1. The average age of the 1,300 audience members is 57. The average color is white. You sit among 1,300 middle-aged white women who are excited to return to the youth of the music of ABBA in staged dramatic form.
2. You see a few haggard men accompanying said women, but they would have preferred to stay at the Holiday Inn Courtyard bar or The Cheesecake Factory drinking $3 happy hour Long Island Iced Tea specials and dropping coconut shrimp into their gullets. Instead, they are here with their wives – so dutiful; these are the marriages that last. They – you – are stuffed into red velour seats and your kneecaps brush the aqua-netted globe of the coifs of the women in front of you.
3. The theatrical cavern fills with the sound of approximately 2,600 Danskos tapping to familiar synth. It would lay Michael Flatley flat out with the syncopated perfection of it all.
4. Next to you is an over-exuberant woman who is Mamma Mia!’s biggest fan (her words). She’s seen it twelve times. She lists where she has seen them, but all you hear is “Paducah.” She shows you her shirt. It reads “I Am a Dancing Queen!” I had it made! she tells you. She likes to dance in her seat. Every time she shimmies, the entire row shakes. And every time she taps her feet, they crush your toes and your soul little by little.
5. “Oh youth!” these women seem to think as they clap along to “Super Trouper.” They used to be troupers. Super troupers. They used to be dancing queens. And then they open their mouths and sing.
6. The global warming ramifications of the collective hot flash when the young, virile men appear on stage is immediately noticeable. Young men in purple wetsuits. Young men in purple wetsuits with flippers. Young men in purple wetsuits with flippers and snorkels. Young men in purple wetsuits with flippers and snorkels and prominent abs. Many of them. All the abs. They prance around and the uproar of laughter is a tidal wave. You are swatted multiple times by a Playbill as the dancing queen beside you fans herself.
7. At intermission, these women pat the legs of their husbands, whose eyes have fallen closed and whose paunches have been let out over their waistbands. The men are dragged, half-drunk on the vicarious nostalgia, to the bar and the gift stand. Do they choose the turquoise tee that reads Mamma Mia! in silver across the chest that flares out perfectly to accentuate a feminine waist? Or the tie-dye hooded sweatshirt? The women agonize. Some settle on a small teddy bear with Mamma Mia! emblazoned on a tiny white T-shirt. What bear wears a T-shirt? What bear would go see Mamma Mia!? They’d go see Hamilton, at the very least.
8. You are disappointed there is no Colin Firth and realize, to your dismay, that you’ve become invested. Rookie mistake.
9. The last song is sung. And to your surprise, slowly, one by one, each woman stands. She pulls at her husband’s collar, jostling him from slumber. It’s a standing ovation. They are clapping and stamping their sensible shoes and you think you know what it might feel like in Pamplona.
10. As you walk out, snippets of songs smack your ears. You don’t hate the music. You did, after all, have ABBA’s Greatest Hits CD as a kid. But you feel depleted, like the women in the audience were succubi and they sucked your youth (or what’s left of it) from your mouth. You will sing “Waterloo” and “Chiquitita” for months.