Wednesday, 18 February 2009

ABBAMANIA, Crown Casino, Feb 18, 2009 ***1/2

When & Where: The Palms, Crown Casino, Feb 18 to March 1, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2

Whether you are a fan or not, there is no denying that the songs of Swedish pop group, ABBA, are catchy. They pass “the old grey whistle test”. (i.e. Ii you play them to old blokes, they’ll be whistling the tune the next day.)

The tunes also trigger the get-up-and-dance impulse and that is just what the crowd at ABBAMANIA did. They swayed, bumped, clapped, waved and did the finger-pointing dance to Mamma Mia. ABBA attract a seriously daggy crowd but they certainly know how to have a good time and they know all the lyrics.

ABBA generated myriad tribute bands and this English show has been running since 1999. On stage are look alikes for the quartet. Bjorn (Mark Thomas) plays guitar and Benny (Phil Hawkes) piano. Although four singers alternate in the roles of Agnetha and Frida, I saw the sassy and rich-voiced Katy Summer as Agnetha and Carly Broom playing a rather under-stated Anni-Frid.

Two backing singers (Lydia Griffiths, Laura Chapple) and 11 musicians including eight string players support them with a big orchestral sound based on Bjrn and Benny’s original arrangements.

The hit tunes kept coming. The crowd went wild over peppy tunes such as Waterloo, Mamma Mia, Money Money Money, Super Trouper and Summer’s version of the raunchy Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! They leapt to their feet for the deliciously twee Dancing Queen and popular SOS.

 They sighed and moaned at the recognisable first chords of romantic ballads such as I Do, I Do, I Do and Fernando then Summer knocked their socks off with a haunting solo of The Winner Takes It All. The original ABBA harmonies are featured and the swelling sound and emotional lyrics still affect the audience.

Of course we can’t ignore the cheesy, designed-for-non-dancers 70s choreography and retro costumes that boast more silver knee-high boots, lame’, lycra and white jump suits than should be legal.

ABBA is never going away. They won Eurovision in 1974 and they keep having revivals so, if you loved them then, you’re gunna love ABBAMANIA.
By Kate Herbert

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