The story — and soundtrack — of “Mamma Mia” is known and loved by many. The classic features many beloved ABBA songs and an endearingly lighthearted and hectic story.
Director Paul Hustoles described “Mamma Mia” as a “jukebox musical… Usually in musical theater you come up with the plot first and then write songs that match the plot, but here they took a lot of ABBA’s hits and then kind of cleverly worked backwards.”
Hustoles recently retired as the Chair of the Department of Theater and Dance at Minnesota State University, Mankato, but is sticking around to direct musicals.
“We have been trying to do the show for a while, but only just got the royalties last spring because it’s so popular,” he said. “We brought in a director with Broadway credentials, as I was only supposed to be the assistant director. But then with spring break came the cancellation of this and nine other shows. But now we’re back!”
The story of “Mamma Mia” follows Donna, a woman who spent her youth exploring and partying before having a daughter of her own. Her daughter grows up and decides to invite the three men who could possibly be her father to her wedding. Laughter, shenanigans and a whole lot of singing ensue.
“A lot of people are saying we shouldn’t do anything frivolous, that it should all be serious because COVID is serious,” Hustoles remarked. “But my response is exactly the opposite. Now is the time we need something frivolous and fun.”
While COVID-19 may not be impacting the choice of the show, it still impacts how actors interact on stage.
“Director Hustoles has been very creative with how he almost utilizes the pandemic and the social distancing standards that we have to abide by,” said Ty Hudson, who plays the role of Sam. “Rather than just ignoring it and having an audience suspend disbelief about masks and social distancing, it’s actually driven into the play. It’s taking place in a COVID world.
Hudson describes the connections within the cast as being like nothing else he’s ever seen.
“I have really seen a sense of community building with this show,” he said. “You can see those bonds that have been forming throughout the course of the rehearsal process, and watching these friendships and these relationships grow and prosper on stage and off has been really delightful.”
MNSU Senior Ray Kloth echoed that sentiment. “I’ve gone to school with most of these people for three years now and have been in a couple of shows with them, but never one where I’ve gotten so close to people.”
Kloth said the cast was ecstatic to hear about the show, himself included — especially because they landed the role of Rosie, one of Donna’s best friends.
“I’m just so honored to be able to play my favorite character. This has been my favorite show since I was a kid, and it was the first one I ever saw,” Kloth said.
Graduate student Ruby Carlson plays Donna, one of the show’s leading women.
“It’s amazing to get to do a show that’s just fun,” Carlson said. “I love that the Dynamos are these three strong women who have this really positive friendship. It’s so great to get to build our relationships as we build character relationships.”
“Mamma Mia” runs April 7 – 11 and 14 – 18 in the Ted Paul Theatre.