Hometown Theater Heroes Shine in “Mamma Mia!” at the Ordway

The energetic musical of ABBA hits runs through August 5

Mamma Mia! takes over the Ordway stage, delivering a not-to-be-missed performance, running through August 5. The energetic musical is based on the songs of popular ’70s disco-pop group ABBA.

It opened on Broadway in 2001, so you might know the plot already: The show loosely weaves together the Swedish powerhouse’s hits, creating the real-life soundtrack of a young girl named Sophie who is about to be married in the Greek Isles—that is, before she suddenly lands upon her mother Donna’s journal. The journal identifies three men (Sam, Harry, and Bill) her mother was involved with 20 years earlier.

One of them is likely Sophie’s father. So, she strikes out on a mission to figure out which, so he can walk her down the aisle. This involves inviting all three to her wedding.

The sing-along, toe-tapping, arm-waving story has made its rounds to the Twin Cities many times since opening on Broadway. Having seen the show at least six times over the past 17 years…it was lucky number seven that did it for me. Or maybe it was that the cast was cut from good old Minnesota cloth: 20 actors, out of a cast of 24, represent local talent.

Twin Cities theatergoers will recognize many faces in the Ordway’s production, though a few may look a tad bit different. Ann Michels, a veteran stage actor who is always on point, is known for her lead performance as Mary Poppins in the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre production. Now, her depiction of the sultry, menopausal, man-loving Tanya (Donna’s friend from back in the day) is impeccable, and very un-Mary Poppins-like—far from buttoned-up and proper.

Dieter Bierbrauer, a consummate Twin Cities actor often seen playing the leading man, has been on the Ordway stage in productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, The Sound of Music, and Damn Yankees. In Mamma Mia!, Dieter plays one of the three potential fathers.

Erin Schwab, always a crowd favorite, appears as Rosie, and nails it in the Donna/Tanya/Rosie trio. With unparalleled comedic timing and a dash of cabaret sass, our hometown Bette Midler—yes, I’ll say it—was made to play gal pal Rosie. In fact, over the last decade, every time Erin has taken the stage, it has felt as if her role was created just for her.

Don’t plan on calling your Uber for a post-show pick-up. Once Mamma Mia! ends, the ABBA tribute show begins. Stick around to join in with the cast and audience, because now’s your chance to jump out of your seat and belt out your favorite ABBA tunes. After all, you can dance, you can sing—you are a dancing queen.