Amid olive trees and plenty of Abba tunes, the musical world of Mamma Mia took over a London theatre last week for the film sequel’s world premiere with Oscar winner Meryl Streep and pop diva Cher among the attendees.
Ten years after the movie version of the hit theatre musical, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again sees old faces return and new ones join the Abba sing-along set on a picturesque Greek island where stars belt out tracks by the hugely popular Swedish band.
The plot follows on from the first film, which grossed over US$600mil at the box office, but this time has flashbacks explaining how Meryl Streep’s character Donna arrived in Greece.
While fans have highly anticipated the sequel, Abba founding members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus said they were not so keen on the idea at first.
“We were kind of protective of the first one because we were very proud of it. It was very good and it became kind of a cult movie … and we thought what’s the point of risking … taking away from that legacy, so we were reluctant,” Ulvaeus said.
But the film writers’ idea of making the movie a sequel and prequel at the same time helped change their minds, he said.
“I laughed out loud many times when I read (the script’s first draft). It was funny, it was moving so we said go ahead and here we are.”
Fans cheered as Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Amanda Seyfried and Christine Baranski – who starred in the 2008 film – arrived.
The sequel’s cast additions include Lily James, who plays the younger Donna, and Cher, who portrays Donna’s mother.
Like the first film, the sequel has plenty of colourful and comic scenes. It also has touching moments, cast members said.
“It’s a great time for this movie to be out in the world, because we’re all feeling a little down about the world right now,” Baranski said.
“I think people are going to be transported to this beautiful Greek island with all these beloved characters and all these fabulous songs.”
Mamma Mia! The Musical originated more than 20 years ago and has gone on to have productions around the world with generations of fans still singing and dancing to Abba songs some 40 years after their release.
“It’s so humbling and I’m grateful but I cannot say I understand quite how that happened. It’s kind of a miracle,” Ulvaeus said of the band’s success.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we think that these songs that we wrote would last for such a long time”.
While the new film features the same A-list cast as the 2008 original, it was the introduction of Cher, playing Streep’s mother Ruby Sheridan, that made everyone starstruck.
“Acting with her was on my bucket list,” Andy Garcia said.
“The acting is one thing but the singing and all that … you have to look up to the heaven and say thank you.”
Cher was modest about the reaction, saying she was “really surprised” at how many fans had gathered to see her.
At 72, she’s only three years older than Streep, something that amused them both.
Cher was being interviewed at the premiere when Streep ran up and put her arms around her and shouted: “That’s my mummy! She’s gotten taller.”
Writer-director Ol Parker, who attended the premiere with his actress wife Thandie Newton, revealed that the majority of the cast and crew gathered to watch Cher sing Fernando.
“It was ridiculous. People brought their husbands, wives, children and dogs to watch … and there was a storm of applause.”
“Cher is a remarkably lovely person,” he added. ”She didn’t have to be. She is one of those people who is so next level. If Cher was to be a diva, she could be, but actually she’s warm, lovely and friendly.”
Baranski added: “I loved her when I was a teenager and I thought, ‘Now I’m making a movie with her.’ We got to hang out and talk about the early days of Sonny & Cher.”
Brosnan, who is back playing Sam, feels the film is “as good, if not better, than the last.” Seyfried, who plays Donna’s daughter Sophie, agreed: “I enjoyed it more than I did the first time around. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.” – Reuters
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is showing at GSC cinemas nationwide.