“Mamma Mia!” presented by Dundalk Community Theatre is back by demand for a second run at the Community College Baltimore College, Dundalk Campus at the College Community Center Theatre from March 6-15, 2020.
Dundalk Community Theatre has been providing high quality shows for over 40 years including Broadway musicals and plays. The full stage theatre at the college allows for glorious sets and costumes.
“Mamma Mia!” is considered to be in the genre of jukebox musicals. The show was written by Catherine Johnson and is based on the songs of ABBA composed by Benny Anderson and Björn Ulvaeus, former ABBA band members. The music includes many of their most recognizable hits including, “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me” and the title song among several others. After many international productions, it opened on Broadway in 2001 and ran until 2013.
For anyone who missed either a live performance or the popular movie with Meryl Streep, the plot is Donna, an independent hotel owner in the Greek islands, is preparing for her daughter’s wedding with the help of two old friends. Meanwhile, Sophie, the spirited bride, has a plan. She secretly invites three men from her mother’s past in hope of meeting her real father and having him escort her down the aisle. Of course, complications and romance follow.
The DCT will be doing only 6 performances of “Mamma Mia!” under the direction of John Desmone with musical direction by Nathan Scavilla and choreography by Gary Dieter. They will be bringing back most of last season’s cast and this run should rock even more than the first.
The cast includes Elisabeth Johnson (Sophie), Lizzie Detar (Ali), Hunter Lubawski (Lisa), Rachel Weir (Tanya), Andrea Wildason (Rosie), Tatiana Dalton (Donna), Brad Bowers (Sky), Lars Custis (Pepper), Josh Schoff (Eddie), Greg Dohmeier (Harry), Roger Schulman (Bill), Edward J. Peters (Sam), Scott Babus (Father Alexandrios), and ensemble members Jillian Arnold, Libby Burgess, Tori Farnsworth, Katie Gardner, Sarah Mackin, Meghan McCarthy, Kenny Alam, Mark Johnson, Brian Kraszewski, and Evan Neufeld.
I had a chance to interview John Desmone, Director.
Bio: John Desmone (Director) began directing theatrical productions in the Baltimore region over 40 years ago right here at DCT with “Promises, Promises” in 1977. Over 100 productions later, he is pleased to return to DCT, his favorite venue, to direct “Mamma Mia!” Some favorites of his 23 DCT shows include “A Little Night Music,” Will Rogers Follies,” “City of Angels,” “Ruthless, the Musical,” which was named one of the top 10 shows of 2015 by the Maryland Theatre Guide, and, most recently, “Shrek, the Musical.” A recognized stage performer, John has appeared in numerous featured roles ranging from John Adams in “1776” and Roger DeBris in “The Producers” to Felix in “The Odd Couple” and George in “Of Mice and Men” – both here at DCT. Mr. Desmone is the Executive Director for Towson University in Northeastern Maryland.
- Do you prefer acting or directing and why?
While I’ve had the pleasure to perform in a number of terrific roles, large (John Adams 7 times) and small (Colonel Pickering), in both community and professional settings, I get the most joy from directing. Having a vision for a show and being able to see it through is quite rewarding and I’ve had the opportunity to do it over 100 times. And, as an actor’s director, I get to assist others in creating their roles so it’s like acting every part in every show I direct. Early in the process, I give lots of direction so that the actor isn’t scrambling at the end to try to “find” their character while at the same time letting them explore and create “puzzles” that we work together to solve. I guess I get the best of both worlds. I also love filling in when someone is absent from a rehearsal – although I’d much prefer it if no one ever was.
- Why do you think that Abba’s music transfers so well to the stage?
I think part of it is because it’s like going to an ABBA tribute band concert. I know that when we were planning and then casting, it was critical that the numbers were going to sound good. The story is a silly soap opera kind of thing that must be acted well but if the music doesn’t sound good, the audience will walk away disappointed. It doesn’t have to, nor is it meant to, sound exactly like ABBA but has to sound good. I think our production, with a strong cast of veteran performers and lots of talented and energetic young players, meets that demand and so much more.
- Why do you think “Mamma Mia!” is popular for several generations?
The music is just so universally accessible. It was popular at its time and those listeners after becoming parents continued to listen to the music so their children were exposed to it and saw the joy listening to it brought their parents and felt that joy themselves. That story continues to the next generation. And, as they used to say on “American Bandstand,” “It has a great beat that you can dance to.”
- You state DCT is your favorite venue. Why?
There really isn’t a better community, or in a number of cases, professional theater space in the region. It’s a large proscenium stage but not so large that the performers get lost. The house is a nice size (almost 400) without being cavernous and has comfortable seats with continental aisles between the rows that are easy for patrons to navigate. Backstage is well appointed with lots of wing space and a great fly system that accommodates every style of show from a traditional drop and wagon production to a more experimental level and projection show. The shop is well equipped and maintained and the pit is deep and large enough for a good size orchestra (the musicals always have live orchestras) with an excellent sound system. The TD is one of the best in town and provides outstanding design elements for each production from sets to sound to lighting. But having said all that, the best part is that they care about and take care of the performers and artistic staff. They realize that most everyone is volunteering to be there so they treat them with dignity and appreciation. The managing/artistic director goes out of his way to provide the actors with top notch costumes and, when appropriate, wigs and is on hand to make sure they look good for each and every performance. Snacks are also provided each night of the show courtesy of the theatre’s board, which is also a volunteer group. It is also a theatre that does a number of different kinds of shows and I, having had the privilege to do two dozen there, have been able to direct everything from traditional, like “Carousel” and “Hello, Dolly!” to rarely produced, like “City of Angels” and Wil Rogers “Follies” to more edgy, like “Ruthless” and “Spelling Bee.” As you can tell, I’m not an experimental kind of guy when edgy to me is “Ruthless” and “Spelling Bee. “
- Can you tell us more about yourself?
I’m originally from outside of Pittsburgh but moved to the Baltimore area in the mid-’70s (yes, I’m that old) to teach. My undergraduate degree was in theater, but I decided to use some of those skills to engage young children in a classroom and was one of the few male primary grade teachers in the school system when I first came to Maryland. I thought regular eating would be a good idea as well. Anyway, I used a lot of creative drama and active learning to teach both the basics as well as critical thinking. I also had the privilege of working as the Creative Drama Enrichment Specialist for the county schools for a number of years and did workshops for teachers in the county and at conferences along the east coast.
Fortunately, I was able to continue to do theatre and even spent a few summers doing summer stock and was artistic director for a couple of dinner theatres before I became an administrator and was working 12 months and longer days instead of a typical schedule of a teacher. I’ve performed or directed at many of the little, community, summer, stock, or dinner theatres in the region although a number of them have disbanded or closed. Not my fault, I swear!
My next project is “Young Frankenstein” at Cockpit in Court this summer. I don’t know that I’ll ever stop wanting to direct but I am a bit more selective about the shows for which I’ll apply. There are a few shows on my bucket list still to do but only a few. Under his breath, he says – “Merrily We Roll Along” and “Something Rotten” – hint, hint.
Tickets for this production of “Mamma Mia” will not last long. So be sure to get yours before they sell out. Tickets are available online.
“Mamma Mia!” will be playing from March 6-15 at Dundalk Community Theatre, CCBC at Dundalk, College Community Center, 7200 Sollers Point Road, Baltimore, MD 21222