Mamma Mia! Presented by StageWorks Fresno-One Weekend Only!

Jul 3, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Lorie Lewis Ham, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

Mamma Mia! will be hitting the stage in Clovis this July, presented by StageWorks Fresno. We sat down to chat with StageWorks Artistic Director Joel Abels to learn more about this production.

KRL: Why did you decide to produce Mamma Mia! this summer?

Joel: Simply put, I love the music of ABBA. I have loved the music of ABBA since I was a kid and was VERY skeptical when a musical was announced using their catalogue. One of the last memories I have of my grandmother Pearl was a trip we took to see the show. She would take a bus trip a couple of times a year with a group of women to San Francisco or Los Angeles to see a touring Broadway show on a Wednesday matinee. Down and back in one day. Mamma Mia! previewed in San Francisco and I tagged along. I was by far the youngest on the trip and the “expert” on theatre as they said. I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of the “jukebox” musical and had many reservations on the way up. The show was absolutely fantastic! It was light, fun, and FULL of the music I remembered. The absolute BEST part was the finale and how the group reacted. It was like the movie Cocoon! The entire group was up out of their seats, including my grandmother, dancing and singing along. It was surreal. That was when I knew this show would be a hit and it was.


StageWorks Fresno’s “Mamma Mia!” rehearsal

KRL: Why are you only doing four performances?

Joel: We are doing four performances over three days, July 12 (7:30 p.m.), 13 (2:00 & 7:30 p.m.) & 14th (2:00 p.m.). When I first conceived of this production, I wanted to do it big in a larger, unconventional space. We have done two other shows in the Paul Shaghoian Concert Hall (Master Class and Les Miserables) and I thought why not? It is a much larger venue than we are used to and we had a limited window in the venue thus the limited run.

KRL: Will you be doing anything different with this production?

Joel: Every production should have elements that are different from the last and this one absolutely will (large cast, big set). I think the difference for me is that we are producing it on a grander scale than we normally do because of our use of the Shaghoian. I think for that sake alone it will stand out from others. We are different from most other theatre companies because we use a live orchestra so that is a something different as well. We are utilizing pit singers to fill out the sound, something we haven’t done before so there is that. Oh, and we are setting the show is Greenwich Village as opposed to Greece. Kidding, I kid.


“Mamma Mia!” rehearsal

KRL: Are you directing it? If so, what do you see as the biggest challenge to directing this particular musical? And what are you enjoying the most?

KRL: I am directing it. J. Daniel Herring and Josh Montgomery are directing our next production, La Cage Aux Folles. I think for me the biggest challenge with this particular musical is absolutely not the cast or the material. Both of those are what I am enjoying most! For me the biggest challenge is getting the word out on just what an AMAZING cast and production this will be. It is always our biggest challenge.

KRL: Will there be some familiar faces in the cast?

Joel: Oh, my yes! Many familiar faces. Starting with Amalie Larsen as Donna and Emily Estep as her daughter Sophie, both of which were in our production of Urinetown last summer. Added to that are the powerhouse dads of Sam, Harry and Bill played by Terry Lewis, Chris Mangels and making a return visit to us from the coast this year Brent Moser. Our guest artist this year is Valarie Rachelle from Ashland, Oregon. I met Val while working on Showboat at FGO years ago. She was the director/choreographer and in addition is a fantastic performer as well.

KRL: What is your favorite song in the musical?

Joel: Oh, man. This is a toughie. I love them all but am particularly partial to Dancing Queen and Waterloo.

KRL: Anything you would like to add?


“Mamma Mia!” rehearsal

Joel: Come. See. This. Show. I promise you will not be disappointed. If we don’t have you up and dancing in the aisles by the finale than we have NOT done our job properly!

KRL: Dates, times, location, ticket prices, and where can they be purchased?

Joel: The performances are Friday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 13 at both 2:00 & 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 14 at 2:00 at the Paul Shaghoian Concert Hall on the campus of Clovis North High School at Chestnut and International. Tickets can be purchased at

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Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.


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