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Published: Friday, 10/10/2003

ABBA-Mania aims to re-create an icon

ABBA-Mania performs at 8 tonight in Sylvania. ABBA-Mania performs at 8 tonight in Sylvania.

When ABBA-Mania takes to the Franciscan Theater & Conference Center stage tonight, audience members will be hard-pressed to believe they're not seeing Benny Andersson, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Agnetha F ltskog, and Bj rn Ulvaeus, according to producer Garry Lichach of Toronto.

“[ABBA-Mania] is not a tribute show,” he insists. “It's a rock production in the style of ABBA. It depicts ABBA to detail. We picked ABBA apart to get it right.”

If Lichach sounds protective of ABBA-Mania, it's because the production is his brainchild.

“I was watching a documentary about four years ago on television about this hit musical in London called Mamma Mia! ... And they didn't sound like ABBA at all. And I went, `This is sold out in London? You're kidding me.'”

He got the idea for putting together an ABBA show that essentially channels the sights, sounds, movements, and costumes of the 1970s Swedish pop group that has become an icon.

In 1999, Lichach hired Sean Cottin to play Benny, Suzie McNeil for Agnetha, Monica Tietz as Anni-Frid, and Nick Pattison to play Bj rn. He had them learn about five songs, then took them to a rehearsal hall with full equipment. “I said let's just go over a few songs and see how it goes before we go any farther. After the first song, we knew it was a hit,” Lichach said.

He added two backup singers and a live band, including violinist, and had clothes made that mimic the costumes of the original group.

Since the production hit the road, he says, it averages about 200 one-nighters a year as well as longer engagements, including a recent one-month stay at Casino Windsor.

The group does all of ABBA's hits, Lichach said, including “Dancing Queen,” “Mamma Mia!” “SOS,” “Fernando,” and “Waterloo.”

“In fact,” Lichach says proudly, “some songs we even improve on.”

ABBA-Mania will be in concert at 8 tonight in the Franciscan Theatre & Conference Center of Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd., Sylvania. Tickets are $28 and $30 for adults and $15 for youths 15 and younger. Information: 419-824-3999.

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