Mamma Mia!, the musical on U.S. tour is back “where it once began” - the stage production made its U.S. debut in San Francisco, California at the Orpheum Theatre in 2000. The present U.S. tour started in Rhode Island in 2002 and two years later Bill Congdon, a freelance musician from Charlotte, North Carolina joined the band. Now Congdon is the musical director.
Before joining “Mamma Mia!” on tour Congdon wasn’t even sure if he had ever heard an ABBA song, but after listening to the musical the first time he realized he knew every single song. Hear them once and they get stuck forever.

What is it about “Mamma Mia!” that makes you want to do the same show year after year?
"It’s a great challenge everyday, and I like a challenge. All the vocals and background singers are live, which demands a lot. There is a need to maintain and balance all the vocals. Also every song has different styles which effect both the singers and the conductor. It’s also interesting to work with music that is very well done and written with integrity and imagination from an instrumental aspect. I have always something to do."

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How is it being on tour for most of the year?
"Of course I would love to have a job where I could go home after work. You either adjust to the lifestyle of touring or you have to stay at home. Everyone in the crew and cast has their family, partner and spouse at home and you just have to figure it out. Also living out of a suitcase—you either have to figure out a way or realize the touring life is not for you.
For me, I love to travel, and during these eight years I’ve been to every state; that’s the best part, to get to see everything.
But it’s a full-time job. Even if you’re not working you’re still always with your co-workers and you’re not home.
It’s a very special atmosphere being a part of a group of 56 individuals who work, eat and spend all the time together. It demands a lot of respect for each other and you have to learn how to interact with each other.
It’s very important to know how lucky we all are to have a job in this business and we have a lot of fun and everyone has a lot of humor. Of course people get cranky, like everyone else.
Playing in so many different cities, it’s not always easy to know where we are at all times."

This is your second time playing in San Francisco. How do you feel about coming back?
"I’m amazed by the popularity of the musical and since the movie came out, I expect a younger audience as well. I got the impression many parents use “Mamma Mia” the movie as a “babysitter” and hopefully now they will can take them with them to see it IRL."

Besides working, how will you spend your two weeks in San Francisco?
"Some people from the crew have never been to San Francisco so we might do the touristy things like Alcatraz and walking the Golden Gate Bridge, but it depends on if I’m working during the day. New cast members join the show from time to time and they need to rehearse. If there won’t be too much work during the days I will try to relax and act as if I was at home."

Have you ever been to Sweden?
"No, never. My mum is from Norway so a trip to Scandinavia is high up on the list. I would like to learn some Swedish before I go!"

What’s your impression of Swedes?
"My first impression is it’s a peaceful country with peaceful and passionate people. Just in terms of the musical writing in “Mamma Mia” you can tell it’s passionate—and also listening to the recordings by Björn and Benny.
I’m so happy for the members of ABBA for them to have their music being almost more popular today than it was thirty years ago.
I really hope to meet Björn and Benny some day. So far I’ve met the producer of “Mamma Mia” Judy Craymer three times and it’s always an honor!"

“Mamma Mia!” will be on stage in San Francisco from February 21 until March 4 at the absolutely stunning theatre, Orpheum on Market Street. Set in Greece, “Mamma Mia” should feel very comfortable at this theatre since its architect was inspired by late European church architecture.
On February 24 the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce and its members will enjoy an evening of song, music and dance from the cast of “Mamma Mia” and under the directions of Bill Congdon!
By Emma Lööf Björnram

For more info on the show:
Look for tickets here: Broadway in San Francisco and more information on the show: Mamma Mia! North America