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Thank You For the Music: Catherine Johnson's feminist revoicings in Mamma Mia!

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Mamma Mia! has achieved tremendous popular success by trading on a nostalgia for both the music of Abba and the feminism of the 1970s, two things that are often very much at odds. Abba's principal singers, Agnetha Fltskog and Anna-Frid Frida Lyngstad, sang the songs that their husbands wrote for them songs that frequently portrayed the women as desperate, dependent, and deeply indebted to their husbands for writing them songs at all. This article explores how librettist Catherine Johnson's strategy of re-gendering the singers and placing Abba's familiar pop songs in a narrative context (one that ends in a rejection of husbands and fathers) has subverted their original meanings, imbuing both the story and the songs themselves with a cultural feminist message that has been seen by a massive global audience.
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Keywords: Abba; Catherine Johnson; Mamma Mia!; adaptation; feminism; musical

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Washington.

Publication date: 01 November 2009

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