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Theatre / Mamma Mia!

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"Typical, isn't it? You wait 20 years for a dad and then three come along at once. "

Mamma Mia! is a hit stage musical based around the music of ABBA. It was made into a 2008 film starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters and Dominic Cooper.

The plot: 20-year-old Sophie (Seyfried) is the daughter of single mom and former rock star Donna (Streep). Sophie is getting married to Skye (Cooper) and wants her father to be at her wedding; unfortunately, she doesn't know who her father is, as Donna never told her. Donna herself doesn't even know, having slept with three guys right around the time she became pregnant: Sam (Brosnan), Harry (Firth) and Bill (Skarsgård). Sophie invites all three possible dads to her wedding to try and find her natural father.

Throw in a Greek island, the other two members of Donna's former girl group (Baranski and Walters) and a dozen ABBA songs, and Hilarity Ensues.


A sequel to the film, titled Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, was released in July of 2018.

Mamma Mia contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Bill Austin becomes Bill Anderson in the film, since he's played by Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: The film came out in 2008, though the original stage musical premiered in 1999. 20-year-old Sophie is explicitly said to have been conceived "at the end of flower power", i.e. the early sixties to late seventies. This and the fact that the musical seems to take place during internet adoption time, what with Sky's advertising venture, clocks the action in at the early to mid nineties. In the stage musical, Sky also mentions the drachma ("You have to move with the times, Donna. No more drachmas under the mattress."), Greece's currency prior to the Euro replacing it in 2001.
    • The stage version is indirectly stated to take place in 2000. While the year of Donna's diary entries is not mentioned in the film, the stage version has Sophie point out that the diary is from 1979, and as the three potential fathers recount their last encounters with Donna, all three of them say that they last saw her "21 years ago". In the first year of the London production, the diary was from 1978, which set the musical in the then-present year 1999. After 2000, the diary remained dated 1979 to avoid leaving the 1970's decade.
    • The sequel slams the nail in the coffin at the film taking place in 2000. In 1979, 19 year old Donna gets pregnant and Sofia is born in 1980 (which fits with "the end of flower power") and she's 20 in the film, so that places Mamma Mia in 2000 and Here We Go Again in 2005 (despite the film featuring technology such as iPhones that were not around until later)
  • Artistic License – Traditional Christianity: Judging from how he's vested, if the priest isn't Catholic, then he's Orthodox. Either way, you'd expect he would refuse to marry Sam to Donna, as he had just revealed that he had gotten divorced.
    • The priest has an Irish accent (the actor's own) and a line of dialogue seems to imply Donna, or at least her mother was Catholic so it is probably intended to be a Catholic wedding.
  • Audience Participation: On stage, audience members are encouraged to sing, clap, and dance along. About a month and a half after the film's U.S. release, Universal shipped out a "sing-along" version with the lyrics appearing on screen.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • In the stage musical, during the song "I Do, I Do, I Do", Rosie hands her camera to the orchestra conductor to take a photo of the cast. At the end of the song, Rosie throws the wedding bouquet to the conductor after she and Tanya refused it.
    • In the film's closing sequence, Donna looks towards the camera and asks the audience, "Do you want another one?!" before singing "Waterloo".
  • But Not Too Gay: Harry and his boyfriend get maybe half a minute of screentime, on a generous count, and they don't kiss or anything, but tango off.
  • Call-Back: At the beginning, Rosie describes herself as a lone wolf. Bill describes himself as the same later on, which is the cue she needs to pursue him.
  • The Cameo: Benny Andersson appears as a piano player during "Dancing Queen." Bjorn Ulvaeus appears as a member of the Greek Pantheon during "Waterloo."
  • Chick Flick: The fifth highest-grossing film of 2008, and targeted at female audiences to boot!
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Pretty much the entire "Take A Chance On Me" sequence. Rosie gets Bill and Harry tangos with his boyfriend.
  • Creator Cameo: Benny Andersson is the pianist in "Dancing Queen".
  • Deuteragonist: The movie is just as much about Donna as it is about Sophie. After all, what director on Earth is going to cast Meryl Streep in a supporting role?
  • Disappeared Dad: Sophie wanting to determine which of three men is her father drives the plot of the film and musical. She never does learn which is the one, but in the end she's happy to have all three as her "dads" and vice-versa, and one of them, Sam, becomes her stepfather.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: In many stage productions, Sophie goes barefoot in the opening scene and many others. In the film, she is a barefoot bride (seen in posters and the end of the scene where Sky picks her up.
  • Easily Forgiven: Nobody seems to mind that Sophie abruptly cancels the wedding, especially her fiancé. It helps that she doesn’t break up with him, just that she isn’t ready to settle down on the island with marriage just yet, and a wedding still takes place with Donna and Sam deciding to get married instead.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The whole show takes place over 2 days, with the intermission (if you're watching the stage version) taking place overnight.
  • Fanservice: Provides plenty in the form of Domininc Cooper's Sky who spends the majority of the film in either half unbuttoned shirts, or just not shirt at all. He also sings Lay All Your Love On Me shirtless before being lifted and thrown into the sea by dozens of other young, fit men all of whom are wearing nothing but tight swim shorts and snorkles. There's also a few moments from Piers Brosnan that can count.
  • Gene Hunting: Sophie is trying to find her biological father, hence the wedding invitations to her mother's three flings.
  • Genki Girl: Sophie, and the older women despite their age, are quite energetic.
  • Greek Chorus: Literally! A chorus of Greek extras chimes in as the background vocals during the musical numbers, and it is staged in a way that looks like they're commenting on the characters' predicaments.
  • Hollywood Night: "I Have A Dream" and several other "night" scenes are well-lit enough to see the actors' faces.
  • Honorary Uncle: Rosie and Tanya are "Aunt Rosie" and "Aunt Tanya" to Sophie. They're her mother's closest friends and knew her growing up. In the beginning she greets both fondly.
  • Jukebox Musical: A Gene Hunting plot on a Greek island with ABBA songs peppered in.
  • No Bisexuals: Harry is oftentimes referred to as "gay" among fans and the filmmakers, despite saying that Donna was the only woman he ever loved, which implies that he may be bi with a preference for men. To what extent Harry likes women is pretty unclear.
  • Once an Episode: There's a big gap in the song "I Do" in which all eyes go to the character being exhorted to make the vows. At least one audience member will keep singing.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: After the bachelorette party, both Bill and Harry are trying to tell the other that they found out that they're Sophie's father (at least that's what they think). However, Bill thinks Harry is trying to Come Out to him, while Harry thinks Bill is trying to admit to hooking up Rosie.
  • Pair the Spares: Not in a relationship sense, but in the stage musical, Tanya and Harry bow together and are often paired together for any dancing in the finale, because Sam/Donna and Bill/Rosie have paired off romantically. The same applies to the film.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • The entire chain of misunderstandings running throughout the film is set up by Sophie inviting her three potential Dads to the wedding without telling anyone else, and insisting that they not tell anyone else that she invited them.
    • The movie's background is set up by young Sam leaving to return to his fiancee without telling Donna that he was only returning to call off the wedding and turn right around and come back to her. If he'd told her that before he left, presumably she'd have waited for him instead of shacking up with two other men on the rebound.
  • Power Trio: Actually four of them—Donna and the Dynamos; Sophie, Lisa and Ali; the three possible dads; and Sky, Pepper, and Eddie, at least in the stage version. In the film, Pepper and Eddie are not seen bonding with Sky as much as in the original production.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Harry gives Donna a check of Undisclosed Funds to cover Sophie's wedding, Donna exclaims, "Holy shit!" in the stage version, the only scripted profanity in the production. In the film, it is downplayed to a Big "WHAT?!" reaction.
  • Rule of Funny: One review described the film as the closest thing we'll ever come to seeing A-list celebrities doing drunken karaoke.
  • Shout-Out: "Bright, Harry Bright" (as James Bond is standing next to him, no less!)
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Way toward the Idealism end. The three potential dads are all good men who are willing to step up, the Greek natives are all friendly and welcoming, there is No Antagonist, and everything works out neatly in the end.
  • Silly Song: Just how many of those songs actually advance the story or tell us something important about the characters?
  • Slut-Shaming: Averted! Donna slept with three different men in a short enough period of time that any of them could potentially be Sophie's father, but this isn't presented as a moral failing. Sophie would like to know who her father is, but she openly states that Donna could've slept with hundreds of men for all she cares. The only person who judges Donna for it is Donna's own mother, who is not part of her life — and, according to Donna's friends, was a deeply unpleasant woman, anyway.
  • Stealth Pun: Oh right, ha ha, those guys singing in the background are a Greek Chorus. Lampshaded by:
    Rosie: It's very Greek.
  • Titled After the Song: Named after the song "Mamma Mia"
  • Title Drop: They sing the movie's title in the line "Mamma Mia, here I go again…". Plus the movie is about a mother/daughter relationship and how it would be affected by the addition of another parent.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When Sophie thinks Donna wants to cancel the wedding, she goes off and promises to "do it right" and not follow Donna's footsteps of not doing "the whole marriage-and-babies thing".
    Sophie: I love Sky and I want to be with him! And I don't want my children growing up not knowing who their father is, because it's crap!
  • True Blue Femininity: During the Dancing Queen sequence, all the women are donning blue pieces of clothing.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: After the bachelorette party, Donna/Sophie is fretting to Rosie & Tanya/Ali & Lisa over the three-dads-present issue. Rosie & Tanya/Ali & Lisa decide to take the men out fishing to keep them distracted.

Alternative Title(s): Mamma Mia


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