Everyone says it's hardest to write about something one truly likes, and it occurred to us, listening to ABBA Gold for inspiration, that it just might be true. Benny and Björn from ABBA have created a widely successful musical around the hits of their former band. Regarding Mamma Mia!, it's not the story or the musical itself that's so difficult to expound on. It's the ABBA connection. We grew up on the four-member music sensation around which floated all sorts of stories; one being that they didn't speak English and had no idea what they were singing--we loved that. Our slightly embarrassing fan status should allow for miles of words on the intriguing and infectious melodies that just about anyone could recall and hum on command. But if anything, the musical scares us. Having gone quickly out of our "musical phase," we shiver at the thought of impostors singing the songs meant for Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid. Even with the B's behind this box-office phenomenon, it's doubtful that the show's fun is anything compared with our preteen discovery of the band itself. Granted, we hope some newbies will indeed get a taste of the Swedish splendor, but it hurts our heart a bit that such exposure surrounds a stage-bound story.
A Greek mother is just marrying off her daughter when three men visit her for the first time in 20-odd years from her past. They're the three possible fathers of her daughter. It has a sweet script that was written to fit in with the songs, but the hits may take on an entirely new meaning. At least when used in the 1994 film Muriel's Wedding, the ABBA-laden soundtrack was just an accent, an addition that strengthened the characters and the movement. That's what we hope happens with Mamma Mia! If the script by playwright Catherine Johnson is as well-written as the audiences and media say, we shouldn't have anything to worry about, and ABBA's mystical lure will remain unscathed. But true to our obsession, we'll risk it. Hell, either ecstatic or severely depressed when the curtain closes, we can always go home to our well-worn LPs. Help us see the magic at the Music Hall at Fair Park from September 30 to October 19. Tickets are $27.50 to $74.50. Call Ticketmaster at 214-631-ARTS. --Merritt Martin
Just Do-si-do It
Trudy Fair is a local cowgirl and a cowboy singer. She's come to it just recently, recording and producing her own tapes on her farm in Weatherford. She's passionate about the old, authentic cowboy songs, the kind before country and western. "I can sing the shit out of Patsy Cline," she says, "but I don't." She prefers to keep Patsy Montana and her ilk alive, and Fair is a sought-after entertainer at cowboy gatherings across Texas. Maybe Fort Worth choreographer and dance company founder Bruce Wood got jazzed about cowboy songs later in life, too. He's a modern dance guru, but he's created, directed and choreographed Cowboy Songs for the Bruce Wood Dance Company accompanied by singer Michael Martin Murphey. A performance of Cowboy Songs kicks off the Eisemann Center's first anniversary at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Hill Performance Hall. With a seven-piece band and 12 energetic dancers who get a showstopping workout, Cowboy Songs includes 30 musical numbers covering hits by Patsy Montana, Lyle Lovett, Sons of the San Joaquin Valley and Wylie and the Wild West, among others. Tickets are $15 to $55 and available at the Eisemann Center Box Office in the Galatyn Park Urban Center, 2351 Performance Drive, Richardson. Call 972-744-4650. --Annabelle Massey Helber
Anita N. Martinez offers more than footsteps
When gathering information about Tuesday's Celebration of Mexican Independence at the Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm St., this writer of European heritage felt that a mere press release was inadequate in understanding the Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico performance. Thus, I began a journey to learn the story of Dieciséis de Septiembre, as in September 16, 1810. I started by asking my buddy Jimmy, who gave me a glare and told me he was from Puerto Rico. Then I turned to a fellow Observer writer, who reminded me she was from Honduras. I almost called my former Spanish professors, but I remembered they were from Argentina and Spain. I trudged on, learning that the folk dance performance would feature a variety of traditional dances from all over the country, from northern Baja California Sur to southern Guerrero. The program advertises its educational value, and based on my experience, it looks like this show is sorely needed. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for kids and can be purchased by calling 214-880-0137. --Sam Machkovech
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Home on the Range
How 'bout giving Starvation & the Car Thieves, Rap Daddy Cool Papa and the Barbie Brittany Explosion a rest for a weekend and sample the music your mom and pop sang along to when they were kids? Back in Hollywood's black-and-white, B-western movie era, few entertainers could match the legendary Gene Autry, the "Singing Cowboy" from Tioga, who gave us "Back in the Saddle Again," "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" and even the kiddie holiday classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." He also starred in 95 matinee shoot-'em-ups in which he never once lost his hat or a fight with the bad guy. On September 26 and September 27, he'll be remembered at his hometown's Gene Autry Music Festival with singing, dancing, cowboy poetry reading, vintage movies, rope tricks, gunfighter shows and food straight from the chuck wagon. And it's all for a $5 admission. Festivities run from 6 p.m. to midnight Friday and 7 a.m. to midnight Saturday. The event is a fund-raiser to help restore the historic home Autry lived in as a youngster. Call 1-866-408-4642. --Carlton Stowers