KAINALIU — Aloha Theatre wants to invite audiences this weekend to dance, jive and have the time of their lives.
“We just kind of assumed the audience is going to (participate),” Nancy Montez said. “And for me, personally, I’m going to be disappointed if they don’t. I’m expecting some people to stand up and start dancing. I’m waiting on that.”
Montez, one of more than 25 cast members, plays the part of Rosie in Aloha Theatre’s production of “Mamma Mia!” debuting Friday at the theater in Kainaliu. The musical, a popular production both on and off Broadway, is one Aloha Theatre describes as being long-requested by its Hawaii Island audience.
Known as a jukebox musical, “Mamma Mia!” features more than 20 songs by the Swedish pop group ABBA, including many of their hits from the 1970s. “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen,” “Voulez-Vous,” “Winner Takes It All,” and “Take a Chance On Me” are all present for the actors — and the audience — to sing.
“I think part of the spirit of the play is the music,” director Jerry Tracy said. “It’s full of life. And it’s so catchy. I was amazed when we started rehearsals, half the cast knew all the songs already.”
The play follows the character Sophie, played by Delaney Ross, and her quest to find her father before her wedding day, which comes down to three men — Sam, Bill and Harry. All three are invited to the Greek island where Sophie lives with her mother Donna, played by Amanda Trusty, to find out the truth.
The three potential fathers are played by Miguel Montez, William McGregor and Robb Dahlke; and Wendy Buzby, Nancy Montez, Jaquelynn Collier, Raisa Klyne, Stephen Alves, Christian Aragon and Xavier Chung round out the supporting cast of friends and love interests.
“I get to smile and I get to dance, and that’s fun,” said Collier, who plays the role of Ali. “This one requires a lot of energy. ‘The Addams Family’ required a lot of dark energy to get that creepy feel, and this one requires so much brighter energy, and so much spirit to it. It feels like a dance camp or cheer camp going on all the time.”
The longer-running snowbird show for the Aloha Theatre this season, “Mamma Mia!” runs for five weekends, Friday through March 10. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday performances are at 2:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be amazing. The songs and the dances they’ve been working on are all coming together,” costumer Debbie Rauhe said. “They’ve really been working hard, and it’s a really dedicated cast. We’ve got great stars, great ensemble, and everybody backs each other up well.”
Following “The Addams Family: A New Musical” and “A Christmas Story,” “Mamma Mia!” feels right at home on the Aloha Theatre stage this season.
“All families are unusual, and this is just a different kind of family,” said Miguel Montez, who plays one of the potential fathers, Sam. “All of our shows this season have touched on the theme of family.”
Music director Dale Ross feels the family connection even more than most of the cast members.
“There’s quite a few poignant moments in the show,” Ross said. “My daughter plays Sophie, so when she’s wearing her wedding dress and her mother sings about ‘slipping through my fingers,’ I always think of my own situation with my children becoming adults.”
The songs in “Mamma Mia!,” which Ross said were the soundtrack to her college days, are catchy hits for everyone, no matter the decade they grew up in.
“I actually taught my middle school students part of the song ‘Voulez-Vouz’ today, and they all were like walking around at recess singing ‘Ah ha!’ just like the song,” Collier said. “So even middle schoolers are getting into it.”
A hit on Broadway when it first debuted in 2001, the musical is one of the biggest undertakings Aloha Theatre has done in the past few years. Choreographer Cambrey White said the large ensemble is part of every musical piece but the opening song.
“I think the challenge is, it’s just a very large cast,” White said. “And there’s not a lot of set pieces, and so one of the challenges I think is fitting everybody on stage and prioritizing who’s on stage and where they go on stage.”
At rehearsals last Thursday, Tracy told the cast he was excited for audiences to see what the Aloha Theatre was able to accomplish with “Mamma Mia!”, despite at the time not yet having a rehearsal with the entire cast.
“I think we’re in a really good place right now,” Montez said. “Everybody’s working really hard, and they work really well together with very little conflict. I think everybody’s focused on making this the best show possible.”
Info: Tickets to ‘Mamma Mia!’ at the Aloha Theatre are $27 for adults, $24 for seniors, $22 for young adults, and $10 for children. The show runs for five weekends, from this Friday to March 10, with Friday and Saturday performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday performances beginning at 2:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at apachawaii.org.