‘Mamma Mia!’ will make your heart soar

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Gas Lamp Players will be presenting “Mamma Mia” from Feb. 7 through Feb. 9 at Ridgewood Avenue School. The jukebox musical with songs by ABBA has a cast of 70 local actors and is being directed by Kristy Graves. 

“Mamma Mia” tells the story of a young woman on the eve of her wedding who would like to learn the identity of her father. From her mother’s letters, she gleans the names of three men who may be that man. She invites them to her wedding, hoping to learn the truth.

“It’s a story that just grabs people,” Graves said after a recent rehearsal. “The Gas Lamp community wanted to do it, but I was unfamiliar with it. Because it is a jukebox musical, I wanted really good actors to pull the audience in.”

Graves explained that a jukebox musical has a story line created to accommodate a collection of songs already written.

Gas Lamp production has some interesting cast interconnections. To start, the two romantic leads, Troy Hall and Deshja Driggs-Hall, are married.

“Their chemistry is phenomenal,” Graves said. “They are just phenomenal actors and performers.”

Then there are the three possible fathers.

“They are friends outside,” Graves said. “In the auditions, you can tell it. They were perfect and have done Gas Lamp productions before.”

In addition to the three dads, there are also three divas. Together with the three dads, they make up the show’s pop group, called the Dynamos.

“The three females did not know each other,” Graves said. “They work really well together. I understand, from the ensemble, they were warm and friendly.”

The three possible dads are played by Troy Hall, David Campbell and Jeff Prior. The three divas are Deshja Driggs-Hall, Jessi Baden-Campbell and Kay Koch. David Campbell and Jessi Baden-Campbell are not related.

Another cast connection is with the bride and groom characters. In reality, they are friends from Iowa who have moved to the area.

“I’ve never directed a jukebox musical before,” Graves said. “The challenge is getting the audience pulled into the story. We know everyone wants to hear the songs, but you also want the audience interested in the story. That’s why I’m grateful for having such good actors.”

“The audience is going to laugh and be pulled in by their heartstrings,” Graves said. “There’s a party on stage and it’s so much fun.”

Gas Lamp’s creative/production team includes assistant director Susan Knight Carlin; coproducers Meredith Eaton, Eileen Kelly and Rennae Pelayo; musical director Markus Grae-Hauck; choreographer Michael Scannelli; assistant choreographer Conny Andres; technical director Cyndi Owgang; stage manager Robert Lavagno; assistant stage manager Justin Comini; set designer Alecia Hurst Walton; costume designer Greta Nappa; lighting designer Kevin Ohlweiler; and sound designer Jimmy Preziosa. Music accompaniment will be provided by a keyboard, bass, drums and guitar.

Performances are Friday, Feb. 7, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8, at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 9, at 2 p.m. An admission fee will be charged.