Thursday, December 6, 2007

You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life.....

Ooooh see that girl, watch that scene....

Can you sing the next few lyrics?

If you can - and there's a strong chance of it - then you know the song that's been playing in my head for the last couple of days.

Okay, some history.

My childhood and teenage years revolved around a small Catholic girls' school in Singapore, graduating about 80 or so girls each year. Many of us in were in the very same class from ages 4 to 16. As Plato noted, "you can learn more about a [person] in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation." And so it was with us - besides classroom learning, we played sports, embroidered, sang in choirs, said rosaries, played pranks, and experienced our first kitchen disasters together. (Oh, all right - the kitchen disasters were MINE.) Together we went to camp, to woodwork and metalwork, acted in plays, debated, told jokes and conspired on April Fool's practical jokes. Yes, we got to know another very well indeed.

During my last couple of years there at Marymount, we all loved the songs of ABBA. At any opportunity you'd hear someone breaking out in one of those catchy tunes, only to be joined in a moment by a spontaneous a capella backup group. We all loved those songs! I remember one teacher, otherwise immune to the charms of the Swedish sensation, saying dryly: "Well, at least they know how to enunciate PROPERLY." There you go - ABBA had something for everyone! (Though I'm fairly certain this teacher's halting approval came before ABBA released Gimme Gimme Gimme!)

On field trips we'd entertain ourselves merrily singing these hits. It seemed we never tired of songs such as these:

I'd say the girl who knew the songs best was Christina, she with the encyclopedic knowledge of music in general, and an astounding memory for melodies and lyrics.

On Monday I flew to Las Vegas to meet up with her for the first time in over fourteen years.

Delays kept me from arriving until 6 that evening. When I got to the hotel, there was a message for me: "Be at the Mandalay by 7 - I have tickets to Mamma Mia!!!"

So I turned on my heels, marched out of the hotel and down the Strip, up one escalator and down another, weaving my way on foot and by city bus till I got to the Mandalay. More walking within that enormous complex before I found the theater. Searching the crowd, I spotted Christina and called out to her - and we ran to each other, squealing in the delighted way that two old friends would after a long time apart. (Okay, women friends - I doubt men would squeal!)

We know each other so well that right away we were chatting and laughing as if no time at all had passed.

In a moment we were in the theater.

As you probably know, Mamma Mia is the hit musical based on ABBA's hit songs. So here we were, us old friends, listening to the very songs that were the soundtrack of our teenage years. Not only that - one of the early scenes features old friends reuniting after a long absence.

We couldn't have choreographed a better setting for our reunion!!

Clearly, we were not the only people in that huge theater to lift our voices. Christina's formidable mental database of ABBA lyrics has not diminished in the least. It was the ultimate sing-a-long event.

The plot: On the eve of her wedding, a daughter tries to discover the identity of her father by inviting her mother's three old flames to the Greek island where they shared friendships - and obviously, somewhat more - some 20 years earlier.

It was nice to hear those songs again with fresh ears, and in some cases, different contexts and interpretations. Also nice to hear the lyrics now as as a fortysomething: The Winner Takes it All was surprisingly affecting. Lyrics of "Does Your Mother Know" were revised to give the song a totally new, post-Demi-Moore-Ashton-Kutcher face.

"Mamma Mia" was much like ABBA's music - by turns lively, sentimental, driving, introspective, corny, wistful - but always tuneful and FUN. Oh yes, it was wonderfully bawdy at times. And who doesn't love a musical that ends in a wedding?

I'm going to get myself some ABBA CDs. Good to remember the days of being a "dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen" - even if that particular ship of mine has longggggg sailed - and the port decommissioned, I might add.

Thank goodness one's friends and memories keep us young at heart.

Oh, by the way - the film version of Mamma Mia is due out in summer 2008, starring Meryl Streep. As we know from the film version of A Prairie Home Companion, she has considerable singing talent.

Meantime, to help you dance and jive and feel the beat of the tambourine, are two videos. The first is the original ABBA, the second features the cast of Mamma Mia on Good Morning America. enjoy!



mb in Port Angeles said...

So, are they all 25 years older than they were in that video (like so many of the rest of us)??

For pure sound, I think I liked 'Take a Chance on Me' and 'Fernando' best. Thanks for the treat. Heading off now to look for some 'Air Supply' song samples...

Gillian Coldsnow said...

Last night I was seized with another wave of nostalgia...this time for Earth, Wind and Fire. Remember them? Coincidentally, today(Monday 12/17) on Morning Edition there was a story on the worst high school in Los Angeles, and they mentioned that a former songwriter for EWF, Reggie Andrews, runs the school's music department.

My ears perked up at the mention of Earth, Wind and Fire, and I think this afternoon I'll dig through my music collection and see if I can listen to "Fantasy," "That's the Way of the World" and "September."

Marie Glynn said...

G darling, I FINALLY read this post on ABBA/Mamma Mia. I couldn't bring myself to read it, not even for you, because I had never been especially fond of their music: I was too old when it came out.

Well, I love the film version, and am on vacation so am finally following up on things I've been putting off a long while. Your post is, as usual, very well written, absolutely hilarious. I loved your line about the ship not only sailing but the port being decommissioned. :) :)

Another of Streep's musical performances: a rockin' Country/Western anthem which makes up the closing credits to POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE.

I, too, am a fan of EWF. "That's the Way of the World" is one of my all-time favorite songs. (Amazing, from someone who never married and had kids, eh?)

See ya soon!

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