Friday, 29 May 2009

OverRated: Mamma Mia!

"I wasn't disappointed because I was expecting nothing. But I was wrong. I got less than nothing"

Everyone had raved about it. The best selling musical dvd of all-time and that sort of stuff. The theatre show had been a sell-out on both Broadway and in London's West End for months.

Eventually I got around to buying the dvd and took it with me to Ruf's to pass the time in between doing what we do best. Not being a particularly RomCom kinda guy, Ruf was very unwilling to even give it the time of day but I persuaded him to view for ten minutes. His face at the end of that timeframe was a picture. Disgruntled disapproval registering itself as a scowl that obliterated his dimple. His down-turned mouth imbuing him with a look that was almost Sesame Street Beaker-like.

"Contrived," was his verdict.

And he was not wrong.

I have heard this word used before in conjunction with such 'tribute' musicals. The first such entry into the genre was 'We Will Rock You', Ben Elton's reworking of the Queen back catalogue which received huge praise and publicity, thus setting off a domino effect of similar efforts. Never having seen it, I cannot pass comment but I have heard it widely revered by reliable sources.

However, I recall a friend who went to see 'Tonight's the Night', featuring the fabulous songs of Rod Stewart within a pitiful framework of a story, being desperately disappointed at the way the script had been manipulated to fit in the songs and then embarrassed at the cast's inability to produce anyone who actually had hot legs to dance to the tune of that title.

I think the problem is that those of us who remember the originals, feel short-changed hearing the songs performed by amateurs, whereas those hearing the tunes for the first time are delighted in exactly the way that we were originally and sing along quite happily.

Always having loved Abba, since they burst onto the music scene by sweeping away the competition in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974, I watched 'Mamma Mia!' with an appreciation of the calibre of the songs themselves and an increasingly open-mouthed amazement at the way the story deliberately threw in twists and turns to accommodate the next famous hit with a transparency that was breathtakingly cheeky. However, they just kept playing that same card until it became a case of guessing when x story line will precipitate y chart topper. It was all just too obvious.

The efforts of the stars themselves to sing melodies that are incredibly hard to reproduce were laudable - Meryl Streep did particuarly well in 'Winner takes it all', but poor Pierce Brosnan was almost laughable.

If you must watch it, unless you're a fan of High School Musical and the like, I'd suggest you save your money and rent it.

Of course, if you really want to watch Mamma Mia!, you have to see the version that French & Saunders did for Comic Relief.



phallatio said...

I cannot bear Abba! They make the whitest and most Anaemic music ever created. Abba make me nervous! I fear that, if I listen to them, my coolness will melt away!

Fat Controller said...

I don't know if I count as a 'reliable source' but I hugely enjoyed 'We Will Rock You'. As you might expect with Ben Elton as scriptwriter it doesn't take itself at all seriously and the young cast throw themselves into the performance with such energy. They are clearly enjoying it too. Our daughter, who is a huge Queen fan and who has performed in several school musicals was agog at the spectacle and at the end just said: "That's what I want to do"

Loving Annie said...

Hi Cake.
Have no interest in watching it. Think you are correct - the originals are always the best songs !