Move over, Sartre! Au revoir, Camus! Eleven years after it debuted in London, Mamma Mia! has finally arrived on the Parisian stage. French theatregoers, once less than shy about their distaste for “Anglo-Saxon” productions, are flocking in droves. More than 125,000 advance tickets were sold before the show opened last month. Of course, the lyrics have been translated—and not always seamlessly. “Mamma Mia, here I go again,” now reads “Mamma Mia, c’est la même rengaine” (“Mamma Mia, it’s the same old tune”). The confident claim to “Knowing me, knowing you” has been replaced by the more introspective “Qui je suis, qui sommes nous?” (“Who am I, who are we?”).
Though the changes were approved by ABBA co-founder Björn Ulvaeus, Gilles Médioni, musical critic for L’Express, is unconvinced. “[The audience] doesn’t know these versions,” he bemoans. “It can’t sing along, like in a concert!” Words aside, Paris’s appetite for the pop classic may signal a larger shift. Jerome Pradon, who stars as Sam in this latest production, says that Paris has finally embraced the kitsch and sparkle of musical theatre and is learning from “Anglo-American savoir faire.”