Sunday, 12 May 2013

Hitkrant, 1984: Abbacadabra, a fairy-tale in videoland

In this festive new year's time, the first real ABBA musical 'Abbacadabra' had its premiere at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith in London. This fairy-like spectacle is part one of Björn and Benny's double project that won't be completed until the spring of 1985. We were in first row.

Björn and Benny are calling 'Abbacadabra' a musical adventure. It's a story about a couple of children playing a video game, in which they have to take a number of characters to the castle of the good fairy, while all of a sudden meeting these fairy-tale figures in reality. To stage this big spectacle, Björn and Benny made an appeal to a number of well-known employees. A familiar face was recruited for the female lead: Elaine Paige, the British girl that was about to give up her singing and acting career for a job as a nurse. When she suddenly succeeded in getting the leading role of Evita in Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice's musical, she realised that her future actually was in show business.
Apart from Elaine, B.A. Robertson is playing an important part in 'Abbacadabra' too. Things had been very quiet around this Scottish singer since his 1979 hit record 'Bang Bang'. And except for his striking nose, he actually seemed to be completely forgotten. So he was over the moon when he found out that Björn and Benny were looking for the leading male part in 'Abbacadabra' and they actually had him in mind for the job. I'm sure we won't have to introduce the third eye-catcher in 'Abbacadabra'. Indeed, Finola Hughes is the fantastic dancer John Travolta falls in love with in 'Staying Alive'.
The music for 'Abbacadabra' was composed completely by the magic ABBA composers duo. The repertoire not only consists of well-known ABBA songs but a number of songs have been composed especially for the occasion. Mike Batt was hired for the orchestration of the project. You might recognise his name from Art Garfunkel's beautiful ballad 'Bright Eyes'. The interest for the first few performances of the show in London was overwhelming. That's undoubtedly an encouraging sign for Björn and Benny who now are very busy with their next musical 'Chess' of which a double album is planned to be released in the autumn of 1984. For the live performance of 'Chess' we will have to be patient until early '85. But there's no doubt about it, 'Abbacadabra' and 'Chess' will probably turn out to be extremely successful, just like ABBA's previous projects.

Elaine Paige/'Like An Image Passing By'/Polydor 817 2887
This song was released under the title 'My Love, My Life' on the ABBA album 'Arrival'. Now it is featured in 'Abbacadabra' with adapted lyrics and performed by Elaine Paige. I think it completely falls flat. It's almost a violation of the original version. I wonder what Agnetha - who sings the original version - thinks of this bad cover version.


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