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Hamptons Life

Mar 4, 2019 1:56 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Calling all Dancing Queens. “Mamma Mia!” Is Coming To The Southampton Cultural Center

From left, cast of
Mar 4, 2019 2:20 PM

“Here I go again. My my, how can I resist you?”

That’s exactly the sentiment many people have for Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Anni-Frid, collectively known as ABBA, the peppy Swedish disco-era pop band that has garnered legions of loyal fans spanning not only the globe, but generations.

Though ABBA may have hit their peak in the 1970s, there’s something about their upbeat and memorable music that just puts folks in a good mood and keeps the band relevant year after year. Beginning March 8, Center Stage at Southampton Cultural Center will be ABBA-central when Michael Disher directs a cast of nearly 20 in “Mamma Mia!” the 1999 musical based on the band’s extensive hit list. Mr. Disher confirms that this show has had bigger advance ticket sales than any previous Center Stage production. That’s good news given the exceptionally high bar that Mr. Disher set for himself with “Beauty and the Beast,” last year’s Center Stage musical.

“There was a lot of pressure on me to find something that could rival the popularity of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” admitted Mr. Disher. “It was so huge and a surprising and fulfilling experience for everyone involved.

“‘Mamma Mia!’ was mentioned as a possibility. I was never a die-hard ABBA fan, but I thought OK, I know the songs,” he said. “There are a lot of them.”

However, what there’s not a lot of with this show is plot, and the play is admittedly thin in the story department. “Mamma Mia!” tells the tale of Sophie, a young American woman who is about to get married in Greece, and has secretly invited her mother’s three former lovers to the wedding in an effort to discover which of them is her father. Mr. Disher explains that it’s a classic catalogue musical in which the songs are front and center.

“The only other time I’ve done a catalogue or jukebox musical was ‘Leader of the Pack,’ which had songs like ‘Chapel of Love’ or ‘Da Doo Run Run,’” explained Mr. Disher. “These pieces are not designed to tell stories. The plot is just lightly woven together, tatted like lace, to present the music.”

What that ultimately means for the cast is a thorough musical workout with little rest between numbers.

“In the first 15 minutes, you have ‘Honey, Honey,’ ‘Money, Money, Money,’ ‘Thank You for the Music’ and ‘Mamma Mia,’” said Mr. Disher. “It’s relentless. If you don’t like ABBA, you will at the end of the show.

“It’s funny how the music gets under your skin, in a complimentary way,” he adding, noting that he’s been hearing ABBA songs everywhere he goes recently. “I went out to dinner and heard ‘Waterloo.’ It’s ubiquitous.”

Though Mr. Disher admits that he wasn’t a huge ABBA fan in the 1970s and he never saw “Mamma Mia!” during its long Broadway run, he has heard from several sources that the show ends with audience members dancing in the aisles.

“In this time and political climate, I thought what’s wrong with just a little entertainment?” he asked. “It’s one of the few musicals I’ve ever done where people will come through the door humming the numbers.

“Anytime you can pull out and hang your disco ball, you know all is right with the world … and if dancing in the aisles occurs, so be it.”

Center Stage at Southampton Cultural Center presents “Mamma Mia!” March 8 through March 24 with performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Amanda Jones is the musical director and Alyssa Kelly choreographs.

The cast features Mary Sabo as Donna Sheridan, Ava Bianchi as Sophie (Donna’s daughter), and Tom Rosante, Jack Seabury and Rich Gardini as Donna’s past suitors. The cast also includes Linda Aydinian, Marco Barrila, Julie Crowley, Alyssa Kelly, James Kelly, Katrina Lovett, Michele Marks, Tina Marie Realmuto, Amanda Kyle-Summers, Kristin Teuber, Josephine Wallace, Kristin Whiting and Sam Terry.

Tickets are $30 (students $15). Also available are several dinner and Sunday brunch theater packages at Plaza Café, Claude’s, Edgewater and Fellingham’s. Purchase tickets and packages online at scc-arts.org or call (631) 287-4377.

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8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser