Last night, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus brought to the Albert Hall a less jocular musical. But if Kristina, presented here in a one-off concert, can be a little intense, there’s still music to be thankful for.
Based on a novel, it’s the tale of a group of emigrants leaving Sweden for the US, and it all centres on the saintly wife Kristina (Helen Sjöholm).
The immigrants hope, fear and suffer vocally but it’s not an action-packed tale. The music sprawls regardless of the drama, and the lyrics spend a lot of time filling space between events.
But no ABBA-related venture would be complete without inneffably wonky lyrics, and Andersson’s music (Ulvaeus contributed only as lyricist) can incite tingles, combining the familiar soundscape of Eighties musicals with hints of Baltic and American folk.
There are also a couple of stonking tunes, the best being Kristina’s Gesthemane moment You Have To Be There, which Sjöholm makes the evening’s highlight.
True, the relentless portentousness can grate, or lead to comic disparities of sound and subject matter: witness the violent number about nits at sea. But few last night were expecting subtlety.
Let’s see if it make the West End.
Review by Kieron Quirke.