By MIKE CHAIKEN
“Dancing Queen,” “S.O.S.,” “Money, Money, Money,” and “Take a Chance on Me.”
Even though it has been many years since ABBA has released new music—or even performed together—their infectious hits still perk up ears when they come on the radio.
“It’s classic music,” said Andrew Tebo of the songs from ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, which serve as the centerpiece for the story that unfolds in “Mamma Mia!”
Andrew plays Harry in the production of “Mamma Mia!” that comes to The Bushnell in Hartford starting Friday night.
“There’s a reason they’ve been around for decades.,” said Andrew of the songs of ABBA.
From the point of view of the audience, the music of ABBA – because it’s pop music—seems as if it is relatively simple.
But Andrew said the simplicity is “deceptive.”
Calling from Uitica, N.Y., Harry said the cast spent three weeks in New York City rehearsing the music. The harmonies in ABBA’s music is “extremely difficult,” he explained. And Andersson and Ulvaeus are adamant that every production of “Mamma Mia!” reproduces ABBA’s songs to a studio quality sheen.
Adding to the difficulty is that 28 of the 29 songs used in “Mamma Mia!” are full-blown ensemble pieces that require each cast member to perform as one, said Andrew.
Not only has the music of ABBA endured through the years, the show built around the group’s music, “Mamma Mia!” continues to delight audiences.
The show was launched in London in 1999. Since then, it has seen Broadway productions, national road tours, and even a movie.
Andrew said the biggest appeal of “Mamma Mia!” is that it is a family show. “You can bring grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, and the kids.”
Additionally, he said, there are so many characters that the audience can relate to. For instance, Andrew said, there is the coming of age story of Sophie—the 20-year-old who is getting married and wants to know who her father is. There also is the single mother, Donna. There are the three best friends—Donna, Rosie, and Tanya, who have been through everything together. And there are the three men who are reconnecting with the love of their life from a time when they were younger.
Although most of the attention is paid to the female characters of “Mamma Mia!” the three male characters— Sam Carmichael, Bill Austin, and Harry Bright—are integral to the story. Without the question of Sophie’s paternity, the tale of “Mamma Mia!” would crumble.
Andrew said the men are all “amazing characters.” And they arrive in the story reflecting on a moment from a long time ago, and what they have done with their lives since then.
Asked what he liked about his own character, Harry, Andrew said, “He’s a man who has been through it all.” He traveled the world. He lived it up in the 1970s. But he arrives in the story as the complete opposite of the free spirit he was. Now, he is an uptight banker.
If Andrew had a chance to pull up a stool at the pub to chat with Harry, Andrew felt that Harry would prove a great motivational speaker. Andrew said Harry could be someone who could stress the importance of living it up and being spontaneous.
Fans of “Mamma Mia!” are storied for their passion for the show. It’s not unheard of a fan to have seen the show multiple times.
So, for a cast, walking on stage, they already know they have won over the audience even before they even sing a note.
In many ways, thanks to audience participation, Andrew said the fans of “Mamma Mia!” are like an additional cast member. They add so much excitement and energy to each performance, he said.
Even though Andrew knows each night that the audience will be on the cast’s side from the moment the lights go up, he said it’s still a thrill to see how fans will respond.
“It’s living the dream,” said Andrew. “You can’t have a better experience than performing in ‘Mamma Mia!’ It’s my favorite, to date, production I’ve been in.”
“Mamma Mia!” will be performed at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford on Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Ticket prices start at $22. Tickets are available online at www.bushnell.org, by phone at (860)987-5900, or at The Bushnell box office, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford.
By MIKE CHAIKEN