HISTORYfrom Music Theatre International and other sources
Mamma Mia!, with a book by Catherine Johnson and music and lyrics from Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, is a musical based around the music from the band, ABBA, of which, Andersson and Ulvaeus were both members. Active between 1972 and 1982, the Swedish pop/dance group is one of the most popular international groups of all time, with hits that spanned the charts of Europe, North America and Australia.
The musical began with an idea of theatre producer, Judy Craymer. After working on the 1983 musical, Chess, for which Andersson and Ulvaeus wrote the music, she approached them with an idea for a new musical inspired by "The Winner Takes It All." The composers were not enthusiastic about the idea. “It’s been said that, for a long time, the story of Mamma Mia! was the story of Judy Craymer and two blokes with beards who kept saying ‘no’...” Craymer later said. But in 1996 her persistence paid off, and Mamma Mia! was green-lighted. Craymer recruited playwright, Catherine Johnson, to write the book and took on Phyllida Lloyd as the director of the original London production.
Mamma Mia! premiered in the West End at the Prince Edward Theatre on April 6, 1999. It has been extremely successful and underwent two different location transfers (to the Prince of Wales Theatre in June 2004 and to the Novello Theatre in September 2012); it continues to play to full houses to this day. Toronto was the first city to produce the show after premiering in London, with a production that ran from May 22, 2000, to May 22, 2005.
The musical made its debut in the United States at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, California, on November 17, 2000. On February 26, 2001, the production moved to the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles and then to the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago on May 13 of the same year. Mamma Mia! moved further east to open on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on October 18, 2001, and then transferred to the Broadhurst Theatre on November 2, 2013. It remained one of the most popular shows on the Great White Way throughout its almost fifteen-year run.
The first North American tour started in Providence, Rhode Island, in February 2002, and then premiered in Las Vegas at the Mandelay Bay in February 2003.
Mamma Mia! has been performed in more than 40 countries and across five continents, including: Belgium, Greece, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. The first non-English production started in Hamburg, Germany, on November 3, 2002. Many international tours have run since then.
Björn Ulvaeus was born in 1945 in Gothenberg on the west coast of Sweden. After a successful local career in Sweden with a folk group in the mid 1960s, he started his collaboration with Benny Andersson. They then went on to form ABBA with Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. Even during the ABBA years, the idea of writing a musical seemed appealing and, in 1981, Björn and Benny met Tim Rice and co-wrote Chess with him, which opened in the West End in 1986. In 1995 Björn and Benny opened a new musical called Kristina Från Duvemåla, which played for three years in Sweden. Their most recent musical is the Stockholm production Hjälp sökes, which opened in 2013. Bjorn is one of the producers for MAMMA MIA! The Party, which opened in Stockholm in January 2016.
Born 16 December 1946 in Stockholm. 1952: Received accordion lessons from his father and grandfather. 1964-68: Member of the Hep Stars, Sweden’s most popular rock band in the 1960’s. During this time, he began composing music. Sunny Girl and Wedding were huge hits for the Hep Stars. 1972-82: ABBA. 1982-84: Composed the music (together with Björn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice) for the musical, Chess. 1987: Began collaborating with Orsa Spelmän. Recorded three albums deeply rooted in Swedish folk music: Klinga Mina Klockor, November 1989 and Fiolen Min. In 2001, this collaboration led to the formation of Benny Andersson’s Orchestra, a 16-man constellation with vocalists, Helen Sjöholm and Tommy Körberg. Thus far, this has resulted in five CD albums and several summer tours. 1990-95: Composed the music to Kristina Från Duvemåla. Premiered in October 1995. 1995: Received the title of professor from the Swedish government. Inducted into the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 2007. Appointed Honorary Doctor of the College of Humanities at Stockholm University in 2008, and at Luleå University of Technology in 2012. Benny Andersson is married to former TV producer, Mona Nörklit. They have one child, Ludvig Andersson. Benny Andersson also has two children from a previous marriage, Peter Grönvall and Helene Odedal. He has five grandchildren: Charlie, Felix, Fabian, Malin and Viola.
Theatre: Rag Doll, Renegades, Suspension (Bristol Old Vic); Too Much Too Young (Bristol Old Vic and London Bubble); Boys Mean Business, Dead Sheep, Little Baby Nothing (Bush Theatre, London); Shang-a-Lang (Bush Theatre and national tour); and Mamma Mia! (worldwide); Through the Wire and A Letter to Lacey for NT Connections. Creative consultant on ABBA the Museum, Stockholm. Television: Casualty, Byker Grove Love Hurts, Gold, Linda Green.Original screenplays: Rag Doll and Where’s Willy? (HTV) and Sin Bin (BBC), the series Love in the 21st Century (Channel 4) and Dappers (BBC3). Awards: Catherine has won the Bristol Old Vic/HTV Playwrighting Award, Thames Television’s Writer-in-Residence Award and Thames Television’s Best Play Award and was nominated in 2002 for a Tony Award for Best Musical Book for Mamma Mia! Film: Catherine wrote the screenplay for the Mamma Mia! movie released July 2008.
- Mamma Mia! has grossed $2 billion worldwide since premiering in 1999.
- Over 54 million people have seen the musical in 40 different countries.
- It is said that, on any given day, there are at least seven performances of the musical being performed around the world.
- At the time of this writing, the Broadway production was ranked the tenth-longest running musical in Broadway history.
- Mamma Mia! has brought a renaissance to ABBA’s music. Following the London premiere in 1999, the album, ABBA Gold, topped charts in the United Kingdom for the second time in fifteen years.
- The London production of the musical was one of the first times that three women (producer Judy Craymer, book writer Catherine Johnson, and director Phyllida Lloyd) collaborated as a creative team. Its immense commercial success has been significant to the image of female creators in musical theatre.
- In June 2005, the Las Vegas production played its 1000th performance, becoming the longest-running West End or Broadway musical to ever play in Vegas.
- Mamma Mia! has premiered in more cities faster than any musical in history.
- Mamma Mia! has been translated into fourteen languages, including: German, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, French, and Chinese.
- The show is the first major musical to play concurrently in three German cities, with productions in Hamburg, Stuttgart and Essen all running in 2007.
- The Chinese premiere at the Shanghai Grand Theatre on July 11, 2011, was the first time a contemporary Western musical was presented in Chinese in Shanghai.
- A film adaptation of Mamma Mia! was released in July 2008. Featuring much of the creative team from the original London production, it starred Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Pierce Brosnan.