The Portal Players Dramatic Society will be opening its 40th anniversary season with one of the biggest musicals of all time.
Told through the music of ABBA, Mamma Mia! will open in Port Alberni on Thursday, Oct. 17. The show, directed by Cindy Solda and produced by Peter Wienold and Andrea Markiewicz, tells the story of Sophie (played by Olivia Gentleman), who lives on a small Greek Island with her mother, Donna (Jacqollyne Keath). Sophie dreams of a perfect wedding—one that includes her father giving her away. The problem? Sophie doesn’t know who he is.
Donna refuses to talk about the past, so Sophie decides to take matters into her own hands. Sneaking a peak into her mother’s old diaries, she discovers three possible fathers: Sam (Elliot Drew), Bill (Nathan Satterlee) and Harry (Doug Noiles). She secretly invites all three to her wedding, convinced that she’ll know her father when she sees him. But when all three turn up, it may not be as clear as she thought.
Solda, who previously directed musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Rocky Horror, said that Mamma Mia! is one of the shows that she has always wanted to direct, but the rights to the musical only became available for amateur licensing last year.
“When I first saw the show, I went ‘yes!’” she said. “I wasn’t an ABBA fan, but now I am. [The music] grows on you.”
The show is an especially complicated one for the Portal Players, with more than 22 actors on stage. Between the acting, lighting, production, costumes, props, vocals, choreography and set decoration, Solda says Mamma Mia! is an incredible display of the artistic talent in Port Alberni.
“People don’t realize what we have in Port Alberni,” she said. “All these little things [are] what make a show work.”
The show features vocal direction by Janet Schlackl and Michael Villette, choreography by Alison Cowan and a seven-piece band led by musical director Sarah Falls. The cast is made up of a number of Portal Players veterans, as well as some new members. Rehearsals started as early as June for vocals.
“There are some [cast members] who have never been in a musical before, never had choreography before,” said Cowan. “They have really risen to the occasion. I couldn’t be happier with the amount of effort.”
Although the Portal Players Dramatic Society is made up of volunteers, Cowan says that the public can expect “a very professional production” from the local theatre group.
“It’s a huge show for a small community to put on,” added Schlackl. “The credit goes to the Portal Players for taking it on and finding the people to bring it to fruition. That bodes well for community theatre in Port Alberni,” she added. “It’s community support that keeps us going.”
Although Chemainus Theatre Festival put on a production of Mamma Mia! this summer, Solda said theatre fans can expect an entirely different experience. “The music is not going to be the same,” she explained. “It’s a different theatrical experience. That’s what’s nice about musicals—you never see the same thing twice.”
The show opens at the Capitol Theatre on Thursday, Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). Additional evening shows will take place on Oct. 18, 19, 23, 25, 26 and Nov. 1 and 2. A Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. will take place on Oct. 27. Solda said that there is the possibility of adding an extra show if there are enough sellouts.
Season tickets are also available for the Portal Players’ 40th season, which includes the Canadian mystery “Shadow of Murder” in February and the classic Neil Simon comedy “I Ought to Be in Pictures” in May.
Tickets are available from the Capitol Theatre box office, the Rollin Art Centre or online at www.atthecapitol.org.