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So long, Mamma

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Vicki Van Tassel, Carol Linnea Johnson and Robin Baxter celebrate Mamma Mia!‘s 2 millionth guest at Mandalay Bay.
Dave Burdett

As the final curtain dropped on Mamma Mia! at Mandalay Bay on Sunday night the lyrics from the title track – one of the 22 ABBA anthems featured throughout the production – took on new meaning:

“Mamma Mia, even if I say bye bye/leave me now or never.

Mamma Mia, it's a game we play/bye bye doesn't mean forever.”

The cast of <em>Mamma Mia!</em> on its fifth anniversary.

The cast of Mamma Mia! on its fifth anniversary.

The fact of the matter was that Mamma Mia! was leaving now – and for forever.

The show will be replaced by a live production of Disney’s The Lion King in April.

The cast of the ABBA-infused musical, one of the few full-length musicals in Vegas, gathered on Sunday at the Foundation Room for a post-show party to toast their newfound unemployment.

Carol Linnea Johnson and Tina Walsh, who both portrayed Donna in <em>Mamma Mia!</em> at Mandalay Bay.

Carol Linnea Johnson and Tina Walsh, who both portrayed Donna in Mamma Mia! at Mandalay Bay.

<em>Mamma Mia!</em>'s Carol Linnea Johnson, Victor Wallace and Robin Baxter.

Mamma Mia!'s Carol Linnea Johnson, Victor Wallace and Robin Baxter.

Nancy Sommer, Carol Linnea Johnson and Ray Sommer.

Nancy Sommer, Carol Linnea Johnson and Ray Sommer.

The mood at the party was divided. While some were happy to mark the success the production enjoyed during its nearly six-year run, it was hard for many to celebrate that they didn’t have a job to go to the next morning.

“It’s kind of like going to a wake,” said one of the two original cast members, Tim Tucker.

Tucker, who played the part of Father Alexandrios, said his neighbors had been bringing him food in anticipation of the show’s closing, much like they would if one of his close family members had died.

“It’s kind of sad,” he said.

While the show’s finale represents a death, it also brings with it a new beginning.

“Everyone is going back to New York (in search of work),” Tucker said of his fellow cast members. “One is going to (perform on) a cruise ship, but pretty much everyone is going back to New York.”

Along with Carol Linnea Johnson, who played the lead role of Donna Sheridan, Tucker is one of the few members of the cast who are staying in Las Vegas.

Moriah Angeline, who played Johnson’s daughter, Sophie Sheridan, in the production, is moving back to the Big Apple later this week. Robin Baxter, meanwhile, who played Rosie, is wasting no time and will leave Sin City today.

Angeline, who has been performing in Mamma Mia! for the past year, was confident that she would find work quickly.

“I have a lot of positive energy flowing right now,” she said. “This is such a talented cast. I’m sure no one will have any problems finding work.

“New shows are opening all the time in New York,” she added. “(And) the great thing about New York is when you audition, you audition for everything.”

While Angeline’s optimism was refreshing, not everyone shared her upbeat attitude.

“Eleven shows closed in New York today,” Tucker observed. “We in the industry are calling it ‘Black Sunday.’”

Grease and Hairspray were among yesterday’s so-called “Black Sunday” casualties on Broadway.

Tucker also said that since only three major shows are slated to open, there will be a serious job deficit for those searching for work in New York’s hyper-competitive theater industry.

Perhaps that is part of the reason why the seasoned performer is staying put and focusing his energy on other things.

Tucker developed his next project, a Web-based TV venture called VegasNowTV.com, this fall after he threw out his knee and experienced some unexpected downtime. His fingers will be crossed as he explores that venture further post-Mamma Mia! amidst an undeniably tough economic climate.

“We’ll know in six months if it’s going to work or not,” he said.

Like Tucker, Baxter doesn’t seem too concerned. Though she is high-tailing it to New York, she won’t be the first in line to audition any time soon.

She called the show’s closing “a relief” and despite the apparent work shortage back east, appeared quite happy to not have a job.

“I’m going to take a few months off,” she said casually while nibbling on a plate of assorted sushi. “I’m not too worried.”

Despite her hasty departure from Sin City, Baxter said she’ll be back – but her return will be to visit the friends she has made during her three years in town, not to find work.

“I’ve met the most wonderful people in Las Vegas, really,” she said.

Beyond the friends she has made, she said, she’ll miss the weather the most.

Will she return to the Mandalay Bay theater to see the live production of The Lion King?

“Hmm,” she said, as if she were giving the question some thought. “Probably not.”

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