'Mamma Mia!' Mayhem Spans the Globe

I can't help myself. I love ABBA. Doesn't everybody?

My love affair starts with the profound lyrics.

"If you change your mind, I'm the first in line, Honey I'm still free, Take a chance on me. If you need me, let me know, gonna be around. If you got no place to go, if you're feeling down."

That's from the band's hit song, "Take a Chance on Me."

"There is clearly at play a very clever melodic progression in the chords that Benny and Bjorn used in their compositions," said Jason Solomons, a critic for The Observer.

Twenty-six years after the Swedish super-troupers split up, we still want "Waterloo." Tribute band Bjorn Again still rips through the ABBA oeuvre 200 nights a year. And one woman is responsible for a reincarnation. Her name is Judy Cramer, the producer of "Mamma Mia!," a musical based on the ABBA classics.

The title track, "Mamma Mia," is played regularly in 19 countries: "Mamma Mia" in Korea, "Mamma Mia" in Russia and "Mamma Mia" in Germany, for starters.

Roughly 17,000 people worldwide see the show every night. And it all started when Judy Cramer, a television producer, started thinking too much about the lyrics.

A Musical Hit Worldwide

"All these sentiments that grabbed onto me in a way that I felt there was a story there," Cramer said.

Cramer had once worked with the men responsible, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, on the musical "Chess." Bubbly Bjorn was soon on board.

"Benny was a little more reticent and was, like, 'Oh my God, is this woman going to kill off our canon of work,'" Cramer said. "[But] now he's very grateful."

It's hardly surprising Benny is grateful. Mamma Mia! has a GDP greater than Gambia.

"I went from the creative process to now running a mini industry," said Cramer.

And now it's on screen. Meryl Streep sings "Winner Takes It All" when the movie is released on July 18. What more do you want?

'Mamma Mia's' Fantasy Cast

The guy who played Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is in it, so is the guy who played Darcy (Colin Firth) and some cuddly Swede (Stellan SkarsgÄrd). "Our fantasy, really," Cramer said.

So what do the critics make of ABBA on celluloid?

"I know it's Swedish, but it's hardly Bergman, is it," Solomons said.

No, it isn't great cinema. But it doesn't have to be. It's about the music, which is too good to butcher.

"I've been humming ABBA all week," admits Solomons. "I've been humming it in bed. I wake up in the morning thinking, 'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!'"

ABBA's music is infectious.

"'Waterloo' is one that I can get out," Cramer said. "'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and 'Dancing Queen' whirl around in there."

A small price to pay for a musical that has grossed $2 billion on stages worldwide and counting.

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