Theater students perform “Mama Mia!” for fall show

Sarah Borton, Reporter

Mamma Mia! the musical, written by Catherine Johnson, debuted at the Prince Edward Theatre in London in 1999. In 2008, it was adapted into a film and on July 16, 2018 a follow-up film, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, premiered. The smash hit musical is as based on music from the 70’s Swedish pop group, ABBA. Mamma Mia! features numerous ABBA songs such as the famous “Dancing Queen,” Winner Takes It All,” “Super Trouper” and many others from one of the best-selling music groups of all time.
After almost 15 years and 5,773 performances on Broadway, Mamma Mia! closed in Sept. 2015. The rights, which allows schools and other groups to put on their own Mamma Mia! production, were released shortly after the closing. Theatre teacher and show director, Chris Rose, applied to be on what is called “the short list” through Music Theatre International.
When the rights are released for a particular show, those on the short list receive an email, inviting them to apply. If accepted, they are granted permission to perform the show.
Rose was elated to receive the email in March saying that he could apply, so he applied immediately to ensure he would be accepted on time. Hereford High is the first high public school in the state to gain the right to perform Mamma Mia!
“It’s a good show because it has a big cast and several female leads,” Rose said. “The music is insanely popular. I’ve loved ABBA since I was a little kid and I’ve listened to it constantly ever since then.”
Rose has seen Mamma Mia! twice on Broadway and once at the Hippodrome Theatre.
Many theatre members were enthused to hear that their next performance was going to be the iconic Mamma Mia!
“I was so shocked because all the other shows I have been in, no one really knew what they were,” Alyse Altberger (‘22) said who has been participating in theatre for six years and is part of ensemble for this production. “Coming out of middle school, [the shows] were kind of cheesy, so Mamma Mia! is so exciting to do.”
Auditions took place at the beginning of June where there were over 70 auditions for the show and rehearsals began in Aug. Auditionees were required to sing 16 bars from a song of their choice, read lines from the Mamma Mia! script and perform a dance that was taught by the company dance captains.
“I ran the dance auditions and for the past few years we’ve done tap during the audition, but this year we did more of a jazz musical theatre,” Katelyn Dixon (‘19) said, who is a company dance captain and who portrays Tanya in the show. “It was different to see people doing different styles.”
Many of the auditionees agree that the auditions were nothing to stress over and the process was very relaxed.
For their opening weekend, Nov. 2, 3 and 4, cast and crew really wanted the audience to enjoy themselves and for everything to run smoothly.
“If the entire theatre isn’t dancing, then we did it wrong,” sound crew member, August Bubier (‘19) said.
Sarah Flynn (‘19) has been participating in theatre since she was seven years old and for this production, she scored one of the leading roles, Donna, Sophie’s mother.
“I just want to have so much fun because it’s my senior show and it’s a dream come true,” Flynn said before opening weekend. “No regrets. I want the audience to come and enjoy it.”
After opening weekend, the cast reflected on their performance.
“Everyone’s energy was up and we were all so excited, which contributed to having such a good opening weekend,” Esther Yu (‘19), a.k.a. Sophie from the show, said.
For some cast members, like Davis Guyton (‘20), performing in front of crowds comes naturally and has never been frightening.
For many, however, being on stage took some adjusting.
“It was my first big lead role, so it took me some time to get used to being [in front of] such a large audience,” Yu said. “Since I [participate in] dance and choir, I’ve had the opportunity to perform in bigger crowds which helped.”
Both Josh Porta (‘20), who plays Sophie’s fiancé, Sky, and Brayden Taylor (‘21), who plays Pepper, Sky’s friend, agree the Sunday performance was their best from opening weekend regarding line accuracy, scene changes, and energy levels.
Contrary to previous shows, Mamma Mia! played for two weekends due to its popularity.
Luke Caplan (‘19), who previously has never had a role, but landed the role of Bill, one of Sophie’s potential fathers, said the next weekend will bring a more solid performance since everyone will be more comfortable on stage.
Yu said there is room for improvement for herself, but to make it another great weekend of shows, the cast and crew need to have high energy and excitement again.
Guyton said his favorite part of the show was singing “Knowing Me Knowing You”, Porta and Taylor’s favorite segment was singing “Lay All Your Love On Me” while dancing in wet suits and flippers, and Caplan’s favorite was learning big groups numbers especially the finale dance.
Cast and crew members shared their favorite aspect of theatre.
“I love the relationship between the audience and the performer. For me personally, it’s like a high,” Flynn said. “It’s really fun to embody someone else and tell their story”
Caroline Dias (‘19), a member of the stage crew, said she enjoys the behind the scenes aspect and watching the characters and show come together.
Rose enjoys teaching a class that isn’t based around a grade. He loves bringing students together and watching friendships develop.
“[Students can] find a place where they are valued and wanted and needed and trusted,” Rose said. “They can find a safe place where they can be themselves. That’s what I love.”
Many theatre members said they loved being part of a big family and creating special friendships and bonds with each other along with, of course, performing.
“Being able to be a part of something that we can share with everyone,” Yu said. “We get to share our art with an audience and promote theatre.”