[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.”]
It’s only fitting that long-awaited sequel “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” ends with a massive final song-and-dance sequence that brings together the entire cast, regardless of the timeline they inhabit in the film. Ol Parker’s film serves as both a sequel and a prequel to the 2008 film, with one timeline following Lily James as a young Donna (played in the first film by Meryl Streep) as she makes her way to the Greek island that will become her home, while another focuses on Donna’s now-grown daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she attempts to make her mother’s dream of owning a hotel on the island come true.
The two timelines combine into one charmingly over-the-top final musical sequence, a splashy finale that blends together younger versions of characters with their older selves, including the entire cast of the first film. It’s the kind of high-energy send-off that pulls directly from the film’s musical theater roots, and it almost didn’t happen.
Judy Craymer, who produced the films and created the stage show on which the first film is based, said they didn’t have the finale on paper until weeks into production. “It was always the question of, ‘what’s the finale?,'” Craymer said. “It wasn’t in the script that went out. … [ABBA members] Bjorn and Benny said, ‘No, don’t repeat “Dancing Queen.”‘ Okay, ‘Dancing Queen,’ enough. We were like, ‘What song?'”
They ultimately decided on “Super Trouper,” the hit title track from ABBA’s 1980 album, and didn’t start working on it until the film six weeks into production. “I knew that we needed a costume, so I said to Michele Clapton, our fabulous costume designer, ‘Whatever happens, start designing something now,'” she said. “‘It’s going to be spandex. It’s going to be platform boots. It’s our big nod to ABBA, but we don’t know what it is yet. But just get on with the design.'”
The finale required all kinds of schedule finagling, including a last-minute move that allowed Cher to participate alongside her on-screen daughters, Streep and James. Those costumes, that talent, and the ABBA music provides the happiest end to a film this summer, and Craymer thinks it’s emblematic of the best “Mamma Mia!” has to offer.
“There’s moments in this film where it’s all about the sense of irony, sense of tongue-in-cheek, and a kind of wink at the audience,” Craymer said. “And I think that’s what the actors feel. In that song at the end, it’s embracing everybody. They’re all embracing each other, but also embracing the audience. The key to ‘Mamma Mia!’ is that the audience has to feel they’re part of it, and I think that’s the moment I hope they do.”
“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is in theaters now.