Mamma Mia!

The best Hindi movie that isn’t in Hindi and isn’t a movie!

I saw the Broadway production of “Mamma Mia!” in New York City this week. It was sublime. In the traumatic days of my teenage years, ABBA was a saving grace, so I’ve been wanting to see this show for some time. I was not disappointed; afterwards, I felt as though I had sat through an incredibly good Hindi movie—with the bonus of knowing the songs and lyrics!

It’s the story of a 20-year-old girl named Sophie (Carey Anderson)* who has grown up with her single, free-spirited mother Donna (Carolee Carmello, center in photo below) on a Greek Island. Donna has always refused to talk about Sophie’s father, but Sophie has found her mother’s diary from 21 years ago and read about three men who might each be her dad. Sophie is getting married soon, and sends off invitations (purportedly from her mother) to these three men, since she dreams of a perfect wedding where her heretofore unknown father will give her away.

They show up the day before her wedding. Their appearance sends Donna into a tizzy, but luckily her two best friends Tanya (Judy McLane, left below) and Rosie (Gina Ferrall, right below) are there to lend some (hilarious) support.

Bill Austin (Pearce Bunting) is a peripatetic Australian journalist who has never settled down and wanders the globe adventurously. Harry Bright (Ben Livingston) is a British banking professional who has all but forgotten his carefree youth as he pursues his buttoned-up career. Sam Carmichael (Christopher Shyer) is an American with two sons, and it is quickly apparent that he and Donna were pretty serious about each other back in the day—but when they met Sam was engaged to another woman and he left Donna to go back to her.

Eventually, each man comes to believe that he is Sophie’s dad, and each offers to escort her down the aisle. But which one of them IS her father? Even Donna doesn’t know. Harry and Bill were rebound flings immediately after Sam left her for his fiancee back home. Can she ever forgive Sam for that? Who will walk Sophie down the aisle? Can Sophie forgive her mother for her unconventional upbringing? You’ll have to see it to find out (or ask me to tell you).

The story unfolds via dialogue and twenty-four of ABBA’s biggest hit songs. But that’s not all this Broadway show had in common with a great masala film.

Masala characteristic #1: Suspension of disbelief required. For instance, how does Sophie know where to send the invitations? The men’s names are not uncommon, her mother doesn’t know what she’s doing and in any case hasn’t seen or spoken to these men in 21 years.

Masala characteristic #2: Comic side plot. Tanya is a three-times-divorced wealthy woman with a killer body and face—much of it thanks to plastic surgery. Rosie is a jolly, somewhat overweight, never-married free spirit. These two are absolutely hysterical, help keep Donna sane, and vamp it up in some great song and dance numbers.

Masala characteristic #3: Long-lost parent. See plot summary above.

Masala characteristic #4: FABulous outfits (see photo above, e.g.)…There were boys dancing in wetsuits, flippers and snorkels; glittery and sparkly clothes for the girls and silver platform boots! There’s nothing like 1970’s vintage, is there?

Masala characteristic #5: The storyline was frothy and fun, but had enough substance to make it meaningful too. I laughed, I cried, I sang along and I left the theater feeling psychologically satiated and physically exhausted, complete with panda eyes (smeared eyeliner). A true emotional wringer!

Apparently Hollywood has finally made this into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan, along with my favorite Colin Firth (hooray!) and the very funny Christine Baranski. Should be good!

*These are the cast members I saw, all of them superb. Excellent singers too (one thing not in common with Hindi films—no lip-synching or playback singers)…

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13 Comments to “Mamma Mia!”

  1. hmm.. I think Bollywood made a movie based on this plot. It was called Mother ’98 (I think!) and it starred Rekha, Rakesh Roshan.. and who else I forgot. I haven’t seen it, but I’ve read the plot summary of the movie, and it sounds *exactly* like Mamma Mia! From what the review said, it was a horrible remake and a complete washout at the box-office..!!

  2. This sounds great. Wish I could get to Broadway and see it too! I think most Broadway musicals are very similar to hindi masala stuff – plenty of glitter and glamor, singing and dancing and of course over-the-top romance.

    O my God the movie version has Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth and Meryl Streep! All my favorites in one go – I am about to expire from sheer anticipation! :-) Just checked it out on imdb and everybody looks soooooo good in the pics. Cant wait for this movie to come out. Interestingly somebody has posted on the Mamma Mia message board that it reminds them of a Bollywood movie!

  3. I just saw the preview for this movie (okay, I saw it when I went to see Baby Mama) — it looks spectacular!! Meryl Streep as this hippie-ish Mom is what stayed with me from the trailer. I live in NY and have never seen the stage show.

  4. Ranya—that’s what the person I went with said! It does sound quite dreadful too, but I need to track it down somehow :-)

    bollyviewer—it is great. I haven’t seen many Broadway shows; interestingly I’m not really drawn to them at all. But this was superb. And I can’t believe that COLIN FIRTH is in the movie!!!!! I *heart* him.

    Darshana—you have no excuse, make your way there with some girlfriends, and pronto! Did you like Baby Mama? ;-P

  5. This post brings back such great memories! Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts on this wonderful show. I saw ‘Mamma Mia’ at the Winter Garden Theatre in 2006 – as a huge ABBA fan I was really looking forward to it – and I was not the least bit disappointed. (At one point right at the end of the show, I got so excited that I actually had to be told to sit down by the lady behind me – in my defence, I really thought everyone would just stand up and dance too at that point LOL). I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that when I was in London just 2 weeks later, I impulsively skipped off to see the West End production of the show (which I liked better than the Broadway production – both were great though). I love the fact that you don’t have to be an ABBA fan to enjoy the show (my sister isn’t, and she still loved it), although it is a little slice of heaven for anyone who loves ABBA’s music. Like you, I would definitely encourage anyone who loves good music and a fun, heart-warming story, to see it on Broadway or in the West End if they ever get the chance. I can’t wait till the movie comes out here (if it does), and I just hope it does justice to such a great show. With the cast they picked, I’m letting my hopes grow a little…

  6. Yes, the friend I went with wasn’t really familiar with ABBA’s music and I was a little worried it wouldn’t be so enjoyable for him. But he loved it as much as I did (or close to it, anyway). The Winter Garden is such a beautiful theater too. If the film doesn’t come to your neck of the woods let me know and I’ll send the DVD to you when it comes out :-)

  7. I agree – the Winter Garden is beautiful – just gorgeous… thanks very much for your kind offer regarding the movie.

  8. Best of Movie Mamma mia!!!And best actor Pierce Brosnan!!!!

  9. Meryl, Pierce AND COLIN?! OMG sign me up.

  10. I know!!! *jumps up and down clapping hands then does the happy Snoopy dance*
    I can’t wait!!!

  11. and DG: I meant it! :-)

  12. That’s the feeling exactly that I got when I saw the movie! I don’t know why I never went for the play given ABBA is the music of my childhood (my mom loves them and we used to have vinyl recordings that were pretty worn out) and it’s an uncritical part of my upbringing. But there was no way I was going to miss the movie, esp with Streep, Firth and Brosnan in it. And Colin Firth btw, has a very sweet, clear voice. OMG I LOVE HIM SO!!! sigh.
    The movie is directed by the woman who directed the play and she basically directs it like a play recorded with a camera so things are kind of disastrous but it’s so much fun I seriously didn’t care.
    And yes, Colin takes his shirt off while drenched (!) and dances happily.

  13. Besides for Shammi, Colin Firth is my only other serious movie crush. I think if I ever met him, I would just faint dead away :-)

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