When ‘Nikos Taverna’ opened its doors for the Mamma Mia! The Party premiere in Stockholm, the four former ABBA members, Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad, were all there to help kick off the event.
The evening got underway at 6pm, it was dark and minus 7 degrees outside but that didn’t stop ABBA fans from lining the pavement in the hope of seeing members of the Swedish supergroup arrive. Nearby, inside a specially erected (and heated!) marquee, the equally excited press jostled for space alongside the deep blue ‘Red Carpet’.
The first to arrive was Frida, accompanied by her long-term partner Henry Smith. Benny and his wife Mona followed shortly behind them. A rumour circulated that Agnetha had slipped in through another door, but at just after 7pm, she too made her entrance along the carpet. Björn’s arrival with wife Lena completed the set.
All four spent time posing for photos and answering questions from the waiting journalists before making their way into Gröna Lund’s recently converted Tyrol restaurant.
The premiere was also attended by Benny Andersson’s sons Peter and Ludvig, Björn and Agnetha’s son Christian and Björn’s daughters Emma and Anna. The star studded guest list included Görel Hanser, Micke B Tretow, Tommy Körberg, Helen Sjöholm, Gunilla Backman, Judy Cramer, Catherine Johnson, Matthias Hansson, Ingemarie Halling, Björn Borg, Alcazar
… and a handful of lucky fans.
Upon entering ‘Nikos’, the invited guests were greeted by Greek Gods bearing trays of Ouzo shots, before being shown to their tables.
Inside, the temperature was that of a Greek summer evening. Vines trailed the crumbling walls, fountains danced and the air was heavy with the scent of olive trees and jasmine. As the evening progressed, the light gradually faded as the sun went down and candles began to flicker.
A three course Mediterranean style meal, consisting of bread, dips, salads, platters of grilled meat and fish, potatoes and roasted vegetables, rounded off with a yoghurt and honey pannacotta was served to the tables.
While the guests enjoyed their food, the show took place around them. There is no stage, instead, the talented and vocally strong cast (led by Sisse Eriksson from the original Swedish production of Mamma Mia!), delivered their dialogue, sang and danced between the tables on the restaurant floor.
The actors often engaged with the guests and encouraged audience interaction. From the first bar of the first song everyone was singing and clapping along…Agnetha and Frida included! Sitting together on a table to one side of the room, the pair could clearly be seen holding hands and singing the harmonies to the ABBA tracks that they made famous.
Benny and Björn sat at neighbouring tables surrounded by family and close friends.
The show was split into three acts to allow for the service of food and drinks, but there was never a dull moment. During the breaks, the audience was entertained by performers in Cirque du Soleil style.
“As the four of us are here, Agnetha and I think we should do something” – Frida
Towards the end of the final act, ‘ABBA’ suddenly rose from their chairs, pushed their way through the crowded room and stepped up on to a small, raised, dance platform. The premiere audience went wild with whoops of delight and disbelief as the four stood together on stage smiling and waving at them.
Afterwards, Benny told icethesite that the, already iconic, moment had not been planned.
“It was entirely impromptu,” he said. “And it was the girls’ idea! Frida came over to me during the show and said: “As the four of us are here, Agnetha and I think we should do something”. I said “Yeah, why not, so we spoke to Björn and that is how it happened”.
Following the performance, tables were cleared and the restaurant transformed into a nightclub. Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Frida watched on from a first floor balcony as guests partied below.
Although the songs in Mamma Mia! The Party are all sung in English, the dialogue during Mamma Mia! The Party is currently only performed in Swedish. However, Björn has said that he is working on an English script translation and that he hopes to have an English language version of the show ready by Spring, in time for many international visitors to Stockholm for Eurovision 2016.
If the Stockholm production is a success, Mamma Mia! The Party may roll out to other cities around the world.