BY: Linda White-Francis
Flashback 1999: Realistically who would want to write a book centered on the musical life of a once-popular 1975 singing group from Sweden who faded from the spotlight over ten years ago? After all, by 1999, we were listening to the tremendously popular “Backstreet Boys” who were topping the charts and filling our trendy headphones, and CD cases with their funky cool music. Some may have said, “Far-fetched or not interested;” or crazy: a book about some passé entertainers long gone from our outdated record racks and cassette boxes; obviously, only someone who believed in the miracle of re-incarnation would do that.
Well, evidently, and astonishingly so, how wrong can one be when history tells us British author and playwright Catherine Johnson, now 63, did just that-way back in 1999. Her wonderful book took readers by surprise, reigniting the internationally popular boyfriend, girlfriend singing quartet ABBA-who were now well past their singing debut of 1972 (as well their marriages and divorces), and ultimate cooling-down point by 1982. There’s no denying singers/ songwriters Agnetha Faltskog and Bjorn Ulvaeus; and Anni Lyngstad and Benny Anderson known as ABBA (an acronym for the band members’ first names), were back!
Subsequently, Johnson’s book titled Mamma Mia inspired a stage play and musical extravaganza of the same name. The successful musical play first caught on in London and Toronto in 2000 and ran until 2005. In 2001, when it finally had hit Broadway in New York City, it became a musical masterpiece and ran for 14 years-taking its final bow on September 12, 2015. Mamma Mia became the ninth longest-running play in Broadway history. The movie spin-off with actors Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried was produced in 2008, and fans are still reminiscing about the exhilarating film packed with the old pop-rock spinners, and dancing disco thrillers like Waterloo; Dancing Queen; Take a Chance on Me; Gimme, Gimme, Gimme a Man After Midnight; Knowing You, Knowing Me, and Mamma Mia all made famous by Abba. The dramatic screen performances were full of humor, titillating romance, and irony. And the music was voraciously catchy; it was 1972 again-even though it had been 13 years since the play Mamma Mia had captivated audiences on Broadway, with the jivey songs and unique storyline of ABBA once thought to be fading into a sea of yesterday.
This movie brought the waning ABBA back to life and once more into the spotlight, for all generations to rediscover and love all over again. ABBA will always be the gift that keeps on giving if history has anything to do with it. This iconic jewel cannot be stopped from being revisited. Canceled is just not in ABBA’s vocabulary because the fans won’t let them forget how amazing they were and still are! ABBA will never die, and thank goodness! In fact, the stage play was reintroduced once again on Broadway in 2019 and has been a standard in Las Vegas for years.
“Mamma Mia is a fun show; it’s all about the music of ABBA with a story created around it. It’s been around a long time, and should be on everyone in their 40s’ bucket list,” says Kathy Capelle, director of the up-and-coming Stage West Community Playhouse production Mamma Mia. And it’s her baby! Opening night will be March 11th at 7:30 PM and tickets can be obtained by going to their website. “This show transcends all boundaries; it connects with everyone,” Capelle promises. By day, Capelle is a licensed clinical social worker and a private mental health therapist who owns a business in Citrus County. “The Covid-19 pandemic took its toll on the theatre for several months, but I am glad to say we are back on stage again,” Capelle continued.
In a nutshell, the play tells the story of a former rocker and lead member of a singing group known as Donna and the Dynamo’s. When Donna finds herself pregnant and unmarried, the single mother decides to move to a Greek Island to raise her daughter Sophie alone. The fun begins when a grown-up Sophie, about to be wed, comes across her mother’s diary, and to her chagrin discovers her real father whom she has never met, could be one of three different men mentioned in the diary. So being the precocious woman she is, she decides to invite them all to her wedding. When she confronts her mom with what she has discovered of her past indiscretions, understandably it presents a bit of a dilemma; especially the plans for the wedding list. As the tale unravels like a ball of twine caught in an escalator step going down, it becomes a delightful conglomeration of real life. The musical antics are fantastic and the actors deliciously comical, making for entertainment extraordinaire!
Director Capelle’s Mamma Mia has a cast of 21 members. Her musical director Jackie Scott has been adapting musical plays through dance and vocals here in Hernando County and Citrus County for 20 years, additionally, Capelle is blessed with three talented choreographers who work with the cast to make it all come to life.
“Stage West strives to provide an open avenue for individual creative expression through participation in all aspects of high-quality amateur theatrical productions,” Capelle said. “Stage West is Hernando County’s oldest community theatre-celebrating 30 years of operation.”
Stage West, a non-profit community effort, is located at: 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill, Florida, 34606. Call them at 352-683-5113. Performances open on March 11, 12, and 13 at 7:30 PM; Sunday March 14 at 2 PM. The following week, Friday, March 19, 7:30, and Matinees: Saturday, March 20 & Sunday, March 21, at 2PM. The audience can expect to have a good time. So get your tickets now!