Facts on the Musical "Mamma Mia"

by James Rutter

The jukebox musical "Mamma Mia!" opened on Broadway on October 18, 2001 after a two-year run on London's West End. This musical features songs written by the hit 1970s pop group ABBA. It tells the story of Donna, an American expatriate who is living in Greece and planning the wedding of her daughter, Sophie. Hits from the show include "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me," and the title song, "Mamma Mia!"

Creative Team

British playwright Catherine Johnson penned the book to this show and created a plot that would incorporate ABBA's existing songbook. ABBA members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson composed and wrote the lyrics to all the songs in "Mamma Mia!" Although not a part of ABBA, Stig Anderson also contributed lyrics to some of the songs. Phyllida Lloyd directed both the original London and Broadway productions. Anthony van Laast provided the choreography for both stagings. Mark Thompson designed the sets and costumes, and Howard Harrison created the lighting design.

Background and Rising Action

"Mamma Mia!" opens with 20-year-old Sophie reading Donna's diary a few weeks before her marriage to Sky. She never knew her father, and discovers from the diary that he could be one of three men -- an American named Sam, a Brit named Harry and a Swede named Bill. Sophie invites all of them to the wedding. Her mother's friends arrive on the same day as the three potential fathers. During Sophie's bachelorette party, each of the three men gets drunk and claims to be Sophie's dad. Sam and Bill attempt romance with Donna and her friend Rosie, respectively.

Complications and Resolution

The next day, Sophie and her mother fight. When Sam tries to console Donna, she reveals that she still resents him for leaving her 20 years ago. Sky accuses Sophie of agreeing to marry him simply to discover who her dad is, and the pair fights. At the wedding, Donna admits that the father is in the audience, but Sophie calls off her engagement, saying she is too young to marry, even though she still stays with Sky. Not wanting to waste all the expenses laid out for the ceremony, Sam admits that he still loves Donna and asks her to marry him.

Original Cast

The original cast in London differed from the original Broadway cast, and only the London cast released an original cast recording of the musical. In London, Siobhan McCarthy and Lisa Stokke played the roles of Donna and Sophie, respectively. Andrew Langtree played Sky and Jenny Galloway performed as Rosie. Hilton McRae played Sam, Paul Clarkson performed as Harry and Nicolas Colicos played the role of Bill. On Broadway, Louise Pitre played Donna and Tina Maddigan played Sophie. Judy Kaye portrayed Rosie and Joe Machota portrayed Sky. David W. Keeley, Ken Marks and Dean Nolen played Sam, Harry and Bill, respectively.


"Mamma Mia!" has played worldwide in more than a dozen languages in professional and touring productions. In May 2011, this musical reached the 4,000 consecutive productions milestone in New York, making it the 11th longest-running production in Broadway history. The original Broadway production received five Tony Award nominations, including a nod for Best Book and Best Musical. In 2008, director Lloyd and writer Johnson turned "Mamma Mia!" into a film starring Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, Meryl Streep as Donna and Pierce Brosnan as Sam. The movie has grossed over $500 million worldwide.

About the Author

Since 2005, James Rutter has worked as a freelance journalist for print and Internet publications, including the “News of Delaware County,” “Main Line Times” and Broad Street Review. As a former chemist, college professor and competitive weightlifter, he writes about science, education and exercise. Rutter earned a B.A. in philosophy and biology from Albright College and studied philosophy and cognitive science at Temple University.