The music in West Orange High School’s new production is ABBA-solutely fun and catchy and sure to get you dancing.
The thespian troupe is staging “Mamma Mia!” which features the music of Swedish pop group ABBA and tells the story of Sophie, a young woman who is getting married on a Greek island and invites three men to her wedding, believing one of them is her father.
The WOHS version features two casts, the Boogie Cast and the Groovy Cast. Kyla Rodrigues and Delaney George portray Sophie. Her mother, Donna, is played by Ellie Meurer and Callie Huffman. In her younger years, Donna was in a girl group, Donna and the Dynamos, and her two friends, Tanya and Rosie, are played by Chandler Smith and Lola Coey, and Camryn Flakes and Kallyn Maday, respectively.
“We’re excited to have people come out,” Whitman said. “I’ve already had a lot of adult buzz. They want to sing along. There’s a big mega mix at the end, and people are welcome to get on their feet and dance along.”
“I think that more people know about ‘Mamma Mia!’ more so than any show we’ve done,” said West Orange theater director Tara Whitman. “It’s just pure fun. … The power of the script is really the songs. … The music is the star, and they wrote the script around the music.”
West Orange typically takes its big stage shows to multiple competitions each year, but Whitman decided to take a break from that this year.
“I wanted to do a big show they could have fun with,” she said of her students. “These seniors, since their freshman year, have been chirping about doing ‘Mamma Mia!’”
These seniors finally get to take a chance on staging the fun musical. When the rights to the show were released six or seven years ago, Whitman said, many high schools picked it up, but West Orange chose to wait.
The WOHS version has 83 students in the cast and crew, and about 60 of them are actors.
“I have a big senior class this year, and they’ve all been hard workers since we started,” Whitman said. “I have a ginormous freshman class. They’re all so talented and, more importantly, hard working.”
The students will perform on a stationary stage that features “this big, beautiful Greek island,” Whitman said. Other scenes include Donna’s room, a dock and taverna.
Whitman loves “Mamma Mia!” for all of its fun music. She admits her least-favorite song has turned into her favorite because of the way it’s staged.
“In ‘Under Attack,’ Sophie is having a nightmare, and it felt kind of ridiculous, but it’s been really fun, so I really enjoy it,” Whitman said. “And, of course, the Donnas sing Act 2, and those two seniors — those are some really special moments. Donna is having emotions about having her daughter grow up and get married, and it’s kind of the same for me watching my seniors on the stage.”
Meurer portrays Donna in the Groovy Cast, and Huffman is the Boogie Cast Donna. Both students have been in every WOHS theater show since their freshman year. Huffman auditioned with the idea of playing any of the female characters.
“I thought it would be fun to be part of,” Huffman said. “It’s ‘Mamma Mia!’ you know. Everything is just so fun about it.”
Meurer auditioned with only one role in mind: Donna. She said she watches the movie about every month.
“I auditioned for ‘Mamma Mia!’ because it is my most favorite show ever,” she said. “I have been talking about ‘Mamma Mia!’ since my freshman year here. I specifically auditioned for Donna because it’s my dream role.”
Meurer and George are best friends, so the two are enjoying acting together as Donna and Sophie. Meurer said she loves the scene with “Super Trouper” in it, her favorite ABBA song is “Hasta Mañana,” and her favorite to sing is “Winner Takes it All.” She has been dancing since she was 2 and started theater when she was 10.
She wants to become a performing arts educator and hopes to be the “next Ms. Whitman,” she said.
Huffman said her favorite scenes include the song “S.O.S.,” because she gets to act with Reanan Ramlackhan, and “Super Trouper,” because it’s fun every single time.
“The other girls who play Tanya and Rosie are a lot of fun,” Huffman said.
Her favorite song is “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).” She has been performing in choir and theater shows since she was 7.
“I will stick with performing,” she said of a potential career. “That’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”