Monthly Archives: June 2019

ABBA in the Theatre

ABBA entered the world of the theatre when Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, along with lyricist Tim Rice, wrote their first musical, Chess. Chess proved to be a cult hit around the world, producing the hit singles, “One Night In Bangkok” and “I Know Him So Well.”

It was Judy Craymer, the executive producer of Chess, who first recognized the inherent theatricality of ABBA’s pop songs. “The Winner Takes It All” suggested to her “the rollercoaster of love and loss,” she said, “It was extraordinarily theatrical.” She slowly began to work on her idea, sitting on the floor of her apartment, she remembers, “listening to ABBA’s records late into the night.” She commissioned award-winning playwright Catherine Johnson to create the story, insisting that the musical have an original and contemporary story, interwoven with the existing songs, rather than being simply a tribute show to ABBA.

Craymer then hired director Phyllida Lloyd. Craymer later wrote that having this trio of powerful women leading a major musical venture –an unusual thing in the world of theatre –helped to create the strong female characters of MAMMA MIA! On April 6, 1999 (the anniversary of ABBA’s win at the Eurovision Song Contest 25 years earlier), MAMMA MIA! opened at London’s Prince Edward Theatre. “We really had no idea how it was going to be received, “said Craymer, “The audience went wild. They were literally out of their seats and singing and dancing in
the aisles…”

From there, it went on to the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, Canada, and then to Broadway, to the Winter Garden Theatre in 2001, where it opened with one of the biggest advance sales in theatre history. MAMMA MIA! has gone on to become one of the most popular theatre productions in history, having been seen by over 30 million people around the world. There are currently more productions of MAMMA MIA! playing than any other musical. Each and every night, 17,000 people around the world see ABBA’s breathtaking music come to vivid life right in front of them, live on stage.

By |June 26th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Behind the Scenes: An Interview with Choreographer Nicol Spinola

How would you describe what you do?

My job as a choreographer is to create all of the movement and dance that you see in a show. I work closely with the director to create work that supports the story we are telling.

What’s a typical work week like?

During rehearsals, we work six days a week – eight and a half hours a day. Once we get closer to show time, we start working longer days at the theatre in order to add all of the technical elements of the show like the costumes, lights and the set.

How did you get started?

My mom put me into dance when I was a little girl and I loved it. When I was 13, my musical theatre teacher cast me in a show and I fell in love with musical theatre. I was always interested in the choreography aspect of the show and after high school started to assist local choreographers on different productions. Eventually, I was offered my own show and have been working professionally ever since.

What is most challenging about what you do?

I think the most challenging aspect of my job is taking the music and lyrics and converting them into movement that supports the story. My job is to make every performer look great on stage so working within their skill set to create movement and dancing that they can do well and looks great.

Can you talk a little bit about the different dance styles in this production?

This show is filled with a mix of styles! You are going to see a lot of classic jazz, street jazz, ballroom and of course, Disco.

When did you begin choreographing? Tell us about your first experience.

I started choreographing when I was 15 years old for students at the dance school I attended. Since then, I’ve gone on to choreograph many competition pieces for different dance groups on the lower mainland and children’s theatre. My first professional choreography job was with Theatre Under the Stars and their production of Mary Poppins. It was a huge production with over 30 members in the cast. It was both challenging and exciting.

What is your process like? Are you driven by the music first or a specific concept?

I think it is a bit of both. When I am first starting to create choreography, I often sit down and listen to the music and write down the things I am imagining. I work with the script and the director to create and really understand the story and how we are going to tell it, and then create movement that aligns with the story and the vision for the show. I then get on my feet and start physically working out what each dance step will be and where all of the performers will be standing on stage.

What is your favorite genre to choreograph?

I really enjoy choreographing classic tap pieces. It’s fun to come up with different rhythms that add to the music.

Do you have a favorite routine in this show?

There are so many great pieces in the show. I am actually a really big ABBA fan so it’s been a blast getting to listen to their music every day. If I had to pick, Voulez Vous is one of my favourites.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Being here in Chemanius and getting to create theatre in such a beautiful location is very special. I hope that audiences enjoy Mamma Mia as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it.

By |June 7th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments