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October 31, 2014

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After six years, curtain closes for ‘Mamma Mia!’

Many cast members headed to New York in search of work

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Steve Marcus / FILE PHOTO

Donna Sheridan, center, (played then by Tina Walsh) sings during a dress rehearsal of the musical “Mamma Mia!” at Mandalay Bay. Bill Austin (played then by Mark Leydorf), left, and Sam Carmichael (played then by Nick Cokas) are two of Donna’s three former boyfriends.

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The cast of the Mamma Mia! show in Las Vegas.

Beyond the Sun

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Masks from "The Lion King" are on display during a recent sneak peak at preparations for Disney's full-length production at Mandalay Bay. Previews begin April 22, and opening day is May 2. Disney could bring other productions here if this classic succeeds.

What do you say to a person who just lost their mother? Words never make it any better.

Yet that was the question of the night Sunday as the final curtain dropped on “Mamma Mia!” at Mandalay Bay.

The lyrics from the title track – one of the 22 ABBA anthems featured throughout the production – rang clear Sunday:

“Mamma Mia, even if I say bye bye, leave me now or never;

Mamma Mia, it's a game we play, bye bye doesn't mean forever.”

The fact of the matter is “Mamma Mia!” was leaving now – and for forever.

The show will be replaced by a live production of Disney’s “The Lion King” in April.

The cast of the ABBA-infused classic, which was one of the few full-length musicals in Las Vegas, gathered Sunday at the Foundation Room for a post-show party to toast their newfound unemployment.

The mood at the party was hard to describe. While some were happy to mark the success the production enjoyed during its nearly six-year run, it was hard for many to celebrate when they didn’t have a job to go to the next morning.

“It’s kind of like going to a wake,” one of the two original cast members, Tim Tucker, said.

Tucker, who played the part of Father Alexandrios, said his neighbors had been bringing him food in anticipation of the show’s closing, much like they would if one of his close family members had died.

“It’s kind of sad,” he said.

While the show’s finale represents a death, it also brings with it a new beginning.

“Everyone is going back to New York (in search of work),” Tucker said of his fellow cast members.

“One is going to (perform on) a cruise ship, but pretty much everyone is going back to New York.”

Along with Carol Linnea Johnson, who played the lead role of Donna Sheridan, Tucker is one of the few members of the cast who are staying in Las Vegas.

Moriah Angeline, who played Johnson’s daughter, Sophie Sheridan, in the production, is moving back to the Big Apple later this week. Robin Baxter, meanwhile, who played Rosie, is wasting no time and will leave Sin City on Monday.

Angeline, who has been performing in “Mamma Mia!” for the past year, was confident that she would find work quickly.

“I have a lot of positive energy flowing right now,” she said. “This is such a talented cast. I’m sure no one will have any problems finding work.”

“New shows are opening all the time in New York,” she said. “(And) the great thing about New York is when you audition, you audition for everything.”

While Angeline’s optimism was refreshing, not everyone shared her upbeat attitude.

“Eleven shows closed in New York today,” Tucker observed. “We in the industry are calling it ‘Black Sunday.’”

“Grease” and “Hairspray” were among yesterday’s so-called “Black Sunday” casualties on Broadway.

Tucker also said that since only three major shows are slated to open, there would be a serious job deficit for those searching for work in New York’s hyper-competitive theater industry.

Perhaps that is part of the reason why the seasoned performer is staying put and focusing his energy on other things.

Tucker developed his next project, a Web-based TV venture called VegasNowTV.com, this past fall after he threw out a knee and experienced some unexpected downtime. His fingers will be crossed as he explores that venture further, post-“Mamma Mia!,” amid an undeniably tough economic climate.

“We’ll know in six months if it’s going to work or not,” he said.

Like Tucker, Baxter doesn’t seem too concerned. Though she is high-tailing it to New York, she won’t be the first in line to audition anytime soon.

She called the show’s closing “a relief” and despite the apparent work shortage back east, appeared quite happy not to have a job.

“I’m going to take a few months off,” she said casually while nibbling on a plate of assorted sushi. “I’m not too worried.”

Despite her hasty departure from Sin City, she said she’ll be back – but her return will be to visit the friends she has made during her three years in town, not to audition.

“I’ve met the most wonderful people in Las Vegas, really,” she said.

Beyond the friends she has made, she said she’ll miss the weather the most.

Will she return to the Mandalay Bay theater to see the live production of “The Lion King?”

“Hmm,” she said, as if she were giving the question some thought. “Probably not.”

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