Once upon a time, long before 'Mama Mia' took to stage and screen, there was another Abba musical called Abbacadabra. Revolving around a bunch of characters from different fairy tales, Alain and Daniel Boublil rewrote the lyrics to many Abba songs to fit the fairy tail figures. There was a French TV version in 1983 that managed to cast Abba's own Frida in the part of Cinderella, while the English stage version starred Elaine Page. In 1984 Will Hoebee and Joost Timp did their own translation and a Dutch version was committed to vinyl. Tros Television broadcast a TV version appeared on TROS television the following year, featuring all but one of the LP's cast but cutting out two characters from the original musical (Alice and Bluebeard) and simplifying the entire show considerably.
A robot narrates the proceedings in a dull monotone (as Robots do). Four children have to stay late and clean the book case at school. They drop all the books and as if by magic, the following fairy tale characters appear: Snowwhite, Little Red Riding hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Pinocchio, Alladin and Cinderella. They immediately start singing "Wij Zijn Vrij" (to the tune of "The Visitors") while the teenagers just stand there and occasionally help out with the chorus. The robot goes on to explain how an evil fairy (Marga Scheide, one third of the trio 'Luv') trapped the nicer characters in a book. The only way to defeat the evil fairy is by seeking her out in the fairy tale forest and using the magic spell 'AbbaCaDabra'. Of course before we get to this confrontation, each of the fairy taler's gets to a personal Abba tune to sing.
A brilliantly cast Nico Haak appears as Pinokkio (singing about his nose to the tune of "Money Money Money"). For some reason the wooden puppet who is famous for having no strings attached has some wire strung from his arms to his legs. Snow white is played by José Hoebee (the second member of Luv to appear, unfortunately Patty Brard wasn't available) and sings a song about her being vain. Co-writer Joost Timp appears as Alladin, but only because Willem Duyn who did this number on the record was too fat and hairy to play the part. Quizmaster Ron Brandsteder presumably got the part of the Big Bad Wolf because of his baritone voice and two meters plus stature. The entire group even skips onto a real castle location where Benny Neyman as Prince Charming wakes Cinderella (Bonnie St. Claire) out of her 100 year slumber with a kiss (as well as a song). All the while, the evil one is keeping track of the goodies by monitoring them on video with her helper, the puppet of a crow.
Each song is presented as a music video. Unfortunately, just about every one is framed by crudely animated drawings to go along with the lyrics and an overdose of unnecessary split screen. Now I usually enjoy split screen effects, as long as they are used for a reason. The original 'Thomas Crown Affair' and 'Sisters' are good examples of how to use the effect by showing two thing happening in different places simultaneously. However, when the screen is being filled with different angles of the same thing like Angl Lee did in his Hulk movie, the effect is used to fill the screen instead of telling a story. In the case of Abbacadabra, it was probably meant to distract from the limitations of the forest set. It must also be noted that the four kids who are dragged into the story really don't seem to be enjoying themselves at all judging from their expressions and body language.
Of course I'm looking at the clips from this show available on Youtube with a different mindset then I was back in 1985. When I first saw this show on television, the sight of famous people dressing up in fairy tale costumes was enough for me to hold my attention and I was probably impressed by the split screen effects as well. In fact, I would rather watch this entire show again for nostalgia's sake than sit through 'Mama Mia'.
7 out of 10
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