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PEACH WEEKENDER | THEATER

Croswell stages jukebox musical 'Mamma Mia!'

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    Emily Ialacci of Temperance, Lindsay Powers of Plymouth, Mich., and Rachel Gerrild of Jackson star in 'Mamma Mia!' at the Croswell Opera House in Adrian.

    ERIK GABLE

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    Lena Spiegel of Adrian, left, Lucy Hagedorn of Oregon, and Chelsie Cree of Toledo star in ‘Mamma Mia!’ at the Croswell Opera House.

    ERIK GABLE

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Mamma Mia!, the musical opening Friday at the Croswell Opera House in Adrian, is based on songs written in the 1970s and ‘80s but hasn’t lost its appeal.

The jukebox musical is loaded with 23 hit songs of the Swedish band ABBA, composed by band members Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. Mamma Mia! debuted in 1999 in London, where it is still running; it opened on Broadway in 2001 and played for 14 years. It has been produced around the world, and a film starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, appeared in 2008. (A sequel is due in theaters in July.)

Mamma Mia! the musical got its name from ABBA’s 1975 hit and includes songs such as  “Dancing Queen,” “Super Trouper,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Money, Money, Money,”  and more. 

It’s a high-energy dance party of a musical, said Jere Righter, the Croswell’s artistic director. “The characters are very relatable, and it’s just a good, fun story.”

The storyline of the musical, written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, follows Sophie, a young woman who is soon to be married to Sky and wants her father to walk her down the aisle. But who is her father? 

Sophie goes to her mother Donna’s old diary and finds that he could be any one of three men — Sam, Bill, or Harry. So she decides to invite all three to the Greek Island where her mother runs a taverna. But Sophie decides she won’t tell her mother they’re on their way.

Meanwhile, Donna has sent wedding invitations to two old friends: the wealthy and frequently divorced Tanya, and the single and independent Rosie.

The women once had their own disco group, Donna and the Dynamos. When the three are reunited on the island they put on their old costumes and sing  “Super Trouper.”

The songs tell the story.

“The lyrics and the feel of the music capture real emotional truths,” said director Jen Letherer, who is leading the Croswell cast of 32. “The music captures what it feels like to fall in love, or to feel loss, or to feel loneliness or excitement. The songs could be about heartache, or about anger that we broke up and one of us is still hurting, but even in that moment, the lyrics and the music are so captivating I’m enjoying being in that place.”

That’s one of the reasons the show has had such a long shelf life, she added. “I mean, this is disco music but it has survived for [about] 40 years and going strong because there’s something so true about the beat and the melody, and what they’re singing about.” 

Music director Dave Rains will be on keyboards leading a band that includes percussion, guitar, and additional keyboards.

The Croswell production is fairly timeless, Letherer said; it’s set in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which is when the musical premiered. “But when Donna and the Dynamos get into their Dynamo thing, they’re wearing ’70s disco outfits and platform shoes.”  

Donna is portrayed by Lena Spiegel, who says her character has a lot going on in her life. She’s getting ready for her daughter’s wedding, she’s sending her daughter off into the world, “and these three guys from her past show up.” Donna’s mother disowned her when she found out her daughter was pregnant, so Donna had to make it on her own. She’s strong, she’s successful, but you see her vulnerability.

“And she’s fun, and her friends are a blast, so we’re having a really good time,” Spiegel said.

In the Croswell production, the ensemble of 19 performers appears in many of the numbers. For “Dancing Queen,” the audience  first hears it when Donna and her two friends start singing it in the bedroom, “and then the bedroom goes away [onstage] and the Greek islanders come in and it’s a party, everybody does ‘Dancing Queen,’ ” Spiegel said.

The driving force of Mamma Mia! is the music.

“There’s some numbers when I have a hard time sitting still myself,” director Letherer said. “I’ve known the music for a long time, and still, every time we run a number, you can’t help but move.”

She said she hopes audiences are getting into the energy and thinking, “This is a really fun night of theater.”

The Croswell cast also features Lindsay Powers as Sophie, Emily Ialacci as Ali, Rachel Gerrild as Lisa, Lucy Hagedorn as Tanya, Chelsie Cree as Rosie, Steven Kiss as Sky, Austin Olano as Pepper, Gabriel Hagedorn as Eddie, Stephen Kiersey as Harry, Karl Kasischke as Bill, D. Ward Ensign as Sam, and Deveny Rosebrock as Mayor Alexandrios. The choreographer and assistant director is Sarah Nowak, and Hailie Hagedorn is assistant choreographer.

Performances of Mamma Mia! are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Croswell Opera House, 129 E. Maumee St., Adrian. Additional shows are at 8 p.m. June 22, at 2:30 and 8 p.m. June 23, at 2:30 p.m. June 24, at 8 p.m. June 29, at 2:30 and 8 p.m. June 30, and at 2:30 p.m. July 1. Tickets are $15 to $35 for adults, and $15 for youths under 18 and available from croswell.org and 517-264-7469.

Contact Sue Brickey at sbrickey@theblade.com.

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