Quote of the Day: Mamma Mia!, the musical play, is a celebration of life. Life with its enormous beauty and life with a little bit of madness. Michael Brindisi, Artistic Director at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. 

Cast of Mamma Mia! at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Through September 2019. Photo by Tom Wallace.

We got a little glimpse of summer while we were at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres watching Mamma Mia! It is a celebration of life. It’s a story about a strong, independent woman who raised her daughter on her own, and built and maintained a resort on a Greek Island. The music is fun. The story is sweet. The actors are outstanding. The choreography is amazing, and the musicians are excellent. Add to that the starry sky, the beach motif, and the romance of an island, and you’ve got a hit. I hear tickets are selling fast for this one!

Sophie and her dads, Micahel Gruber, Jessica Fredrickson, John-Michael Zuerlein & Jay Albright. Mamma Mia! at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, through September 2019. Photo by Tom Wallace

Here are some fun facts about the production from the Chanhassen Press Release. Initially composers Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, from the popular 1970’s band ABBA, were not enthusiastic about the idea for a musical using their songs. They were eventually won over by theatre producer Judy Cramer. She recruited British playwright Catherine Johnson to write the book and asked Phyllida Lloyd to direct the original London production, which solidified Mamma Mia! as one of the first successful female creative collaborations in musical theatre history. It premiered in London’s West End on April 6, 1999, and continues to play to full houses! It had a 14-year run on Broadway, and closed in September 2014. It has toured extensively, and is just now available for regional theaters to produce.

The Chanhassen Dinner Theatres have put their city on the map for world class dinner musical entertainment. They know how to give their guests an outstanding experience from the food, (order off the menu not just one set dish for everyone) attentive wait staff, beautiful setting, and of course outstanding productions. I always feel happy when I’m there. I was excited to see what they’d do with this popular show. The set, by Nayna Ramey, gives you the feeling of being on the island, the docks, the beach, the hanging lights, and the starry sky (sky and lighting by Sue Ellen Berger). The costumes (Rich Hamson) are adorable. (Oh, summer dresses and sandals, I’ve missed you!) And, the music was outstanding under the direction of Andrew Cooke.

Sophie and her Besties, Renee Guittar, Jessica Fredrickson & Emily Bengtson
Mamma Mia! at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, through Sept. 2019. Photo by Tom Wallace.

Jessica Fredrickson plays Sophie with a sweet energy and gorgeous, light voice. Her gal pals Ali (Renee Guittar) and Lisa (Emily Sue Bengtson) are fun and full of energy. Kersten Rodau nails it as Donna, sassy, strong, funny, and musically gifted. Her best friends Tanya (Michelle Barber) and Rosie (Therese Walth) feel like our best friends, singing to Donna when she’s feeling blue, and awkward, giving her encouragement, and flirting with the boys. Their trios were some of my favorite moments in the show.

Therese Walth as Rosie and Jay Albright as Bill in Mamma Mia! at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, through Sept. 2019. Photo by Tom Wallace

John-Michael Zuerlein who plays Sam Carmichael comes to us from the National Tour. He seems to be one with this character. Local favorite Jay Albright is the nerdy writer Bill Austin who shines in the those moments with Rosie (much laughter and fun during their song “Take a Chance on Me). Michael Gruber is a delightful Harry Bright. A favorite scene is when he sings “Our Last Summer” with Donna and the staging of the reminiscing.

Jessica Fredrickson as Sophie and Kersten Rodau as Donna in Mamma Mia! at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, through Sept. 2019. Photo by Tom Wallace

I always get a little weepy during the mother-daughter moment when Donna helps Sophie get ready for her wedding and Donna sings “Slipping through My Fingers.” It’s a tender moment and pulls at my mama heartstrings.

Director Michael Brindisi brings out the heart of the show. Choreographer Tamara Kangas Erickson did a wonderful job with this show. I can only imagine the laughs while the boys were trying to learn to dance with swim flippers on! There’s a mix of retro 1970’s moves and musical theater which is so fun to watch.

Mamma Mia! is playing at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres through September 28, 2019.  

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Describe your best friends?