In praise of ABBA & the wonder of this sing-a-long sequel
The day I got my five-year-old hands on ABBA Gold marked the start of a lifelong love affair. When it comes to the Fab Four – from the beat to the catchy lyrics, the music videos and of course those outfits – I’m a die-hard fan. ‘Dancing Queen’ has been played at every birthday since and will be the last song played at my funeral (sorry for the spoiler).
When Mamma Mia got us all dancing in the aisles of our local cinemas back in 2008, fans flooded the streets with cries of gimme gimme gimme another ticket! Quickly booking flights to Skopelos, that dreamy Greek island where any moment it seemed the local barman might burst into song, no one wanted the romance – or the music – to end. And although the film didn’t make great money money money, it brought audiences together around the world, sniggering at Pierce Brosnan’s solos and weeping at Meryl Streep’s stunning rendition of ‘The Winner Takes It All’.
This time around, Streep’s on-screen daughter Sophie, played by Amanda Seyfried, is reopening her mother’s hotel a year after Donna’s death. Donna’s dead!? Sorry folks, you read that right – we find a tearful (and notably more tuneful) Brosnan and a desolate Seyfried reminiscing to ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, flicking through old photographs whilst audiences stifle a sob at Streep’s absence.
How can there possibly be a Mamma Mia sequel without the main Mama herself? Well, we all know there just wouldn’t be… Here We Go Again focuses on the Mamma Mia backstory, Donna arriving to Greece and her trio of summer flings as a young Oxford graduate, brought to life by Lily James. There’s still an abundance of over the top chorus numbers and fabulous costumes, but a few more poignant moments and B-side tracks you might be less familiar with.
What’s so brilliantly beautiful about Mamma Mia is that the real romance isn’t in the boy-meets-girl storylines at all; it’s the female love stories that take centre stage. Whether it’s Donna and Sophie or Donna and her Dynamos, it’s the strong and steadfast female relationships that are spotlighted, quite literally, as the Super Trouper beat and beam kick in. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski become Seyfried’s backing dancers as she takes up Streep’s mantel, and moves centre stage – at least until Grandma Cher arrives to steal the show.
And Instagram evidence suggests it’s more than just an on-screen love affair. James and Seyfried have posted numerous pictures alongside female co-stars with captions celebrating one another’s talent. It’s refreshing to see such support and respect amongst the cast, and don’t they all just look like they were having the best time because of it? So I say thank you for the music, and for giving us these fabulous female leads!
Part of why I continue to be an ABBA fanatic is that their music brings all kinds of people together in all kinds of unlikely places. The intro to Waterloo gets grandparents and grandchildren up on the dancefloor together; colleagues at the Christmas party wage war over who grooves best to S.O.S; and wedding guests overcome awkward small talk and release their disco diva when Mamma Mia is blasted out as the first track of the night. Within a matter of seconds, strangers in the aisle of the local cinema are again united as part and parcel of Mamma Mia’s brilliance. No matter the setting, ABBA’s infectious beats continue to transform us all into Dancing Queens – well, at least for the next 3 minutes and 52 seconds.