How does a regional theater bring something new to a show that 60 million people on five continents have seen?

By infusing it with so much heart and over-the-top talent that it held a full-house, opening night audience in the palm of its hand. Spellbound? You bet. So much so that when the dancers leaped to their feet, so did the audience. It’s the first time I’ve seen half the theater dancing to the music.

And what music it is. The songs are so familiar that people were mouthing the words along with the actors. It’s been said familiarity can breed contempt, but not in this case. The songs are sunny and joyous — especially appreciated during this particularly dreary Minnesota winter. Favorites include “I Have a Dream,” “Honey, Honey,” “Money, Money, Money,” “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen,” “Lay All Your Love on Me,” “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme,” “S.O.S.,” “Our Last Summer,” “Take a Chance on Me” and “I Do, I Do, I Do.”

I have to give a shout out to Kersten Rodau who plays Donna. That woman has the most astonishing voice. When she sang “One of Us” and “The Winner Takes It All,” I looked around the audience and every eye was riveted on the stage. Her presence is amazing, but her voice filled the auditorium like a warm summer breeze. It was one of those moments you won’t forget.

That’s really how the whole evening unfolded, one great moment after another. It should also be noted, the actors have added some wonderful quips to the script, which adds to the fun.

As much as the acting and singing is top notch, the dancing needs to be mentioned, too, especially the flipper dance. It’s not easy to dance and it’s even harder to do while wearing swimming flippers, but this crew of men does it so well.

There’s no question in my mind, Chanhassen has box office gold with “Mamma Mia!” So much so that advance ticket sales are on pace for this show to be the most successful production in recent history. The musical is set to run through Sept. 28. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s extended.

“We’ve been patiently waiting to be offered the rights to ‘Mamma Mia!’ for what seems to be more than a decade, so we’re happy to finally bring it to life for our audiences,” said Michael Brindisi, director. “It’s got a big colorful cast, a lot of great laughs, and I’m confident we’ll have people up on their feet.”

He’s right on all three counts.

The story

Sophie is getting married to Sky, the man of her dreams. The invitations have been sent and she’s said yes to the dress. Her mom, Donna, is readying the taverna for all the guests to stay. Sophie dreams of her dad walking her down the aisle but there is one problem: She doesn’t know his name.

Months before the big day, Sophie discovers Donna’s diary and learns about three past loves who may fit the bill. She sends invitations to the men inviting them to return to the island, but signs them as Donna.

On the eve of the wedding, guests begin to check in including the three mystery men who are an unwelcomed surprise to Donna. Everything spins out of control when relationships are tested, identities begin to unravel and romances are rekindled.

Who is Sophie’s father? Who will walk her down the aisle? For the answers, you’ll have to see the show. Without a doubt, this play is a celebration of life and of the past, present and future.

About the show

“Mamma Mia!” opened in London in 1999 and made its way to Broadway in 2001. It continues to play in London, where it is the seventh longest-running show in West End history. It opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on Oct. 18, 2001. It remained one of the most popular shows on the Great White Way throughout its nearly 15-year run. In July 2008, a feature film adaptation premiered starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan. A sequel was released in 2018, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.”

With its popularity, it’s not surprising the musical has grossed $2 billion worldwide. Especially when you consider it has been translated into 14 languages, and on any given day there are at least seven performances of the musical being performed around the world.

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