Travel: 'Wow, ABBA Voyage is a real spectacle'

ABBA Voyage on stage

ABBA Voyage on stage - Credit: Johan Persson

What a journey! It’s taken more than five years to produce but, honestly, it’s worth it. ABBA Voyage – the 90-minute musical spectacle that features virtual representations – so-called Abbatars -- of the Swedish pop super-band from their heyday, lives up to the hype. It’s a visually gorgeous, technological wonder and superb entertainment.  

From start to finish the 3,000-plus people in the purpose-built stadium are transported into both another world and one that they knew or know very well. ABBA have provided the soundtracks to so many of life’s experiences both for the generation that was in their teens and 20s when ABBA burst on the scene and those that discovered the band later through the Mamma Mia musical and films.

It was surprising then that the opening songs were a couple of lesser-known tunes. But it wasn’t long before the hits start coming: ‘SOS’ blended into ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ and there probably wasn’t a person in the place who didn’t sing along. 

ABBA Voyage performing Gimme Gimme Gimme

ABBA Voyage performing Gimme Gimme Gimme - Credit: Johan Persson

It takes less than a minute before you stop questioning if the four people you see on the stage are real. They appear life-size at a distance and then magnified on the large, high-definition screens flanking the stage. There’s also a live 10-piece band and back-up singers who give an authentic performance edge to the technological wizardry that brings us the Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson of the 1970s and 80s in all their youthful glory.  

The ABBAtars wear the same flashy costumes of that era but here updated by Dolce & Gabbana. 

The story of ABBA Voyage started in 2017 when Benny Andersson floated the idea of a virtual reunion. After persuading the ABBA ladies back to the studio, the real work began. After a lot of experimentation, it was George Lucas’ special effects company Industrial Light & Magic (the team that produced Star Wars) that eventually brought Andersson’s vision to life.  

No one is saying how much the creation cost to produce, but given it can be reproduced anywhere, it’s likely that ABBA Voyage will pop up in capitals around the world and have perhaps as long a life as the band itself.  

A spacious room at The Stratford Hotel

A spacious room at The Stratford Hotel - Credit: Contributed

A bathroom at The Stratford Hotel

A bathroom at The Stratford Hotel - Credit: Contributed

The Stratford Hotel's Sky Garden at night

The Stratford Hotel's Sky Garden at night - Credit: Contributed

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My sister Deborah and I stayed the night at the Stratford Hotel, a 15-minute stroll across the Olympic Park, past the Olympic Stadium and Zaha Hadid’s wavy whoosh of the Aquatic Centre. Perhaps most convenient of all, it’s right next to the Westfield’s Shopping Centre. Keeping up the Nordic theme, all the Stratford’s interiors are designed by Space Copenhagen.  

Our room was spacious, decorated using pastel tones and natural timbers. It’s a great place to stay if you want some comfort and luxury before and after the concert.

The hotel has also got into the whole ABBA experience and offers ABBA packages. We had dinner in Kitchen E20 in the lobby area. There’s an a la carte menu but the ABBA special set menu, not surprisingly has a Scandi theme: gravlax and Swedish potatoes feature, plus cod and crayfish. It’s £15 for a starter, main and salad, and £22 if you add in dessert and a glass of wine or coffee. The serving staff are incredibly helpful and pleasant. 

At the weekends there is even a disco brunch, and the ABBA party can continue late into the night in the hotel’s attractive mezzanine for those who have not already had enough dancing. It really is a Dancing Queen’s delight! 

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

Book your stay

A one-night midweek stay at The Stratford for two adults sharing starts at £215 per room on a room-only basis. thestratford.com

Tickets for Abba Voyage start from £21 per person for auditorium seating. abbavoyage.com