As my boyfriend said last night, “There really is an ABBA song for any situation.” Mamma Mia! was fantastic, and we had incredible front-row orchestra seats, giving us great views of the shirtless boys in the chorus (though perhaps a little too close a view of one of the leading lady’s cellulite, as she straddled an inflatable mattress while wearing a skirt slit in four places).
Yesterday evening started off potentially distastrous; at 4:00 a “crisis” was dumped on me at work, and I called Jeff to let him know that while I was sure I’d make it to the theater by the time curtain was to rise at 8, I wasn’t at all confident I’d make it to dinner at Les Halles beforehand. But a rush of adrenaline had me working like a madman and out of the office only about a half hour later than usual, getting me to the restaurant at 6:00 sharp, about three minutes even before Jeff. After quickly venting about the past two days at work, I settled into my food and the evening quickly went uphill from there.
Originally Jeff had suggested a pre-theater dinner at either Les Halles or another restaurant whose name now escapes me. I hadn’t eaten at Les Halles in nearly ten years, so I decided I wanted to go there. After making that decision, though, I started seeing a number of reviews suggesting that the restaurant had gone badly astray since then, and I almost recommended to Jeff at the last minute that we go elsewhere. But our service was attentive and helpful (if the actual food delivery were sometimes a little slower than it should have been), and the food was excellent. From the pre-theater prix fixe menu I had the mesclun salade and their famous hangar steak and frites (some of the best fries I’ve eaten). Dessert on the pre-theater menu was listed as a choice of either profiteroles or gateau, and I was leaning toward the former; our server, though, brought out the regular dessert menus and told us we could choose anything from the one side, which included an incredible selection of mousses, tarts and other confections. After some discussion with the server, I eventually decided on a caramel mousse meringue, which I almost skipped over because the written description was short and bland. Her description, though, made it sound much more interesting, and it was an amazing dessert: a caramel mousse on top of a fluffy meringue, all encased in an upside-down chocolate shell (which the menu failed to mention altogether), highlighted with a caramel sauce and bits of toffee. I was in heaven.
A half-block walk to the theater found us ensconced comfortably in our front-row seats by 7:45, overlooking the orchestra pit (containing four keyboards, two guitars and a drum set, all that’s really needed for ABBA music). When the curtain rose, at first I thought I might be disappointed, as the short prologue, featuring three 20-somethings and a fairly spartan stage, felt like it might as well be a high-school play. Early in Act One, though, the music really kicked in, the stage design proved to be elegantly simple yet evocative, the actors well-cast and giving some excellent performances, and I started grooving and loving it (the costuming, especially, was inspired). By the time the shirtless groom and his best pals showed up to bust a move, it was just yummy icing on a cake I was already digging.
And I think that the curtain calls for Mamma Mia! may be the most fun and engaging I’ve seen; I felt nearly like I were at a disco rather than at a theater, and practically the entire audience was on its feet, dancing and singing along with the reprise of several of the best-known ABBA singles from the show.
Dancing queens, indeed. So, ABBA and cast, thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing. And thanks for a wonderful night’s entertainment that helped me forget completely, for at least a few hours, this hellish week at work.