Ahhh ... Abba. The Swedish pop supergroup that did disco better than any American ever could, amassing scores of catchy Top 10 hits including "Dancing Queen," "Waterloo," and "S.O.S.," selling more than 300 million records worldwide from 1971 until its 1983 demise, and spawning tribute bands such as the wonderfully named Bjorn Again. You've got to respect them. Offered one billion dollars from a British-American consortium in 2000 to embark on a 100-city tour, the dignified quartet declined, preferring not to squeeze back into their brightly colored satin and risk making fools of themselves onstage. All we have are the memories -- and the albums.
Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Agnetha Faltskog, the two A's in Abba, went on to less illustrious solo careers and lives of leisure. But Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, the two B's and the gals' former husbands, remained a team and kept busy, working in the early Eighties with Tim Rice (Andrew Lloyd Webber's frequent collaborator) on the hit musical Chess. That show produced the hit "One Night in Bangkok" but alas offered no Abba tunes. Fans had to wait until 1995 when the feel-good movie Muriel's Wedding hit screens, reminding the world of the mood-raising music that once was and spawning a new generation of fans.
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Perhaps inspired by that success, Benny and Bjorn lent their talents and more than twenty Abba tunes to the musical Mamma Mia!, which opened in London's West End in 1999 and continues to play. Set far from Sweden on a mythical Greek island, the story centers on the adventures of a wistful 40-something single mother and her romantic, about-to-be-married daughter. Opened last year at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre and playing to near-capacity houses, the spectacle has generated two box-office-breaking national touring companies as well as troupes performing in Australia and Canada. Late this year, productions are slated to open in Germany and Japan. Just goes to show that even if it doesn't tour, Abba continues to make "Money, Money, Money."