When Lyn Philistine saw Albany native Carolee Carmello in "Mamma Mia!" back in 2005, she was hoping that one day she too might have the opportunity to play Donna Sheridan.
"I saw it on Broadway with Carolee Carmello, who was amazing, and I just thought, 'what great fun,' " said Philistine, who will be playing Donna in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of the ABBA musical opening Friday and running through Aug. 13. "I wasn't really sure what to expect, but by the end I was dancing in the aisle with the rest of the audience. I had a ball."
Nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 2001, "Mamma Mia!" features more than a dozen ABBA tunes, written by the two male members of the band, Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. The Swedish pop group first entered the American consciousness in August of 1974 with "Waterloo," and had 10 top 20 songs between 1974 and 1981. The stage version of the musical, written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, opened on Broadway in 2002, and told the story of a young woman, on the eve of her wedding day, trying to determine who her father was. A huge financial success, the show earned five Tony nominations and became a Hollywood film in 2008 with Meryl Streep playing Donna.
"I knew most of the songs but not all of them," said Philistine. "The show is a good, fun escape, and I think we need to escape a little bit these days. It can get pretty depressing out there nowadays. And I don't think I'm giving away anything if I tell you it has a happy ending. We need some happy endings."
Philistine grew up in the Pittsburgh area and went to college at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She got her Equity card at the age of 8 doing a tour of "Annie."
"I've been doing this my whole life," said Philistine, who also had vocal training at Carnegie-Melon University. "My dad was a singer, and he and my mom always supported us. I just kept doing this and kept on going. I guess I was good at it."
Philistine is recently coming off a gig as both Aunt Em and Glinda in a Walnut Street Theater production of "The Wizard of Oz."
"I would quickly have to transition from Aunt Em to the lovely Glinda," said Philistine, laughing. "It was a fast one. I'd put on the glitter for Glinda, then a different wig for Aunt Em. Then I had to fly so I was all rigged up. It was a lot, but it was fun."
In "Mamma Mia!," Philistine is joined on stage by Christina Carlucci as her daughter, Sophie. Brian Call, Gil Brady and Gary Lindemann play the three men who might be Sophie's daughter, while also in the cast are Carla Woods, Kara Mikula and Patton Chandler.
"You can create a familly even if you're not related," said Capital Rep artistic producer Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, who is directing the production. "It's such a fun show to see in our environment. It's up close and personal in a way you've never seen before. You really feel a part of it, and this show is a beacon of hope for women of a certain age. It says you can still have fun and get the right guy. Sometimes you just have to wait for the right time."
Serving as Capital Rep's music director for "Mamma Mia!" is Josh D. Smith.
"I can't imagine doing a show like this without Josh," said Mancinelli-Cahill. "He's just so musically astute, and amazingly, he knows how to create arragements that work specifically for our space. He's a giant talent and I consider him a true partner."
Also part of the creative team are Brian Prather (set design), Howard Tsvi Kaplan (costumes) and Freddy Ramirez (choreography).
WHERE: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111, North Pearl, Albany
WHEN: Previews Friday through Sunday; opens Tuesday and runs through Aug. 13; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Check web site for other performances
HOW MUCH: $80-$30
MORE INFO: 445-7469, www.proctors.org