In the 1970s, Lauren Mufson had feathered hair, wore a ratty jean jacket, and liked her tunes loud. "I was a little rock-and-roll Led Zeppelin girl," says the 39-year-old actress. Which means that she had very little time in her teens for music that didn't reveal secret mystical messages. In other words, there was no place for ABBA in her life. How funny is it then that she's starring in Mamma Mia!, the hit musical that revolves around more than 20 of the Swedish quartet's pop songs?
"I definitely grew to like it," Mufson laughs. "I wasn't a fan, but I am now." (Mamma Mia! returns to the State Theatre on Tuesday for a two-week run.)
Mufson plays a single mother in the four-year-old musical. It's her conflict -- whether to tell her about-to-be-married daughter about the three men who might be her father -- that's at the center of the production. "In the past, [my character] was a little wild," Mufson says.
But, really, the whole premise exists to pry open spaces where the music can enter. ABBA's Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus squeezed most of their best-known songs -- including "Dancing Queen," "S.O.S.," "Take a Chance on Me," and "The Winner Takes It All" -- into the show, regardless of their context. "Scenes lead up to songs, and they all artfully fit in there," Mufson explains. "And it all helps people forget the real-world stuff that's going on."
And for Mufson, a New Jersey native and veteran of such un- "Chiquitita" stage and TV work as Kiss of the Spider Woman and Law & Order: SVU, Mamma Mia! is a light change of pace -- even if it doesn't allow her to get the Led out. "I can only speculate what the appeal of the music is," she says. "It's nostalgic. It brings people back to a certain time."