Musical theater is alive and well—it just suffers from a lack of creativity. Why nowadays, Broadway is adapting movies into musicals, and even more strangely, using the repertoires of pop artists to tell stories. In the last decade, we've seen musicals based on the music of Billy Joel, The Four Seasons, and Queen, to name a few. These all followed the 1999 phenomenon that started it all, Mamma Mia!, inspired by the songs of ABBA.
Actually, the Swedish pop group is no stranger to musical theater. Immediately after ABBA broke up, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus (the B's in ABBA and the group's principal songwriters) collaborated with award-winning lyricist Tim Rice to create Chess. The musical did fairly well in the UK but bombed in America. Despite some terrific pop songs (including the 1984 single "One Night in Bangkok"), the story about romance and intrigue amid an international chess tournament was too flimsy.
The same could be said about Mamma Mia! However, despite the threadbare story, it succeeded where Chess failed and became an international hit. Maybe there's something more relatable about a comedy of errors set at a big fat Greek (styled) wedding. Or maybe it's the hefty collection of catchy pop songs that have delighted for 30 years, long past the death of disco. Whatever the reason, director Phyllida Lloyd, writer Catherine Johnson, and producer Judy Craymer found success with a story incorporating beloved favorites like "Dancing Queen" and "Take a Chance on Me."
Naturally, that has led to the inevitable screen adaptation, starring none other than Meryl Streep in the role of Donna, a middle-aged hotel manager at an aging resort on a small Greek island. Her 20-year-old daughter Sophie (Mean Girls' Amanda ...1