Tara Bone, contributing writer
Mamma Mia!, the musical comedy based on the songs of pop group ABBA, is making its Cache Valley debut at The Ellen Eccles Theatre April 11 – 16, and director Lindsey Kelstrom and leading lady Sebrina Woodland agree that audience members will have the time of their life.
As the production’s director, Lindsey believes audiences will experience the show on different emotional levels. She says the musical’s well-known ABBA songs, the elaborate rotating set, the stellar 40-member cast of local vocalists and dancers, and the “visually intense” production – with a few surprises thrown in – will delight and teach meaningful life lessons.
Sebrina, a wife and mother of five children who lives in Providence, plays the lead role of Donna. She agrees with Lindsey, calling the show an “effervescent, joyful experience” with heartfelt moments that audience members can relate to.
“It’s a really optimistic show where no matter how bad things get, you can put on your disco pants and break into dance and things don’t seem so bad,” Sebrina said.
Sebrina said she’s loved becoming Donna’s character, someone who is bold and isn’t afraid to take a chance – very different from her personality. Sebrina calls herself quiet, shy, and a careful person. She said she’s learned a lot from Donna and wants “to have a little more Donna in my life!” However, there’s one area in which she does relate to Donna. As a mother, Sebrina understands the heartache Donna feels watching her daughter grow.
This role is also very different from other roles Sebrina has played. Cache Valley audiences may remember Sebrina as Anna, the proper British teacher in the King and I, or in several other shows produced by Music Theatre West.
Up to this point, Anna had been Sebrina’s favorite role to play – having grown up in England – it was an easy role for her to become. But that was before Mamma Mia! came along. Sebrina has enjoyed the fun of becoming Donna and loves that the show is a modern story everyone can relate to now. Sebrina says her kids are excited about their mom’s new role, telling friends, “My mom is Mamma Mia!”
Director Lindsey points out that most of the cast and production team for Mamma Mia! are real-life mothers who at times brought their children to rehearsals. An important theme in the show is strong relationships – the bond between women supporting one another. Lindsey says that’s exactly what happened behind the scenes among cast members leading up to the show as women even took turns holding babies.
“Mamma Mia! is a celebration of women’s relationships, and we’re not just showing it on stage, but off stage,” Lindsey said. “I love seeing all these women coming forward and sharing their talents and helping one another to be featured in a different light than maybe they would have been. Sometimes you do go unrecognized for the things you do as a woman; it’s nice to give women that validation that you are worthy of applause.”
The importance of relationships is particularly poignant for Sebrina. About five and a half years ago, Sebrina had a brain aneurism. One minute she was at home, the next she was headed to the University of Utah Hospital with an emergency brain bleed. Within 24 hours she was in an 8-hour surgery to have her brain repaired. She faced a 40 percent chance of surviving the brain aneurism and a 60 percent chance of having deficits from the surgery.
Sebrina gratefully recovered completely, and says she learned a lot from the experience.
“In a situation like that you realize all you really care about is family,” Sebrina said. “In life, relationships are all that really matter; in the end, nothing else matters.”
In the recovery that followed, Sebrina said friends brought meals, helped with her home and children, and even brought games for them to play. She calls the service and love from the community incredible.
Ironically, one of these friends who helped during this difficult time was Debbie Ditton. Sebrina recalls that Debbie decorated her Christmas tree for her that year. In Mamma Mia! Debbie plays the role of Rosie, one of Donna’s best friends.
In that spirit of friendship on and off stage, Lindsey encourages the community to come to Mamma Mia! among friends. To laugh, to sing, to dance, and to feel a full range of emotions, from heartache and frustration, to forgiveness and joy.
playing April 11-16, 2019
The Ellen Eccles Theatre
Purchase tickets at cachetheatre.com | Tickets prices: $17-$25, students $3 off