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ABBA Voyage Live: 16 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets From Mind-Blowing ABBAtar Show

today27 May 2022 2

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The wait is over at last. After five years of blood, sweat and tears (probably), the ABBA Voyage live experience finally launched this week.

More than 40 years since ABBA last shared a stage, they were back (kinda) to entertain their loyal fans at the purpose-built ABBA Arena in London.

Three thousand fans and VIPs – including the actual king and queen of Sweden – were in the audience to watch what HuffPost described as a “jaw-dropping” show.

With groundbreaking technology at the show’s heart, it took a team of thousands to create. Here, we take a look at how the fantasy became a (virtual) reality…

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), founded by George Lucas of Star Wars fame, created the digital versions of ABBA, known as ABBAtars

The ABBAtars (L-R) Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid
The ABBAtars (L-R) Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny and Anni-Frid

Johan Persson/ABBA Voyage

“They got on a stage in front of 160 cameras and almost as many genius [digital] artists, and performed every song in this show to perfection, capturing every mannerism, every emotion, the soul of their beings — so that becomes the great magic of this endeavour,” explains producer Ludvig Andersson.

“It is not four people pretending to be ABBA: It is actually them,”

It took 1000 artists working in four global studios to bring the ABBAtars to life

ABBA Voyage
ABBA Voyage

ABBA Voyage

“Their enthusiasm, professionalism and love for their craft has not only been very infectious but also paramount for the whole endeavour,” Ludvig says.

ABBA are officially more important than Batman

The Batman: he's not happy about the delay
The Batman: he’s not happy about the delay

Warner Bros

“It took a while to convince ILR to do it because we’re basically taking over the whole company,” Ludvig reveals.

“They had Batman going ‘hello, we have Batman and we need you’. It was a big decision for ILM to take us on.”

160 cameras were used to film ABBA’s motion capture performance technique over a five week period

ABBA Voyage
ABBA Voyage

ABBA Voyage

“For a whole month we got into our ‘space suits’ and helmets to perform our songs,” Agnetha recalls.

“It got a little hot under the lights and spots, but there was nothing for it but to carry on. Sometimes all four of us wondered what it was we’d got ourselves into.”

The sight of each other in their ‘strange’ motion capture outfits had the whole group cracking up

“It’s no exaggeration to say that it took a few days to get used to it, both seeing yourself in the mirror and the others in these strange outfits,” Frida says.

Agnetha adds: “We had many wonderful laughs looking at each other.”

Each day of filming was themed by a different ABBA song

Looks like Frida's just caught sight of herself in her motion capture outfit.
Looks like Frida’s just caught sight of herself in her motion capture outfit.

ABBA Voyage

“Every day had a working title, which was the title of one of our songs,” Frida recalls.

“Images were hung on the walls of our backstage room to illustrate the day’s theme. It all helped create a great working environment and sense of community.”

…And that meant the crew really embraced the themes too

An actor playing Napoleon (centre) poses with ABBA in 1974. Wow.
An actor playing Napoleon (centre) poses with ABBA in 1974. Wow.

Jorgen Angel via Getty Images

“On Eurovision Day, all the crew was dressed like Napoleon and carrying the Swedish flag,” Producer Ludvig remembers.

ABBA’s signature moves are present and correct… but they’ve cleverly been brought bang up to date

World-renowned and award-winning choreographer, Wayne McGregor has been working with ABBA since 2020 to bring movement and life to the ABBAtars, innovating with their signature dance style.

The stunning costumes are all real designs, which have been digitised

The Dolce & Gabbana designs featured in the Abba Voyage live show.
The Dolce & Gabbana designs featured in the Abba Voyage live show.

Abba Voyage

There are five costume changes during the show, with design created by Dolce & Gabbana, Manish Arora, Erevos Aether and Michael Schmidt.

There is a 10-piece live band accompanying the ABBAtars on stage

“The fact that every note you hear is being played live, in the moment, is one of the fundamentals of the whole project,” says producer Ludvig.

It is LOUD

Johan Persson

There are 291 speakers inside the ABBA Arena, creating 870,000 watts of audio amplification, which means nothing to us but it sounds very, very impressive.

There are also a LOT of lights

Johan Persson

30,000 individually controlled lighting points and 500 moving lights to be precise. That’s going to be one hefty electricity bill.

The lighting plays a major role in the show

ABBA Voyage
ABBA Voyage

Johan Persson

“It’s one of the three creative pillars that sublimates the ABBA avatars by weaving a link between two worlds: the real room and the virtual stage,” explains lighting producer Matthew Debay.

“Creating a bridge between the world of cinema and the world of entertainment. That was our challenge.”

The show features 20 songs… but it took a long time to narrow them down

“I think Benny and Björn did about 18 versions of the setlist,” producer Ludvig reveals.

Director Baillie Walsh was already a huge ABBA fan

Director Baillie Walsh attends the first performance of ABBA's Voyage at the ABBA Arena on May 26, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)
Director Baillie Walsh attends the first performance of ABBA’s Voyage at the ABBA Arena on May 26, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)

Nicky J Sims via Getty Images

“I’m not just a fan of ABBA, they’re in my DNA,” he revealed. “They’re part of who I am. I saw them win Eurovision and they’ve been in my life ever since.”

Choreographer Wayne McGregor has also always been a massive fan of the group

Wayne McGregor attends the first performance of ABBA's Voyage at the ABBA Arena on May 26, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)
Wayne McGregor attends the first performance of ABBA’s Voyage at the ABBA Arena on May 26, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)

Nicky J Sims via Getty Images

“I grew up listening to ABBA in Stockport. I learnt Ballroom, Latin American and Disco dance to ABBA tracks,” Wayne recalls.

HuffPost UK were at the opening night of the show. Read our review of ABBA Voyage here.

ABBA Voyage is now booking until 28 May 2023 with more dates to be released soon. For more information go to abbavoyage.com.

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