ABBA, dancing queens and three potential dads: ‘Mamma Mia!’ takes stage at McCormick Auditorium


Isabelle Butera/The Daily Northwestern

From left to right: Tanya (Claire Guthrie), Donna (Riley Mulcahy) and Rosie (Hope Valls) reunite to perform before Sophie’s wedding.

Isabelle Butera, Reporter

The music you know and love. A silly, chaos-filled plot. A “dance party in McCormick.” Most importantly, a reprieve from studying for finals. What more reasons could a Northwestern student need to see “Mamma Mia!”?

The musical, presented by Arts Alliance, follows the adventures of Sophie, who invites her three potential fathers — Harry, Sam and Bill — to her wedding without informing her mother, Donna. Performances are free for students to attend and will take place in McCormick Auditorium Friday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“We wanted to create this big, joyous celebration to relieve some of the Reading Week stress,” said Producer Payton Shearn.

The Communication senior pitched the show to Arts Alliance with Director and Communication senior Samara Malik in the spring. Ahead of its premiere, “Mamma Mia!” went “full steam ahead,” according to Marketing Director and SESP senior Amy Drake. The production team posted videos on Instagram and TikTok.

Cast members also performed several dance numbers in 20-second flash mobs on the Sheridan Road crosswalk Wednesday, mimicking the style of the “Crosswalk the Musical” segments on the “Late Late Show with James Corden.”

Crowd of students dances and sings in the middle of the crosswalk as a passerby walks in front of it.
The cast of “Mamma Mia!” performed flash-mob style dance numbers on the Sheridan Road crosswalk Wednesday to promote its performances. (Isabelle Butera/The Daily Northwestern)

The popularity of “Mamma Mia!” spans beyond the typical musical theatre audience. It’s a jukebox musical featuring almost 30 beloved ABBA songs, which help to convey the plot. Fan favorites such as “Dancing Queen”; “Chiquitita” and “Money, Money, Money” all make appearances throughout the show.

“‘Mamma Mia!’ is just a beast,” said Communication junior Andy Johnston, who plays Sam in the show. “It is like a concert in a play’s clothing.”

For Johnston, the music is his favorite part of the show. He said the production’s choreography and music teams have helped make the ABBA classics shine.

Executing these iconic numbers presented an exciting challenge for choreographer and Communication senior Sammi Tapper. She said it was important for her to encourage actors to bring their authentic selves into their choreography. For larger ensemble numbers, Tapper instructed cast members to dance as they would normally at a party.

“It’s kind of finding the balance between what musical theatre movement is like and then what is pedestrian movement,” Tapper said.

Live drums and guitar in the pit, disco lights and colorful costumes add to the ’70s vibe. The show’s costumes, which follow the signature blue-and-white aesthetic of the movie, came mostly from pieces that are either thrifted or from the actors’ own closets.

Audiences can expect an exciting and entertaining night, according to Communication senior Riley Mulcahy, who plays Donna in the show.

“It’s so upbeat, and that’s so refreshing,” Mulcahy said. “I feel like a lot of times, Northwestern theatre is trying to get a point across, and ‘Mamma Mia!’ is just something fun.”


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