Zagreb Events

Mamma Mia! in Komedija Theatre in Zagreb

By 14 December 2017

A few nights ago I was invited by friends to a Mamma Mia! musical performance in Zagreb’s Komedija Theatre.

I am infamous for almost completely neglecting any and all cultural opportunities given to me, being a person living her entire life in Zagreb, so I decided to go, what the hell, I thought it would include a mulled wine or two at Zagreb Advent. It didn’t. It was raining and really dreary, so no one really wanted to go 300 meters from Komedija to the first available Advent-prepared mulled wine. But, we did watch the show. A bit (or a lot) of rain can’t stop you from doing that!

The Mamma Mia! brand has gotten its share of publicity around the world, as it has been shown in various productions in over 50 countries on all 6 continents, and it’s estimated that almost 60 million people have seen it thus far. Zagreb has seen its premiere of the show in 2015, when Komedija Theatre got the licensing rights (which was no surprise to anyone who knew what professional standards that theatre has set for its musical and other performances over the years). The first thing you notice when the show starts is that all of those annoyingly familiar ABBA songs are translated to Croatian! I have done some research, and have found out that this is the rule in almost all translations to any language, but I really, really struggle to understand why. You know the songs, most of us young people (yes, I’m still inserting myself into that bracket and I don’t care what anyone thinks about that!) know the songs and the lyrics, and now here’s this show, obviously anxious for participation from the people in attendance, singing the songs in Croatian – and no-one knows those lyrics! I’m sure that there are very complicated and elaborate reasons for that in the licensing contracts that Komedija signed with whoever supplied the rights, and that they have a reason why it needed to be in a native language, but that still does not mean I personally understand those reasons. I believe that the show would’ve been better, more interactive and basically more entertaining for the viewers if only those songs were in English. Additional pet peeve for me was the fact that, while in original the musical takes place on a Greek island, with a fully English cast of characters, if you’re actually going to translate it to Croatian, why not put it, I don’t know, on a Croatian island, create a world of which Croatian public would be more accepting – or just leave it in English, original, and give us the original songs so we can sing along. This way it seems as if it was actually trying to alienate the people in the audience, and I’m not sure that’s how you want to go about making pop-culturally referenced musicals.

If we put all of those linguistic problems aside, the show is really fun and entertaining. Most of singing is really good (Renata Sabljak is basically sensational, Đani Stipaničev is an excellent singer if not a great actor as well; the only regret for me is that we don’t get to hear Edvin Baučić sing more, since he is an insanely great singer), dancers are probably the best part of the show (although, take my judgement of dancing with a grain of salt, as I’m really no expert), some of the acting is not as good as one would expect.

But, the play is entertaining, it follows the script down the line, so here’s an idea for anyone out there living in Croatia and wanting to get a refresher course on the plot of the original Mamma Mia! movie from 2008, in time to see the sequel which was filmed on the Croatian island of Vis this early Autumn, don’t rent it in a video store (it’s not on Netflix, as available in Croatia), just go see the show in Komedija theatre in Zagreb, or somewhere on tour. The show is good, and I truly believe that even if you’re not fully fluent in Croatian you will be able to understand and enjoy it!

(And don’t bring your camera along: any photos and videos are forbidden, even in the encore, during which we hear Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo, sung in English. The staff is very observant of any cameras or people taking photos with their phones, so don’t put yourself in that position.)

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