Listening to ABBA songs seems to make many people happy. A warning, however — these people may also wear colorful disco jumpsuits and dance around in platform boots.
The musical tells the story of a young woman named Sophie who is getting married on the Greek island where her mother, Donna, operates a hotel. Sophie wants her father to walk her down the aisle, but she doesn’t know who he is — she only has clues from her mother’s diary about three men who could possibly be her father. So, unbeknownst to Donna, Sophie invites all three men to her wedding.
ABBA songs are woven into the storyline, and the musical takes its name from one of the Swedish pop band’s biggest hits from the 1970s.
SEACT performer and executive director Jennifer Love Doherty portrays Donna in the local production. Doherty said she’s an ABBA fan going back to when she was 5 years old and used to dance around the living room as her mom’s ABBA records played through the house.
“The music is what makes the show,” Doherty said. “It’s a silly and fun way to have a great concert experience where you can feel good about joining in the silliness. It’s been a great experience. It’s been one of the most fun experiences I’ve had.”
It seems everyone involved has a favorite ABBA song featured in the musical — or, the experience helped create a new favorite.
Leah Lancaster of Chancellor plays Sophie and thought “Mamma Mia!” would be a good challenge as a performer.
“I was familiar with the story of the musical,” Lancaster, 25, said. “I was not as familiar with all of the songs. Obviously, everybody knows ‘Dancing Queen’ and everybody’s heard ‘Take a Chance on Me’ — the big pieces.”
As she listened to the soundtrack’s songs on a road trip, Lancaster said she developed a new appreciation for songs like “The Winner Takes It All.” In turns of performance, Lancaster said her favorite is now “Lay All Your Love on Me.” Rehearsing, she said, has been fun for the cast and crew.
“I can’t even believe that I’m here,” Lancaster said. “Every night, I’m like ‘Wow, I get to go to rehearsal.’ It’s never ‘I have to go to rehearsal.’”
For Ben Lundy, who plays Sophie’s fiancé Sky, his favorite ABBA tune is “Voulez-Vous.”
Lundy, the theater teacher at Dothan Preparatory Academy, wanted to do a show with SEACT, and when he heard the community theater group was doing “Mamma Mia!” that sealed the deal for him to audition.
“I found that show when I was in eighth grade — that’s when the movie came out,” the 24-year-old Lundy said. “Now I’m teaching eighth-graders. I remember I had a teacher that played the soundtrack all the time, and that’s what really got me into it.”
David Loyless plays Bill Austin, one of Sophie’s possible fathers, and was the stage manager for a production of “Mamma Mia!” with Ozark City Schools, helping out his old high school theater director.
“It was just so much fun working with the kids, and I just fell in love with the show, the story, the music,” said Loyless, who is on his 12th SEACT production. “It was just a magical time. When SEACT announced they were going to do it, I said I’ve got to go be in that show.”
He didn’t grow up an ABBA fan, but Loyless said his involvement in both productions made him a fan.
The show’s director, Chris Manasco, said “Mamma Mia!” is a show that everyone can enjoy.
“Everybody knows the music; it’s a sweet story,” Manasco said. “We also encourage a sing along at the end.”
The SEACT production features a live band performing with the actors. The group is even selling toy microphones with LED colored lights for $5 so audience members can have the full disco experience while singing along with their favorite ABBA song. Visit seact.com to purchase a microphone.
“This is a show where we want the audience to come and have a good time — forget everything and have a good time,” Manasco said.