Oh, Mama Mia...

Let me preface this post by saying I was not a big fan nor that familiar with the music of ABBA. I could hum along with most of the top hits but I never owned an ABBA album nor seen the stage show.

Those in the know, realize that I am always eager to see and support any movie musical that is released. Yet, for the film version of Mamma Mia!, my logical mind said viewing would have to wait till after our move-- but something was impelling me to see the film and to see it this week. In fact, I invited Don and Sunshine to join me this morning for the early matinee before we began our day of packing.

All my life movie musicals and Broadway shows have held special places in my heart for the significance and relevance they always gave to me. Musicals not only sparked my creative flames and desires, they freed my little theatrical soul where I learned so much about life from hearing the songs and watching the dances. And yes, I did grow up with a slightly skewed expectation that the rest of the world would interact in musical interludes, production numbers and spontaneous terpsichorean outbursts because that is what I knew and how I was inclined to express. Alas, such was not usually the case and disillusionment set in early on.

As I began to mature and participate in 'real life' and the musical movies began to wane and I was left to singing along to all the Broadway soundtracks to myself when cleaning the house or driving. Lately, there has been a resurgence of the movie musical both on stage (beyond just revivals) and on screen. Rent and Hairspray come to mind-- and y'all have already heard how many times I have seen each in theatres and on DVD.

Along comes Mama Mia! with a very powerful, albeit at-first-glance, eclectic cast. I don't have a clue what to expect from the libretto and settle in for a pleasant musical divertissement. Almost instantly, I am taken in by the playfulness, sweetness and exuberant joy that the film exudes. I find that I am bouncing up and down, clapping, laughing and having a great time. When whammo -- the story whirls around and whacks me up the side of the head where I have been most tender of late, the memories of my mother. I had already had a Mama Meltdown two days ago when I came across a photo of her and I began bawling. "This will be my first birthday without her; and no wonder I had forgotten it was my birthday because it is also the anniversary of her death and...and... " and the violins played on.

Here is Donna (played to perfection by Meryl Streep) a single-mom whose daughter longs to know the identity of her father before her wedding day. OK, I do know who my father was but he was not in my life. Then the film had all the mother-daughter stuff that unfolds right before the wedding which called forth all the emotions and the experience of having just got married without having either mother or father there and you can fill in the rest even if you haven't been reading my blog already over the past nine months. Crap. I am sobbing hard and heavy in the middle of the movie, in the middle of the theatre, sitting in the middle of Sunshine and Don and totally relating to the big screen. (Thankfully, Sunshine had been impelled earlier to bring me a huge stack of napkins from the concession stand because I hadn't gotten all teary at the trailers).

Once again, the movie musical was babysitting this latch-key kid with a larger-than-life fairy tale from which I could relate and learn. It confirmed one of the lessons I have been preaching over the past few years about the ability to experience both joy and grief simultaneously and be okay with them coexisting.

Safely sandwiched between Don and Sunshine, I was able to let the emotions flow and emerge on the other side to where the music and dancing once again entranced me to "my happy place." And yes, the film also reignited my desire to be singing and dancing again. I always told two of my colleagues that I wanted to create the All Singing, All Dancing Church of Religious Science....look out Chico, here I come.

"So I say
Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing

Thanks for all the joy
they're bringing

Who can live without it,
I ask in all honesty

What would life be?

Without a song or a dance
what are we?


So I say thank you for the music

For giving it to me


Mother says I was a dancer
before I could walk

She says I began to sing
long before I could talk

And I've often wondered,
how did it all start?
Who found out that nothing
can capture a heart
Like a melody can?

Well, whoever it was,
I'm a fan



So I say

Thank you for the music,
the songs I'm singing

Thanks for all the joy they're bringing

Who can live without it,
I ask in all honesty

What would life be?

Without a song or a dance
what are we?


So I say thank you for the music

For giving it to me

I've been so lucky,
I am the girl with reddish hair

I wanna sing it out to everybody

What a joy, what a life, what a chance!

So I say
Thank you for the music,
the songs I'm singing

Thanks for all the joy they're bringing
Who can live without it,
I ask in all honesty

What would life be?

Without a song or a dance what are we?

So I say thank you for the music

For giving it to me."
ABBA

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