Park City High School drama department exclaims ‘Mamma Mia!’
The Park City High School drama department, which includes Treasure Mountain Junior High students, got lucky last year.
It landed the rights to the Tony Award-nominated musical “Mamma Mia!” a day before a local arts council put a lock on it, said drama teacher Krischelle Hansen.
“The lock prevented anyone in a 50-mile radius from being able to perform the musical,” Hansen said. “And if we hadn’t snatched up the rights when we did, we wouldn’t have been able to perform the play this weekend.”
The musical, which features the songs of ABBA, written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, will open on Thursday, Nov. 14, and run through Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts at Park City High School, 1750 Kearns Blvd. Evening curtain is 7 p.m. There will also be a 2 p.m. on Saturday.
The story is about Donna, a former pop singer, whose daughter, Sophie, is about to get married. The catch is Sophie wants her father to give her away during the ceremony, but she and Donna don’t know who the father is.
The director stuck true to that script and its adult-oriented material, because she felt the students were mature enough to make it work and that Park City High allows more artistic freedom than most schools.
“This is a musical that only Park City students could perform, because it would be edited if it were done in any other high school in Utah,” Hansen said. “I mean, there is a cougar who hits on a young bartender. I really can’t see this music performed in Provo, you know what I mean?”
Casting the production was a challenge because more than 60 students auditioned, and choreographer Jessa Brock could only work with around 30.
“So I cast 35 kids, and we had a few drop out,” Hansen said.
Then, Hansen recruited Park City High School Dance Company, bringing the cast up to 50 members. Assisting with the production is 15 student tech crew members and a 10-piece orchestra. The orchestra will be conducted by Scott Tanner, and the music director is Christin Abbott.
“They all have been wonderful to work with, especially because the music is so recognizable,” Hansen said. “Each one of the kids in the production has a love for ABBA. They tell me they would listen to the songs with their moms or they listened to the songs when they were little.”
Songs set to be performed include “Mamma Mia,” “The Name of the Game,” “SOS,” “Dancing Queen” and “The Winner Takes It All,” among others.
Preparation for “Mamma Mia!” started in March, before summer break, when the kids received their scripts, Hansen said.
“We usually announce our fall musical before school lets out, and at first we were going to do ‘Aida,’ and then in March the rights for ‘Mamma Mia!’ became available,” she said.
When: 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15, through Saturday, Nov. 17, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17
Where: Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd.
A week before school started in August, the cast was already working in dance-intensive sessions.
“By the time we did our first read through I had two-thirds of the cast dancing,” Hansen said.
The biggest challenge of staging “Mamma Mia!” was moving it from Park City High School’s small Black Box Theater preliminary rehearsal space to the larger Eccles Center stage, Hansen said.
“We weren’t able to move to Eccles until last week,” she said. “So it was a little difficult to figure out how to space things out, but we were able to do it.”
Hansen has two favorite numbers in the musical. The first is “Gimme Gimme,” which flows into “Voulez-Vous,” the second.
‘This is one of the numbers that includes Dance Company,” she said. “So my cast (onstage) jumps from 18 to 30 during this piece. All of them are dancing on stage and singing and it’s so freaking cool.”
Hansen’s second favorite number is “Slipping Through My Fingers,” a song performed by Donna and Sophie.
“It gets me all teary,” she said.
This is Hansen’s first year as Park City High School’s drama department teacher.
“I did my student teaching here two years ago,” she said. “I volunteered last year as a scenic artist and painted sets for some productions because I love these kids and love the department.”
When the full-time job came up, she applied.
“I’m so happy to be here because it seems like an easy fit,” she said. “Park City is an artistic community, and I’m ready to open the show.”
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