Screen to Re(e)l Life: Mamma Mia!

I say Greece and you conjure up images of white plaster buildings, blue windows, Mediterranean breezes, and…ABBA? Yes, to many, the tranquil beauty of the Aegean has become synonymous with the Swedish pop group, thanks to the smash Broadway musical Mamma Mia. ABBA’s association with Greece has become even more entrenched since the film version of the musical was released in 2008. Audiences around the world, but particularly in the US and the UK, flocked to see Meryl Streep prove that she can sing, Pierce Brosnan demonstrate that he cannot, and Amanda Seyfried say “I Do, I Do, I Do,” against the backdrop of turquoise water and Mediterranean sun. In the film’s case, however, the setting was not a fictional island but a very real one: the tiny island of Skopelos (population: 5,000), which was hand-picked by the filmmakers. By all reports, Skopelos is the magical Greek paradise of your Dancing Queen dreams; it is one of the greenest islands in the Aegean, with beaches and over 360 churches to boot. Unfortunately, none of these churches exactly match the set design seen in the film, which has reportedly angered the influx of Mamma Mia-enthused tourists to the island. In fact, residents of Skopelos were less than pleased when the cult of ABBA drove throngs of Mamma Mia diehards to the island, driving up prices and clogging usually peaceful roads. PSA: you must be Greek Orthodox to marry in a church on Skopelos, so if you’re a tourist looking for your dream ABBA wedding, find another island (there are plenty) and hire any cover singer. Guaranteed he’ll hit the notes of “S.O.S.” better than Pierce Brosnan.

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