'Mamma Mia!' Resonates for Star

Mother-daughter relationship in musical hits home for Florida native


For some, the thought of the '70s conjures images of bell-bottom pants from a far-away wonderland full of polyester and neon velvet paintings.

From that dreamscape spills the unmistakable sounds of ABBA.

Northeast Florida residents will soon be able to revisit this place in time forever captured in the musical “Mamma Mia!” The tour makes its stop for three performances Oct 18-19 at The Times Union Center for the Performing Arts. Folio Weekly spoke by phone with Florida native Gabrielle Mirabella, who plays the vivacious cougar, Tanya.

“It's about remembering things lost,” Mirabella said. “It's about being a part of a place in time.”

The story behind the musical revolves around a young bride-to-be, Sophie, searching for her real father told to the hits of Swedish pop band ABBA.

It has enjoyed amazing success with performances all over the world, including London and China. Mirabella’s character, Tanya, is a wealthy divorcée.

“It’s a fun character,” Mirabella said. “It's great when you can see those tough cookies crack and see this woman be a young girl again. And dancing with really young guys doesn’t hurt.”

Mirabella has experience in opera and a degree from the Manhattan School of Music. Her background helps ease the stress of the nine-month long “Mamma Mia!” tour and countless renditions of pop songs.

“It is so important to have a technical background,” Mirabella said. “You can figure out how to sing anything in a healthy way. “

For her, this musical strikes a personal chord. As a kid, she grew up with this story and often went to see it with her mother. The news that she got the role as Tanya actually came on her mother’s birthday.

“There is a scene where Sophie turns to her mother Donna and says ‘I’m so proud of you,’ ” Mirabella said. “I understand that now. My mom helped make me who I am.”

While the mother-daughter relationship is pivotal in the story, Mirabella said the musical is accessible to all audiences.

“The band alone is worth coming for,” she said. “There is an energy to live theater. As soon as the lights go down we the actors feel that, and we’re ready to give a show. We’re ready to give you that energy.”

Putting on such a well-loved musical can be daunting. The audience has certain expectations. For some, “Mamma Mia!” is their thing, a performance that they seek out and follow all over the country. But Mirabella and the cast are determined to deliver.

“You have to build from the ground up,” Mirabella said. “Bit by bit you go through the big numbers, the vocals, the very intense scene work, the funny comedy bits.”

However, if you’re expecting a rehash of the same old show, think again.

“The creative staff has been doing this for a decade, but they let us experiment and make it fresh, make it our own,” Mirabella said. “I’m impressed by the cast every single day. All of that work shows on stage.”

This musical is straight out of a technicolor jukebox and will have you humming after you leave.

“It is a show that you walk into having a good time and leave dancing out of your seat,” Mirabella said. “You really do. When we’re on stage we demand it, and it works every time.”

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