Benny’s USA Kristina concert plans for 2008

With a full orchestra, choir and cast, it will be a chance for America to witness the music of Kristina without the huge risks involved in a theatrical run.

I imagine that gauging reaction to the concert will give Benny and Björn an opportunity to decide whether the theatrical or concert route is the right one to take for America.

It seems that doing the Broadway workshop in March of last year, with the very barest of accompaniment, allowed the creative team an opportunity to get across the story at the heart of Kristina från Duvemåla. Now, with the planned orchestral concert version, America will finally get to hear the music in all its splendour.

The appeal lodged by Carl-Johan Seth is not seen by Benny as an influencing factor on the future of the show. Instead, there is work to do to re-shape the musical for its non-Swedish audiences. That will take time and right now (and until well into 2008), Benny is committed to work on the soundtrack of the Mamma Mia! movie.

“Sad doesn’t sell” – money men’s verdict on Kristina

Abba send an SOS

Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, once the male, more bearded half of Abba, were determined to follow up their hugely successful Mamma Mia! with another West End musical.

They duly approached Herbie Kretzmer, the great lyricist of Les Miserables. Benny and Bjorn wanted to see if he could write the lyrics for the English version of Kristina, a musical they had written in Swedish about emigrants.

The plight of Kristina and her family, poor farmers who swap famine in Sweden for poverty in America, had packed them in – in Stockholm. But all that Scandinavian gloom did not play well with the money men. After seeing a workshop, the potential financiers declared that sad doesn’t sell. Herbie begs to differ.

Les Miserables is a tearjerker that is the West End’s longest-running musical, and his next venture, Marguerite, is about a courtesan who dies of TB in her lover’s arms. Let the money men see sense and bring on Kristina.

The Observer – Kristina article

Carl-Johan Seth lodges Kristina appeal

The Stockholm district court ruled March 23 that Seth’s script was not used when the musical Kristina from Duvemala premiered in 1995.

The musical was about Swedes who emigrated to the United States in the 1800s, and was based on a series of books by writer Vilhelm Moberg.

The court further ruled that the former ABBA duo did not have to pay royalties to Seth. In his appeal, Seth maintained that he has right to credits and future royalty payments.

With a planned launch on Broadway a good run there could generate sizeable earnings. Previous efforts to solve the matter out of court have failed.

Seth was contracted in 1991 but Andersson and Ulvaeus said in early 1995 the script was not good enough and had to reworked, hiring director Lars Rudfolfsson and dramaturgist Jan Mark to do that.

The court said Mark and Rudolfsson wrote the version used on stage.

Seth has received some 5 million kronor (700,000 dollars) from productions in Sweden. In 2005, Ulvaeus told a hearing that the payments to Seth were made to get peace and quiet around the musical.

The musical has been translated into English and has the title Kristina.

After ABBA stopped recording and touring, Andersson and Ulvaeus continued to collaborate. They composed the popular musical Chess and have recently scored success with the musical Mamma Mia.

Björn and Benny win Kristina case

The court decided that although Seth wrote a manuscript entitled Kristina från Duvemåla, it is not his manuscript that has been used in the musical of that name.  The manuscript used in the musical has been written by Lars Rudolfsson and Jan Mark.  According to the court, the two manuscripts are so unlike each other, that they can’t be said to be similar for copyright purposes.

Carl-Johan Seth has no copyright claim for Kristina från Duvemåla. Therefore Benny & Björn are not obliged to pay him any royalties.

Staffen Michelson, Carl-Johan Seth’s attorney said that his client was naturally deeply disappointed with the court’s decision and plans to appeal.

Andersson and Ulvaeus claimed that Seth’s original Kristina manuscript was not good enough and although they hired him originally, he was replaced by Lars Rudolfsson (the show’s director) and Jan Mark who wrote a new script.  Seth claimed that his work still featured in the show when it ran in Sweden.

The decision by the court means that the show will now have the opportunity to chase success in America.  Benny Andersson has said that had Björn and he lost the case, the theatrical production would never be performed again and only concert versions would be allowed.

Until any appeals have been lodged, the future of the show is not 100% confirmed but today’s decision is a huge step in the right direction.

Dagens Nyheter

The Local’s Kristina court case report

Abba stars Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus have won a court case surrounding the authorship of their musical ‘Kristina från Duvemåla’. Friday’s verdict is the latest development in a 15-year dispute with dramatist Carl-Johan Seth. Stockholm District Court ruled that while Seth had written a script called ‘Kristina från Duvemåla’, it was not this script that was eventually used for the musical, known in English simply as ‘Kristina’. Andersson and Ulvaeus have claimed that Seth’s original script was so bad that they called in other writers to start again from scratch.

The court agreed with Andersson and Ulvaeus that the final script was written by director Lars Rudolfsson and dramatist Jan Mark. As such, Seth has no claims to the copyright and the Abba pair are not obliged to pay him any royalties.

It was previously revealed in court documents that Seth received a payment of 5 million kronor, which Andersson and Ulvaeus say they paid simply to guarantee peace and quiet. Seth worked with Andersson and Ulvaeus for several years at the beginning of the 1990s. His job was to create an outline story for the musical. A number of Seth’s previous colleagues testified under oath that his script was unusable and that Rudolfsson and Mark penned the version that was used in the musical.

But Seth argued that their involvement was just a standard revision of his script, pointing out that the former Abba members signed an agreement with him confirming that he was the author shortly before the premiere. Seth was named as scriptwriter in the programme for the world premiere in Malmö in 1995, but has since then not been acknowledged in any publicity for the musical.

After a quick look at the verdict, Carl-Johan Seth’s lawyer, Staffan Michelson, immediately indicated that his client would appeal. "The district court has made an extraordinarily peculiar interpretation that the parties agreed on something other than the musical that premiered eight days later," he said.

Had the verdict gone against them, Andersson and Ulvaeus explained that the musical would never again be performed on stage. The case came to a head as the Abba pair developed plans to launch a Broadway version of the musical. Earnings from a US version could be affected by the outcome of the current case. ‘Kristina’ tells the story of a poverty-stricken Swedish family and their migration to American in the nineteenth century.

The musical received a rapturous reception in Sweden, and was seen by over a million people, compared with 847,000 who saw the the Swedish version of the Abba stars’ international success ‘Mamma Mia’.

The Local

Will Andersson and Ulvaeus’ Kristina make it to Broadway?

A court case involving script rights for the Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson musical Kristina från Duvemåla will determine the musical’s Broadway future. 

The dispute is between Andersson and Ulvaeus and Carl-Johan Seth, who wrote the musical’s original libretto.  The ABBA legends claim that a new script was written by director Lars Rudolfsson and dramatist Jan Mark before the premiere in Malmö, Sweden under a year from being asked to.

A decision will be made by a judge on March 23rd.  If Andersson and Ulvaeus lose, the show will only be allowed to be performed in concert productions. If they win, they hope to try the show out in Minneapolis this fall with a Spring 2008 Broadway opening.

Kristina Från Duvemåla, an epic musical about Swedish immigrants and their new life in North America, based on a series of novels by Vilhelm Moberg, premiered in Malmö, Sweden on October 7th, 1995. "In all, it is reported than in a country of just over 9 million inhabitants, more than 1 million saw Kristina during its performances in Malmö, Göteborg and Stockholm," according to the Andersson and Ulvaeus fan website. In 1996, the show was presented in concert form in Minnesota.

Known worldwide for their hits with the pop group ABBA, Andersson and Ulvaeus also co-wrote the musical Chess. Their songs for ABBA can be heard in the hit Broadway musical Mamma Mia!.

Visit for more information on the court case about Kristina, as well as for more information on the musical and on Andersson and Ulvaeus.

Broadway World

Kristina commentary and thoughts….

If Benny and Björn were to lose the court case and any subsequent appeal (which they have stated that they would automatically make if the court’s decision was not in their favour), Kristina would only ever be performed in future in its concert incarnation.

One would imagine that this decision would not necessarily preclude any Kristina concerts in English. Faced with the possibility of never seeing the staged musical in English in all its glory, a concert version might be all we (Kristina fans) ever get to witness of the show. For Kristina fans who don’t speak Swedish, this is really pretty sad.

However, it’s not the worst thing that could happen to the show’s future…which would be, I would imagine, no more public performances in any way, shape or form in any language. Which is why, as disappointing as the producers deciding never to stage the theatrical show in English would be, it won’t necessarily be the end of Kristina.

Benny and Björn’s reason, as reported in the Swedish media, for not staging the full musical again is that Lars Rudolfsson and Jan Mark, whom they state wrote the script that was actually used for every performance of Kristina från Duvemåla, would not receive just recognition and reward for doing so.

Only the most self-centered and deluded Kristina fan would deny that this would be appropriate action for Benny and Björn to take, and fully in keeping with the fact that they have taken the matter to court at all. They want the matter sorted, so that Kristina‘s future can be assured in whatever form that may take.

Because I love this musical, because I’d love to see it launched upon the English-speaking world in its full form and because I would love to see deserved praise heaped upon Messrs. Ulvaeus and Andersson (and Mark and Rudolfsson – if you choose to believe Benny and Björn), then I hope that Carl-Johan Seth is deemed by the court to be making false claims.

If not, then the concert version (in English too, please) will have to do.

Or maybe the court will decide in no-one’s favour completely and we’ll end up with Act One in its fully staged theatrical production version…..and Act Two in concert!