Take a chance on Mamma Mia! and it just might make an ABBA fan out of you.
That’s what happened to Pat Henman, who directs Black Productions’ take on the hit musical that will run six shows from Thursday to Sunday at the Capitol Theatre.
Henman was only a casual fan of the Swedish disco staples when she first auditioned for the show’s lead role nearly two decades ago in Toronto. She didn’t get it, but songs such as “Waterloo,” “Money, Money, Money,” and “Mamma Mia” stayed with her.
“I just learned to appreciate it more as music as opposed to a piece of pop music, as a piece of radio music that you just dance to. It suddenly had meaning for me,” she said.
The 25-member cast is led by Rachel DeShon, who plays protagonist Donna Sheridan. DeShon, a classically trained vocalist who primarily works in opera, said Mamma Mia! represents the end of a long journey back to musical theatre.
“When I graduated from college I was bound and determined to do musical theatre. Then I got hired and paid considerably to do opera, so that’s what I did.”
The plot of Mamma Mia!, a global hit that debuted on stage in 1999 and has included two movies, centres around the mystery of who the father of Donna’s daughter Sophie is ahead of her wedding.
DeShon said she thinks the comfort of pop music is the reason for the show’s ongoing popularity.
“There’s something about when people come into the theatre and hear something familiar. It’s the same reason people still like to come out and see Oklahoma!, all these Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, because there’s something accessible about it.”
But another draw for the Nelson production will be DeShon’s performance, which Henman says raised the bar for the rest of the cast.
“Everybody that surrounds her, they recognize her talent and I think it’s driven their game up,” said Henman. “I think the quality of the show is very high. Everybody wants to hit that. It’s such a good cast, it’s so well cast. I’ve seen people grow from the very first day of rehearsal.”
Mamma Mia! runs Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. Two shows run at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.