The infectious ABBA music and impressively talented, energetic cast of San José Musical Theater’s Mamma Mia!, directed by Geoff Ward, has audiences clapping and singing along and dancing in the aisles.
“How can you not be joyful and happy at the end of Mamma Mia! and not want to dance?” said preview night attendee Lydia Chisholm, pulling her friend Nathalie Lambert out of her seat and into the aisle with her to be dancing queens.
Mamma Mia! is playing March 29 – April 13 at Evergreen Valley College’s 380-seat theater, 3095 Yerba Buena Rd., San José.
The music by the 1970s Swedish pop group ABBA is played by an eight-member band with Ron Bowman as music director. Everybody’s heard the songs: “Honey, Honey,” “Dancing Queen,” “Super Trouper,” “Our Last Summer,” “I Have a Dream” — 22 ABBA songs in all.
The widely and wildly popular musical premiered in London in 1999 and on Broadway in New York City in 2001. It was made into a film in 2008. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the sequel, was released in 2018.
“I grew up with ABBA in Europe,” said Lambert, who is French. “It’s such a pleasure to see a director bring ABBA alive again in our area.”
The crazy plot is really just a framework for the music. The romantic comedy takes place over two song- and dance-filled days in the late 1990s on an idyllic Greek island.
In real life, Catherine Johnson, who wrote the story, was an impoverished single mom. In the musical, Donna is a single mom who has struggled financially to raise her only child, Sophie, on the island.
Now 20, Sophie is getting married and wants her father to walk her down the aisle. The catch is, she doesn’t know who he is.
Sophie secretly invites all three of her mother’s former lovers to her wedding, hoping to discover which is her dad. The story unfolds the day before her wedding.
You may have seen many of the 22-member cast before. Among others, Santa Claran Gwyneth Forrester, who is studying theater arts at Foothill College, plays Sophie’s friend Lisa.
“The music is fun. It fills your soul,” said Forrester. “I fall asleep singing ABBA.”
Melissa Bowling Gialdini — Santa Clara Outstanding Teen 2008, Miss Santa Clara 2010, Miss Santa Clara County 2013 and Miss Silicon Valley 2015 — plays Sophie’s friend Ali.
“I came into the show not liking ABBA, but now I love it,” said Gialdini.
San Jose Musical Theater
San José Musical Theater, a nonprofit, was founded in 2014 with the mission of providing high-level musical theater to the community at affordable prices. The last musical of its 2018 – 2019 season is Man of La Mancha July 12 – 21. Visit www.sjmt.org or Facebook for information.
“It’s more fun to see a musical live rather than on a screen,” said college student Emily Su on Mamma Mia! preview night.
“When you watch it live, you know the actors are good because they aren’t edited,” said Kimberly Su, Emily’s sister.
“It makes me feel privileged to live in this community with so many talented people with different backgrounds,” said attendee Ling-Ling Chern. “The theater is a place where diverse people can come together and share their passion.”