Whether on screen or on stage, the story of “Mamma Mia!” remains the same.
The musical, based on the music of ABBA, tells the story of Sophie Sheridan (Jacqueline Mallene), who is preparing to marry Sky (Kevin Curtis). She’d like to invite her father to the wedding, but she’s never known who he is.
But when Sophie finds her mother Donna’s (Amy D’Orazi) diaries, she learns she has three possible fathers: Harry Bright (Spencer Normington), Bill Austin (Logan Foster) and Sam Carmichael (Greg Washington).
Without telling her mother, Sophie invites all three men to the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi for her wedding.
The day before the wedding, Donna welcomes the guests, including longtime best friends Tanya (Jen Kleinkauf) and Rosie (Callie McKinney Cabe), with whom she used to perform as Donna and the Dynamos.
When Bright, Austin and Carmichael arrive however, Donna is shocked to see her former flings. Though initially upset, old feelings start to resurface as the musical goes on.
“Mamma Mia!” opened in the West End in 1999, premiered in North America in 2000 and opened on Broadway in 2001.
It has since been produced in more than 50 countries and toured around North America for 15 years.
In 2008, “Mamma Mia!” was adapted into a film of the same name starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried. In 2018, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” starring Lily James as a young Donna, was released.
Aspire Community Theatre’s production of “Mamma Mia!” opens Friday and runs through Feb. 17.
Before signing on to direct, co-director/co-choreographer Trigger Weddle, who is also the artistic director of Aspire, hadn’t seen the musical or movie. (She’s since seen the first film).
But even still she couldn’t deny the appeal of “Mamma Mia!”
“Before it was a popular film, it was very popular on Broadway,” she said. “People know ABBA’s music and love it, so it’s got all of those things going for it.”
She waited eagerly for the musical to be released for local theaters to produce and jumped when the opportunity finally arose.
Weddle’s co-director/co-choreographer Joseph Lyons had seen the musical and felt it was under-choreographed, so he and Weddle decided to take advantage of the fact that there were two choreographers on hand.
The pair split the show down the middle, so each could focus on incorporating more dancing into their half of the piece.
Lyons attends graduate school in New York City and worked with the production until about two weeks ago.
“He did a lot of choreography, a lot of blocking for scenes and I did my half,” Weddle said. “Once he left us, I really started putting the puzzle pieces together.”
“Mamma Mia!” is a show about family, and Aspire, now in its third season, has developed a reputation as a family theater, on and off the stage.
This show, for instance, features multiple members of at least half a dozen families, including Weddle’s; her children Reese and Seth are both members of the ensemble.
“We say ‘You’re joining the family.’ We really mean it,” Weddle said. “We have had a lot of family affair.”
That close knit quality extends to members of the cast who aren’t related, like D’Orazi, McKinney Cabe and Kleinkauf.
D’Orazi and McKinney Cabe had worked together before, but Kleinkauf was new to the mix.
“The powerhouse voices the three of them have are pretty remarkable so it’s been a lot of fun to watch them renew friendships and make a new friend and come together as Donna and the Dynamos,” Weddle said. “They sit together. They hang out together. It’s really cool.”
It’s the familiar nature of the cast – related or not – that also helps keep things moving, especially during tech week.
Though many cast and crew members can find tech week, when lighting and sound cues are added to the show, to be stressful, Weddle loves it because of the teamwork it requires.
“I love it because it’s the time where you realize that you could not do this by yourself,” she said. “It is the most elaborate example of a collaborative effort ever because everybody has to work together.”
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