‘Mamma Mia!’ Here They Go Again
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‘Mamma Mia!’ Here They Go Again

The lead roles of Jerry's Habima Theater's production of "Mamma Mia!" are played by adults with developmental disabilities.

Photo by Heidi Morton // “Mamma Mia!" dancing queens Katie Rouille (as Rosie), Bess Winebarger (as Donna), and Margaret Whitley (as Tanya).
Photo by Heidi Morton // “Mamma Mia!" dancing queens Katie Rouille (as Rosie), Bess Winebarger (as Donna), and Margaret Whitley (as Tanya).

The chorus of the “Mamma Mia!” theme song, “Here I go again, my, my, how can I resist you?” could just as well describe the popular Broadway musical being performed by Jerry’s Habima Theatre March 12-20 at the Marcus JCC.

This is the 27th musical production of the theatrical company, which features actors with special needs alongside professional actors from the community. This is only the second season in recent history in which all the lead roles are played by adults with developmental disabilities, according to Rachel Fox Weitz, production chair.

Also unique about this production is that about 20 percent of the cast are either new or returning after several years.

One such actress is Amy Kahn, who has been in 12 productions, but is returning to the stage after 15 years. She left Habima Theatre to work full-time as a clerk with the IRS, but said she missed the stage and decided to return after viewing Habima Theatre’s production last year of “Xanadu.”

Amy Kahn has performed in 12 productions, but this is her first one after a 15-year absence from the stage.

“I really felt I missed being up there,” said Kahn, who is 49. “So when auditions rolled around, I signed up.” She will be part of the “Mamma Mia!” ensemble this year.

Kahn recalled some of her favorite past roles, including Frenchy in “Grease,” Miss Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls,” and Yenta in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“It changed my whole perspective on life,” Kahn said about Habima Theatre. She has a developmental delay but lives independently with limited support. “I feel more confident.”

Of the productions, she says, “it’s hard work, but worth it in the end. … Without hard work we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Kahn also believes her mother, who died five years ago, would want her to return to the stage. What is she most looking forward to about performing?

“Showing people what I am able to do and being proud.”

In the future, Kahn hopes to land a lead role like she’s had in the past. “One thing at a time. … I know I can’t get a big role this one because I am just coming back.”

Weitz said Habima Theatre has performed different types of productions over the years, including classic musicals such as “Oklahoma,” along with kid-friendly, “Shrek,” “Aladdin,” and “The Addams Family.”

This production “matches a classic with catchy, fun tunes. Even those who are not familiar with Broadway will know them, … with everyone clapping and singing along.”

Rachel Fox Weitz, production chair of “Mamma Mia!” enjoys watching the excitement among cast members.

In terms of the cast, Weitz said, “they have shown they can do all different shows, different roles with different music. It’s really impressive. The cast is very excited and having a wonderful time with it. It’s one of these programs where once you come one year, you’ll always want to come back in future years. That’s inspiring.

“I tell people, ‘you’ll be crying and laughing at the same time.’ It’s such a magical experience for the audience and the cast members.”
She especially enjoys watching the cast members, “how excited they are the day of the show and how talented. Cast members return year to year. Watching them grow year to year as actors is one of the highlights.”

Habima Theatre is produced under the MJCCA Blonder Family Department of Special Needs and the Department of Arts + Culture.
Tickets for MJCCA members are $25 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger; $35 for nonmembers and $15 for children 12 and younger, and can be purchased at atlantajcc.org/habima or by calling 678-812-4002.

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