As remarkable as Staples Players is, they’re still a high school drama troupe. When they put on a show, the many “good luck” and “break a leg” wishes usually come from classmates, teachers, parents and other Westporters.
“Mamma Mia!” was not the usual show.
Before the curtain rose last Friday, the cast and crew enjoyed special well wishes.
Dozens of members of “Mamma Mia!”‘s Broadway and national tour starred in a pump-up video, produced solely for Staples Players.
There were many reasons David Roth and Kerry Long chose “Mamma Mia!” as Staples Players’ fall musical.
It’s a popular jukebox show with great music and non-stop laughs. Though ABBA was a ’70s band, the Broadway show debuted in 1999 and the film was released in 2008, teenagers in the cast and crew know it well. They — and audiences of all ages — love it.
But one of the most compelling reasons for Roth and Long — co-directors of the high school’s award-winning troupe — is that both of Players’ choreographers danced in “Mamma Mia!”‘s North American tour.
In 2010, Christopher Hudson Myers was cast as a swing. The next year, Rachel MacIsaac — who, in another key role, is Myers’ wife — joined the tour in the same role. Myers, meanwhile, was named dance captain.
In 2011 Myers joined the Broadway show. He covered the roles of Pepper and Eddie — and continued as dance captain — until the show closed in 2015.
The couple signed on as Players’ choreographers that year. It was only a matter of time before “Mamma Mia!” came to the Staples stage.
(From left) Annamaria Fernandez, Colin Konstanty, Ryan Porio, Sammy Guthartz, Owen Keaveny and tomaso Scotti perform. Benny Zack leaps. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Myers and MacIsaac bring great knowledge about details not in the script, Roth notes. (Players also enjoyed a visit last week from Felicia Finley, a lead in the Broadway production who chatted with the cast about the show.)
Some of Myers and MacIsaac’s choreography is “an homage to the original cast,” Roth adds. Other parts are unique to Players. The show — which opens November 15, and runs through November 23 — is recognizable to anyone who has seen the musical or film. But it’s also fully Staples’ own.
Roth and Long chose “Mamma Mia!” this year in part because they’ve got some very talentd dancers. Junior Jamie Mann (double-cast as Sky) studied at Alvin Ailey and the School of American Ballet. He danced with New York City Ballet in 3 productions, and as Billy Elliot in theaters from New Hampshire to Florida.
Senior Erin Lynch (double cast as Sophie) studied at Ballet Etudes in Norwalk for 7 years. Junior Camille Foisie (Donna) has trained in ballet since she was 3, and added other genres from New York to Trumbull.
Besides dancing, there is plenty of singing in “Mamma Mia!” (From left) David Corro, Anna Maria Fernandez, Camille Foisie, Tobey Patton, Jamie Mann, Erin Lynch, Samantha Webster, Sammy Guthartz. (Photo/Kerry Long)
“The dance numbers in ‘Mamma Mia!’ are highly energetic and athletic, with some very precise and technical dance mixed in,” says MacIsaac.
“We try to push the students beyond what they believe their limitations to be,” adds Myers.
It’s not only the actors, singers and dancers who have pushed beyond their limitations. The stage crew — under the direction of new tech director Jeff Hauser — has created an enormous, dynamic set. One of the highlights: a very cool turntable.
Audiences have learned that — whether it’s a foot-stomping musical, a Broadway classic or a serious show — Staples Players is far more than a high school drama group.
Anna Maria Fernandez and Benny Zack, in a tender (?) moment. (Photo/Kerry Long)
Tickets for “Mamma Mia!” sold so quickly, in fact, that Roth and Long added an eighth performance. That matinee — the show’s third — is set for Saturday, November 16 (3 p.m.).
“Take a Chance On Me,” ABBA sings toward the end of the show.
Audiences don’t have to take a chance on “Mamma Mia!” They know it’s already a winner.
(“Mamma Mia!” will be performed on Friday and Saturday, November 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, November 16, 17 and 23 at 3 p.m., and Thursday, November 21 at 7 p.m. The best seats now are for the November 16 matinee, and Thursday, November 21. For tickets, click here. Tickets are always available in the Staples High School lobby 30 minutes before showtime — first come, first served!)
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