Tickets going fast for Station Theatre's 'Mamma Mia!'

Tickets going fast for Station Theatre's 'Mamma Mia!'

URBANA — Who knew ABBA would thrive beyond the '70s, spark two movies and grace the Station Theatre with a stage version that opens tonight?

Americans loved the band's harmonies, but even more so, the Swedes are the best-selling band from continental Europe, and also from outside the English-speaking world, selling more than 400 million records worldwide.

Adaptations seemed inevitable. In 1999, the musical "Mamma Mia!" toured worldwide.

Almost a decade later, the film version debuted, and just this year we saw "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again."

Producer Jaclyn Loewenstein said tickets are going fast for the show.

"It's a really well-known, popular title," she said. "People love ABBA. It never hurts when a play was in two movies."

University of Illinois student Katie Burke is the director, and she wasn't even born when "Dancing Queen" dominated the charts in 1976, nor when the band broke up in 1982.

And her parents weren't really into them, either.

"Neither of my parents were big ABBA fans, and I don't have a history of being a big fan," she said. "Of course, everyone knows key ABBA songs, so I'd call myself an occasional listener. Most of my exposure to them has been through media, friends and through the existence of the 'Mamma Mia!' movie with Meryl Streep."

The Celebration Company's own "Mamma Mia!" by ABBA's Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson is a joyful change of pace for Burke, whose recent plays have been dark indeed.

"It's definitely one of the less emotionally heavy and more joyous of the recent pieces I've directed, but it's nice to get back to my roots in directing musicals," she said.

Before a word is spoken, even the set gets you in the ABBA mood.

"Our show takes place in on an idyllic island, but within the confines of the Summer Night Taverna owned by Donna Sheridan, a former 1970s girl group singer. Our taverna invokes the island by featuring a dock, sand and ocean floor while the walls and surrounding atmosphere represent the taverna," Burke said.

Don't expect a carbon copy of the '70s hits.

"The songs in the show aren't necessarily the same arrangements as the original ABBA songs, so it's somewhat of a different interpretation of the music. There are added choral parts and some lyrics that differentiate between ABBA's original music that have been changed to serve the story," she said.

The actors put their own vocal twists onto the music, so what you hear won't be exactly what your hear in the original ABBA songs or the original "Mamma Mia!" cast recording.

"Directing this show has definitely converted me to an ABBA fan. I've had to do a lot of research on them," Burke said.

The cast of 16 local actors is led by Station newcomers Ranae Wilson as Donna Sheridan and Hannah Yonan as her daughter.

Kevin Wickart, Peter Barrett and David Heckman play Donna's ex-lovers. Jenny Gleason and Suzy Goben portray Donna's friends from their 1970s band, Donna and the Dynamos.

Music director Noah Larson and choreographer Whitney Havice interpret "Super Trouper" and "Mamma Mia!" Loewenstein added.

If you go

What: "Mamma Mia!"

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, tonight through Dec. 15; 3 p.m. Dec. 9.

Where: Station Theatre, 223 Broadway Ave., U.

Tickets: $15; students and seniors, $10; first Friday, $10 for all.

Info: or Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006.

Topics (2):Music, Theater