samedi 21 décembre 2013

ABBAcadabra: 30th Anniversary

In late 1984, Bonnie St. Claire and José Hoebee (who had already scored a hit ("Cassandra") as "Bonnie & José" on Holland's Top 40) were cast for the Dutch version of "ABBAcadabra", a musical based on songs from ABBA's repertoire. This ambitious project was initially French....

The original project (1983/1984)

In 1983, the members of ABBA broke up after dominating the charts for almost ten years. At the time, the media and the public were not ready for a revival of interest in the group's music. Two French songwriters and record producers, Alain and Daniel Boublil, conceived a children's musical entitled "ABBAcadabra" based on songs from the "Swedish Fab Four". Alain Boublil, the lyricist of "Les Misérables", knew the pop quartet from the days he worked for "Disques Vogues", a Parisian label which distributed ABBA records in France in the 1970s and early 1980s. He even produced the French version of "The Winner Takes it All" known as "Bravo Tu As Gagné" and performed by Mireille Mathieu (featuring Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus & Frida Lyngstad as background vocalists). Boublil approached ABBA's manager Stig Anderson to ask permission for his opus. The musical was produced for French television and targeted a young public. It was the perfect program for Christmas Holidays. The first episode aired on TF1 on December 21st, 1983. 

The original cast of "ABBAcadabra" (including Frida, Daniel Balavoine & Plastic Bertrand)

Daniel Balavoine & Frida

Plastic Bertrand

The story was based on classic fairy tales like "Sleeping Beauty", "Cinderella", "Pinocchio", "Snow White" and others. The original cast featured famous singers in France like Fabienne Thibeault, Daniel Balavoine and Plastic BertrandFrida was invited to play the part of "Belle au bois dormant" (Sleeping Beauty and recorded "Belle" (a cover of ABBA's 1976 instrumental track "Arrival") as a duet with Daniel Balavoine. A funny fact: French feminist politician and member of the Council of Paris Clémentine Autain (who was then 10 years old) was part of the cast. 

"Belle" (Arrival) performed by Daniel Balavoine & Frida

A soundtrack album, entitled "ABBAcadabra: Conte musical" was released simultaneously. According to liner notes on the album cover, arrangements and musical direction were provided by Raymond Donnez and production by Alain Boublil with assistance by Donnez, Daniel Boublil and Françoise Pourcel. The album was released by WEA Filipacchi Music in France and WEA Music of Canada in Québec.

A follow-up LP entitled "La fusée de Noé" came out in 1984. It featured the legendary singer Henri Salvador, the humorist Michel Leeb and the French TV personality Stéphane Collaro.

The English version (1983/1984)

Cameron Mackintosh (who was in charge of the West End and Broadway musical "Cats") decided to produce an English version of the show with lyrics by David Wood, Mike Batt and Don Black. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus in association with Wood and Black wrote a new song "I Am The Seeker." Frida recorded "Time," the English version of "Belle"/"Arrival" as a duet with B. A. Robertson.

Frida & B.A Robertson performing "Time" (Arrival) 

The musical premiered on December 13th, 1983 at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in London to mixed reviews and full houses for 8 weeks, closing on January 21st, 1984. Among the actors were Elaine Paige, Michael Praed, Finola Hughes, B.A. Robertson, and Jenna Russell. Elaine Paige recorded "Like An Image Passing By" a cover of ABBA's "My Love, My Life".

The Dutch version (1984/1985)

José's husband, Will Hoebee and Joost Timp translated "ABBAcadabra" in Dutch and supervised the recording sessions. Among the performers were José (Snow White), Marga Scheide (Carabosse), Bonnie St. Claire (Sleeping Beauty), Ron Brandsteder (Werewolf) and Benny Neyman (Prince). Indisc released the Dutch LP in the Netherlands and Belgium in late 1984. TROS TV channel broadcast the musical on March 16th, 1985.

José as "Snow White"

The Dutch cast including Marga, José, Ron Brandsteder, Benny Neyman and Bonnie St. Claire

Marga Scheide as "Carabosse"


Marga & Ron Brandsteder

ABBAcadabra on TROS (March 1985)

The Portugese version (1984)

The musical was also adapted in Portugese.

Portugese version of ABBAcadabra


Source:, Wikipedia, Beeld en Geluid, YouTube,

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