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Lay all your love on PTC’s ‘Mamma Mia!’

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Lay all your love on PTC’s ‘Mamma Mia!’ (photo courtesy PTC/© magnus stark, 2019)

BANGOR – This summer, Penobscot Theatre Company is asking you to take a chance on them.

PTC will be closing out its 45th season with a production of “Mamma Mia!” This jukebox musical is based on the music of Swedish pop royalty ABBA, bringing loads of the quartet’s beloved songs onto the stage. From June 13 through July 14, the Bangor Opera House will be transformed into an idyllic Greek paradise, hosting a wedding about to be upended by unanticipated parental confusion – as in, who’s the father?

Producing Artistic Director Bari Newport continues to find the fun in this summer slot, bringing what will undoubtedly be a breezy delight to area theatergoers.

In advance of this month-long theatrical treat, we reached out to Amiee Turner, the show’s director and choreographer, to speak to her about the experience. Turner has a rich and varied theatrical background, having started her career as a Broadway dancer, dancing in half-a-dozen Broadway shows. She transitioned into directing and choreographing from there. In the years since, she’s helmed over 50 productions and produced about 70.

Turner was kind enough to answer a few questions from The Maine Edge.

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What is it about “Mamma Mia!” that made you want to embark on this project? 

When Bari first approached me about this show, we discussed how it seems everyone feels like they need a respite from the world, a vacation if you will. So, maybe this show could serve as a mini-vacation for the PTC audiences. The effort felt almost noble – haha! 

What aspects of the show captured your attention and imagination? 

I remember seeing the show on Broadway and thinking that everyone left the theatre feeling a little bit giddy, devoid of all cynicism and – dare I say – hopeful. Music can truly transcend our spirits to a different place, and, although I believe this show has tremendous heart, it inarguably has tremendous music! 

You’re serving as both director and choreographer for this piece. How does filling both of those roles impact the way a show comes together? 

It is not always easier, or better, to do both. It is very show-dependent for me. If a show has a clear book that needs specific attention, I prefer to work with a separate choreographer. But on a show like “Mamma Mia!” where the music is integral to the storytelling, it allows me to control the flow seamlessly for the audience. This show is a perfect example of how beneficial it can be covering both roles. 

How do the two disciplines work hand in hand in terms of building the performance? 

Other directors might have a different strength but, for me, with my extensive background in dance, I always pay attention to the literal, physical flow of a show. How it moves through the space created by the set designer. My background can also be very helpful to an actor in utilizing how the physical movements and physical language of their character speak a clearer story to the audience.

What are the challenges that come with dealing with such a large cast? 

It might sound simplistic, but the biggest challenge of having a large cast is literally having more bodies. More bodies to fit into the space, to costume, to encourage, to direct, to teach, etc. But nothing can even begin to match the excitement for an audience than a large cast singing and dancing at the same time. Especially if they are singing and dancing up a storm (which they do in this show)! 

How do you juggle so many moving pieces?

One piece at a time! The process becomes very methodical. It's project management at its highest level.

I know it’s tough to choose, but – do you have a favorite ABBA song? 

I would say growing up it would have to be “Dancing Queen” - I can absolutely sing all the words to this day. And that’s probably still true, but I think one of the pleasures this show brings is an ear to some lesser-known ABBA tunes, or tunes that we hear differently in the context of the show. So I’m very fond of “Slipping Through My Fingers” right now. I was not familiar with this song at all. It strikes a very personal chord for me and is a really lovely moment in the show. Dare I say maybe even a tearjerker? 

How are you enjoying your time here in Bangor? I recently directed at UMaine so I have a bit of familiarity to the town already. And, I actually have dear friends who moved here a few years ago so it's been fun seeing them a little. I love walking around, grabbing a coffee, doing a little shopping downtown. Bangor is a great town. A real gem. 

Anything else to add that you think our readers might like to know?

This is my first time at PTC and let me tell you, this is a terrific group of performers. There are high school students, college students, NYC actors, local pros … all thrown together. They have worked tirelessly learning the amazing harmonies, constant choreography and really found the heart of the story. I am incredibly excited for the audience to see this. I couldn't be prouder of the show. 

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Meet the cast of “Mamma Mia!”

As you can tell, this show features a very large cast – one of the largest to grace the Opera House stage in recent years. We thought it might be fun to introduce you to them, give you a chance to hear directly from them what it has been like to put this show together.

We reached out to the cast of “Mamma Mia!” and asked them to answer a few questions and share their impressions of the experience thus far. These are some of their responses. Some go on at length, others are short and sweet, but what’s unwaveringly obvious is that every one of these people are having a heck of a good time.

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Frank Bachman

What character(s) are you playing?

Harry Bright

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Meeting everyone new to me.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Our Last Summer.” Besides getting to sing it? The story it suggests.

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Danielle Barrett

What character(s) are you playing?

Ensemble and dance captain.

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

It’s been so incredible being able to work and bond with the amazing people who are in the cast and crew.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

Probably “Does Your Mother Know.” It is so spunky and its context in the show makes it so fun.

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Brianne Beck

What character(s) are you playing?

Tanya

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

I have really enjoyed the choreography rehearsals. I love to dance, and despite being cast in many musicals, the roles I get don’t always get to dance in the shows. I enjoy that Tanya gets to shake her booty quite a bit.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

While ABBA wrote some amazing uptempo dance songs, I am a sucker for a power ballad. “The Winner Takes It All” has such raw, emotional lyrics – which makes it perfect for musical theatre.

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Robert Brangwynne

What character(s) are you playing?

Pepper

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

I love seeing everything come together, all the pieces fitting like a puzzle, the choreography, the music – it’ll blow the audience away!

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Under Attack,” which opens Act II. Whenever I listen to it, it gets stuck in my head. The sound is mysterious and foreboding – it’s just catchy as hell!

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Eric Byers

What character(s) are you playing?

Ensemble

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Getting to interact and form a bond with the other castmates.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Take A Chance,” because Christie Robinson and Dominick Varney are acting their faces off and they both are incredible.

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Aidan Close

What character(s) are you playing?

Ensemble

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Watching the cast in rehearsal. There’s nothing like watching talented, lovely and dedicated actors do their work.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Slipping Through My Fingers” never fails to fill me with existential sadness for the time we lose our parents. It’s great.

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Stephanie Colavito

What character(s) are you playing?

Sophie

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Working with this incredible cast. The people in the room are family and I love them all so much.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Does Your Mother Know” because it is so fun to dance to; I’m always bopping along backstage. It looks like so much fun!

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Brianna Demaso

What character(s) are you playing?

Ensemble

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Singing groovy ABBA music with this insanely talented cast!

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Slipping Through My Fingers.” When you hear Heather Libby sing it, you will understand.

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Kate Fogg

What character(s) are you playing?

Ali

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Listening to Heather Libby sing!

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Super Trouper,” because it’s energetic and fun!

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Marianne Grossman

What character(s) are you playing?

Lisa

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Getting to work with people I’ve looked up to for years!

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Why Did It Have To Be Me,” specifically from the sequel movie.

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Tyler Ivey

What character(s) are you playing?

Sky

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

The cast! It seems cliché, but the cast has been a blast and made me feel like part of the family.

* Major favorite is the push-up sessions on our breaks. #gainz

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Dancing Queen.” Because I am the Dancing Queen!

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Heather Libby

What character(s) are you playing?

Donna Sheridan

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

This huge cast, really getting a chance to learn from others and watching some of the younger performers really grow.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Super Trouper.” It really embraces the 1970s vibe.

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Tien Misler

What character(s) are you playing?

Ensemble

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

The cast is so wonderful and we come from all walks of life, ages and accomplishments; some I’m just meeting and some I’ve known since I was so young watching them perform on the mainstage or performing with them in Dramatic Academy shows and now we are all together creating this craziness of a show and that’s easily my favorite part.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

Currently, it’s “The Winner Takes It All,” because everyone should be excited to hear Heather Libby belt her heart out and make you cry because it’s inevitable.

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Noam Osher

What character(s) are you playing?

Ensemble

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Working out on breaks with fellow cast members in order to get that “summer bod.”

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Our Last Summer,” because it is so heartfelt.

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Zivi Osher

What character(s) are you playing?

Ensemble

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

I like getting to know my fellow cast members.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Dancing Queen.” It sounds so good.

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Michael Padgett

What character(s) are you playing?

Sam Carmichael

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Being a part of a cast that loves, supports and respects each other at all levels of experience. There’s positivity abounding and real joy in the hard work of putting this big show together, little by little, every day.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Dancing Queen.” This is actually the second play I’ve done where this song was featured. It served as the opening music to a production of Moliere’s “The Misanthrope,” set in Studio 54.

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Bob Potts

What character(s) are you playing?

Father Alexandrios/Ensemble

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Singing all these great classic ABBA songs with such crazy talented people! And – as always – the camaraderie between and among the cast and crew.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

It’s a tossup between “Dancing Queen” (because … “Dancing Queen” – I mean, come on!) and “Waterloo.”

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Alex Ross

What character(s) are you playing?

Eddie

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

All of it has been fantastic! Learning and running the show has been wonderful!

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Dancing Queen,” because when I hear it, I feel like a dancing queen!

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Birdie Sawyer

What character(s) are you playing?

Ensemble.

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

Working with the cast and director.

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Gimmie Gimmie” – I like the melody.

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Michelle Weatherbee

What character(s) are you playing?

Ensemble

What has been your favorite part of the “Mamma Mia” experience so far?

SO many big dance numbers. They were so fun to learn, and every rehearsal feels like a giant dance party!

What is your favorite ABBA song, and why?

“Dancing Queen,” because … duh.

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 June 2019 15:55

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