You may have heard of a little musical quartet called ABBA. The Swedish band, who won Eurovision and have sold nearly 400 million albums worldwide, are still loved by many, despite going their separate ways in the 1980s... until now. In 2021, they released a new album, ABBA Voyage, and announced a reunion tour (well, sort of) to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
So, as ABBA Mania hits London once again, here's where to release your inner Dancing Queen in the capital.
ABBA Voyage, Stratford
You have to be some sort of musical legend to have an entire stadium constructed specifically for your latest show — specially when you're not actually going to be there yourself. But that's the situation with ABBA Voyage, the stage show opening in Stratford in May 2022.
The 10-piece band is live, but Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid themselves take the form of avatars (ABBAtars, surely?), "blurring the lines between the real and the digital". What exactly this will look like is still under wraps at time of writing, but it's not a new idea — virtual band Gorillaz have been performing concerts as holograms since the late '90s, though technology has no doubt moved on since then.
As for that stadium, you may have seen it if you've travelled between central London and Stratford recently — it's right next to Pudding Mill Lane DLR. The stadium is a hexagonal, slate grey structure with the band's logo stamped on the front in white, with room for 3,000 people inside. The timber structure is designed to be temporary, with permission to be there for the next five years — though whether the show will run for this long remains to be seen.
No, ABBA weren't singing about Britain's erstwhile busiest railway station — though others have. The 1974 Eurovision Song Contest winner was invoking the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, using it as a metaphor for a romantic relationship. The station too, is named after the nearby Waterloo Bridge, which was named for the battle, so there are parallels. While many a weary commuter may identify with the lyrics "I was defeated, you won the war" after the 7.37am to London Waterloo is delayed yet again, we can't see many regular travellers humming to themselves "promise to love you forever more" as they pass through the sizeable terminus.
The wider Waterloo area was almost home to an ABBA-themed restaurant, with plans overseen by Bjorn Ulvaeus himself, but local residents sent out an S.O.S. with concerns over noise, and the fact that it was due to be built on land put aside for social housing. So the plans were shelved, and instead we got...
Mamma Mia! The Party
If a record-breaking West End musical isn't lively enough for you, Take A Chance on Mamma Mia! The Party. Again, Björn Ulvaeus is on board as Executive Producer of the interactive dining experience, which is set at Nikos Taverna on the Greek island of Skopelos (handily located in North Greenwich). As you tuck into Greek food, a story unfolds around you (not the same story as the musical and the film), with an all-singing, all-dancing cast, and the audience invited to join in — an ideal night out for Dancing Queens. Quite the experience, though you'll need plenty of Money, Money, Money — the cheapest tickets will set you back £100 per person.
Mamma Mia! The Musical
Musical Mamma Mia! has been going strong in London for more than two decades. It premiered in 1999, and has enlivened three different theatres (Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, Novello) in that time. It's conquered more than 40 countries worldwide, and been turned into a film, with a sequel. It's still playing today, offering Londoners a chance to see ABBA's greatest hits used in a story about a young girl on a Greek island trying to find out the identity of her father before she herself gets married. ABBA members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus were involved in the development of the show.
ABBA tribute band, Mania
In the mood for an ABBA-themed night out? Take A Chance on Mania, one of several ABBA-themed tribute bands. The production was created in 1999, and did 18 weeks at Strand Theatre in the West End in 2002. These days they tour all over the place, performing at regional venues and theatres, occasionally coming to the capital. Keep an eye on their tour dates for upcoming shows.
ABBA Bottomless Brunch at Blame Gloria
Bottomless booze in the Name Of The Game at Covent Garden cocktail bar Blame Gloria, which hosts a regular ABBA bottomless brunch. West End stars and a drag host team up for 2.5 hours of ABBA hits, with themed costumes encouraged. Drink your way through bottomless cocktails, choose a dish from the brunch menu, and dance the afternoon away.
Similarly, nearby sister venue Escapologist Bar offers a Mamma Mia bottomless brunch — similar vibe, similar menu, similar cocktails.
In ABBA's footsteps in London
Despite ABBA's ongoing international fame and following, the band were predominantly active for only 10 years, between 1972 and 1982. No plaques commemorate the band's brief spells in the capital — though there is one at the Brighton Dome, the site of their 1974 Eurovision victory — and as far as we know, none of their memorabilia is on display in any London museum. These locations in the capital do have link to the Swedish group though:
- Royal Albert Hall: ABBA performed two gigs here in February 1977, as part of a European and Australian tour — London was their final stop before jetting off Down Under. Both shows sold out, with 3.5 million people trying to get hold of tickets. Mamma Mia!
- Wembley Arena: ABBA's only other major performances in London took place at Wembley Arena on 5-10 November 1977. The concert recording was released as an album in 2014.
- BBC Television Centre, White City: In November 1982, around the time the band announced their split, they appeared on UK TV shows Saturday Superstore and The Late, Late Breakfast Show to promote compilation album The Singles: The First Ten Years. The shows were filmed at the BBC Television Centre in White City.
- Lyric Hammersmith Theatre: Though not a show featuring the band themselves, the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre hosted an eight-week run of Abbacadabra, a French children's musical featuring ABBA music, translated into English and starring the likes of Elaine Paige and Nigel Harman. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus were involved in the production, which ran December 1983-January 1984.
- Earl's Court: In 2010, the now-demolished exhibition centre hosted ABBAWORLD, a touring exhibition dedicated to the band which received mainly positive reviews over its two-month run.
- The O2: Similarly, Super Troupers was another exhibition dedicated to the band, running December 2019-August 2020.
- Ealing Studios: This west London music studio is where the band reunited in September 2020, to work on ABBA Voyage, taking part in filming to allow their avatars to be created.
Also look out for Muriel's Wedding: The Musical. Based on the 1994 Australian film of the same name about ABBA fan Muriel Heslop, the musical has been shown in Australia and was due to arrive in London in 2021, a plan presumably hampered by Covid. It's all gone quiet, so don't expect to see it arriving in the capital anytime soon, but maybe one day.