BWW Interview: John Fagan, Director of MAMMA MIA! at Centre Stage

BWW Interview: John Fagan, Director of MAMMA MIA! at Centre Stage

Mamma Mia! has been called "the ultimate feel-good show."

It's a tale of love, laughter, and friendship set to some of ABBA's greatest hits, including "Dancing Queen,""Knowing
Me, Knowing You," "Take a Chance on Me," and many more.

BroadwayWorld recently caught up with John Fagan, director of the new production set to open this weekend at Centre Stage in Greenville, SC.


BWW: Tell us a little about your production of the show.

First of all, this cast is really incredible. The principals are among the who's who of the Upstate theatre community. We've got Glenda ManWaring as Donna. Kaylie Willis as Sophie. The Dads are John Brigham, Rick Connor, and Bruce Meahl. Michele Colletti and Cindy Mixon as Tanya and Rosie. And I can't say enough about the terrific ensemble, they are endlessly amazing at all they do.

As you know, Mamma Mia is a celebration of all that is ABBA. It ain't Shakespeare, nor does it aspire to be. The show is there to entertain. The story is fun. The music is fun. Therefore, we have had fun with it. Fun and Sexy is the overall concept of the production. I did mention that the show is full of sexy, naughty fun, didn't? I didn't? Well guess what...

The set I designed is meant to appeal to anyone who wanted to get away to a sunwashed Greek island for a while. I'm hoping that the minute audiences walk into the space they are transported to a place they always wished to go.

BWW: This was one of the first big successful jukebox musicals. What do you think makes this one work so well?

Come on, who doesn't love ABBA? Sure, they may not be everyone's favorite, but I'll bet everyone can at least recall one of the tunes. Plus, when the music gets going, you can't help but be entertained and begin tapping your feet, if not singing along. Plus, I get the sense that the creators of the show knew exactly what kind of story was best suited for the music. Plus, it came out when the bulk of musicals playing on Broadway were still the British behemoths of seriousness. Mamma Mia was a welcome change of delight for those audiences. Its structure is very much a throwback to the "well made" musicals of the '50s and '60s, so, even the skeleton of the show offers a level of comfort that wouldn't challenge an audience.

BWW: What are your own personal associations with the music of Abba and have those memories or influences come into play as you direct?

I have to say that I was one of those who looked at ABBA's music as fluff and cotton candy, but working on the show has allowed me to dissect the songs. They each do tell a story and I think we have found out how each works within the story we are sharing with the audience. I've been driving around with the boxed set of ABBA's tunes playing wherever I go. Yes, I am that guy who you might see singing and gesturing in the dirty Ford pickup next to you at the light. Surprisingly, some of the tunes I have most enjoyed are the ones I didn't realize belonged to the band. There is one song from 1980-ish called "On and On and On" that used to be one song that we would elbow people out of the way to get to the dance floor.

BWW: What's been the most delightful part of the process so far?

I went into this project with the idea that we should have a blast putting this together and we have. Every night of rehearsal has been punctuated by bursts of laughter. Because so many of the principal actors have known each other for years, should one of them try to get away with something, they are catcalled into submission and giggling. Plus, bringing together all of these really talented young actors has been a joy. This gang has really exhibited a great deal of ability and have been able to do anything Susan Lyle (Music Director), Michael Cherry (Choreographer) or my fat self has thrown at them.

BWW: Which song has become the biggest earworm for you?

It usually is the one we have been working on that evening. That is invariably what happens with any musical. But I do find myself walking around singing "Voulez Vous" with the occasional Michael Cherry created dance move.

BWW: Anything else you'd especially like to share or want audiences to know before they arrive?

Stay away from the botox injections before coming. You're really going to want to smile and have fun, so make sure your face muscles are ready.


Mamma Mia! runs March 15 - April 8 at Centre Stage, 501 River St, Greenville SC. Performances are at 8 pm Thursday - Saturday and 3 pm Sunday. Please note there will be NO performance on Sunday, April 1.

Tickets are $35, $30, and $25. Student rush tickets are available for $20 with school ID
(based on availability), one ticket per ID. Ticketing fees are applied to ALL purchases.
All seats are reserved. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (864) 233-6733 on Tuesdays - Fridays from 2-6 p.m, in person at the Centre Stage Box
Office, or online at www.centrestage.org.

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From This Author Neil Shurley

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