Lily James and Cher join returning stars Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski and (yes) Meryl Streep, for another ABBA-soundtracked musical comedy, set in the present and the past.
The songs ABBA will once again fill movie theaters this July with the release Universal's sequel to its 2008 summer blockbuster, Mamma Mia!
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again will reunite the star-studded cast — including Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep and Colin Firth — a decade after the initial musical romantic comedy came out. Plans for the film were revealed in May 2017, with much the original cast attached to the project. Over the last year, a group newcomers, led by actress Lily James and Cher, signed on to portray characters Kalokairi's present and past.
The film picks up with Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried), last seen as a bride-to-be, pregnant and single just as her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), was years earlier. To comfort Sophie, Donna's friends and former bandmates, Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski) share stories Donna in her adventurous youth, which unfold onscreen with the new cast playing the younger versions the musical's established stars.
Judy Craymer and Gary Goetzman return as producers alongside director Ol Parker, who also penned the script. The first film's director, Phyllida Lloyd, serves as executive producer with Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Richard Curtis and Nicky Kentish Barnes.
The majority the film's soundtrack comes from the original hits ABBA, the Swedish pop group whose music served as the basis for the first film and original Broadway musical. It was confirmed that Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, the composers and founding members ABBA, have penned original songs and lyrics for the sequel and act as executive producers.
There's still time to watch (or rewatch) the original film on Netflix before Universal and Legendary release the sequel on July 20, but here's everything you need to know before stepping into the theater.
MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN CHEAT SHEET:
It's clear from the trailers that most the film's original cast has returned to guide present-day Sophie, bringing together the group acclaimed actors once again.
Christine Baranski: plays Tanya Chesham-Leigh, one Donna's friends and former bandmates, now a rich three-time divorcee.
Julie Walters: plays Rosie Mulligan, one Donna's friends and former bandmates, now an unmarried, fun-loving author.
Pierce Brosnan: plays Sam Carmichael, now married to Donna and Sophie's stepfather, possibly her father.
Colin Firth: plays Harry Bright, also Sophie's possible father and a British banker.
Stellan Skarsgard: plays Bill Anderson, one Sophie's possible fathers, a Swedish sailor and travel writer.
Dominic Cooper: plays Sky, Sophie's fiancé in the first film, although their relationship status in the second film is unclear.
As the returning characters fer Sophie comfort and advice, the film jumps back in time to show how Donna came to live on the Greek island and meet Sophie's three possible fathers, played by the film's newcomers.
Lily James: plays young Donna Sheridan. James joined the film in July 2017, as she was in theaters in Baby Driver. James previously starred in 2015's Cinderella, in which she demonstrated her singing ability by crooning "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes." Of the tracks released so far, James can be heard on "When I Kissed the Teacher" and "Waterloo," but as the frontwoman Donna and the Dynamos, audiences can expect to hear James leading plenty ABBA's most popular songs.
Jessica Keenan Wynn: plays young Tanya. Before joining James as one the three Dynamos, the stage actress starred as Heather Chandler in the original f-Broadway cast Heathers: The Musical and as Cynthia Weil in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway. Wynn prepared for the role by studying her counterpart, Baranski. "One the best things is ABBA music transcends generations," Wynn told NBC.
Alexa Davies: plays young Rosie. The Welsh actress is best known for her role in British television sitcom Raised by Wolves. Throughout shooting, Davies posted plenty pictures with her cast mates on Instagram, thanking her fellow Dynamos for making "this experience the best it could be."
Jeremy Irvine: plays young Sam.
Hugh Skinner: plays young Harry.
Josh Dylan: plays young Bill.
Cher: plays Ruby Sheridan. The singer-actress, who won an Oscar for her role in 1987's Moonstruck, makes her first film appearance in eight years in the sequel, playing Sophie's grandmother and Donna's mother.
It's unclear to what extent Streep's character will be present in the film. Speculation Donna's possible death quickly arose after the release the first trailer, in which Streep was absent from the opening sequences and Donna frequently referred to in past tense. While the actress is credited on the film, she doesn't have top billing as she did for the original and Universal wouldn't comment on her character's fate when inquiries began in December.
Baranski addressed Streep's absence in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in June, telling fans that they would "have to wait" to find out what's going on with Donna. She teased, "Believe me, it’s going to be a wonderful surprise."
The trailers emphasize that present-day Donna is not available to help her daughter as she deals with the weight motherhood (though the cause such absence is unknown). In her place, Tanya and Rosie, along with Sam, Bill and Harry, fer Sophie comfort and guidance through stories Donna as a young woman, discovering romance and the wider world with her best friends.
Such stories, it seems, will illuminate both the paternity puzzle the first film and reflect the paralleled experiences Sophie and her mother as the film jumps back and forth in time.
While the film is again set on the fictional Greek island Kalokairi, where Sophie maintains her mother's villa, the producers chose to move the filming location from the Greek island Skopelos to Vis, an island f the coast Croatia.
Additional scenes were filmed at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England.
Universal Pictures and Legendary Entertainment will release the sequel on July 20 in the United States, almost exactly 10 years since the release the original film, which debuted on July 18, 2008. It will unspool in various countries overseas, including many in Europe, that same week.
Filming for the sequel began on Aug. 12, 2017 and wrapped on Dec. 1 that year. The first trailer was released on Dec. 21.
Adapting ABBA's greatest hits into the plot, Mamma Mia!'s soundtrack sits as the centerpiece the film for fans the pop group and the original musical, which premiered on Broadway in 1999 and has been performed over 5,000 times.
Although the full soundtrack will not be released until July 13, fans can now listen to three the 18 songs on the album: "Waterloo", "When I Kissed the Teacher" and "Fernando."
In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, Andersson confirmed that "Dancing Queen", "Angeleyes" and "I Have a Dream" will all be featured in the film. Portions those songs were also heard in various trailers.
While Mamma Mia! was a success with American audiences, the $52 million film was an even bigger hit at the international box fice, racking up 76 percent its global total overseas and amassing $609.8 million overall. If the excitement surrounding the last film carries onto Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the filmmakers can expect to rake more money this summer.
Baranski also told THR that she feels this year's heavy news cycle makes the time right for a joyful musical.
"We are living in very dark times, and I think to have a movie as sensuous and optimistic as this new one will make people so happy," she said. "We need Mamma Mia 2! more than we even needed the original. The world was still sane then."
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.