Filmed versions of Broadway shows are usually either hit or miss; most fans gauge their enjoyment off the movie’s soundtrack which usually hits shelves before the film. The newest Broadway adaptation is the hit play “Mamma Mia” where the entire soundtrack is made up of ABBA songs. The soundtrack recently hit shelves, the songs sung by the film’s stars, and sadly it’s an indicator that this film might have been best left on the stage.
The soundtrack only deals in a few of the play’s songs, mostly the famous ones. Where the Broadway soundtrack had 24 songs, the film soundtrack only has 17. Some of the songs make sense in the film like “Dancing Queen,” “S.O.S.” and of course, “Mamma Mia” but others just don’t seem to make sense in the film compared to what has been removed. Fans of songs like “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Under Attack” and “I Do, I Do, I Do” will be sad to know those aren’t included. What is included is all over the board in terms of song quality. I won’t go over the individual songs since most everyone knows the major ABBA hits, but I will go over the singers who perform them.
Female lead Meryl Streep has a beautiful voice that is used to full advantage. Her main songs “Mamma Mia” and “The Winner Takes It All” are performed with Streep’s powerhouse Broadway voice. The latter song is performed to perfection and Streep can more than sustain the high notes. Second to those songs are her performances with Christine Baranski and Julie Walters. The trio sings “Money, Money, Money,” “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trouper.” All three have amazing voices but sadly you can really only hear Baranski and Streep during the songs, Walters is barely audible and I would have enjoyed hearing her voice played up more. Baranski has an incredible voice that is highlighted in the song “Does Your Mother Know. This soundtrack has a nasty habit of drowning out weaker voices and it shows in the songs sung by the male leads.
Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgaard and Pierce Brosnan are the male leads and their vocal qualities are all over on this CD. Their first song they sing, “Our Last Summer” is great for Firth who I didn’t know could sing, and Skarsgaard but Brosnan is all but drowned out. This is most notable on the duet between Brosnan and Streep, “S.O.S.” where the former is pretty much drowned by the background noise. You can hear Streep plain as day but it’s almost as if she’s not singing a duet. The creators might have wanted to get a man with a stronger voice if Brosnan couldn’t do it. This also happens on the song “When All is Said and Done.” On the other hand the songs sung by Firth and Skarsgaard like “Take a Chance on Me” and “The Name of the Game” all play up their voices well and the two are fine singers.
The young female lead of the movie, Amanda Seyfried, has an extremely pop friendly voice. Her songs in the soundtrack like “Honey Honey” and “Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie” all grooms her as a pop star but the latter song is so polished it’s almost like hearing something from Britney Spears. Her duet with Dominic Cooper, “Lay All Your Love on Me” is terrible since Cooper is drowned out during the chorus, another weak singer who isn’t believed in. “Slipping Through Our Fingers” is a fine duet Seyfried does with Meryl Streep but her best song is the end “I Have a Dream” where Seyfried sounds very stripped down and authentic, by far the best song on the album she sings.
The cast songs are the most fun since everybody sounds equal. “Voulez-Vous” is the big show stopper sung by the whole cast where no one person is highlighted and everyone sounds the same. The best song though has to be “Thank You for the Music” at the end which is one of the best songs in both the play and film but sounds beautiful on this. Sadly the song “Waterloo” which is at the end of the film is not included on this soundtrack.
Overall this soundtrack should be picked up by fans of the play and movie but don’t expect Broadway quality. The drowning of the male leads is repetitive and distracting and only a few of the performances are memorable. The songs are pure ABBA fun but I did expect better. I give “Mamma Mia – The Movie Soundtrack” a 3/5.