Feature: MAMMA MIA at Kansas City Music Hall

Irrepressible "Juke Box" musical returns

By: Mar. 01, 2024
Feature: MAMMA MIA at Kansas City Music Hall
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Opening March 5 at the Music Hall in downtown Kansas City is the 25th Anniversary tour of “Mamma Mia.” This touring production is presented by Broadway Across America, Kansas City based largest presenter of Broadway tours across the nation.

“Mamma Mia” is a phenomenon of a show. It first opened in London and then the original North American production ran in New York for over fifty-seven hundred performances. At last look, it is the nineth longest running show in Broadway history.

“Mamma Mia” features a story by British librettist Catherine Johnson and the music of the 1970s Swedish soft rock quartet ABBA with music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. For those of you who have been living under a boulder somewhere or are simply too young to have enjoyed ABBA the first time around, the tunes are plain old joyous and ridiculously infectious.

Although previous shows celebrated particular songwriters, “Momma Mia” is among the first “juke box” musicals. Most “juke box” shows have, with various degrees of whimsy, told the biographies of the songwriters whose music is featured.  “Momma Mia” is different.  It uses ABBA’s music, but the show pretty much stands on its own.

In preparation for the Kansas City opening, I was offered the opportunity to chat with “Momma Mia” tour cast member Jasmine Overbaugh.  Much to my surprise, Jasmine is a Kansas City native.

Broadway World: Tell me something about Jasmine.

Feature: MAMMA MIA at Kansas City Music Hall
Mamma Mia Cast Member
Jamine Overbaugh 

Jasmine:  Yes, I was born in Kansas City. My Dad grew up in Wyandotte County. This is a great homecoming and I'm going to get to see all of my cousins, all of my aunts and uncles, all of my parent’s best friends and stuff like that. Kansas City will be super exciting.

We moved away when I was little. After living in a few cities, I went to college in Pittsburgh at Point Park. My parents now live in Cincinnati. This “Mamma Mia” tour is allowing me to, like, meet up in all of my cities. That's really exciting.

After college I moved to New York in 2018 and have since been auditioning. Prior to the pandemic, I toured in a production of “Rent.” And now this is my first big production back from the pandemic. I'm very grateful to be a part of this cast.

Broadway World: How long is this tour?

Jasmine: The 25th Anniversary tour continues at least through November of this year and may extend. We started rehearsals in September of 2023 and opened in Denver on Halloween 2023.

Broadway World:  Wow, what is like to be on the road for that for that long.

Jasmine: Oh, my goodness personally, I love it. I love the thrill of getting to see every city. And you can tell how much they cherish art, and how much they need it.  We get to see the backstages of theaters all over the country.

We have a lovely tradition in some of the theaters where we get to do a “Mamma Mia” mural on a theater wall and we sign it.

And it's crazy to see all the shows that have come in. Some of my friends have signed their murals and it's fun to see that as well. But truly, I think the thrill of it all for me is getting to see the theaters. Each city shows us their real lives in their theater.

Our cast is really great at making each other feel at home. We are very family oriented. So, we hang out together a lot. We love being around each other and acting like a second family.

You can feel a little lonely at times. But truly, I'm not even lying when I say this is my second family on the road.

Broadway World:  Let's go back to the beginning of the process. Everybody has seen “A Chorus Line.” What is the audition process like today, post pandemic?

Jasmine: Oh, my gosh. The pandemic really upped the ante for auditioning. You used to come to New York for auditions and return for call backs. The pandemic made it much more acceptable to audition using taped performances.  Now, I feel the process is 50/50.

Someone based in Tennessee can now more easily get a job in New York. The talent pool has grown to be quite frank. It's a good and a bad thing for us, but the expansion of talent has provided better talent for audiences.

For Mamma Mia, this was the first time since the Pandemic I've been in an audition room with the deciders. I joined this cast as a potential understudy for two of the Dymanos, either Tanya or a Rosie. I was paired with a Donna and we had to act together. It was the craziest. It allowed me to work with the other actors and to actually play around in the room.

I can only imagine what Christine (Donna) and Jalynn (Tanya) and Carly (Rosie) had to do in that room to really stand out and really connect with each other. The audition room felt like, how can I connect with this person? How can I make it seem like we've been best friends for life?

Oh, and I remember the entire creative team being there. A highlight of my audition was singing for the musical director and getting to working the music with him, It was amazing, Very scary and amazing.

I got the job as understudy and work every night as a working member of the cast.

Broadway World: How many trucks does it take to move a show like “Mamma Mia.”

Jasmine: I think we have two big trucks. I called it a prop show because we literally have a prop for everything. We have multiple different beds adjusted to show the difference of the taverna, but the set itself is minimal.

Broadway World: How does the cast travel?

Jasmine: So, far we have mostly traveled by air.  Occasionally if stops are close enough, we travel by bus. We actually really enjoy not having to go through TSA at airports and check all our bags.

Broadway World: Does the company carry its own lights and sound or does it depend on local theaters for that equipment?

Jasmine: I believe that's a good question. I think we depend mostly on the theaters, but I do think we carry extra lighting instruments in case they don't have XYZ.

I know there were places where spotlights were in different places than we were used to. The theaters gave us a heads-up. Most cities help us adjust and then we add on any extra pieces that they lack..

Broadway World: Back in the day, “Mamma Mia” got audiences up and dancing, but it has been a long time since ABBA performed. Do audiences still react the same way?

Jasmine: That’s actually my favorite part of the show. During the show, I'm told people sitting in seats sometime sing along to iconic ABBA songs. But at the end of the show,  we have kind of like a little concert.

And that's really when I see the personality in the audience. People get up and some have gotten into the aisles dancing. It's what we, as cast members, want.

We want you to dance during the whole show, to be quite honest. That's cool.

Broadway World: One last thing, what is next for Jasmine?

Jasmine: Oh, I have a solo on this tour and again, I'm grateful to be in this show.

In the future, the idea of stretching myself and maybe getting into something that makes me a little bit more uncomfortable like TV or film, but always keeping true to my theater roots.  For now, I’m in “Mamma Mia.” It's a show that makes me come alive.  Every single audience reminds me ‘This is why I do this.’ No audience has disappointed us. They love “Mamma Mia,” and I love it too. I'm going to stay as long as possible. That's cool.

Enjoy Jasmine, her castmates, and the “Dymanos” in “Mamma Mia” from Tuesday, March 5 through Sunday, March 10 at the Kansas City Music Hall.  Tickets are available online at www.kansascity.broadway.com.

(Jasmine and I had an extended and very pleasant conversation.  Her comments are edited and somewhat condensed.

Photos provided by American Theater Guild and the producers.