Mamma Mia Magic

Mamma Mia Magic

On December 13-15, Yorktown performing and visual arts brought the musical Mamma Mia! to our stage with an original and dynamic twist. This feel-good story (based on the songs of the Swedish band ABBA) of a mother and daughter on a wild wedding weekend, has captured the hearts of millions around the globe; it seems like everyone knows the story and can at least belt out the first few lines of “Dancing Queen”. But as always, Yorktown Theatre finds a fresh way to tell a timeless tale, and this production brought forth an interesting exploration of the complexity of the beloved characters, all while engaging the full ensemble and the audience in a lively performance.

The show was opened by Ms.Carol Cadby, Yorktown’s Theatre Department Chair, who served as the director, technical director and producer of Mamma Mia!. Cadby explained that this production of Mamma Mia was going to be unlike any other production, and she had a unique vision from the beginning.

“In this piece, I divided the characters of Donna and Sophie into three parts, and there was the younger, and the more mature, and the present day version. In addition to that I was able to add a chorus for three people with the Donnas and Sophies. I think the story is about a relationship between a mother and a daughter. That is ultimately the story that I wanted to focus on and tell,” Cadby said.

The main female characters, Donna (played by senior Mila Fox) and her daughter Sophie (played by senior Camille Pivetta), were split up into present, mature, and youthful, and were followed by an additional chorus of three other versions of themselves. Tanya and Rosie (played by Mary Shean and Rylei Porter respectively), Donna’s friends from her days as a pop-star, were also followed by their own choruses (Maddy Miller, Jewel Mootz and Jannah Zabadi for Tanya and Raine Reid, Jessica Layton and Tara Hall for Rosie). This brilliant splitting of the characters not only gave multiple students the chance to play these title roles, but also added a tangible layer of raw emotion that physically twists and turns around the characters as the story progresses. This division worked especially well with Donna’s character, who is only explored on the surface in the usual productions and the movie version of Mamma Mia!. Mila Fox, and her chorus of Becca Goldrup, Kate Marston, Rebecca Settlemyer, Amelia Emory and Marilyn Warren brought Donna to life.

“Donna is a really interesting complex person, because she was forced to change herself to fit into this lifestyle that she was crammed into. She didn’t want to have a child, and then she was suddenly pregnant and her mother disowned her, and she was abandoned on this island, and decided to make something good out of it; she started a business and started running a hotel,” Mila Fox said.

For the emotionally wrought numbers like “Slipping Through My Fingers” and “The Winner Takes It All”, the Donnas take over the stage, commanding and surrounding individual characters like Sam (played by senior Kevin Cabral), who is one of the three men who returns to the island and has fallen back in love with Donna. Productions of Mamma Mia! sometimes overemphasize the renewed relationship between Donna and Sam, but this rendition directly highlights the mother-daughter relationship between Donna and Sophie that truly drives this play; this is a timely choice, and it is refreshing to really get a closer look at the women of Mamma Mia!, rather than passing over their intricacies for the men.

The men of the show, Sam, Bill and Harry, who return to the island unknowingly at Sophie’s request, stole your heart from the second that they set foot on stage. Each man has a distinct personality and these men were truly brought to life by their actors. The dashing Sam was captured perfectly by Cabral, whose chemistry with Fox and Pivetta was astounding; The awkward (but secretly hard-rocking) Harry exudes a gangly but endearing air, which was cleverly crafted by sophomore Daniel Strickland; and the adventurous and snappy Bill was played brilliantly by Griffin O’Grady. Cabral, Strickland and O’Grady play off of each other exceptionally well and brought a deep layer of previously unexplored individuality to their characters. But most of all, they all play exceptionally well off of Sophie, who is in turn played by a superb Pivetta and chorus of Maria McGlone, Hannah Knittig, Holly Durham, Leah Kane and Mackenzie Mangan.

Perhaps most importantly, the main choruses of characters were backed up by a wildly entertaining ensemble and on-point pit band (directed by Mr. Matthew Rinker). There are a lot of bodies and a lot of movement on the stage in nearly every scene, but this critical mass of people made for a much more visually and musically appealing production. The group choreography numbers were especially charming and carried out with a passion and skill by all involved.

“It’s such an ensemble based show. So no matter if you have a named part or not, you have the spotlight at any given point in the show. The songs are so recognizable and it is such a community based show because the people in the audience can sing. We don’t actually encourage it but we know it’s going to happen, and when it does we will be there to sing along too,” said Cabral.

The audience was definitely involved; the decision to pass out glowing wrist bands during some of the most well known numbers like “Dancing Queen” and “Voulez-Vous” enhanced the disco undertones and original ABBA spirit that drives this piece. Not only does the show itself revolve around the idea of community (and Greek choruses), but the Yorktown Community was cleverly included as well. The varsity cheer team, a body of teachers and administrators, the color guard and our Principal Ms. Bridget Loft all played parts and brought a vibrant and personal touch to the production.

Mamma Mia! packed our auditorium with sold-out shows for three nights straight and definitely delivered with an emotional and powerful performance. Whether you were in the ensemble, the booth or the audience, it was a wonderful experience that radiated joy and camaraderie (and feminism!). But above all, it is a testament to the fact that high-schoolers are capable of creating things of lasting value, and that there is boundless talent and an incredible work-ethic at our school.

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