Since 2010, she’s loved singing in the ABBA tribute act MANIA (formerly ABBA MANIA), which will take a chance on Thursday at 8 p.m. at Davenport’s Adler Theatre, part of its six-week national tour, MANIA formed in 1999 and the show has been selling out theatres and concert halls internationally ever since.
ABBA was a pop supergroup formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972 by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The group’s name is an acronym of the first letters of their first names arranged as a palindrome. Ward embodies Agnetha.
The friendly 35-year-old is a native of Liverpool, England (hometown of the Beatles), and her nursery school was actually on Penny Lane.
“My family still lives down the road from where Paul McCartney grew up, so we’re a Beatles family,” Ward said Monday.
There are several ABBA tribute acts, and MANIA is billed as the best one in the UK, faithfully recreating the look and sound of the super troupers. The company started in 1999 in London’s West end, and it tours with two casts at the same time.
“I was blessed to be one of the first to tour in the U.S.,” Ward said, starting with the UK tours in 2010.
Over the years, people come in and out of the casts, she said. The current lineup has been solid for the past two years. Benny plays piano and the Bjorn plays guitar.
Ward graduated from Leeds University with a degree in math, but she pursued her passion for singing.
“I was a bit of a clever girl in school and my parents said, as long as you do your degree and get that out of the way, we can let you do as you please,” she said, noting her mom has worked as a singer. “We have a bit of a musical family.”
“My mom was quite well known in her day, in Liverpool, as a female vocalist,” Ward said. “I’m following in my mom’s footsteps.”
ABBA has become a favorite in her playlist. She said she was lucky to get the job in 2010, and one of her first tours was in France.
“I’ve had some amazing tours; I’ve been to Brazil with the show,” Ward said. “I did an island off Tahiti. The show was based in Melbourne (Australia) for a few months. For an ABBA tribute, we’ve definitely traveled a lot of the world.”
She was asked to do her own solo in Vegas, “All By Myself,” which she does on cruise ships around the world. Currently, Ward performs diva hits mainly from ‘60s through ‘90s.
Blonde and Swedish
In MANIA, she dons a blonde wig as Agnetha, a Swedish accent and keeps the show as authentic as possible.
“We replicate one of their concerts from the ‘70s,” Ward said. “We have the costumes; we were given permission to have the same ‘Waterloo’ costumes they wore. And they’re not big movers – they do minimal movement. They’re not big dancers, so we keep all the choreography to look specifically like they would be performing as they did.”
“We’re giving it our best go as a tribute to the real ABBA,” she said.
The non-moving rule usually goes out the window for the group’s biggest hit, “Dancing Queen,” which closes the show, Ward said. “Between us and the audience, everyone’s screaming and singing. The disco ball comes down and the closer of the day is ‘Dancing Queen.’”
Everyone goes wild to that party song, and it’s a great way to end the concert, she said. “I love it every time.”
Ward also enjoys singing “The Winner Takes It All,” the duet of “Fernando,” and “Chiquitita” also is a favorite.
ABBA’s timeless songs were written to be enjoyed live and MANIA gives you exactly that, according to a tour release. “Two hours of uplifting, dance inducing and sometimes heart-breaking songs, fully live with fantastic staging, lighting and effects. The show recreates ABBA’s sound not only perfectly, but respectfully too.”
Other hits include “Waterloo,” “‘Mamma Mia,” “Super Trouper,” “Take A Chance On Me” and many more that continue to fill dance floors worldwide.
Ward treasures singing live in front of big crowds again. “We’re kind of getting back to normal,” she said. “It’s nice to back to how it was.”
One of their biggest fans came to see the show in the tour’s first week, and she wore a Swedish flag, Ward said, noting she knows that fan will be back at the Adler Thursday.
“We have the best fans,” she said. Some fans come to eight or nine shows in one tour, always sitting in the front row, Ward said. “It’s ‘cause we all love ABBA and the music. It’s a great night, just over two hours. There’s a lot of happy people there, and on stage.”
In September, she attended a “virtual” live concert of the real ABBA, as part of its “Voyage” residency (and new album). The concerts feature virtual avatars (dubbed ‘ABBAtars’), depicting the group as they appeared in 1977, with a live band. The concerts are held at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
“They’re definitely not touring themselves anymore, but they put out this hologram concert, which is very cool,” Ward said.
Tickets for the Nov. 10 QC show are $25 to $65, available online here at Ticketmaster.com and in person at the Adler Box Office (136 E. 3rd St., Davenport. For more about the concert, click HERE. And you can see a trailer HERE.