Friday, September 18, 2015

Mamma Mia There I Go Again One Last Time on Broadway

On stage to take their bows.

I am so glad I did this. It was a tremendous performance. More on that a little later.

I started thinking about the show and what it meant to me on the bus ride home. I’ve been thinking about it on and off these past couple of days as I’ve tried to come up with a post about that incredible performance on Saturday.

I’ve been a fan of ABBA since Dancing Queen came out. I knew some of their songs before but that cemented it for me. The opening riff is unmistakable. I think it is a song that will be played years and years and years from now. From time to time I’ve taken some grief for being a fan of ABBA and the show.

So this is what I came up with not every play is Shakespeare, not every novel is Hemingway, not every TV show is MASH, not every album is the Beatles, not every musical is Sondheim. There is a reason it is called popular music. Because it is popular. And ABBA and certainly Mamma Mia was popular (you aren’t on Broadway for 14 years unless you are popular).

But the connection to the music goes beyond that. ABBA toured the US only once and that was in 1979. I was a Junior at George Washington University. ABBA was going to be in Chicago September 30. I decided with my parents and a couple of friends that we would go to the concert. I think I took close to a week off of school for it. I happened to find my journal for that time period and it says I only missed two classes. The concert was on a Sunday. I came home the previous Thursday and stayed until Tuesday. It was a nice break. I had an early Thanksgiving dinner with my family since I wouldn’t be home for it. But the main reason was to go to the concert. Sunday night off we went. We went down to the Auditorium Theater. As I recall we were in the balcony but very close to the front. I know we were all excited to see the show. And we all had a blast. (It was a good thing that I saw them in Chicago. They were going to play Washington right down the street from GW but one of them was sick and they had to cancel the performance.)

Fast forward almost 30 years and Mamma Mia is going to be in Chicago. I say to my parents if I get tickets will you go. They say yes. So once again I fly home and we go and see the show. Just before the show starts I said to them we are probably the only people in this theater that saw ABBA live. And of course we all loved the show. This has a special place for me because it is that last visit I had with my mom and the last event we all went to together. She died a few months later.

On to the show. I had an early lunch. I was finished just about the time the matinee was ending. They’d moved it to 1pm that day. I thought it might be a good idea to go over to the theater and take some pictures of the cast coming out. I wanted to do this because it was daylight and it’s much easier to get pictures with a digital camera in daylight as opposed to at night. (With all the extra light sources at night the camera has a problem of figuring out what to focus on.) There was also the possibility of it raining that night. I got some pretty good pictures here  are a few.

I walked around for a while went back to the hotel for a little while and came back to the theater. I got this great picture of start Judy McLane with members of her family taking a group photo in front of her poster. It ended up that some of them sat just a row away from me. One was her sister. They had a large group because some were sitting in the balcony of the theater. One kid was sent down to the orchestra seats because he couldn’t see where he was sitting.

Judy McLane and family pose outside the Broadhurst Theater

As the crowd began to fill the theater it became obvious that many family members and former cast members were here for the last show. Playbill had run a retrospective on the show and had pictures of past members of the cast. I recognized at least five people from that photo spread. Later I saw pictures of who attended the last performance and I recognized other people I’d seen. There were many loud greetings and hugs.

The atmosphere was electric to say the least. They started at least ten minutes late because people would not take their seats. Finally the lights dimmed. The orchestra started the overture and then everyone was on their feet clapping along. This was just a taste of what was to come.

With each major character or characters taking the stage, there was a huge round of applause. When Judy McLane who plays Donna made her entrance, the applause stopped the show. It was tremendous with shouts and whistles. Woman who plays Tanya just pointed to the audience and then at Judy as if to say take this all in.

The audience helped out on the choruses of Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen. But the best audience participation occurred with Knowing Me and Knowing You. That line is sung and then there’s an ahh in the background. The former members of the cast in the audience decided to help out on that one. But by the end of the song the entire audience was helping out.

But the highlight, if you could pick out just one, had to be the Winner Takes It All. It is my favorite song in the entire show and Judy just nailed it. People were applauding before she finished and on their feet as she exited the stage. Just an amazing performance.

Then of course the audience clapped along to Take a Chance on Me. And I could go on but just a wonderful, exciting and very special night.

After the encores Judy Craymer came on stage to say her thank yous for 14 wonderful years.And they certainly were wonderful.

I have to say I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want this amazing and incredible experience to end. I thought I would be sad that it was over but I wasn’t. Just so happy I decided to go and see this last show.

After I waited outside of the cast to appear. Everyone was all dressed up because they were going to the after-party. I got some pictures. But I got many signatures. I bought a large program. I had a sticker on it that should the date Mamma Mia ran (the Playbill had a sticker that said official closing night program). I got the major actors to sign. My plan is to have it framed along with the Playbill and my ticket.

It certainly was a once in a lifetime experience and one I will always treasure.

1 comment:

Arthur Schenck said...

Thanks for sharing that. Of course I knew some of it (and was even part of some it!), but you fleshed out your story more, which was really interesting.

You also inspired a blog post of my own, so thanks for that!

Oh, and yes, we WERE in a balcony!