Party in the Pines with UVU and Sundance’s “Mamma Mia!”


The Sundance Mountain Resort in partnership with Utah Valley University School of the Arts is transporting spectators from Utah’s scenic pine trees surrounding the outdoor amphitheater to a serene Greece island with foot-tapping disco music through the summer production of “Mamma Mia!” 

Opening night was Thursday, July 18 at the Eccles Outdoor Theatre, and the show will continue to run Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights until August 10 at 8 p.m. The classic jukebox musical is based around timeless ABBA songs that provide an entertaining storyline where lead character Sophie Sheridan, played by UVU student Rilyn Gardner, tries to identify her father, who could be one of three men, in the few days before her wedding. 

“Although many may say that ‘Mamma Mia!’ is a ‘fluffy’ or superficial piece of storytelling, there is a wonderful lesson to be learned from this show,” said Director Matthew Herrick, a UVU associate professor. “That lesson is that all of us want to know who we are, where we come from, and how that can inform our happiness in the future and that we should do everything possible, even if uncomfortable, to find those we love and make connections. Connection is the definition of happiness.” 

Music for the show is directed by Amanda Crabb, who coordinates the BFA musical theatre emphasis at the university. UVU Theatre Department Chairs Lisa Hall and John Newman serve as producers for the show. Along with Gardner the cast includes several other UVU students,  including Duncan Johnson, who plays Skye.

Not only is UVU involved in the onstage aspects of the show, but also plays an elemental part behind the scenes. Heather Jones, a UVU alumna, does hair and makeup design for the show. The idyllic hotel set adorned with island-like plants created a realistic Grecian vibe, and it was created by UVU staff and students in the shops of the university. 

Sundance and UVU have been production partners for 12 years, and together the two organizations utilize talent in the community and from the university to create entertaining shows for audiences of all ages to enjoy. 

“Sundance has been a staple of the highest standard of live theatre in Utah Valley for 39 years. Sundance decided to collaborate with the excellent, forward-thinking theatre department at Utah Valley University to further the artistic excellence expected by Utah audiences,” Herrick said.

“Sundance has been completely accommodating to my artistic vision in bringing an honest, authentic story, and ultimately a ‘party in the pines’ to ‘Mamma Mia!’ At every step of the process, beginning almost six months ago, the producers of Sundance have had an integral part in artistic and administrative decisions — which is simply the definition of healthy collaboration in theatre, so the audience experiences the best production possible.” 

The collaboration between Sundance and UVU gives students unique learning experiences and allows them to become more engaged learners. “Through Sundance, college students are given the rare opportunity to work in a professional environment while still learning along the way. UVU’s ideal of engaged learning is implemented so well through this program,” said Gardner, who was accepted into the BFA acting program. 

The partnership is also a valuable experience for students to gain professional experience according to Herrick, who said, “With the high expectations of professional behavior and performance throughout the process, our UVU students have learned to ‘step up’ beyond what many of them have experienced in past community or educational theatre. Every one of them stepped up, and beyond, to advance their skills and understanding of professional life in the theatre beyond UVU.”

“The cast, crew, and designers have been a dream to work with. Their understanding of the difficulties confronted in every area, especially in the outdoor theatre in the middle of a forest, they have had a constant presence of positivity, graciousness, and collaboration. It’s been a joy to work with everyone involved.”

Remaining performances are scheduled for August 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, and 10. Tickets for the event range from $26 - $40. For more information, click here.

That lesson is that all of us want to know who we are, where we come from, and how that can inform our happiness in the future and that we should do everything possible, even if uncomfortable, to find those we love and make connections. Connection is the definition of happiness.                                                                                                                                                        Donna and the Dynamos.                                                                                                          Sophie and friends huddle around an old diary.                                                                                                           Mamma Mia ensemble dancing in flippers.