Way Off Broadway Presents MAMMA MIA! with Alternating Donna's Leading the Cast
Currently celebrating its 25th Silver Anniversary, The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre is set to end the season with a bang this summer when the smash-hit musical Mamma Mia! arrives at the theatre. With over 60 million people having seen this worldwide phenomenon, for its 25th Anniversary Season, Way Off Broadway is bringing this international sensation to the Frederick stage for the very first time.
In this mega-hit musical, ABBA's hits tell the hilarious story of Sophie, a young woman searching for her birth father. This sunny and funny tale unfolds on a Greek island paradise on the eve of her wedding, as three men from her mother's past return to the island for the first time in 20 years - much to the surprise of her mother, Donna.
Since Mamma Mia! first opened on Broadway in 2001, over the years, a number of popular stage veterans have starred as Donna Sheridan including Louise Pitre, Dee Hoty, Carolee Carmello, and Beth Leavel. Award-winning actress Meryl Streep appeared as Donna in the 2008 film adaptation - a role which earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.
For Way Off Broadway's production, the theatre's creative team cast two very talented performers to play Donna. Jessica Billones and Melani Drummer will alternate the role throughout the show's run.
Jessica Billones has been appearing at WOB on and off since playing the role of Muzzy Van Hossmere in the theatre's 2008 production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. Since then, her WOB credits include Mother Superior in Sister Act, the Witch in Into the Woods, Belinda in Noises Off, Morticia in The Addams Family, Lucy in Jekyll & Hyde, the Baroness in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and a number of other Mainstage, Christmas, New Year's, and Children's Theatre productions. Favorite local roles include Judy/Ginger in Ruthless! The Musical with the Older Opera House (OOH), June in Musical of Musicals: The Musical with Fredericktowne Players (FtP), Donna/Oolie in City of Angels (OOH), and Georgia in Curtains (FtP).
Melani Drummer is a performer/choreographer/dancer teacher/voice over artist originally from South Africa. Her international credits include the world tour-original S.A. cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats world tour-original S.A., Fame, Evita, the S.A./European tour of Showboat (which she choreographed). Regionally, she has appeared as Cassie in A Chorus Line with Fredericktowne Players, Reno in Anything Goes with Rockville Musical Theatre and Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street with Sterling Playmakers. Melani made her Way Off Broadway debut as Reno Sweeney in the theatre's 2016 production of Anything Goes, followed by appearances in Into the Woods as Jack's Mother, and Annie as Miss Hannigan. Earlier this season, she choreographed WOB's production of Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady.
"Casting a show is one of the hardest parts of directing," said Jordan Stocksdale, WOB's Artistic Director and the director of the theatre's upcoming production of Mamma Mia! "When it came down to these two unbelievably talented ladies, I just couldn't make a decision because they were both so good. Instead, the production team decided to ask Jessica and Melani to share the part of Donna and alternate the role throughout the run of the show."
Both actresses have been longtime fans of ABBA and their music. In fact, the very first recording of Drummer was of her singing "Thank You for the Music" when she was three years old.
"My mum just found the cassette while they were moving!" she said.
In addition to their love of the music, as performers, both are interested in the role of Donna Sheridan as a character.
Drummer points out that "Donna is a strong, feisty, can-do-it-all woman, but still dreams of having someone to do life with."
To be able to perform such a multi-dimensional character is the dream of any performer. Which is another reason both are so looking forward to the upcoming production.
"I loves being able to make people laugh and cry. Donna is a real person, not just a caricature," Billones adds.
Way Off Broadway's production will run from June 14th through August 24th, with performances every Friday and Saturday evening and matinees on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sunday of each month.
Mamma Mia! has music and lyrics by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Anderson and a book by Catherine Johnson. Way Off Broadway's production is under the direction of Stocksdale with choreographer by Dee Buchanan.
The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, under the direction of the Kiska family since 2002, is proud to be celebrating its 25th Silver Anniversary Season! Since it first opened in 1995, the theatre has been a leader in the area's theatre community, proudly bringing both classic musicals, as well as regional and area premieres to the Frederick stage. Productions have included Disney's Beauty & the Beast, Sister Act, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Monty Python's Spamalot, Noises Off, The Addams Family, Les Misérables, Sunset Boulevard, Legally Blonde, Dolly Parton's 9 to 5: The Musical, Hairspray, South Pacific, The Drowsy Chaperone, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, Mel Brooks' The Producers, CATS, The Wedding Singer, Evita, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Grease, La Cage aux Folles, Guys & Dolls, Steel Magnolias, Annie, Bye Bye, Birdie, The King & I, ...Forum, Lend Me a Tenor, Joseph..., Blood Brothers, Mame, and 42nd Street. In addition to its regular season, the theatre produces a number of special events throughout the year including an annual Breakfast with Santa (and Mrs. Claus) and an interactive mysteries series.