The fan favorite jukebox musical "Mamma Mia!" – arriving at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on Friday for a five-show weekend stint – tells the tale of love found and thriving in the midst of the Mediterranean, all to the tune of ABBA hits. For ensemble cast members Jennifer and Vince Wingerter, it’s a story that rings true in real life – maybe minus a dozen of ABBA songs.
The two – she originally from Detroit, he from Seattle – met as singers for Celebrity Cruise Line, performing together in the boat’s showroom for six months as they sailed across Europe, the Baltic and the Mediterranean. No need to play "S.O.S." though, as the two actors soon fell in love.
"It’s really funny because I think we both, when we were on the ship, weren’t looking for a relationship, and it happened anyway," Vince recalled. "That’s exactly it. These things happen when you don’t expect it. And the second thing is we had so much in common, in terms of goals or things we enjoy, our love for travel and performing, all that stuff played a large role in that."
"I think we work so well together on so many levels, whether it’s professional or it’s personal," Jennifer added. "We function very well romantically, and we function very well together at the work place, and we just have a lot of fun together."
The two set the marriage date for September 2013, but like any good on-stage love story, there would be some extra complications thrown into the mix. That same month, Jennifer and Vince both joined onto the touring production of "Mamma Mia!" For Jennifer, who grew up listening to her parents play ABBA music in the car and singing "Dancing Queen" from an early age, being a part of the legendary show was a dream come true.
"I saw the tour actually come through Detroit back in the day when it was first touring; it was probably the first national group I saw at that point," she recalled. "I looked at my mom and said, ‘You know what? I think I should be in that show.’ And then later down the line, sure enough, here I am."
"For me, it was a new experience, but once we got in, of course, we got immersed in it," Vince added.
Of course, it’s hard enough to plan a wedding and maintain one’s sanity without trying to perfect an iconic, beloved musical at the same time.
"It was something I’ll hopefully never have to do again," Jennifer laughed. "In some impossible way, I was able to keep focus on rehearsal while in rehearsal, and while I was on a five-minute or 10-minute break, I was on the phone with vendors and working everything out. And then it was back in the room rehearsing, not thinking about the wedding at all. It was quite an interesting experience."
In the end, however, they pulled off their own rendition of "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do." With the permission of their directors and producers, Jennifer and Vince left on the final tech weekend to get married. Then, quickly after the ceremony and celebration, it was back to "Mamma Mia!" for the final dress rehearsal. Two days later, the curtain raised on the show.
As for their honeymoon, Jennifer and Vince consider themselves still on it.
"Eventually we’ll plan something exciting and fun, but for a lot of people, this is pretty exciting and fun," Jennifer said. "We’ve been really enjoying it. Everybody we meet along the way, we’re like, ‘Welcome to our honeymoon; it’s now lasted about a year and a half."
"We’ve probably been to like 70 cities, if not more," Vince added. "You really can’t buy this type of honeymoon: doing what you love, travelling whenever we’re not performing, seeing cities and spending time together."
They’re not only sharing these first married years with one another, but also with the maniacal fans of the ABBA musical who love the show – come hell, Pierce Brosnan singing or high water.
"The music alone, regardless of anything else, stands as a wonderful gem," Jennifer said. "It’s such a great time in and of itself. People like me grew up listening to their parents listening to it, or our parents listened to it growing up themselves. And I’m sure we’re going to pass this music right onto our children. Add on top of that a really fun storyline and the comedy involved in the storyline, everybody seems to love it."
Either on stage, off stage or in the crowd, love in the air seems to be a guarantee.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.