl Streep.

Success, you say? Damn straight. Sweden hasn't made this much of an international stink since they started the sexual revolution and Congress voted to denounce Ingrid Bergman just out of spite. (Yes, that really happened.)

But it's hard to argue with $2 billion. A number like that makes you think. In fact, it got me thinking about what other pop discographies I might wrap a stage musical around and take over the world...

Love Bites

The Premise: Twenty-one classic Def Leppard songs underpin this compelling tale of a rebellious, angry young teen with a sugar addiction who runs away from home when he discovers he's diabetic. On the road, he meets a beautiful photographer/animal trainer who makes him more promises than she can keep. She brings on the heartbreak, he goes completely hysterical, and the show ends with a spectacular pyrotechnic display caused by the unexpected but dramatic onset of Armageddon.

Oops! ... I Did It Again

The Premise: An adolescent trailer-park princess sleeps her way into a debut record deal and becomes a teen pop sensation overnight. She's not a girl and not yet a woman, but she's got a great bellybutton. Eventually, the lure of celebrity's dark side seduces her. She starts doing outrageous things, and eventually goes completely crazy. The former tabloid queen and sex kitten falls to earth, checks herself into -- and out of and into again -- rehab, all the while threatening to marry Al Gore. The musical closes on a dark note, when she ends it all by drinking something toxic.

De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da

The Premise: The music of Sting and The Police creates an exuberant narrative thread for the tale of a stuttering castaway marooned on a desert island. The young protagonist is so lonely -- until a prostitute named Roxanne arrives on the island. The two become instant tantric sex lovers, reveling in day-long bouts of yoga and obscure literary references, though he can't profess his love in less than eight syllables. The show ends with global warming-induced rising ocean levels swallowing the island as a hundred million bottles wash up on the retreating shore. The pair create a bottle-raft and sail off into a brand new day.


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