If you're a fan of "Mamma Mia!," the rest of this article could be superfluous except for the ticket information. The uber-popular, jukebox musical was a hit based on hits: ABBA's 1970s pop-disco songs powered a 14-year run on Broadway. Once it was made into a movie, none other than Meryl Streep stepped in for the lead.
Missoula Community Theatre picked the show as a bright introduction to start its 2017-18 season, since it has a pop-ish veneer and that name recognition, said show director and MCT chief Michael McGill. Even casual music fans will be familiar with "Dancing Queen."
Recreating the Swedish pop group's vocal harmonies requires teamwork for the cast. McGill said it's the "ultimate ensemble show," even compared to plays where the cast remains on stage the entire time. For the MCT production, off-stage actors join extra singers to reproduce the Swedish pop-disco harmonies that audiences expect.
While the show is clustered with big numbers and dance pieces, McGill said they're striving to maintain the emotional core.
In the musical, as in the Streep movie, a young woman named Sophie is going to get married at a Greek resort in the 1990s. Part of her dream wedding is to walk down the aisle with the father she's never met. After reading her mother Donna's diary, she narrows the list of likely patriarchs to three and invites them to the wedding unbeknownst to Donna. The wedding also involves a reunion with her 1970s group, Donna and the Dynamos, which is where the ABBA hits come in.
The roles of Donna and Sophie have been filled by two recent transplants who were looking to get involved with the local theater community.
"I thought I was auditioning for one of the smaller roles," said Megan Folsom, who's playing Donna. Nevertheless, she's now principal singer on six songs, including the title track and "Money, Money, Money," "Super Trouper," "One of Us," "Slipping Through My Fingers," and "The Winner Takes It All." She said it's been a challenge learning the many songs, some of which require a demanding vocal range, along with the choreography. McGill has his own vision for the production, she said, which includes "looking at the heart of the characters" amidst the music and dance and overall spectacle.
McGill said Folsom has a discerning acting style with depth — her character is dealing with her past while forging a way into her future.
Growing up, she acted with Missoula Children's Theatre and at age 10 appeared in Montana author-director Annick Smith's 1979 film, "Heartland." She attended Sentinel High School and the University of Montana, and toured with the Montana Repertory Theatre as an undergrad. She subsequently spent about two decades in New York and Los Angeles pursuing her career. She appeared in an episode of "Law & Order," in addition to theater, voice-over and commercial work. During that span, she also returned home to Montana with the Philipsburg Opera House Theatre's summer company.
She's continued singing while working in early childhood education, and moved back to her hometown with hopes of digging back into the local theater. She said MCT is atypical for community theater, since so many of the cast members have professional experience. Take Royce McIntosh, who plays one of Donna's former boyfriends. He was a member of a national tour for "Mamma Mia."
"It's a town full of talent," she said. "I'm honored to be in the show."
In the role of Sophie, Hailey Stone brings "a charming, outgoing 20-something exuberance that is compelling. It draws you to her and what she says on the stage," McGill said.
The 2015 Glasgow High School graduate performed with the Fort Peck Summer Theatre and only recently moved to Missoula. Like Folsom, she didn't expect to land a lead role. Regardless of the part, she said it's "cool being able to come to a new place and immediately have that sense of community."
"Mamma Mia" starts off MCT's 2017-18 season. He said the line-up has something for everyone, "whether you want to be on stage or see a wonderful variety" of shows.
Here's a look at the rest of the line-up:
"A Christmas Carol: The Musical," Nov. 30-Dec. 17.
McGill said that some people may think they've seen Dickens' classic holiday story before, but he noted that the music truly sets this version apart. The tunes were written by Alan Menken, who served as composer on Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and "Newsies."
"Happy Days: The Musical," Jan. 18-28.
Audition date: Nov. 19
MCT traditionally chooses a bright, humorous show for its slot in January, when the holidays have passed and the winter inversion has settled in. Garry Marshall, the creator of the original TV show, wrote this adaptation, with throwback rock 'n' roll music and lyrics by Paul Williams. The award-winning songwriter might be the only person to have penned songs for both the Carpenters and Daft Punk.
"The 39 Steps," March 8-18
Audition date: Jan. 28
McGill said the season's straight play, i.e. non-musical, will still offer a lot of fun for the audience. The murder-mystery is based on an Alfred Hitchcock film, while still poking fun at the director. The antics are compounded by the cast requirements: four actors portray more than 150 characters.
"The Little Mermaid," April 26-29, May 2-13
Audition date: Feb. 25
"The stage play is quite a spectacle, as you can imagine," McGill said. In addition to the well-known music, the show will require some flying rigs to simulate characters moving underwater, and the costume shop and set designers will have plenty of raw material on which to loosen their imaginations.