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 www.icethesite.com 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!

Kristina court case – blow by blow

According to the pair, a new script was written by Director Lars Rudolfsson and Dramatist Jan Mark before the premiere in Malmö and in under a year from being asked to.

Ulvaeus and Andersson signed a contract with Carl-Johan Seth a week before the premiere stating that it was he who had written the script for Kristina från Duvemåla – this was done so as not to risk a media scandal and to avoid negative publicity that would state that Andersson and Ulvaeus had split from or ripped off their script writer.

Benny said that he would rather have a person paid for something he had not done that have the media state that we have cheated a guy.

Seth confessed that it isn’t out of the ordinary that a Director chooses not to work with the script-writer after a script has been delivered.

After reading Seth’s script, Björn and Benny said they wondered if Seth was actually capable of writing the script. Seth countered by stating that there was no-one finer in Sweden than him.

Seth claimed that Lars Rudolfsson wanted nothing to do with him and that it was one of the reasons he left the production’s creative team.

Björn and Benny were quick to clarify that their coming to court was not because they want more money but because it was vital that Lars Rudolfsson and Jan Mark get full and fair credit and acknowledgement for their script.

Seth’s script came in for sharp criticism from Ulla Åberg, Head of the Royal Dramatic Theatre’s Drama department, who was called in as an expert witness by Benny and Björn. She said that she had studied the two scripts that were the subject of the trial, Seth’s and Rudolfsson’s. She said that they were entirely different. The story-telling and the roles within those scripts differed remarkably.

Carl-Johan Seth wanted Karl Oskar to be the main character in the musical as he deemed Kristina too boring – just being sick and having babies all the time.

Former Head of the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Ingrid Dahlberg, who between 1992 and 1993 was called in as an advisor when the musical project was in danger of collapsing, said that she spent a week with Seth in Paris in 1993 trying to persuade him to change and cut the script he had written. Eventually, she advised Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus to end the collboration. "My recommendation was that they should change the script writer and start again from the beginning."

Björn and Benny stated that the musical would never be staged again if they lose the case. Benny added that they would immediately appeal if the judgement was not in their favour.

It seemed that the warring trio agreed on only one thing during the trial, that it was Carl-Johan Seth that came up with the title Kristina från Duvemåla.

According to the original contract, author royalties are divided three ways, Benny Andersson 1/3, Björn Ulvaeus 1/3 and Carl-Johan Seth 1/3. Seth’s amount was to be further split with him receiving 70% and Moberg’s family 30%. Andersson and Ulvaeus were suing Seth to have him removed from the contract.

Carl-Johan Seth’s involvement came at the suggestion of Wilhelm Moberg’s daughter Eva.

Sources: United Press International, The Local, Dagens Nyheter, TT Spektra, Aftonbladet and Jimmy for the original translations.

Trial verdict to be announced on 23rd March

Björn and Benny have stated that if they lose the case (heard from the 6th to 8th February, 2007) that they will immediately appeal and that if they lose any subsequent appeal that they will never stage Kristina again. Instead, it may be performed in concert version only.

The court’s verdict will be announced on the 23rd March, 2007.

A summary of important points and ‘who said what’ at the trial (sourced from the Swedish press) will appear on icethesite in the next few days.

The Local.se reports on the Kristina Trial

Swedish dramatist Carl-Johan Seth claims that he wrote a script that forms the basis of the play, which is known in English simply as Kristina. Andersson and Ulvaeus claim that Seth’s original script was so bad that they called in other writers to start again from scratch.

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. The Abba stars’ case may be hampered by the fact that they signed an agreement with Seth, confirming that he was the author, one month before the premiere .

It was also 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.

The case has come to a head as the Abba pair develop plans to launch a Broadway version of the musical. Earnings from a US version could be affected by the outcome of the current case.

" Nothing is decided yet, but it would be nice to have all the paperwork in order before we start talking with other parties," said Andersson.

The case continues at Stockholm District Court on Wednesday.

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

Frida draws her own raffle ticket!

Former ABBA singer Anni-Frid Lyngstad was left embarrassed at a London charity auction last Thursday (14 Sept. 06) when she drew her own winning raffle ticket.

The Waterloo star was at an event in aid of the Sam Buxton Sunflower Healing Trust alongside stars including Deep Purple rocker Ian Paice.

However, when she selected her own ticket the kind-hearted star immediately tore it up. An onlooker says, "She was rather shocked but she thought it was funny and made a joke about it.

"However, she graciously said she could never accept the prize and tore up her ticket and drew another one so someone else could win. It was a lovely gesture."

Frida at the 2006 Sunflower Jam event in London Frida at the 2006 Sunflower Jam event in London (2)

Many thanks to Colin Collier for the amazing pictures. 

PR Inside – Frida Story