Mamma Mia! Broadway’s ‘Dancing Queen’ comes to San DiegoEntertainment Feature, Entertainment News, Section 4A Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Who would have thought that kitschy, disco hits from the mega platinum pop group ABBA would turn into a Broadway show and major motion picture?
Well, producer Judy Craymer did. Back in 1983 she met with group members and songwriters Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson while they were working with Tim Rice on the musical Chess. Her idea didn’t go over like gangbusters at the start, but that didn’t deter her from sticking with her idea.
Almost 15 years later Craymer started putting all the pieces together. She hired Catherine Johnson to write the script for the musical and a year after that Phyllida Lloyd joined on as director.
Mamma Mia opened in London’s West End in 1998 at the Prince Edward Theatre and after moving a few times to different theaters the show is still running today.
It premiered on Broadway in October 2001 at the Winter Garden Theatre and was also moved and is still playing today.
Not too shabby for the Swedish pop group ABBA, who got their start in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972. The group split up 10 years later, but it’s clear their pop fame was just the beginning.
Soon after the success on The West End, Broadway and National Tours, Mamma Mia went Hollywood. In 2008 the show was turned into a major motion picture starring Academy Award winners Meryl Streep (Into The Woods) and Colin Firth (Kingsmen: The Secret Service) and garnered two Golden Globe nominations.
Today the show, as mentioned earlier, is still running in New York and London and is also still touring nationally. It comes back to Broadway San Diego for only five performances April 3-5.
The storyline is simple enough. Sophie, has one wish on her wedding day, to have her birth father walk her down the aisle, but she doesn’t know who he is. After discovering her proudly independent mom, Donna, had three old lovers, Sophie decides to invite them to her wedding, hoping to learn which is her father. The men arrive, surprising the oblivious Donna. Sophie’s dream wedding starts to dissolve as the two women look for the truth of the past and possible future.
Playing Sky, Sophie’s husband-to-be, on the National Tour is Eric Presnall. Presnall is best known as the love interest in the gay indie film Capitol Games and Animal Planet’s Who Let The Dogs Out.
Presnall, who was born and raised in El Dorado County, Calif., comes to the Mamma Mia tour after appearing in the successful tour of Disney’s High School Musical and Green Day’s American Idiot.
According to Presnall, he’s had the musical theater bug in him since he was a kid, thanks to his father.
“My father, an avid musical theater fan, taught me how to play guitar and sing at about 10 years old,” Presnall said. “He gave me all the necessary basics to further my interest in performing. This past year, I toured with Green Day’sAmerican Idiot, which used live guitars during the show. What an incredible experience that was.”
While ABBA was before Presnall’s time, he did know a few of the famous group’s hits, thanks to his parents. But it wasn’t until he joined the show that he fully understood who the group was.
“I was first introduced to the music of ABBA on my very first rehearsal session with our music director, David Holcenberg,” Presnall admitted. “Of course I had heard a few of the popular songs of ABBA before, however I did not realize what I was listening to was ABBA. My parents never listened to it around the house so the radio was my ABBA education. It wasn’t until after booking the show that I really grew to enjoy the less famous songs and the band itself.”
Like most actors looking for their next job, Presnall, received word that the producers of Mamma Mia were interested in him for the role of love interest Sky. Needless to say Presnall, who was on tour at the time, did all he could to make the audition.
“Mamma Mia is produced under the same company that did American Idiot,” Presnall said. “When the end of my [American Idiot] contract was nearing, they expressed interest in seeing me for the role of Sky and asked me to fly out to New York City for an audition with the creatives. Instead of going to Ft. Lauderdale from Houston that day for our next show, I made a quick 14 hour trip to New York, quickly auditioned, and then hopped on the next plane to Florida in time for the show. It was a very busy day, but well worth it.”
Though Presnall loves what he does, and dreams someday of being on Broadway, he’s likely to leave performing for a while so he can finish up his schooling.
“I think doing a show or two on Broadway would be a lot of fun,” Presnall confided. “[However] I will actually be moving to Australia next year to finish up schooling in child psychology. My dream is to work with kids in all forms of therapy from music, stage, art and even sports.”
Presnall, an accomplished songwriter and guitarist, is also honest and forthcoming when he was asked if he’d ever thought of possibly recording an album of his own someday.
“Who hasn’t thought about it?” Presnall admitted. “The opportunity to take your own creativity in the form of thoughts, experiences and inspiration and add music to it! Sign me up. I did release a small acoustic EP right after living in Paris for a year. It was a small check off the bucket list; however I would love to record something more in the genre of music I now listen to on a daily basis.”
But for now, Presnall is happy touring the country with one of the world’s favorite musicals (Mamma Mia) and musical groups (ABBA) of all time. And, like most performers, there is something that he favors more than any other part of the show.
“Hands down, the best part about performing as Sky is working with your Sophie, since most every scene is with her,” Presnall confided. “I get the pleasure of working alongside Chelsea Williams every night, an extremely talented singer and performer. What she brings to the stage definitely makes it very easy to fall in love with her over and over again.”
Tickets for Mamma Mia are now available at Broadway San Diego’s box office at the Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave. Or you can call for tickets at 619-570-1100, or buy them on Ticketmaster at 800-982-2787.
Whichever you decide to do, remember Mamma Mia will only be here for five shows. So, buy your tickets now, see that show and get ready to have the time of your life!
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