LOOKING back, it seemed such a simple idea. So why had no-one though of it before?
Well why wouldn’t you turn the smash hit singalong songs of Swedish band Abba into a musical?
Clever Judy Craymer did just that and in the 13 years since Mamma Mia! was launched in London (we are talking the musical here guys, not the Meryl movie) it has been seen by 45 million people in more than 300 cities. And no, I didn’t do the counting.
Now Judy has taken a chance on Mandarin with a Chinese version of the show. It opened in Shanghai this week to the expected hysteria. Mamma Mia indeed!
For anyone who has watched the film in the company of nine-year-old girls and their mums, you know how it can turn the most unexpected people into uninhibited happy, clappy songsters who blast out Waterloo nose to nose.
How that will play with a country whose population is often portrayed as reserved remains to be seen.
But for those who like the stats – and you just hope Judy does – this new version marks the musical’s 14th different language production.
China was always going to be a tough nut to crack. Though it has a massive cultural tradition, grand opera may be more its musical style. Light-hearted Western style musicals don’t quite cut it.
So with few Super Trouper artists, musicians and theatre technicians in China used to staging commercial musicals, Dancing Queen Judy had her work cut out.
She’s spent six years working with the Chinese to get what the experts say is the first major West End or Broadway musical translated into Chinese with an all-Chinese cast.
Plan A is to tour Mamma Mia! for at least a year. Plan B is to tour more of mainland China next year before heading to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Singapore.
There’s plenty to go at given that China’s population is more than 1.3 billion and that music Seventies’ Abba style is hard to resist, especially when the economic song playing is The Winner Takes It All.
China’s great cultural tradition is about to get a shot of Money, Money, Money which will certainly be music to the ears of those running the world’s second largest economy.
As for Judy, she’s said to have another project up her sleeve – Viva Forever – a musical based on the story and music of the Spice Girls.
Can’t imagine how that will translate in anybody’s language.