Island life takes center stage this week as the Annisquam Village Players brings the crowd-pleasing musical “Mamma Mia,” set in the Greek Islands, to its historic Gloucester stage.
Like they do with all Annisquam Village Players productions, co-directors Terry Sands and Mary Curtis infuse some of their own Cape Ann island antics into the show, which plays nightly through Monday, Aug. 12.
The end result is sure to have audiences singing and dancing along.
When the Players paraded through Gloucester on July 3 with the Horribles Parade to offer a sneak preview of the show, the performers were met with cheers and people who took to dancing in the street, belting out Swedish pop group Abba’s beloved songs along with them.
“Bring your dancing shoes. The energy level is off the charts in this show. Our cast goes crazy, as we hope the audience will,” Sands said. “It’s one of the most fun shows, with music everyone knows. It’s so colorful and so upbeat, which is a nice thing to have with everything going on in the world today.”
Among the top 10 of the longest-running Broadway shows, “Mamma Mia!” opened on Oct. 18, 2001, just weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. It would have a 14-year run.
The story centers around a young woman who wants to invite the father she’s never known to her wedding — only to discover that there are three possible choices.
For the production team, one of the attractions to the show, in addition to the music, is that it is full of promise.
“It has a great message of hope, which is so needed in today’s world and kind of what makes it so popular,” Sands said.
Sands said the cast and crew have several surprises in store for the audience as they share their interpretations and creative spin on the fanciful tale.
“We are doing our show quite a bit different. We are doing a few scenes that haven’t been done before,” he said, divulging that the show opens with an introduction from the Greek gods.
Some of the new elements, Sands said, will appear during the “Money, Money, Money” scene and the mother-and-daughter number “Slipping Through My Fingers.”
Meaghan DelGenio, 21, reprises the role of daughter Sophie, which she previously played at Hamilton’s Stage 284 last spring.
“She sings and dances and acts like a dream, and on top of all that, she is as far from a diva as you can imagine,” said Sands of the newcomer to the community theater group. “She’s so down-to-earth. When something needs to be done, she jumps up and volunteers.”
DelGenio, a Melrose native, is a senior at Endicott College in Beverly, where she self-designed a theater arts major. She said she is thrilled to be part of this production, which is a favorite of her entire family.
When she got cast as Sophie, it took her a bit by surprise. Even though she had done the show before, she said, “this is a new cast and new theater and some brand new concepts.”
“There is so much character work that needs to be done, because you have to showcase (Sophie’s) naive side, among the other layers,” DelGenio said. “The challenging part is she is so upbeat and fun, but there is a lot of internal work to be done.”
DelGenio applauded the Annisquam Village Players for its unique approach to the show.
“I’ve had a blast working with them,” she said. “I wanted to get involved and I’m so happy that I did, because the community is so nice and caring and hardworking. You can tell that everybody in the cast and crew, regardless of their age, has so much experience and something to bring to the table. I have learned a lot from each and every one of them.”
Local politicians always have a cameo in the shows, but this time around, Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken wanted to take on something more, said Sands, so they created a new role for her. Sands also noted that once again, a number of families are involved with the production, both onstage and backstage.
“And we always have a kids scene. This year, we have the kids doing a Greek wedding dance to ‘Waterloo,’ which was an element not in the script,” he said. “Like always, we have the old and the new. Some people have been with us forever and some like Meaghan are brand new.”
For Rockport’s Nadia Robertson, playing Rosie, one of the three divas in the Dynamos, is “truly a dream come true — absolutely sublime.”
“The entire show is a party like no other, with all the Abba songs you know and love,” she said. “Anyone who comes to see this show will want to get up on their feet and dance with the rest of the cast. I have had so much fun practicing for this musical and I can promise a cast like no other. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll sing and dance your heart out.”
Gloucester’s Mike English, a father of two boys, gets a taste of having a stage daughter as he takes on the role of Bill Austin.
“I play one of the possible fathers and each one of us has our own personality, and I get to be the class clown of the group,” English said.
“It’s the best musical around, and the music is so fun. Plus, the Annisquam Village Players bring Gloucester into the production, of course, because the show takes place on a Greek island. But you never know who you are going to see from Cape Ann once you get to this island of Greece.”