“Mamma Mia!” is still going strong 20 years after its April 6, 1999, debut at London’s Prince Edward Theatre. The longevity is a testament to the band ABBA and to the persistence of producer Judy Craymer, director Phyllida Lloyd and writer Catherine Johnson. The stage musical opened with low expectations; in 1983, another tribute to the Swedish quartet, named “Abbacadabra,” closed eight weeks after its debut. Plus, “Mamma Mia!” had been in workshops for 18 months, with Johnson the third writer on the project (she did seven drafts). Eight months after the debut, Variety reported that the show was “a financial gusher,” making back its £3 million ($4.8 million) cost in 27 weeks, and boasting an advance of nearly $13 million. The stage musical has earned an estimated $4 billion, and that’s not counting income from the two films. When it opened, Lloyd said: “We hope to create pure pleasure. We’re not splitting the atom.”
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