By: Catherine Johnson, based on the songs of ABBA composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus
Produced by: San Jose Stage
Directed by: Allison F. Rich
Choreographed by: Keith Pinto
Music direction by: Martín Rojas Dietrich
Featuring: Adrienne Herro, Allison F. Rich, Allison Parker, Keith Pinto, Noel Antonio Escobar, Jeffrey Brian Adams, Jill Miller, Sam Faustine, Brigitte Losey, Sarah Bylsma, Sean Okuniewicz, Mike Wu, Brittney Monroe, Tony Wooldridge, and Vinh Nguyen.
Running time: 150 minutes, one intermission
When: May 29-July 7, 2019
Where: San Jose Stage Company, 490 South 1st Street, San Jose
Tickets: $32-$60. Call 408-283-7142 or visit www.thestage.org.
worked out for Adrienne Herro
Adrienne Herro grew up singing and dancing in her room on the San Francisco Peninsula, as happy children are wont to do, but when she saw a national tour of “Annie” in San Francisco, in the late 1970s, she said, “Oh, my God! That’s what I want to do!”
Life path decided, at age 8 or 9.
And that’s what she’s done, among other things, over the last 40 years or so. She did children’s productions in Foster City, started performing in musicals when in middle school. She was cast as one of the orphans in “Annie” at Peninsula Civic Light Opera (now known as Broadway by the Bay) just before she entered high school.
For a while, she said in a recent phone interview, “it was just kind of me and my mom.” (Mom eventually remarried.)
But what’s fun about that is that in the musical she’s in now — “Mamma Mia!” at San Jose Stage — she is playing Donna Sheridan, the single mom who raised her daughter on her own.
You know the story? Donna’s daughter, Sophie (played at The Stage by Allison Parker), is getting married, and wants her dad to walk her down the aisle. Trouble is, she doesn’t know dad’s name.
“Having grown up in the ’70s, ABBA was huge,” Herro said. “My mom and I used to sing in our car all the time, popping in an eight-track and singing ABBA songs with my mom — a single mom raising her daughter. My mom and I saw ‘Mamma Mia!’ when it first toured through San Francisco. It’s fun. And now I have a daughter, and am going through the process of seeing one of my (three) children off. It feels like it is sort of similar to my life. My daughter (Allyson ) is an accomplished pianist. She just played in the pit for ‘Mamma Mia!’ at her high school.’” (Woodside High.)
(Son Charlie graduates from Junipero Serra High “the morning we open,” said Herro. Son William is in the fourth grade at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Her husband is Craig Herro.)
In the musical, Sophie takes a sneak peek through mom’s diaries, which reveals three names from intimate dates who might be her dad, so Sophie sends letters to all three of them, signing them “Donna.”
Big surprise for Donna! And, an excuse to launch into all kinds of ABBA songs, including "Honey, Honey," "Money, Money, Money," "Dancing Queen," "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" and many others, including "Mamma Mia" and "Waterloo."
It’s an ABBA fest, with lots of the cast dressed in bright, gaudy costumes and dancing all over the set.
Donna brings in her two BFFs Tanya (Allison F. Rich) and Rosie (Jill Miller), who’d been part of a singing group, Donna and the Dynamos, and much entertainment ensues.
What happens among Donna and the three fathers is like a tuneful soap opera come to life.
If you saw the movie, and the horror that was Pierce Brosnan attempting to sing, be comforted that Noel Antonio Escobar, who is an excellent singer, is Sam, one of the prospective dads, in this cast. The others are the great Keith Pinto as Harry and Jeffrey Brian Adams as Bill.
Rich is directing, Pinto is choreographing, and many people in this cast, including Herro and Parker, performed together in “Wild Party” at The Stage in 2016. That grim Andrew Lippa musical is at the other end of the continuum scale from the bubbly “Mamma Mia!”
It hasn’t been all musicals for Herro. When she was in high school, she started modeling for the famous Ford Agency in New York and a couple of agencies in Los Angeles during her summers. That work took her to Japan and Italy and elsewhere.
Coming back to the Peninsula, she went to work in human resources. She met her husband, started their family, and now she works about 15 hours a week for Stitch Fix.
And still, she took, and takes, singing, acting and dancing classes. One day some years ago, at a tap class, Lee Foster, then the executive director at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City, introduced herself, and got Herro back into performing. That led to several shows at Hillbarn, and to several shows at San Jose Stage.
“I’m luckiest girl in the world to be doing this all these years later,” she said.
She is happy about this “Mamma Mia!” including getting to work with her friend Allison F. Rich, who is directing, as well as performing.
“Allison is awesome. I am the lead, but she is fierce and awesome,” Herro said. “I’m lucky to have her as director and mentor — and to be on stage with her. …
“Our Sam (Escobar, who played the same role at Center Rep in September) sings better than Pierce Brosnan,” said Herro. Brosnan “looked like he was hurting.”
Parker, who plays Sophie, is “amazing. She and I did ‘Wild Party,’ were really close. She is a lovely, lovely human. She feels real, like someone I could love as my own daughter.”
What she loves most about this show, Herro said, “are the friendships being built on stage with the main characters. … it’s great to see the Dynamos, the dads, and Sophie and her friends, and the tavern workers. It’s a lovely story of friendship and relationships.”