“Mamma mia, here [we] go again/My my, how can [we] resist you?” The North American tour of the global musical sensation Mamma Mia! is returning to the Durham Performing Arts Center for five performances on May 30-June 1. This 1999 West End and 2001 Broadway mega-hit, which features a book by Catherine Johnson and a score of more than twenty 1970s and 1980s pop songs from the Swedish super-group ABBA, made its DPAC debut on Jan. 26-31, 2010.
ABBA — which combines the first letters of the Christian names of Agnetha Faltskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad — rocketed to international stardom on April 6, 1974, in Brighton, England, when the group won the Eurovision Song Contest with “Waterloo.” Some of the group’s other chart-toppers, on both sides of the Atlantic, include “Mamma Mia” (1975), “Fernando” (1976), “Dancing Queen” (1976), “Knowing Me Knowing You” (1977), “The Name of the Game” (1977), “Take a Chance on Me” (1978), “The Winner Takes It All” (1980) and “Super Trouper” (1980). Rolling Stone writer Joe Levy claimed, “ABBA had a gift for melody so prodigious they couldn’t stop themselves.”
“The first time that I listened to ABBA on purpose was when I was preparing to audition for this tour[, which started on Sept. 30, 2013 in Clemson, SC and will finish on June 15, 2014 in Dallas, TX],” confesses the tour’s musical director and keyboard 1 Kevin Casey. “There are eight albums altogether, and there are some musical treasures on them.”
Casey, a Navy brat whose family ultimately settled in Huntington Beach, CA, where he grew up, spent three years at the University of Southern California in Los Angles, majoring in composition and conducting, before dropping out to travel with a top 40 band and then work with bands in the Midwest. He later taught at an arts high school and served as the school’s musical director. (“That’s really where I got my musical-theater training,” says Casey. “They did five shows a year, so it was one show after another.”)
He joined his first national tour (Crazy for You) in 2001, and has since toured with Miss Saigon, Shrek the Musical, and Monty Python’s Spamalot. But Kevin Casey admits that the first time that he saw Mamma Mia! on stage was the night he was offered a position with the touring company. Seeing the Broadway production was an eye-opening experience for him.
“This show really belongs on the stage,” claims the 52-year-old Jacksonville, FL native. “I had had a sort of snooty attitude toward it, so seeing it was a big surprise to me…. I’ve actually become a late-life ABBA fan. [In fact,] I am now a card-carrying member of the ABBA fan club.”
“Seen by over 54 million people around the world, Mamma Mia!, is celebrating [5,215] performances on Broadway and is the [ninth]-longest-running show in Broadway history,” according to the 2013-14 tour’s producer, Work Light Productions, LLC of Summit, NJ, which adds:
“The original West End production of Mamma Mia! is now in its 15th year and has celebrated over 6,000 performances in London and the international tour has visited more than 74 foreign cities in 35 countries and been seen by over 4.3 million people. The blockbuster  feature film adaptation of Mamma Mia! is the most successful movie musical of all time, grossing $600 million worldwide. Seen in 38 productions in 14 different languages globally and with a worldwide gross of over $2 billion, Mamma Mia! is acclaimed by the Associated Press as ‘quite simply, a phenomenon.'”
Tour musical director Kevin Casey is not sure what accounts for the enduring appeal of Mamma Mia!, but guesses that for many theatergoers, the show’s score is the soundtrack of their Wonder Years. “I guess it brings people back to that time of their lives,” he says. “ABBA existed as a band from 1972 to 1982[; and] the story — even though it’s simple — is integral to the experience.”
Librettist Catherine Johnson set her mother-daughter story in the present, on an unnamed Greek Island, on the eve of the daughter’s wedding. Fortyish single mother Donna Sheridan (played by Georgia Kate Haege in the current North American Tour) runs the local taverna. As Donna prepares for the wedding of her twentysomething daughter Sophie (Chelsea Williams) to her dashing boyfriend Sky (Chris Stevens), Sophie begins to question her about her father’s identity. Donna, who was something of a wild child when Sophie was conceived in the 1970s, doesn’t know who fathered Sophie. But she can narrow it down to three old flames ignited during one magic summer of love. Meanwhile, Sophie, who has learned the men’s identities from clandestine peeks at her mother’s diary, has invited all three men to her wedding — and for one unforgettable weekend in which the men will get the surprise of their lives!
The three men from Donna’s past who could be Sophie’s dad are plucky Australian outdoors writer Bill Austin (Michael Colavolpe), stuffy British banker Harry “Head Banger” Bright (Mark A. Harmon), and soulful American architect Sam Carmichael (Jeff Drushal). Gabrielle Mirabella and Carly Sakolove co-star as Tanya and Rosie, Donna’s best friends and former band mates in Donna and the Dynamos.
(Former ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus once told the Albemarle of London West End Theatre Guide: “”Those lyrics of ours were always about relationships and they were little stories within themselves. Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t have a clue anything like this would happen and I didn’t even like musicals. We only did Eurovision because it was the only way for a Swedish group with ambitions to get heard outside Sweden….”)
Featured players on the current North American tour include Antoinette Comer as Lisa, Kyle Dupree as Eddie, Emily Price as Ali, and P. Tucker Worley as Pepper; and the ensemble includes Anthony Alfaro, Francesca Arostegui, Ken Arpino, Meghan Glogower, Andrew J. Koslow, Grace Leszynski, Danny Lopez, Rebecca Mason-Wygal, Royce James McIntosh, Tyler McKenzie, Alex Mendoza, Brynn Smith, Joshua LaMonte Switzer, Bonnie Tomlinson, Carly Wielstein, Jennifer Wingerter, Vince Wingerter, and Lauren Wright.
In addition to musical director/keyboard 1 Kevin Casey, the tour band includes associate musical director/keyboard 2 Enrico de Trizio, guitar 1 David Malachowski, guitar 2 Paul Heaney, bass player Marcel Hamel, and drummer Oskar Haggdahl.
Phyllida Lloyd, who directed the West End and Broadway productions of Mamma Mia!, is also directing the current North American Tour. The rest of the tour’s creative team includes choreographer Anthony Van Laast, resident director Martha Banta, associate choregrapher Janet Rothermel, production stage manager Christopher Flores, production designer Mark Thompson, lighting designer Howard Harrison, sound designers Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken, and musical supervisor Martin Koch. Work Light Productions, LLC is the producer of the show, which was originally produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East, and Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar, in association with Universal.
Mamma Mia! made its West End debut on April 6, 1999 in London’s Prince Edward Theatre, and transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre on June 9, 2004. Then in September 2012, the show moved to the Novello Theatre, where it is still playing.
Mamma Mia! made its Broadway debut on Oct. 18, 2001 at the Winter Garden Theatre; transferred to the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre on May 5, 2002; and returned to the Winter Garden Theatre on Jan. 1, 2007, before moving to the Broadhurst Theatre — where it is still playing — on Nov. 2, 2013. Mamma Mia! has been performed 5,215 times on the Great White Way as of May 25, 2014.
The first North American tour of Mamma Mia! commenced in Providence, RI in February 2002; and Broadway Series South brought the show to Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in March 2004, April 2006, and November 2007.
“Because it’s been around so long, and most people have seen it, our production of Mamma Mia! has got to be as good as your remember it — and I think ours is,” says 2013-14 tour musical director Kevin Casey. “I may be biased, because I’m a part of it; but I think the cast is good, and the [musical] talent is good, so [Triangle theatergoers] have a treat in store for them.”
Casey cautions, “[DPAC patrons] should wear comfortable dancing clothes. If we do our job well, the audience will be on their feet and dancing at the end of the show.”
SECOND OPINION: May 28th Burlington, NC Times-News preview by Rachel Teseneer for “Teens & Twenties”: http://teensandtwenties.com/mamma-mia-heads-to-durham-for-five-shows/; May 22nd Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/entertainment/x1596736055/N-C-grad-in-first-tour-headed-to-Broadway-in-Mamma-Mia ( You must register to read this article); and Oct. 1, 2013 New York, NY Playbill.com preview by Andrew Gans: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/182729-Casting-Announced-for-2013-14-Tour-of-Mamma-Mia.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents MAMMA MIA! at 8 p.m. May 30, 2 and 8 p.m. May 31, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. June 1 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $37.75-$116.25 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1120969.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/group_services.
SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/mamma-mia and https://www.facebook.com/events/444523882282588/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=vb.1417146341836751&type=2
TOUR: http://www.mammamiaontour.com/mm/, http://www.worklightproductions.com/curr_mamma.htm, and https://www.facebook.com/mammamiaontour.
TOUR CAST and CREATIVE TEAM: http://www.mammamiaontour.com/mm/mamma-mia-cast-creative.asp.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, and https://twitter.com/DPAC.
ABBA (Swedish pop group, 1972-82): http://www.abbasite.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABBA (Wikipedia).
Mamma Mia! (1999 West End and 2001 Broadway musical): http://www.mamma-mia.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=10610 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/MammaMiaMusical (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/MammaMiaMusical (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamma_Mia! (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: http://www.broadwayinchicago.com/pdf/studyguide_mammamia.pdf (Broadway in Chicago).
Mamma Mia! (2008 film): http://www.universalstudiosentertainment.com/mamma-mia-the-movie/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0795421/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamma_Mia!_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Björn Ulvaeus (music and lyrics): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bj%C3%B6rn_Ulvaeus (Wikipedia).
Benny Andersson (music and lyrics): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benny_Andersson (Wikipedia).
Stig Anderson (lyrics): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stig_Anderson (Wikipedia).
Catherine Johnson (book): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Johnson (Wikipedia).
Work Light Productions, LLC (tour producer): http://www.worklightproductions.com/ (official website).
Kevin Casey (tour musical director and keyboard 1): https://www.facebook.com/kevin.casey.967422 (Facebook page).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)