Parsons High School students may have never been quite so excited to present a play as they are this spring as they bring to the Parsons Municipal Auditorium stage the world-renowned hit Broadway musical “Mamma Mia!”
“The kids have been working hard. All year they’ve been stressing about, ‘Are we going to get to do a musical? It’s my senior year, I want to do a show,’” music director Aaron Burke said. “So we pushed it to now — not when we normally do things — but it’s going to pay off. If we had tried to do this in November, it would not have happened probably. Especially because around that time everything was really starting to amp up with that second wave (of COVID-19).”
The students have had lots of fun pulling together the production.
“Sometimes we do something a little heavier; sometimes we do something more story led. This is more about the music and the lifestyle of people,” Burke said. “This year we need something fun, and we’re doing something fun.”
“ABBA’s hits tell the hilarious story of a young woman’s search for her birth father. This sunny and funny tale unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago,” Musical Theatre International says of the musical. “The story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship, creating an unforgettable show. A large cast, non-stop laughs and explosive dance numbers combine to make Mamma Mia! a guaranteed smash hit for any theatre. A mother. A daughter. Three possible dads. And a trip down the aisle you’ll never forget.”
The musical includes such hits as “Honey, Honey,” “Lay All Your Love on Me,” “Dancing Queen,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Money, Money, Money,” “Super Trooper,” “SOS,” “Voulez-Vous” and “Mamma Mia.”
“It’s rare that you do a show where everybody knows every song. You usually do a show and it’s like, ‘This is the one big song from this show that everybody knows.’ So for the common person coming in to watch a show, who doesn’t know much about musicals, this is a great one to come to because you know all the songs. They’ve intertwined all these ABBA songs into the storyline,” Burke said.
The amount of work PHS drafting/robotics instructor Bruce Rea, his students and other career and technical education classes have put into the set is incredible, Burke said. There is a hydraulic jetty that goes up and down at the front of the stage. Then there is the 20-foot-tall set that transports people to the tavern in a little Greek island town. The full-working balcony is made out of wrought iron. The entire design was created by drafting students using their computer-aided design and drafting program. Welding, wood shop and graphic design students also contributed to the set construction in addition to other contributions such as making the posters and programs.
“It’s really great to actually perform it because at the beginning of the year we weren’t really sure we were going to be able to, and it’s senior year. It’s fantastic,” PHS senior Kaitlyn Stringer said. “It’s crazy how above and beyond they went (on the set). So many people got involved to make this happen. It’s great, especially after COVID.”
“The musical, in general, has more of the groups of people working on it than just about anything else the school does,” Burke said. “This is certainly one of the most technically advanced, tallest sets we’ve done in the 25-year history that we’ve been here. And because we used the CADD design program, we now have the full municipal stage rendering, so we know the exact shape and the exact size, so in the future we can design a show on CADD and get the exact measurements we need. From a technical aspect that is huge and cool.”
“The Municipal Building also has some LED movers they got,” he said. “So it’s like you’re going to a rock concert.”
The play boasts a cast of about 30, a crew of 10 to 15 in addition to all the CTE students’ contributions, and there is a live pit orchestra as always.
The students will wear specially designed see-through face shields that a lot of schools are using, so attendees will be able to see the actors’ faces.
The auditorium has been set up to provide social distancing, while providing the ability to group up to six family members together.
“We’ve got the seating here,” Burke said. “If we need to open the balcony we will.”
The play will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The cost is $5 for adults and $4 for students.
“It feels good to do something, even though we’re wearing masks and all that. It’s something that feels normal,” Burke said.
“The musical is something that is really important to me, and I was afraid we weren’t going to be able to do a show this year, so it was a relief we actually get to perform. We’re excited,” senior Megan Steinle said. “It’s going to be good.”