There are only a few musicals that could be considered an all-out party. “Mamma Mia!” is definitely one of them.
Featuring the music of ABBA, the jukebox musical has had people in dancing in the aisles of both music and movie theaters for almost two decades.
That tradition continues at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19 and 20, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 as Robidoux Resident Theatre presents “Mamma Mia!” at the Missouri Theater, 717 Edmond St.
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The story goes: On the Greek island of Kalokairi, Sophie Sheridan (Jordan Shadwick) reveals to her friends that she has secretly invited three men to her wedding without telling her mother, Donna (Daisy Frisch). By reading her mother’s diary, Sheridan narrows down the men who might be her father: Irish-American architect Sam Carmichael (Chuck Hazelwood), Swedish adventurer and writer Bill Anderson (Fred Olson) and British banker Harry Bright (Mike Evans).
When all three men arrive on the eve of Sheridan’s wedding, Donna’s life is thrown into upheaval. In this trying time, Donna is supported by her two best friends, Rosie and Tanya (Jenny Grechus and Jenny Reinert), as they make up the group “Donna and the Dynamos.”
The only solution: Sing and dance to some of ABBA’s biggest disco hits (“Dancing Queen,” “Waterloo”).
Written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, “Mamma Mia!” weaves 22 ABBA songs, composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, into an excuse to watch people fall in love, get into some hijinks and have a great time. The musical is directed by Chris Lake.
In an interview with How Did They Do It?, Johnson says the idea for the musical came as a lark.
“My agent called me and told me this idea was going around and the producer would like to meet me and we both laughed, you know, ‘It’s a new musical about the ABBA hits”, she said.
Since its initial run in 1999, the musical has been played in more than 50 countries on six continents and spawned two hit movies.
While it’s easy to write the musical off as ‘70s pop music fluff, there’s depth to it. In one scene, “Mamma Mia!” examines and re-arranges what define a family.
During the song “Slipping Through My Fingers,” Donna touches on her own upbringing, like her mother’s refusal to accept her after she became pregnant with Sophie at a young age. Because of that traumatic time, Donna decided to form her own family on the small Greek Island.
“I did absolutely want to write about the single mother who wasn’t a wretched kind of – you know – at that time there was a lot of press about single mothers being a drain on the state etc etc. so I wanted to write about a working single mother who had got her life together and the relationship she had with her daughter who she absolutely adored but fought with,” Johnson said.
The musical focuses on the necessity of friendships, from Donna’s musical buddies to Sophie’s best friends, Ali (Cramista Volz) and Lisa (Katie Gregory), who provide emotional support for her.
Along with those themes, the musical incorporates ABBA’s catchy tunes with intricate dancing. The fact that it became one of the biggest-selling musicals of all time is a testament to the good vibes it gives to the audience.
“The thought that it is over ten years and it’s still running, it doesn’t make sense somehow,” Johnson said.
Tickets for “Mamma Mia!’ are $12 to $32 and available for purchase in advance at the Ruby Theater at 615 S. 10th St., by calling 816-232-1778 or logging on to rrtstjoe.org or the day of the show at the Missouri Theater box office.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live