New Orleans area calendar for Jan. 9-15, 2015 _lowres

Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia -- The entire cast performs a number from the touring production of 'Mamma Mia!' The show opens Tuesday at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans.

It’s grossed $2 billion worldwide, had over 54 million viewers and stocked stages with performers since its 1999 debut. It was so successful that a movie was made featuring Pierce Brosnan, Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried.

Now audiences in New Orleans will have the opportunity to see one of the most popular musicals of the past 15 years.

Based upon the music of the ever-famous Swedish pop group ABBA, the Saenger Theatre will host “Mamma Mia!” Jan. 13-18.

This musical’s plot is injected with humor and family strife. A young woman, Sophie, living with her mother on the Greek island of Kalokairi, is preparing to get married. Desiring a traditional wedding, Sophie invites three men who might be her father to the wedding as she hopes one of them will walk her down the aisle. Hijinks ensue.

The show visiting New Orleans is touring the country and in its second season, which means cast members should know the production backward and forward and hopefully can sing better than Pierce Brosnan’s attempt in the film.

Vince and Jennifer Wingerter are a real-life married couple in the musical. As they are ensemble performers, they can play multiple roles. Jennifer goes on as either Donna or Tanya, and Vince as Sam or Bill.

“When we go on, it’s not like we’re pulling tricks out of a hat, trying to come up with the best performance,” Jennifer Wingerter said. “It really is the best performance. The audience expects professionalism, and that is what they get no matter who goes on for what role.”

Vince Wingerter agreed.

“The show is such a well-oiled machine at this point, it just functions so well,” he said.

Both performers have done this musical nearly 350 times since they started touring a year and a half ago. They do eight shows a week, but they say it never grows tired.

“What really helps is that there is such a high energy and the audience has such a love for it that it really makes doing eight shows a week pretty easy,” Vince Wingerter said. “The music’s fun and the energy’s high. That really helps doing a show again and again because it always ends on a high note.”

It’s also a noteworthy moment for these performers, as coming to New Orleans provides them the opportunity to work with some members of New York City’s original Broadway production team for Mamma Mia!.

The Wingerters are quite excited by the prospect. Many of the people they will be working with have been with this musical for over a decade, and they hope to glean some important information from these interactions.

“It’s something you just don’t get even at the best regional theaters,” said Vince Wingerter. “It’s nice to be able to work with some of these original people who know the writers, know the original producers and know what concepts they wanted.”

No matter what you’ve heard about the musical, this is an opportunity to see a world-famous performance. When asked what makes this musical so important and its story so interesting, Jennifer Wingerter broke it down.

“It’s a story about a mother and daughter. It’s a story about finding out who your dad is,” she said. “It’s a story about the mom and her two best friends, a story about the daughter and her two best friends, community, celebration — it really, really is a touching and funny story at the same time.”