When, in 1974, ABBA stormed Eurovision with their smash hit entry, ‘Waterloo’, I was five years old. By the time they split, I owned five of their eight studio albums – fair to say this little girl was a huge fan of the phenomenally successful Swedish group. My daughter is now eleven and most of her knowledge of ABBA comes from the film ‘Mamma-Mia’ and, no doubt, from listening to Breeze radio at my parents’ house. A keen singer and learning to play the keyboard, she turned out to be the perfect companion on my trip down memory lane in the form of ‘Arrival – the Hits of Abba’ at our very local Playhouse, Weston-super-Mare.
Flares and glitter aplenty, the show, unsurprisingly, kicked off with the aforementioned song that first beamed Agnetha, Anni-Frid (Frida), Benny and Bjorn into millions of European homes live from Brighton Dome that spring night in ’74. Sarah’s (Agnetha) vigour and friendliness and Mark’s (Benny) bounce from behind the keyboard inform us from the off that this is going to be a fun night. Joey’s (Bjorn) polka straight, thick blond hair adds an element of comedy to the proceedings (I’m not sure if it’s supposed to: I kept having flashbacks to Gervais’ David Brent, Noel Fielding, Matt Lucas, Phoenix Nights, whenever I looked at him) and the corresponding videos to the songs projected behind the group, in which the guys on stage replace the original ABBA, are so earnest that they’re almost hilarious. Västerbottensost is us.
Mark is a very talented pianist and Joey is everything you’d need from a guitarist, while the ‘girls’, changing costumes at whirlwind speed, offer vocals that are, at times, eerily similar to those they are imitating. Visually, Sara Jane (Frida) easily bares the closest resemblance to her counterpart, in both looks and moves, and when she sings ‘The Name of the Game’ and ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’, it becomes obvious that she has Frida’s depth of voice too. Sarah shines with ‘The Winner Takes it All’ and the men do an impressive harmonising job on ‘Take a Chance’ (when Benny and Bjorn for real did this, it always looked tricky). Towards the end of the show, I was lamenting the fact that ‘Does Your Mother Know’ wasn’t going to get a look in, so thanks Mark for performing it with such fantastic energy. Special mention should be made of support in the form of Kev because I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen a bass player have such a good time - in his own special Chuckle Brothers way.
This show is full of joy and nostalgia and I would definitely go again. The dances, the songs, the outfits, the videos – it’s all there. There was only one song that I didn’t know every single word to and by the end of the evening I was up wiggling my hips and twirling my fingers to, naturally, ‘Dancing Queen’.
Arrival are fun. All the way.
Find out what’s coming up at The Playhouse, Weston here
For more information on Arrival, see their website