Tucson treat: a sparkling ‘Mamma Mia’by Chuck Graham on Apr. 16, 2009, under Calendar Plus
Citizen Staff Writer
Check out the dancing in “Mamma Mia!” when this national touring show opens at the Tucson Music Hall on Tuesday.
See if it looks crisp enough for you. Sara Braslow will be doing that, too. She’s the company’s dance captain and a University of Arizona graduate, class of ’97, with her BFA in musical theater.
“I’ve been with this show for 3 1/2 years and I’m not tired of it yet,” she says cheerfully on the phone from Los Angeles where “Mamma Mia!” is in the midst of a two-week run at the historic Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.
“As dance captain, I’m in charge of keeping it looking right, so both the choreographer and the director are happy,” Braslow says. That includes being responsible for working new people into the act and keeping the cast veterans on their toes with brush-up rehearsals. A typical schedule would include two dance rehearsals “pretty much every week.”
To do that, the dance captain (much like the quarterback on a football team) must know everyone’s moves.
“Yes,” she says with a laugh. “I do know all 30 dance tracks. So I know everybody’s part. I’ve always loved math. To me it is like working out an equation. I have to fit the right people into the right spots. I have two very thick books, where we have mapped out each dance track, section by section, in letters and numbers and colors.”
Braslow is also a swing dancer in the show, covering the roles of seven women. The story, we remember, takes place on an enchanted Greek isle where an inquisitive daughter, on the eve of her wedding, tries to discover which of her mother’s three main men from an earlier time could actually be the daughter’s father.
All the songs, of course, come from the equally thick book of favorites sung by the Swedish quartet ABBA. Included in the show are “Dancing Queen,” “S.O.S.,” “Super Trouper,” “Take A Chance On Me” and “The Winner Takes It All.”
For anyone who hasn’t seen either the musical or the movie (is there anyone like that?) “Mamma Mia!” is a true ensemble cast without a standout role for some famous person to step in and do the tour. Those songs are the star, actually, with the singers and dancers there simply to make the music more exciting.
“The show has a very loyal audience,” says Braslow with marvelous understatement. “Some of the fans dress up. All of them are very vocal.”
Back in February, the show had a thorough refurbishing to get freshened up for playing these two weeks in Los Angeles. Immediately after that, everything will be loaded up and hauled here for a week of performances in the Baked Apple. Tucsonans get the benefit of all this fluffing that includes four new faces (three of them in principal roles), new sets, new costumes and new lights.
“To the audience it will look the same as always, but the performances will feel very fresh and be lots of fun.
“And the cast will be enthusiastic because I’m always talking up Tucson to everybody,” she adds, the sunshine in her voice.
Looking to her show business future, Braslow thinks being dance captain and a swing dancer has its pay-off artistically. She sees lots more than just being a teacher and disciplinarian.
“I do love the teaching end of it, which surprised me, actually. But what I really like is being able to jump in anywhere.
“And instead of being the choreographer, what I enjoy more is maintaining someone else’s choreography, and adding my own touches to it.
“Now that I’ve discovered this niche, being dance captain and a swing, I’m thinking I would like to make this my career.”
It is an interesting choice. Becoming a star or being one of those character actors full of colorful quirks is the usual show business motivator. Braslow has had those roles, at the UA and in regional theaters all over the country.
With this more or less backstage role, she has disappeared into “Mamma Mia!” But if you appreciate snappy turns with style you will be seeing Sara Braslow’s hand up there onstage.
IF YOU GO
What: Broadway in Tucson presents “Mamma Mia!”
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 23; 8 p.m. April 24; 2 and 8 p.m. April 25; 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 26
Where: Tucson Music Hall
Info: 903-2929, www.broadwayintucson.com