An ABBA-themed musical coming to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre will be a “party of a show,” said the production’s director.
Secondary Characters, a Chilliwack-based theatre company, presents Mamma Mia! Aug. 11 to 21.
“It’s so fun. It’s all high-energy, it’s all bright colours and flashy lights,” said director Steffi Munshaw. “It’s such a celebration so it’s a perfect show to be doing coming out of Covid when everybody’s been through a really hard couple of years. You come and the whole show feels like a party.”
The show has actually been in the works for more than two and a half years. Originally, auditions were held in January 2020. When Covid hit, everything was postponed more than once.
The cast changed a bit due to some actors moving away, but the final cast was confirmed this past January. Most actors hail from Chilliwack, but there is a ‘carpool crew’ of cast members from Burnaby, Tsawwassen, New Westminster and Abbotsford.
The actors are “so excited” to be on stage again in this production, Munshaw said.
“We’ve been waiting two years for this.”
The story was written by British playwright Catherine Johnson 20 years ago, decades after the Swedish pop supergroup ABBA stopped performing. It became a smash hit on Broadway and a movie, starring Meryl Streep, followed in 2008.
Mamma Mia! is a romantic comedy set in the late 1990s. It’s the story of bride-to-be Sophie, her mom Donna, and their closest friends and family members.
The musical is chock-full of ABBA’s greatest hits including Gimmie! Gimmie! Gimmie!; Super Trouper; I Have A Dream; Money, Money, Money; and Lay All Your Love on Me. All songs will be played by a live orchestra.
Those songs and others tell the hilarious story of Sophie’s search for her birth father, which unfolds on a Greek Island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, Sophie’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago.
The production will take the stage in the Rotary Hall Studio Theatre at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.
Munshaw admits it’s a big show in a small space. Originally the plan was to have a larger, more elaborate set, but they scaled back.
“Because it’s such a dance-heavy show – it’s ABBA, you have to do big dance numbers – we’ve had to reduce the set because the dancing takes up so much space,” Munshaw said.
The dance numbers are huge… and comical.
“Our choreographer Anne Matterson has choreographed it with a huge amount of humour in it, so there’s so much comedy in the dance. You don’t see that a lot in musicals.”
It was artistic director Shelley Wojcik who picked the show and she was also talked into auditioning. She’ll be playing the role of Donna, Sophie’s mom.
“She’s such a perfect Donna. You have to have such a freedom of spirit to be Donna and you have to love dancing.”
Wojcik is a dancer and a choreographer.
“Watching her dance on stage, you can see how much fun she’s having.”
Secondary Characters presents Mamma Mia! Aug. 11 to 21 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. Show times are: Aug. 11, 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m., and Aug. 14 and 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $29 for adults, $25 for students and seniors and $20 for youth aged 12 and under. Tickets available at the Cultural Centre, by calling 604-391-SHOW (7469) or online at tickets.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca.
Cast and crew:
Donna (Shelley Wojcik)
Sophie (Lauren Clift)
Tanya (Stefanie Swinnard)
Rosie (Susan Newbury)
Sam (Randy Newbury)
Harry (Jeff Hanson)
Bill (Warren Schatz)
Sky (Aidan Sharpe)
Director (Steffi Munshaw)
Choreographer (Ann Matterson)
Vocal director (Paula Quick)
Stage manager (Michael Quaglia)
Orchestra director (Shannon Goldsmith)