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Gulf & Main Magazine

Audiences Love and Sing Along With 'Mamma Mia!' at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

Mar 07, 2018 05:37PM ● Published by Kevin

Photo courtesy of Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre on Facebook.

Through ABBA’s greatest hits, "Mamma Mia!" tells the comical story of Sophie, a bride-to-be, and her search for her birth father on a beautiful Greek island, and Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Fort Myers is putting on its on production of the show through April 7.

After reading her mom’s diary, Sophie secretly invites the three men her mom wrote about to her wedding.

"This enchanting and unforgettable tale of love, laughter, family and friendship is set to ABBA classics including Dancing Queen, Take a Chance on Me, SOS and the title song Mamma Mia!" according to the synopsis on Broadway Palm's website. The show started on Feb. 15.

Amy McCleary, the local production's director and choreographer, is ecstatic to be visiting the Greek Islands with this cast and crew. She has directed/choreographed more than 10 shows at Broadway Palm, including: CATS, 9 to 5, Grease, White Christmas, Footloose, The Wizard of Oz, Jesus Christ Superstar, Some Enchanted Evening and Sister Act.

Other favorite directing/choreographing credits include Spamalot, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Music Man, Peter Pan, Hairspray and the 2015 National Tour of Memphis the Musical. As a choreographer McCleary’s favorite credits include Cabaret, High School Musical, Evita, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, the second national tour of The Wedding Singer and the current national tour of The Wizard of Oz with Apex Touring.

Most recently McCleary played Velma and choreographed Broadway Palm’s production of Chicago. She remembers dancing to ABBA Gold in her living room as a child and is thrilled that her own kids are now familiar with these iconic tunes.

We caught up with McCleary to hear more about her career, how "Mamma Mia!" has been going, and more, in a special Q&A.

Gulf & Main Magazine: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Have you always had a passion for theater?

Amy McCleary:
I grew up in Northern California where I began performing at a very young age. I was 6 when I performed in my first musical and started ballet around the same time. I always loved musical theater - to me in was expression at it’s fullest capacity, using every part of ourselves to tell a story. I began choreographing “professionally” when I was just 13 - choreographing for local elementary schools. I went on to choreograph and direct in high school and then I majored in Theatre at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

GM: When did you begin directing? Was it something you always wanted to do?

McCleary: I had my first directing job about 10 years ago, but I’ve been choreographing since I was young. I always wanted to be a choreographer - making up dances came very easily to me. When I was younger I don’t think the idea of being a theatrer director every entered my head. I’m wondering if it’s because so many directors at that time were male; and still are.

When I was starting out as a performing I worked with two very inspiring female directors and I’m sure they planted seeds for me. As a choreographer a lot of the actors and dancers I worked with suggested I direct. Whenever I choreographed my movement was always very character based and telling the story is always very important to me. It was a natural progression. One of my favorite directors gave me my first job because he saw that I had that passion: to create pictures and tell a story.

GM: Tell us a little bit about the current show, "Mamma Mia!" How has is been received so far?

McCleary: The audiences love it. It’s such a fun show. Our producer knew it was going to be well received because our audiences have been asking for it forever! I’ve always loved ABBA’s music and I really connected to the story because it’s about a woman of a certain age returning to her past, her passions and her youth. It reminds you to hang onto the joys of your youth. One of my favorite lines in the show is “Grow back down again!”.

It’s the story of Sophie who was raised by her mom, Donna. She’s getting married and wants to find out who her father is. She invites three potential father’s back to the Grecian island where she lives ... and chaos ensues.

The cast tells me that most of the audience is singing along with them; grandmothers and grandchildren all mouthing the words. ABBA’s music is just universal!

GM: Have you had a favorite moment with this production?

McCleary: “Slipping Through My Fingers” is my favorite song in the show. My own daughter is only four so watching the mother/daughter interaction really tugs at my heart strings. Erin Fish (our Donna) does an amazing job in the second act going through all these emotions - acknowledging her past, embracing it and finally taking charge of her future.

I also love “Name of the Game,” which Sophie sings with one of her potential father’s, Bill. It was actually not one of my favorite songs going into the production. So, that made me really want to dig deeper, and with the help of two amazing actors, I think we found some really special moments. It gives me goose bumps every time I watch it because I see Sophie finally getting what she wants (a father) and a character who has no plans to settle down actually committing to something.

GM: What is something that we should look forward to with the current show?

McCleary: I think the audiences love our finale the most, especially the ABBA fans! I also have to give a shout out to my amazing set designer, Evan Adamson. The set is really magical and comes together like a puzzle with each location. Because Sophie is figuring out the puzzle that is her life. I wanted to play up that aspect with our set as well.

GM: What do you hope for the future for yourself? Do you plan to continue directing?

McCleary: Absolutely. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love collaborating and creating something new with each production. The magical thing about theater is that even I were to direct the same show, it’s going to turn out differently because of who I’m working with. The mutual inspiration is so strong and I love bouncing ideas off of my actors and my design team.

GM: When you aren't directing or choreographing, what's something you do for fun?

McCleary: Hanging out with my kids. I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, so they keep me occupied. We just love hanging out in the Florida sunshine and swimming in our pool. I’m also the director for Alliance of the Arts/Broadway Palm’s Musical Theatre Intensive every summer. I love working with kids and helping them grow and develop through the arts.

I don’t have a lot of time for fun, which is probably why I connect so much to Donna’s story. Sometimes you are just in the thick of things and concentrating on the minutia of life. Doing this show has reminded me to just have fun every now and then!

GM: Finally, is there anything else we should know about the show?

McCleary: Tickets are hard to come by, so grab them while you can!

Show pricing tiers are as follows:
  • $70 Dinner & Show (Fri-Sat)
  • $65 Dinner & Show (Sun-Thur)
  • $60 Lunch & Show
  • $30 Children (12 & Under)
  • $45 Show Only
  • $26 Show Only Children
Show times are as follows:
  • Matinee 11:45 Lunch, 1:15 Show
  • Evening 5:30 Dinner, 7:30 Show
  • Twilight 5:30 Dinner, 7:00 Show
To learn more about Amy McCleary, visit her website at amymariemccleary.com. To learn more about Broadway Palm, or to purchase tickets, visit broadwaypalm.com
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