What do you get when you mix silver space suits, colorful codpieces, and sugary pop songs from the 1970s? Mamma Mia!, the ABBA musical, of course. The long-running show may be closing up shop on Broadway, but the national tours are showing no signs of slowing down. The show's latest visit to the Orpheum brings the usual glitter and glam. It also brings Eean Cochran, a Memphis native, back to the city of his birth.
Mamma Mia! is still new to Cochran. The multiple-threat performer, who started singing at Robinhood Lane Baptist Church where his grandfather was pastor, hadn't even been born when the Swedish band was charting its inescapable hits. He's been touring as an understudy and ensemble player for only a month, having started the tour only two weeks after graduating from Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas.
"I didn't know how big a fan of ABBA I was until I went in and started learning all the music," Cochran says. "I already knew the words to some of the songs, but I had no idea they were all by the same group."
For those who've yet to see the show or the movie it inspired, Mamma Mia! is a mostly romantic and entirely nostalgic situation comedy set on a Greek island where the daughter of an unmarried American ex-pat has planned a big, messy surprise for her wedding party.
Sophie, who was born in the swinging, free-loving 1970s, and her mom Donna (a rock-and-roller-turned-Greek-tavern owner) have never been sure who the father was. After reading her mom's diary, the determined young woman does a little sleuthing and hones in on the three most likely candidates: an architect, a writer, and a gay banker. Sophie, hoping she'll solve the mystery in time to have her real dad give away the bride at her wedding, forges letters from her mother, inviting the three old boyfriends on a holiday they won't soon forget.
"It's like a concert on stage every night," Cochran says of his new job. "I am loving it."