Abba stars in court over musical

Abba stars Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus appeared in court in Stockholm on Tuesday to try to resolve a 15-year dispute over the authorship of their musical Kristina från Duvemåla.

Swedish dramatist Carl-Johan Seth claims that he wrote a script that forms the basis of the play, which is known in English simply as Kristina. Andersson and Ulvaeus claim that Seth’s original script was so bad that they called in other writers to start again from scratch.

Seth was named as scriptwriter in the programme for the world premiere in Malmö in 1995, but has since then not been acknowledged in any publicity for the musical. The Abba stars’ case may be hampered by the fact that they signed an agreement with Seth, confirming that he was the author, one month before the premiere .

It was also revealed in court documents that Seth received a payment of 5 million kronor, which Andersson and Ulvaeus say they paid simply to guarantee peace and quiet.

The case has come to a head as the Abba pair develop plans to launch a Broadway version of the musical. Earnings from a US version could be affected by the outcome of the current case.

“Nothing is decided yet, but it would be nice to have all the paperwork in order before we start talking with other parties,” said Andersson.

The case continues at Stockholm District Court on Wednesday.

Kristina tells the story of a poverty-stricken Swedish family and their migration to American in the nineteenth century. The musical received a rapturous reception in Sweden, and was seen by over a million people, compared with 847,000 who saw the the Swedish version of the Abba stars’ international success Mamma Mia.