On any given day, there are at least seven performances of “Mamma Mia!” being staged somewhere around the world — and it’s still running in London and New York City. In Las Vegas, it ran for six years, closing finally in 2009, the longest West End/Broadway musical in Las Vegas history.
It was also a 2008 film, which quickly became the highest-grossing film musical of all time, breaking the 30-year-old record set by “Grease.”
All told today, more than 40 million people around the world have fallen in love with it. Staged as of 2008 in 11 languages, it is currently the most performed show on Earth.
Yes, “Mamma Mia,” here we go again! The current U.S. touring company, now in its ninth year, comes to a glorious finale in this iteration ending this Sunday, giving its triumphant farewell at Wolf Trap, the outdoor National Park performing arts center just outside the Beltway in Vienna, Va.
It will be a bittersweet moment backstage on Sunday for veteran (six years on the road with “Mamma Mia!”) gay cast member Kevin Thomas Garcia, who just turned 30.
Garcia is a so-called “swing” for the show, understudy for 10 of the roles and able on short notice to fill in for any of them as needed — “just not the dads,” he says, since he’s still too young to sub for any of them.
Twenty-six cast members and just four “swings,” so Garcia says he never knows just when he will be called upon to swing into stage action, filling in: “I’ve done everything in the course of six years with this show — I guess I’ve actually performed in the show about a thousand times now, but who’s counting?”
“Every imaginable situation has happened” to bring him on stage suddenly swinging into gear to fit that role: “I’ve gone on at intermission, and almost in the middle of a song — I never have time to get bored!”
Garcia came out at 18 and moved to New York City, where he spent about six months attending a small conservatory there, but it was “not a good fit” for him, so he auditioned – successfully – as understudy for the national touring cast of “Grease” in 2000 and has been on tour constantly since then. In 2004, he was hired to join the national tour of “Mamma Mia!”
The next stop for Garcia is New York again, where he plans to open a photography studio, with a special focus on publicity and production work for actors and models.
So what’s the appeal of “Mamma Mia?”
Partly, says Garcia, it’s because of when it opened in New York, just two weeks after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, “and everyone knew the play was not ‘Hamlet,’ but one reviewer wrote that it was just like ‘a giant cupcake’ had landed on Broadway, and it was two and a half hours of magic on a Greek island.”
“And it’s ABBA,” he declares, referring to the legendary Swedish pop/dance sensation of the 1970s, a fictional narrative stringing together the group’s hits including the title song and of course “Dancing Queen” and many others. “Their songs have such resonance with all of us in all of our lives,” he says, but in addition with “those fabulous songs and costumers it’s every theater queen’s dream musical.”
Is there a story? Sure, and it’s a sun-kissed one set on a Greek island where 20-year-old Sophie prepares to marry her fiancé, Sky. She wants her father to walk her down the aisle, as she sings in the prologue song “I Have a Dream.” But the problem is, she doesn’t know who he is.
Then she discovers the diary of her single mother Donna, who runs a villa rumored to be built on the legendary fountain of the goddess Aphrodite. In the diary she learns she may have three possible dads, and without telling her mother she invites them to the wedding, believing that by spending time with each of them she can figure out which is her real father.
National Park for the Performing Arts
1645 Wolf Trap Rd.
Tickets $40 – $80
wolftrap.org or 1-877-WOLFTRAP