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Draper Journal

Draper Arts Council kicks off summer with ‘Mamma Mia’ at Draper Amphitheater

Jun 01, 2021 10:38AM ● By Katherine Weinstein

Cast members of the Draper Arts Council production of “Mamma Mia” take a break during rehearsal at Draper Amphitheater. (Photo by Taylor Davenport/ Draper Arts Council)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

When “Mamma Mia,” the hit jukebox musical based on the music of ABBA, opened on Broadway in October 2001, it brought much-needed joy and escapism to audiences in the aftermath of 9/11.

Susan DeMill, the director of Draper Arts Council’s production of “Mamma Mia,” feels that it’s the perfect show for the current moment. “After this past year, coming together for singing, dancing and having fun is just what the doctor ordered,” she said.

The production was cast and much of the set was built over a year ago, but the show was postponed due to the pandemic. The actors are excited at the prospect of finally performing for an audience. “This really is a catharsis for us,” said Chad Smith, who plays Harry.

In the show, Harry is one of three men invited to a wedding by a young bride, Sophie, who is determined to find out which of her mother’s former boyfriends is her father. Sophie lives on a Greek island with her free-spirited mother, Donna. Donna’s two best friends, Tanya and Rosie, who used to sing with her in a girl band called “The Dynamos,” also come for the wedding. Over the course of the festivities, the bonds of mother/daughter love are tested, friendships are renewed and old flames are rekindled. 

The music of ‘70’s Swedish pop super group, ABBA, reflects the emotions of the characters and propels the storyline.

In 2008, a movie version of “Mamma Mia” starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried became one of the top-grossing films of the year. The Draper Arts Council production, however, differs from the film in a couple of key ways. Certain scenes have been changed up and the script has been edited.

“We cleaned up the language a little bit,” DeMill explained. “This is definitely a family-centered show.” 

DeMill credits the fact that she grew up dancing during the ABBA era for her decision to make the “Dancing Queen” number “the centerpiece of the show.” While it is not a major scene in the movie, in the Draper Arts Council production, “young Sophie becomes the Dancing Queen.”

The song “Slipping Through My Fingers” is staged as a journey into Donna’s memory, showing her interacting with her daughter at different ages. Tara Kearl, who plays Donna, explained that as a mother of three in real life, she related to the character as she came to terms with her daughter growing up and getting married. “I pulled in my emotions from my real life,” Kearl said. 

Kearl is enjoying the role of Donna. “I love her!” she said. “She’s a really deep character that I didn’t expect to find. There’s a lot of emotion.” 

Sara Holbrook said that she can also relate to her character, Sophie, on an emotional level. “Sophie gets emotionally involved in people, like I do,” she said.

Several cast members said that they didn’t appreciate the depth of the musical’s plot and the characters until they took on their roles. Serena Mackerell, who plays Donna’s friend Tanya, remarked that audiences will be surprised as well. “People may think it’s just a concert with an underlying story,” she said. “You’re going to get a lot more than you think.” 

“It’s relatable,” added Chad Smith. “It’s about things that are universal.”

Linze Struiksma, who plays Donna’s friend Rosie, elaborated. “The show is more about relationships, especially the relationship between the mother and the daughter.”

At the same time, “Mamma Mia” captures the sheer fun of ABBA’s music and iconic look down to the white platform boots and sequined outfits worn by the characters in some of the song and dance numbers. Kearl noted that while her role is “very emotional, I also get to have a blast with my girlfriends, my Dynamo girls!”

The cast has been working hard and having a lot of fun with the choreography. After the isolation and uncertainty of the past year, the actors are thrilled to be performing together. 

“It’s been an uplifting thing to experience,” Holbrook said. “We’ve become such good friends based on our experience doing the show.” 

DeMill is eager to spread the word about the show. “It’s nothing but straight fun,” she said. “It’s a joy!”  

Draper Arts Council will present “Mamma Mia,” with music and lyrics by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, at Draper Amphitheatre on May 28, 29, 31 and June 4, 5, 7, 11 and 12. Draper Amphitheatre is located at 944 Vestry Road in Draper. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit