Abba-Rama! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader


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Abba-Rama!, Factory Theater. There's something terribly wrong with the state of modern theater (or with me) when a poorly sung, sloppily choreographed, thrown-together musical revue is a great deal more entertaining than what can be found on the stages of some of the city's most accomplished and ambitious companies. Then again, why criticize a theater group that sets a goal for itself and follows through on it? Never mind that the goal is to perform a really silly, dumb tribute to/lampoon of the still shockingly awful Swedish synth-pop supergroup Abba, who topped the charts in the 70s and 80s with hit after nauseating hit, blazing a trail for yet more heinous popsters like Nena and Roxette.

Styling this satirical/nostalgic revue as a cross between a low-rent Beatlemania! and the late, lamented TV variety show Solid Gold, writer-director-performer Amy Seeley leads her sextet of weak-voiced, none-too-fleet-footed Abba-Rama! Singers through all the band's major ditties--"Fernando," "Dancing Queen," "The Winner Takes It All"--interspersed with intentionally vacuous, overblown monologues about Abba's place in history. "Take a Chance on Me," for example, is introduced as the "theme song for a rebellious generation."

Though it's often impossible to hear the singers over Jeff Shivar's wittily cheesy but overamplified Casio keyboard arrangements, Sean Abley's moronic, always amusing and sometimes hysterical choreography brims with infectious goofiness. One wishes that Seeley and Factory Theater had chosen a less obvious target for their distinctive brand of lowbrow comedy, but savaging this show for lack of ambition would be like criticizing Abba for their lyrics.

--Adam Langer


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