If you’ve been to one of the annual musicals by the team at Valley View High and Middle School, you’re not surprised when you find your foot tapping along to the music. But this year is different. This year you may find yourself singing along.
That’s because this year’s production is the Broadway hit “Mamma Mia!,” featuring the infectious music of the Swedish pop group Abba.
The show will be presented Friday and Saturday, March 15-16, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, March 17 at 2 p.m. in the high school auditorium, 1 Columbus Drive in Archbald. Tickets are $10; $8 for students.
“Each year, we try to choose the play that best showcases the talent we have, while also choosing one that will excite our performers and the community,” explained Gina Pascolini, production manager for the play and the school’s choral director. “One of the members of our production team, Ken Rupp, has been subtly hinting that he’d like to do this show for a while now. After researching it, I was drawn to the music — of course — but more than that, to the journey we see the two main females take in this story.”
High schools in general — and Valley View in particular — tend to choose shows with large casts, so lots of students can perform, but this year Pascolini outdid herself.
“We have a very large ensemble, and at times it was challenging figuring out how to give them all a sufficient amount of stage time. I’m excited by the choices we, as a production team, made, and I’m incredibly proud of how well the students rose to the challenge of telling this story.”
Pascolini is happy with the result.
“I’m most proud of the sheer number of students we are able to involve each and every year. This year, there are 50 students in the cast and more than 30 students running our crews and still more playing in our pit orchestra, under the direction of Mike Lesnesky. Finding the time and space during the show to highlight each performer’s talent is a goal we set from the beginning. Also, every actor will be singing during every song of the show, either on stage or back stage. Our vocal director Torey Jordan has done a phenomenal job of preparing them, not only for their own individual roles, but also for their roles in the vocal ensemble.”
Another challenge the production team had was finding a way to put its own stamp on this familiar music.
“The music of the show, in addition to the show itself, is incredibly popular,” Pascolini said. “However, this is the only time these particular actors will be performing it, so that right there makes it unique and worthy of seeing. I also listened to the soundtrack for months, before watching any other versions, to get an idea in my head of what I wanted the show to look like.”
Another challenge all student productions face is that the show they are rehearsing is just one of many extra-curricular activities many students have, and scheduling can be tricky.
“It’s true that most of the students involved are juggling so many things in their schedules,” Pascolini noted. “But the students who audition for the show and those who run our crews and play in our pit orchestra want to be a part of it and are usually completely dedicated to it. Everyone involved sacrifices something in order to be a part of it, especially during that last two weeks, when rehearsals are mandatory.”
Pascolini acknowledges that “most people come to see ‘Mamma Mia!’ because they know the music. However, I truly believe that the story being told, and the way it is told, is what makes the show memorable. The songs you know from the radio take on a new meaning after seeing this production.”