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)…