By Christine Born
Live shows often move audiences to levels of exuberance that screen versions, no matter how well acted, rarely achieve. When Mamma Mia! the movie opens on the big screen this summer, some moviegoers may leave the theater humming the seductive, familiar tunes from the ’70s pop group ABBA that inspired the popular Broadway musical, but it’s doubtful they’ll be dancing out to the parking lot.
Yet, whenever and wherever the hit live show plays, people wind up dancing in the aisles, singing and clapping along to the title song as well as to “Dancing Queen” – probably the best-known song among others like “Money, Money, Money,” “S.O.S” and “Take a Chance on Me.”
Say what you will about the music or the group behind it, this show is irresistibly catchy.
“There are many musicals that are fantastic but really none that sets off to accomplish a task and does it so well, which is to make you happy,” says Michael Lindner, who plays Harry Bright, one of the three possible fathers of the bride (Colin Firth’s role in the movie). “I had never seen the show and was not that familiar with ABBA, but my parents loved it. I was shocked when I finally saw it.
“It totally wins you over,” he says. “You go on the journey. You go to this Greek island and feel you’re on vacation — and at the end, everyone gets up and dances.”
Lindner, who has performed lead roles in The Producers , Into the Woods , The Wizard of Oz , Oliver, Cats , Annie Get Your Gun , Funny Girl , Sweeney Todd , The Secret Garden , The Full Monty and Carousel , among others, says nothing compares to the experience of more than 3,000 people in an audience getting up and clapping.
“This is a dream show,” he says. “We do the show many, many times, but it is absolutely fun. As performers, our goal is to entertain or enlighten or make people think or just to make people laugh for a while — they need that.”
For those fans who have seen the show before (including those who return again and again), Lindner says the spirit is the same but they’ll find something fresh.
“The principal actors are all new,” he explains. “We all came together at the same time.” The cast rehearsed together for four weeks, bonding before they took the show on the road. “It really created a new show; it’s very different from its predecessors.”
As an example, Lindner says he never expected he’d be doing the show. “I never really thought there was a part for me. Physically, I’m different; I’m bigger and thicker around the middle. [Lindner resisted any comparison to Firth.] I was surprised, but the creative team really enjoyed the work I did for the audition and found a way to incorporate me into the cast. They were open to little changes.”
The cast shares another experience that may contribute to their version of Mamma Mia!: Many have young children and, says Lindner, understand families. “My wife now tours with me and our 3-month-old son. The conductor has twin daughters; the actor who plays Bill has a 2½-year-old daughter, and another has a daughter born Christmas Day 2007, so we all have support systems. That’s a big part of what the show is about.”
Mothers, daughters, old friends, new love, old romances and new family. What’s not to love? So, go and experience the show, then go to the movie. You’ll have a summer of fun.
Mamma Mia! is at The Fox Theatre from June 10-15.