by Matt Farrand
LEWISBURG — One of the most popular musicals of all time was made available to community theater this year, and RiverStage Community Theatre wasted no time in making sure it could be produced locally.
Mamma Mia! will return to the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the GreenSpace Center, 815 Market Street, Lewisburg. Tickets, $15 for adults and $8 for students age 18 or younger, may be ordered online at www.riverstagetheatre.org. Online ticketing is held at the box office unless otherwise requested and closes six hours before showtimes. However, tickets will also be available at the door.
The upcoming weekend is the second weekend that Mamma Mia! will be staged. Jove Graham, RiverStage producer, said the production which is based on the music of ABBA went over well.
“It is what they call a ‘juke box musical,’ and there are other ones like that,” Graham said. “It’s really fun when a song starts and there is a reaction from the audience as if to say, ‘Hey, I know this one!’”
Hit songs familiar to mid-pack boomers include Dancing Queen, S.O.S., Take a Chance on Me and the title tune. The popularity of the stage show and the film of the same name has brought the music of Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson to a new and younger audience.
“I think even if you don’t know the music, it is so infectious that you can’t help but tap your toe,” said Doug Powers-Black, director. “But it definitely is a nostalgia trip for those of us 50-plus.”
The story woven around the music tells the tale of a young woman who hopes to find out the identity of her father on the eve of her wedding on a Greek island. Three men from her mom’s past also return to the island they had visited 20 years before. Love, laughter and friendship ensue.
Diane Scott, musical director, helped choose the performers tasked with singing the music of ABBA. Though the Swedish super group was one of the top-selling recording artists of all time, Scott said she encouraged the local cast to be themselves.
“I don’t want to worry a cast member,” Scott said. “If they are worried about something I try to help them through it to see if they can do it.
“You want them to feel good about themselves and play on people’s strengths.”
Scott credited Powers-Black, not only for his creativity, but also for his ability to bring out the best in the performers. Scott also noted that attendance was great the first weekend, possibly the best opening night in RiverStage history.
Graham added that there is audience participation in the form of a sing-a-long toward the end of the show. It ensured that Mamma Mia! would be enjoyed locally as the ultimate “feel good” musical.
The cast included Jetta Harrison (Sophie Sheridan), Aubrey Lenker (Ali), Kara Heim (Lisa), Maureen Reeder Pagana (Donna Sheridan), Elaine Pfeil (Tanya Chesham-Leigh) and Megan Fisher (Rosie Mulligan).
Seth Confer (Sky), Jake Rothman (Pepper), Michael McJunkin (Eddie), Stefan Eisenhower (Harry Bright), Pete Zerbe (Bill Austin), Chris Martine (Sam Carmichael) and Michael Conard (Father Alexander) also appeared.
The ensemble included Maggie Able, Kristine Bachman, Karen Dickson, Kendyll Hazzard, Kathy Kristjanson-Gural, Broderick Lesher, Isabel Martine, Caitlin Meleski, Reid Orphan, Caryn Rehm and Tracey Rehm.
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.