The FoCAL Center is bringing both laughter and joy to its main theater this February with its upcoming musical production featuring ABBA’s favorite hits.
Bellissimo Theater Company, with FoCAL, will present “Mamma Mia” from Feb. 2-12 on the local stage, inviting the community to come out for a night of music and dance sure to take away the winter blues.
The production follows the hilarious journey of a young woman, Sophie, and her search for her birth father as she brings three men from her mother’s past back to the sunny Greek island they last visited together 20 years earlier. ABBA’s songs lead the audience on the story of love, laughter, friendship and family.
Director Kyle Larson said anyone who has seen a production of “Mamma Mia” before or seen the movie will find a familiar love in this local production, but there will be a few surprises.
Larson said families can relate to and take important life lessons from the show while having fun.
“I think audiences can take the journey along with Sophie of growing up, having these experiences, having the connections with her mother and her fathers,” Larson said. “She initially thought you have to have this perfect life, but then she learns and sees that life is imperfections and that is what is perfect …. I think audiences can connect to that whether you’re younger or older.”
The production is meant to send audiences on a roller coaster of emotions. That is why Dawn Phipps, center director and the actor playing Sophie’s mother, Donna, said she is excited to finally bring the show to FoCAL.
“’Mamma Mia’ is just pure fun,” Phipps said. “I mean, the music is great, the energy is great. Everyone likes ‘Mamma Mia.’ They know the music of ABBA, they either know the movie or they’ve seen the stage production or both. And a lot of people have seen it many times. It’s one of those things that it’s easy to come back to because it’s just so much fun.”
On top of “Mamma Mia” being an energetic and funny show, Phipps said the community will not want to miss the talent of the cast and crew made up of professionals from Forsyth and other parts of metro Atlanta.
One is Chloe Ivins, who is starring as Sophie.
Ivins first started in professional children’s theater when she was 4 years old and has been acting, singing and dancing on stage ever since. She and her family moved to Forsyth from Connecticut when she was 10, and she has performed in children’s and community theaters all around metro Atlanta. She is also a full-time student at the University of North Georgia where she is majoring in film.
She is focusing her efforts on starting her career.
“The arts are really, really booming here,” Ivins said. “People say that this is the new Hollywood. This is the new New York. That’s really bubbling out of Atlanta, so I feel like to really grasp new opportunities in this career path that I’m choosing, starting in Atlanta is a great place.”
Ivins said she is more than excited to be working at the FoCAL Center with local professionals like Phipps who she can continue to learn from.
Phipps said she and Ivins found an immediate connection both on and off the stage.
“When you’ve got somebody who is so talented and committed and professional, it makes being on stage with her a delight,” Phipps said. “And I feel like she and I just naturally connect. She’s the same age as my own children, so it’s easy to be a mom to her on stage and to feel like a pseudo mom to her off stage as well.”
Ivins said she has a personal connection that comes alive when she’s on stage.
“This is my grandmother’s favorite musical, and we’ll be performing on her 100th birthday,” Ivins said. “She’s passed now, but this makes me feel very close with her. She was an immigrant from Australia, so I know that she felt very connected to Donna who was going off on her own on these big adventures.”
“Mamma Mia” is showing on FoCAL’s main stage every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and every Sunday at 2 p.m. from Feb. 2-12. Tickets can be purchased at the FoCAL Center or online at www.thefocalcenter.com. They are $30 each for adults and $25 for students.The FoCAL Center is located at 1150 Dahlonega Highway in Cumming behind the Forsyth County Board of Education building.