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Monday, July 1, 2019

MAMMA MIA! How can I resist You?

Shreveport Little Theatre says, “Here we go again!” with another standout summer musical.

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When Shreveport Little Theatre’s Managing and Artistic Director Robert Darrow saw the original Broadway production of “Mamma Mia!” 18 years ago, he knew he wanted to bring the production back home. Thanks to a supportive board, community members, an all-star cast, and a dedicated director and choreographer, the wait is over.
And the Shreveport Little Theatre team is pulling out all the stops.

“I saw the original Broadway production in 2001,” Darrow said. “I was so impressed with every aspect of this fun musical – especially the music of ABBA. I eagerly waited for the release of the rights for SLT to produce this show. Once I received the notice of the musical’s availability, I had the rights secured in 10 minutes.” 

Shreveport Little Theatre is investing a record amount into this show due to the tremendous response from the community.

“Our board of directors, our performers and especially our patrons have all expressed their excitement about this particular musical,” Darrow said. “I’ve been with Shreveport Little Theatre for over 20 years now, and I don’t remember a more highly anticipated show.”

While ticket prices of a musical of this scale are typically high, Shreveport Little Theatre is committed to making live theatre accessible to as many people in our community as possible, charging only $30 per ticket.

“Mamma Mia!” has captivated audiences worldwide. Interwoven with the iconic music from ABBA, this lighthearted musical tells the hilarious story of a young woman’s search for her birth father on a Greek island paradise as she prepares for her wedding. It is one of the most popular productions in the world and has been seen by over 60 million people. The show ran on Broadway for 14 years and was made into a motion picture starring Meryl Streep.

The energetic music is the heartbeat of the show, and that’s what propelled actress Linnea Fayard Allen into joining the cast.  “That’s one intriguing thing about this show – the script was written around the music,” Allen said. “I think it’s fascinating how the writers were able to create a complete story around songs that were written decades prior.”

The Shreveport Little Theatre’s production of this show is directed and choreographed by Laura Beeman Nugent, who teams up again with musical director Adam Philley. The cast is led by Allen as Donna Sheridan, with supporting roles by Cecilia Shahrdar, Jennifer Carsillo, Heather Peak Hooper, Ron Walsworth, Brian Smith, Adam Philley, Charlie Roppolo, Caitlin Cline, Shalem Carr, Tre Gay and Jeremy Yang. 

“If folks are not already familiar with the amazing talent among our local performers, once they have experienced the gifts of our cast members on full display in this production, people will take away a sense of pride,” Darrow said. “Our region is home to world-class performers and top-rate creative artists. I’ve seen hundreds of Broadway shows, and our leading actors in ‘Mamma Mia!’ can match their quality level.”


“Laura and Adam are incredibly professional and so very good at what they do,” Allen said. “So when I heard they could be directing ‘Mamma Mia!,’ I immediately put the audition dates in my calendar.”

Nugent compares preparing for a Shreveport Little Theatre musical to summer camp, where  there is a chance to reunite with old friends, make new ones and work together to produce a musical for the community.

“It is wonderful to hear so many actors consider SLT their ‘theater home’ and the summer show as their yearly homecoming,” Nugent said. “The summer musical truly captures what community theatre is about. It’s a core of volunteers who give their evenings for two and a half months creating and collaborating to tell stories on stage. It truly becomes a second family.” 

Allen echoes those sentiments. She loves working on a large-scale musical and welcomes the opportunity to see familiar faces and looks forward to meeting and working with new local talent.

“It’s exciting to have the opportunity to work with actors I’ve watched onstage but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to share the stage with,” she said. “The entire cast is stellar, and it’s an honor to tread the boards with them. The ensemble is the thread that ties the show together. They are working their tails off to learn very difficult choreography and are nailing it.”

Pulling from her own experience as a mother of the bride herself, Allen said it has been interesting in preparing to play Donna. Allen’s daughter, Emily, was married last spring, and she uses that experience in developing the character. 
“The emotions I reveal through the character are the same as those I had in watching my only daughter grow up and leave the nest,” she said. “There’s a lot of Donna in me, and while that makes it easier to summon the emotion, it can also make character development more difficult.”

While the musical is primarily set around Donna and daughter Sophie, it also hits on the importance of genuine friendship between three women over the decades. Similarly, Allen was thrilled to land the leading role, but she discovered an instant rapport with Carsillo and Hooper, who play Donna’s best friends in the musical. 

“I always enjoy developing new characters, and the role of Donna is especially fun because of the smart, funny and talented women I get to share the stage with,” Allen said. “I can honestly say that in a short time we have become great friends. So the chemistry you’ll see onstage with these three friends is completely authentic.”

“One challenge for me is having to keep a straight face in a couple of scenes which requires my character to be emotional and stressed,” she said. “Jen and Heather are each very funny on their own. Put them together, and it’s all I can do not to burst out laughing.”

The cast and crew worked tirelessly on this show for weeks, practicing, perfecting and rehearsing to put on a show that will captivate audiences in Shreveport. Darrow and Allen both expressed their gratitude for everyone who is a part of the “Mamma Mia!” team and the work they have done to make this dream a reality.

“All of our volunteers, including the actors, running crews and board members volunteer because they love being a part of a team that creates art – live theatre,” Darrow. “Each volunteer knows that their role in the process makes a difference in making the magic happen. They dedicate several months of their lives for each production – to perfect their performances for the audience.”

Making it look easy is hard work, but Darrow said the audience’s reaction makes it worth it. 
“‘Mamma Mia!’ is the perfect show to experience – to escape our everyday stresses, if only for a few hours – to enjoy this heartwarming story, and to try our best not to sing out loud from the audience this music that we all love,” Darrow said.
The cast hinted at a surprise after the curtain call, so make sure to stay in your seats for the entire show.

Mamma Mia!

July 11-13, 18-20, 25-27 at 7:30 p.m.

July 14, 21, 28 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $30, $25 for SLT members. Shreveport Little Theatre

812 Margaret Place

Box Office: 318-424-4439


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