Dancing queens Gabrielle Mirabella, Georgia Kate Haege and Carly Sakolove in the touring production of “Mamma Mia!” Credit: Kevin Thomas Garcia
Forty years after Swedish group ABBA broke through internationally in a European song competition, the group’s buoyant music and free-spirited appeal is still packing houses, thanks to the runaway smash “Mamma Mia!”, in town this week.
“When people leave the theater, they’re always leaving in such a good mood — ‘that music was so amazing, it was so awesome,’” says Kyle Dupree, a University of the Arts grad who plays in Eddie in the ensemble cast. “Music that has withstood the test of time is music that makes people feel something. I think that ABBA does make them feel happy and it takes them on a good ride.”
During the band’s ’70s successes, ABBA was considered slight and disposable by critics. Yet, their hits, including “Waterloo,” “Dancing Queen” and “Take a Chance on Me,” were in constant rotation during the last days of AM music radio. The band’s over-the-top glammed up stage apparel didn’t help their featherweight image, but it didn’t matter to their legions of fans.
Recently, the four members of ABBA reunited to published “ABBA: The Official Photo Book,” to mark the 40th anniversary of their breakthrough Eurovision win with “Waterloo.” The band released their last album in 1982. There is no word on a musical reunion, but there are stirrings.
“I didn’t know much about ABBA before I joined the ‘Mamma Mia!’ company, but now I love the music,” Dupree says. “I don’t get tired of [it] because it’s upbeat and it’s always a good tune.
“Mamma Mia!” is the story of a young bride-to-be on a search for her father, set to the songs of ABBA. The musical opened in London in 1999, on Broadway in 2001, was made into a Hollywood movie in 2008 and has come to town several times.
For Dupree, a Jersey guy, his role as Eddie, a friend of the bride, is one of the biggest of his career.
“The fact that Eddie is really laid back and really chill — I enjoy that the most about him,” Dupree says. “Nothing really gets to him, he’s always in a good mood every time you see him on stage.”