WHITEFISH — It only takes a minute of looking at the perfectly blue-and-white set, painted to resemble the warm, beautiful architecture and environment of Greece, for your shoulders to relax from bracing against the winter wind.
A couple more minutes in your seat at the O’Shaughnessy Center, and you might even think, “Hey, it’s summer in here. Maybe I don’t need this full coat!”
The mental thaw of seeing the set for the Whitefish Theatre Company’s popular production of “Mamma Mia!” is one of the reasons Director Kim Krueger is thrilled to present the play as the valley wanders into the final months of winter.
“I know so many people love ‘Mamma Mia!’ and I wanted to make it the heartfelt show that it is,” Krueger said last week just as the cast prepared for its final dress rehearsal before opening weekend.
Mamma Mia! opened Feb. 22 to a very receptive audience and will run through the weekend, followed by performances on Thursday, Feb. 28 through Sunday, March 3. Krueger said it’s a great choice of a musical to run in late February, as the Flathead is gray and anticipating the colors of spring.
It’s also been an extraordinary experience to work with the cast, she said, because they’ve really taken the show and made it their own. All 26 cast members — ranging in age from 17 to 70s — are talented singers, from the chorus to the main stars, which can be a rarity in community theater, cast members said.
The musical, set to the ever-popular tunes of ABBA, is a show about what it means to be family, whether that’s blood related for not. It follows the story of Sophie, a bride-to-be who is preparing for the wedding with two friends and goes to the Greek Islands where her mother, Donna, runs a hotel.
Sophie secretly invites the three men from her mother’s past who she believes could be her father, hoping to have him walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.
Collette Strean, who plays Donna, will make her debut with the Whitefish Theatre Company, having otherwise performed with Viscosity Cabaret.
“I love this cast,” Strean said. “The director, the musical director, everyone is amazing. It’s super fun; I’m having a blast. It’s a perfectly uplifting thing to do at the end of February in Montana.”
David Reese of Kila, JJ James of Whitefish, and Rob Koelzer of Kalispell play Sophie’s potential fathers in the play, and said they’ve been impressed with the quality of the cast and the production.
“It’s a great story,” Koelzer said. “It’s just pure sugar.”
“This has been the most communal group of people I’ve worked with in the theater,” James said.
The Dads, as they are collectively known backstage, said the singing talent throughout the whole cast has been especially exciting, because the musical is done justice, top to bottom.
Sophie Sieh, who moved here in August with a minor in theater and is playing the role of Sophie, was also impressed with the entire cast and the direction under Krueger, who she said made it a warm environment to rehearse and learn.
Krueger, who has been mentally working on this musical since last July, said it’s been a dream to work with the cast and watch the ideas she had for the musical come alive. Cast members would come in on days without scheduled rehearsal to practice with and support each other, she said.
“This cast has gone above and beyond,” Krueger said.
The show, part of the WTC’s celebration of 40 years putting on productions for the community, has already proven so popular that they added the Thursday, Feb. 28 show to accommodate more audiences.
It’s a unique opportunity to see a show that has thrilled audiences over and over, she said, because this local cast has created magic onstage.
“We had to have this group. They came and put their hearts and souls into this,” Krueger said. “The most amazing thing is when it starts all in your head and then once you get your cast, they take ownership. By the end it turns into their show.”
For tickets and scheduling information for “Mamma Mia!” visit www.whitefishtheatreco.org or call (406) 862-5371.