Summer Vibes in Cold Winter, Mamma Mia Brought to the Maldonian Masses

Jessica Li also contributed to this article.

Malden High School’s Play Production closed out January with a bang, leaving audiences dazzled by their rendition of “Mamma Mia.” The show, which ran from January 19th to the 20th, was a resounding success, Advisor and Director Ariana Messana’s decision to retain the original version of the play proved to be the right choice. With phenomenal vocals, incredible dance numbers, and humorous moments, audiences were captivated from start to finish despite the unforeseen setbacks faced. 

On a picture-perfect Greek island, bride-to-be Sophie secretly invites three of her mother’s exes, hoping one is her father to her wedding. As the story unfolds, Sophie navigates love and identity while Donna, her mother, rediscovers herself.

Junior Natalie Keating, who took on the role of Donna, described her character as “complex, flawed, loving, relatable, and well-intentioned,” and provided some insight into the challenges faced before the show. “For the last week, I actually had laryngitis, so I could not even talk–let alone speak–and I did not get my voice back until opening night,” Keating explained that in order to regain her voice, she drank about 20 cups of water a day, refilling her water bottle and drinking several cups of tea with honey daily. “I even bought a humidifier and used it every night when I [went to] sleep,” she stated.

Senior James Song, playing the role of Sophie’s fiancé, Sky, mentioned another obstacle the crew was confronted with: “We could only start building the set in early January.”

In spite of these setbacks, Advisor and Director Messana remained confident in the cast and crew, believing they would successfully bring everything together—a faith that would prove to be true. Senior Emma Spignese-Smolinsky, who played Sophie, Donna’s carefree daughter, highlighted a sense of community among the cast by emphasizing, “I mention this in every interview, but genuinely, the community is the driving force. Our love for each other is what made this show possible.”

Sophie’s soon-to-be husband, Sky Rymand (played by senior James Song), is carried away by his friends for his bachelor party. JESSICA LI

This strong chemistry was seen throughout the entire production. Senior Brian Vences, embodies the character of Sam Carmichael who is Donna’s divorced ex who later becomes her husband by the end of the production. “Natalie and I are really good friends. We’ve been waiting to have a duet together that we can sing, so that was definitely fun,” Vences shared, highlighting the chemistry that fueled their performance of “SOS,” his favorite song in the show.

Moreover, Song added on by mentioning a close relationship with his guys. This remark referred to the dynamic between Sky’s friends, Pepper (sophomore Kail Boswell) and Eddie (senior and The Blue and Gold Lead Reporter, Zachary Nedell), contributing to the overall sense of connection and collaboration among the cast.

Tanya and Pepper conclude the song “Does Your Mother Know?” with a pose. JESSICA LI

However, this collaboration and chemistry extended backstage with the crew, an often overlooked group deserving of more recognition than they typically receive. Lovely Anne Gerochi, the Costumes Lead, and a member of the Marketing Team, expressed her pride in everyone involved, stating, “I’m really proud of everyone in the cast and crew because we all worked really hard to put on such a good show two days in a row, especially with a bunch of complications and worries on our mind … Techies running around and being kind of understaffed in a sense. But we pulled through and succeeded.”

In addition to the outstanding performances, the cast fondly reminisce over amusing and unforgettable rehearsal moments. Vences recalled a time when he and other cast members walked out at the wrong moment, finding themselves in the middle of the stage. The realization struck simultaneously, prompting a quick and comical retreat backstage. On a different note, Keating shared a humorous incident where she and music director as well as sound engineer Todd Cole coincidentally opened a door at the same time, approaching from opposite sides. This led to Cole playfully screaming in Keating’s face for “30 seconds, way longer than he needed to just because he thought it would be funny.”

Building on the chemistry forged during rehearsals, the cast and crew were asked about their favorite songs and costumes. Keating singled out Donna’s “Super Trouper” outfit as her favorite costume in the entire show, unlike Gerochi who said her favorite outfit had to be Donna’s classic overalls which she described as “timeless.” 

Keating revealed that “The Winner Takes It All” held a special place as her favorite song—a melody she had been singing since the age of ten. Spignese-Smolinsky, on the other hand, pointed to “Thank You For The Music” as her favorite song, a performance in which she collaborated with Vences, Heitor Soares (portraying Harry Bright, one of Donna’s exes), and Liam Gallagher (playing Bill Anderson, another of Donna’s exes). Adding to these responses, Song shared that his favorite number was “Lay All Your Love On Me,” expressing, “it’s fun having the boys behind me just acting funny.”

So, what should the audience take away from this production of Mamma Mia? Messana noted, “I hope the audience takes away the message of never giving up. Despite numerous obstacles that could have halted our show, the fact that everyone collaborated to make it happen demonstrates that anything is possible.” 

Adding a personal note to the audience, Vences shares, “This applies to whatever you aspire to do. If something looks enjoyable and you’re curious to try it, go for it. The worst that could happen is you might not enjoy it, and you can choose not to pursue it further. For instance, I used to dislike theater, thinking it was stupid. However, a good friend suggested I could be a good actor, leading me to join Play-Pro, and now it has become one of my favorite things.”

“Mamma Mia” might be over, but the memories from Malden’s incredible production will remain like a catchy ABBA tune. To the graduating seniors, the curtain may have closed on this chapter, but the melody of their dedication and passion will linger. Following these intense months, both the cast and crew deserve a well-earned and much-needed rest.

To keep up with Malden’s Play Production, their Instagram can be found at @mhsplaypro.

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