Nov. 12 2013 12:00 AM

Lansing resident preps for fourth trip to Wharton to see ‘Mamma Mia!’

\"Mamma Mia!\" returns to the Wharton Center for the fourth time since its Broadway debut in 1999. Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

Tuesday, Nov. 12 — This weekend, “Mamma Mia!” makes its fourth return to East Lansing’s Wharton Center. Since its debut on Broadway in 1999, the musical based on the music of ABBA has been seen by 54 million people and grossed over $2 billion. Lansing resident Brian Huggler has been in the show’s attendance all three times it’s been through town, and he’s looking forward to accompanying his family to this year’s showing on Sunday to make it four.

Huggler, 47, hails from Davison, just east of Flint. He has lived in Lansing for 30 years and is a real estate broker for Coldwell Banker. He said he has a love for all musicals; “Wicked” is one of his favorites, which he has seen live twice. He has also attended productions of “Les Misrables” and “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway in New York.

Brian_Huggler.jpgHowever, “Mamma Mia!” is his favorite. Not only has he seen it at Wharton, he has traveled to Detroit to see it as well. When asked if he plans on going to see it on Broadway someday, he said “maybe, but it’s just as good at Wharton.”

Huggler said his favorite aspect of the play is the music. “Mamma Mia!” launched the “jukebox musical” trend. “Jersey Boys,” “Movin’ Out” and “Rock of Ages” all owe a debt of gratitude to “Mamma Mia!” Huggler recalled listening to ABBA while growing up in the ‘70s.

“My mom would play it on the radio,” he said. “It brings back good memories.”

Huggler said the Wharton Center’s presentation always changes subtly over the years, but the music is what keeps him coming back. He said the “feel-good” storyline makes it hard for him to choose just one favorite character from the play. When asked what was his favorite song off the soundtrack, the theme song “Mamma Mia!” did not take long to come to his mind. Huggler said he liked the 2008 movie adaptation, but thinks the live musical prevails.

“It’s a happy story,” Huggler said. “I think people get tired of seeing all the violence and negative stuff all the time. You leave it and you feel good.”

“Mamma Mia!”

Wharton Center

Nov. 15-17

8 p.m. Friday; 2 & 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 & 6:30 p.m. Sunday

$37-$72/$25 students

Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center, East Lansing