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Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ Mamma Mia!, the smash hit musical based on the songs of ABBA, returns to play the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall, June 23-28, as part of the Bank of America Best of Broadway Tampa Bay series.

Seen by more than 54 million people around the world, Mamma Mia! is celebrating 5,000 performances on Broadway and is the 9th longest running show in Broadway history. The original West End production of Mamma Mia! is now in its fifteenth year and has celebrated over 6,000 performances in London and the international tour has visited more than 74 foreign cities in 35 countries and been seen by over 4.3 million people. The blockbuster feature film adaptation of Mamma Mia!  is the most successful movie musical of all time grossing $600 million worldwide.mamma-mia_copy

Seen in 38 productions in 14 different languages globally and with a worldwide gross of over $2 Billion, Mamma Mia! is acclaimed by the Associated Press as “quite simply, a phenomenon.”

An independent, single mother who owns a small hotel on an idyllic Greek island, Donna is about to let go of Sophie, the spirited daughter she’s raised alone. For Sophie’s wedding, Donna has invited her two lifelong best girlfriends—practical and no-nonsense Rosie and wealthy, multi-divorcee Tanya – from her one-time backing band, Donna and the Dynamos. But Sophie has secretly invited three guests of her own.

On a quest to find the identity of her father to walk her down the aisle, she brings back three men from Donna’s past to the Mediterranean paradise they visited 20 years earlier. Over 24 chaotic, magical hours, new love will bloom and old romances will be rekindled on this lush island full of possibilities.

Inspired by the storytelling magic of ABBA’s songs from “Dancing Queen” and “S.O.S.” to “Money, Money, Money” and “Take a Chance on Me,” Mamma Mia! is a celebration of mothers and daughters, old friends and new family found.

The original production of Mamma Mia! was produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East and Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal, the creative team responsible for bringing Mamma Mia! to theatrical life includes some of the most gifted and celebrated talents of musical theatre and opera. With music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Mamma Mia! is written by Catherine Johnson and directed by Phyllida Lloyd.

Tickets are on sale to the public now, and they are available online and by phone and in person at the Straz Center Ticket Sales office. Mamma Mia! will play Morsani Hall, June 23-28. Performances are Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Regularly priced tickets are $25-$65.50 and may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at www.strazcenter.org. Handling fees will apply.

Andrew Tebo, who plays Harry, has been involved in a number of traveling productions and has worked professionally as an actor for over a decade. He talked to me recently for this mini-interview.

Were you a fan of ABBA before working on this production?mamma-mia_copy2

Oh, yes. I worked for a theatre a few years ago and we did a revue show that was an entire night of ABBA music. Everyone’s heard “Dancing Queen” but there are so many great songs that they’ve done, and so many different and wonderful arrangements of music. It’s hard to not sing along to their music.

Why do you think the gay community has been so attached to their music, even today?

I think it’s because, one, it’s good music, and two, the time period the music represents, the 1970s, is a time when we were forming an identity as a group and as distinct people. I think ABBA had a big influence on the culture and scene that our gay forefathers founded.

What’s your favorite song in this production and why?

One of my favorites has to be at the very end, when we sing “Waterloo.” It’s one of those rock star moments, and everyone is on their feet singing and cheering. We’re having a blast on stage, and everyone’s having a blast in the audience…it’s one of those moments in theatre that I live for.

The special edition cast recording of Mamma Mia! is available on Decca Broadway. For information about Mamma Mia!, visit www.Mamma-Mia.com. For more information about the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and its upcoming events, please visit www.strazcenter.org.

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