Broadway Series South’s ABBA Mania Resurrects the Swedish Singing Sensation in All Its Sleek Scandinavian Glory
by Robert W. McDowell
November 20, 2009, Raleigh, NC: Last Friday, for one night and one night only, the effervescent Broadway Series South presentation of ABBA Mania resurrected the international singing sensation from Sweden in all its sleek Scandinavian glory, with a starry-starry-night backdrop, a mirror ball twinkling overhead, and roving spotlights boldly painting the minimalist set in beams of red, white, and blue. The performers wore Disco-chic sequined spandex bodysuits, thigh-climbing mini-skirts, diaphanous ponchos with gold-rush glitter, long shaggy hair for everyone and a scruffy beard for Benny Andersson and, of course, mile-high platform heels. For two hours and 10 minutes, including intermission, Disco Fever raged again in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.
A smash hit in London’s West End, the U.S. tour of the pop-group tribute ABBA Mania stars Katy Summer as Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad, Mark Thomas as Björn Ulvaeus, Daniel Dibdin as Benny Andersson, and Carley Broom as Agnetha Fältskog. This fabulous foursome of ABBA impersonators and a buoyant backup band, which includes Manolo Polidario (guitar), Pablo Roberts (bass guitar), and Ryan Aston (drums), took the Broadway Series South audience on a delightful romp through the Swedish super-group’s greatest hits of the 1970s and early 1980s.
This tribute concert was also highly interactive, with Katy Summer and Carley Broom repeatedly inciting the audience to get up on its feet and bust a move. By the end of the evening, not much encouragement was needed as scores of ABBA-maniacs pranced their way down the Memorial Auditorium aisles from the cheaper seats to dance joyously in the pricey dress circle and pit.
Carley Broom as Agnetha and Katy Summer as Frida really strutted their stuff, with lots and lots of hand-jive, while Daniel Dibdin as Benny banged out tune after tune on his keyboards and the ever-smiling Mark Thomas as Björn — the group’s mellow rhythm guitarist and the least demonstrative of the four — quietly strummed chords while flamboyant lead guitarist Manolo Polidario, dynamic bass guitarist Pablo Roberts, and rocky-steady drummer Ryan Aston provided brilliant backup, some fiery guitar solos, a thumping bass line, and some nifty rat-a-tat-tat.
This crowd-pleasing tribute concert opens with a brief overture, followed by a frisky version of “Waterloo,” which won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest and was the group’s first big hit. Next came four of ABBA's most familiar numbers: “Voulez-Vous”; “Knowing Me, Knowing You”; “Mamma Mia”; and “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.” After an energetic instrumental interlude (“Intermezzo No. 1”), the ABBA impersonators again hit all the right notes with “Money, Money, Money”; “I’ve Been Waiting for You”; “Fernando”; and “I Have a Dream.” They closed Act I with a rollicking rendition of “Take a Chance on Me.”
Act II cranked up with “Lay All Your Love on Me”; and then shifted into high gear with “The Name of the Game,” “Chiquitita,” “The Winner Takes It All,” “S.O.S.,” “Super Trouper,” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).” The concert closed with a rousing rendition of — what else — ”Dancing Queen.” Then the group powered through two terrific encores: “Thank You for the Music,” with a sweet solo by Carley Broom, and a “Mamma Mia” reprise that left many Broadway Series South patrons hoping that, like The Beatles tribute show Rain before it, ABBA Mania will parlay this splendid one-night stand into a week-long engagement in 2010.