The ABBA Show
The ABBA Show
By Karen Cotton
Marie-Claire Follett has been keeping Swedish sensation ABBA’s music alive in tribute bands since she was a teenager in London. Her tribute band, The ABBA Show performed at the Cheyenne Civic Center on November fourth.
The original ABBA band hasn’t performed together for 35 years. ABBA was huge in the early 1970s and 1980s and the music is still popular today, from “Dancing Queen,” to “Mamma Mia” and “Money, Money.”
Follett and her husband Andy Marshall founded and are in The ABBA Show, a tribute band to ABBA. The California cast that Follett and Marshall are in are performing their first North American tour this winter.
Both Follett and Marshall have three casts of The ABBA show. Two are in Europe and one that works in the United States. Follett portrays ABBA’s Frida Lyngstad beside her husband, who plays Bjorn Ulvaeus in the show, the other members of the American cast include Julianne Ruck as Agnetha Faltskog and Robert Gonzalez as Benny Andersson.
Follett said in a phone interview with Sweet as Cotton Candy that she was chosen to portray Frida Lyngstad in The ABBA Show when she auditioned when she was a teenager because she had brown hair.
“The other girls were blonde,” she said. “It was as simple as that.”
Follett comes from a musical family.
“My big brother had a band and I used to watch them,” she said. “They were older than me.”
She said her brother’s band mates kept saying to him, Marie-Claire should play in the band, so eventually they persuaded him.
“They must of heard me singing around the house or at the rehearsals,” she said. “So, my first job was in the band.’
She said her brother’s band later landed a record deal. So from the age of 15 she was working and singing with them and loved singing with her brother, Emanuele Follett.
“He started a recording studio eventually,” she said. “He is still in the music business, but he just plays for fun now. He still lives in London.”
Marie-Claire and her husband moved to California because of the miserable weather in London.
“We had three years in London where we didn’t get a summer,” she said. “It rained all summer long. We had a baby and we couldn’t take the baby out. We would have to walk from building to building and we wanted to be outdoors. It was driving us crazy because we wanted an outdoor lifestyle.”
They wanted to live in America.
“We looked at places where we could work in the music industry, of course we went L.A.,” she said. “It took us two and a half years to get the right paperwork and do the move and so on. We moved to L.A. and it was everything it was supposed to be. The weather in L.A. is gorgeous all of the time and we have an outdoor lifestyle.”
Believe it or not, Follett and her husband didn’t run The ABBA Show when they first got to L.A.
“We avoided it,” she said. “We came here to do something different. We had been running the ABBA Show in England and we had been touring for a long time. When we left sold it to our friends, who run it in England. We thought we had done that and had moved on. For a couple of years we did other stuff.”
Follett did TV hosting and her husband played in tons of bands.
“People kept asking about it because we kept the website up,” she said. “We thought if people are interested and they contacted us and we got enough calls and requests, we started to think OK we have to do this. There is definitely market for this. People love ABBA.”
L.A. has a number of fabulous brilliant musicians, she added. They found a singer who was important as well.
“For a while we did local gigs, but we quickly became a theater show and we do civic centers, but we did it with resistance because we did that in England.”
She said she and her husband wanted to do something fresh and they did.
The ABBA Show’s members not only performs ABBA’s biggest hits like “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen,” “Money Money” and more, but they also have a theater show where the portray the original band member’s lives on stage.
Their show brings audiences of all ages to their shows, especially people with little kids who know the lyrics to ABBA’s hits.
“That is just incredible and it is eye opening in theaters,” she said. ‘These little kids sing to ABBA and it must be the ‘Mamma Mia’ films, one and two, have brought in a new generation and audience.
“They seem to pick up the lyrics so quickly the kids. There is a gaggle of girls up front and they are singing. People in their 70s and 80s come on get up and everybody in between 20 somethings and 30 somethings. They will dress up in 70s gear for a good time,” she said.
Of course The ABBA Show has costumes based on ABBA.
“They are direct replicas of what they have shown,” she said. “We get a ton of costume changes into there every second that we can. We go racing off stage and are putting stuff on. That’s the fun of the whole show.”
She said it depends on the size of the venue you are doing whether they have people to help
them change costumes. The bigger theaters help with costume changes
“Julianne had disasters that are worth talking about,” Follett said. “She was so rushed, she had 20 to 25 seconds maximum to have a whole new outfit on.”
She said the girls wear fabulous light up wings that they start the second set with.
“She got the hanger caught in it and she went on stage with the hanger caught in it,” she said. “She couldn’t get an arm up in it and she was floundering and she realized, oh my goodness she had a hanger stuck in it.
“We also have short dresses in one of the numbers with shorts in them,” Follett laughed. “We also wear platforms boots and one time she put both legs in one of the short legs, and she was dancing very oddly. I was like, ‘what’s going on?’ I realized she had two legs in one shorts and she even spent a few moments like that.”
Marie-Claire said The ABBA Show is like any stage show that you go and see at the theatre.
“I play the part of Frida from the minute I am on stage I am Frida,” she said. “When I talk about my life and my monologue we are the characters. We are ABBA that causes confusion sometimes. Sometimes when we do meet and greets before the show people don’t know you aren’t the original group because we do the meet and greets in character as well.”
When Marie-Claire came to California with her husband she said she had to teach the Californians in the band how to do the Swedish accent. They have even watched interviews with the original band ABBA.
“You can YouTube loads of ABBA interviews,” Marie-Claire said. “They are quite shy. We are very much bubbly.”
The original ABBA band members are all in their late 50s.
“They are quite young you see,” she said. “They look great. They were clean living pop stars, not like Aerosmith, they look like they have eaten their vegetables.”
Frida even married a prince.
“The prince of Germany and they were married in Denmark – German Prince Ruzzo,” Marie-Claire said.
Marie-Claire hasn’t ever met any of the original members of ABBA, but she said she would like to some day.