Calling all Dancing Queens

Bucks County Playhouse presents worldwide sensation ‘Mamma Mia!’ through Aug. 3

On stage: Michelle Dawson is starring as Donna in Mamma Mia!, a high-energy musical that’s on stage at the Bucks County Playhouse through Aug. 3. Source: Bucks County Playhouse

This summer, local theater-goers can transport to the picturesque lands of Greece (and embrace their inner ‘Dancing Queen’) when Bucks County Playhouse continues its 80th anniversary season with the international, musical sensation Mamma Mia!.

Directed by Tony-nominated actor and Upper Dublin graduate John Tartaglia (Avenue Q) and choreographed by Broadway’s Shannon Lewis, the show is on stage through Aug. 3.

According to executive producer Robyn Goodman, producing director Alexander Fraser and producer Josh Fiedler, Mamma Mia! is slated to be the largest musical produced at the Playhouse since it reopened in 2012.

“There is no better summer musical than Mamma Mia!,” said Fielder. “The past two summers have been record-breakers for the Playhouse, with audiences embracing our musical productions of Guys and Dolls42nd Street and Million Dollar Quartet. This year is no exception. We are already seeing tremendous ticket demand for Mamma Mia! and we can’t wait to share this exceptional creative team’s take on this popular musical with our loyal audiences.”

Mamma Mia! is a high-energy show that follows Sophie, played by Sara Masterson (Next to Normal at Syracuse Stage), on the eve of her wedding. In order to discover the identity of her father, she invites three men from her mother’s past to attend her big day.

Naturally, confusion and romance ensue in this charming story, which is told through the music of ’70s Swedish pop group ABBA. Featured songs include “Voulez-Vous,” “Take a Chance on Me” and “Dancing Queen.”

Starring as Sophie’s free-spirited mother Donna is Michelle Dawson (Broadway’s Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, Ragtime), who is no stranger to the musical or role. Since 2008, Dawson has appeared in Mamma Mia! on Broadway and at numerous regional theaters as Donna, Rosie and Tanya.

Mamma Mia! definitely just strikes a chord with me. What attracts me to it? Something about Mamma Mia! really works,” Dawson told The Times. “The story tied in with the music and the journey that Donna has. She’s a single mom working her tail off, trying to keep life together. The thing about this show and why people love it so much, we can relate to these women in some way. There’s a lot of her in me – that grounded, earthy gal.”

This is Dawson’s debut appearance at the Playhouse. It’s also the first time in a while she’s getting to reconnect with the character of Donna, with her last portrayal taking place a year ago in Sacramento, California.

Though Dawson has the lyrics and lines of Mamma Mia! memorized by heart at this point in her career, she said each new director, choreographer and cast helps prevent her version of Donna from becoming stagnant. Their fresh approaches to the show force her to shake things up and better herself on stage – something she welcomes with open arms.

“It’s really good for me and a nice challenge to be like, ‘OK I know it. I’ve done it for years. But how do I find discoveries?’ I always want that,” she said. “How can I grow a little bit more?”

For Dawson, there’s a sense of comfort that comes with being part of the Mamma Mia! phenomenon for more than a decade.

“This show just oozes happiness and fun. Sometimes with a show, depending on the vibe of it, you can’t help but take it on a little bit. There’s some really touching moments, and you can get as deep as you want, but it’s happy. It feels good,” she said. “If you really, truly want to be swept away and have a great evening of fun and laughs and just escape, it’s the perfect show to see.”

The cast of Mamma Mia! also includes Devin Lewis (Newsies: Live!) as Sky, Terra C. MacLeod (Broadway’s Chicago) as Tanya, Danielle Lee Greaves (Broadway’s A Streetcar Named DesireRentHairspray) as Rosie, Michael Hunsaker (National tour, Ragtime) as Sam, Peter Saide (Las Vegas’ Jersey Boys, Off-Broadway’s Desperate Measures) as Bill, and Michael Dean Morgan (Bucks County Playhouse’s National Pastime and Broadway’s Amazing Grace) as Harry.

Rounding out the ensemble is Ryan Ballard, Taylor Broadard, Ian Campayno, Sy Chounchaisit, Alec Cohen, Jillian Hope Ferguson, Julia Joy, Kathleen Laituri, Francesca Mancuso, McKenzie Sherman, Greg Sim, Caden Thomas and Julius Williams. Kuppi Jessop and Makenna Stergion serve as swings.

The production will play the following schedule: Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. (plus an additional matinee performance on July 30 at 2 p.m.); Wednesdays at 2 p.m.; Thursdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m. (except July 5 and Aug. 2, which will be at 7 p.m. with New Hope Fireworks following the show); Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. There is an additional matinee on Friday, July 5 at 2 p.m.

Single tickets to Mamma Mia! are on sale now. Tickets range from $60-$85. Special rates are available for groups of 10 or more. Season ticket packages are still available. Some performances have limited availability. For complete details and to purchase tickets, visit buckscountyplayhouse.org, call 215-862-2121, or visit the box office at 70 S. Main St., New Hope. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com