Mamma Mia, Here [We] Go Again!

The Blue Valley West theater department will put on the famous musical production of “Mamma Mia!”


Photos by Zach Spencer

To see the performance of “Mamma Mia!”, buy your tickets here.

My, my, how could you resist a performance like this? This winter, BV West’s theater department has been hard at work on the musical production of “Mamma Mia!” The well-known show attracted a large cast and crew as well as high anticipation for its premiere.
Originally, the musical was written by playwright Catherine Johnson and was inspired by songs of the popular 70’s band ABBA. Its Broadway debut was in 2001, and since then it was adapted into a hit movie franchise starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried. The movies rose in popularity over the last two decades and kept the story as well as the songs fresh in people’s minds.
Why choose Mamma Mia? The upbeat show holds a special place in the hearts of many, as the show and the music featured in it are popular among a wide variety of ages.
“That’s one of the reasons we chose Mamma Mia, because of its popularity. It’s a hot show right now,” director Reed Uthe said. “The music is popular and there’s a lot of nostalgia attached to it, especially for parents because of the ABBA songs.”
“Mamma Mia!” also provides a change in vibe and a fun experience.
“We wanted to kind of do the opposite of Macbeth,” Uthe said, referring to last fall’s production of the famous Shakespearean play. “That was a more serious show, and so were our repertory theater shows. We knew we needed something fun and light-hearted.”
This will be Uthe’s first full-out musical since his arrival at West. It will include live vocals as well as acting and dancing. It is also one of the largest yet since “Mamma Mia!” includes 65 cast members.
The amount of participation amazed Uthe, but also posed challenges. “Nearly 70 people in the cast is a lot to take on,” Uthe said.
Uthe previously directed shows at Lakewood Middle School. “I’m used to a large cast working at the middle school,” Uthe said. “It’s different with high schoolers. Rehearsal is longer and there are more technical things. You can take on more challenging material.”
Rehearsals picked up as the show date approached. “It’s been a great process so far,” Uthe said. “We’re adding all the technical elements, such as lighting, costumes, and props. The last couple rehearsals we’ve been working on polishing.”
The time commitment has been a lot for staff members working on the musical as well as students participating in it.
“Time is always a big thing. Rehearsals for this go longer and there’s a lot we have to do outside of them, too,” Uthe said. “But seeing all the hard work come together makes it worth it. It’s so fun for us to get to share all that we have done.”
Sophomore Lily Seitz, who plays the second lead role of Sophie Sheridan, had to make sacrifices to participate.

Photos by Zach Spencer

“The school musical is a time commitment for sure, you’ll be staying for rehearsal almost every day until six,” Seitz said. “I had to rearrange a lot of my out-of-school activities to make sure I had time for rehearsal. [Cast members] will spend a lot of time at school to turn the show into something great.”
Seitz has been doing the musicals since her freshman year at West.
“I’ve always been more of a musical girl because I get to sing and dance,” Seitz said. “I’ve seen how amazing [the musicals] have been.”
For an underclassman, taking on the main role posed a triumph and a challenge.
“Getting to play Sophie was a very unexpected thing for me that I am so grateful for,” Seitz said. “I was thrilled beyond belief but overwhelmed… this whole show has been a huge learning experience and a challenge.”
The musical will be the last major production at West for the 2021-2022 school year. Although not every senior was cast as a lead role, they still had a large impact in their final year of doing theater at BVW.
“I have appreciated the leadership that they’ve shown. They’ve been ready to accept any roles that they get,” Uthe said. “The senior class is an exceptional class that will leave behind big shoes to fill. They’ve made kids from every grade level feel included and I’m so very grateful for that.”
Senior Caleb Lightner has participated since his freshman year as well, having been involved in five shows. Last year, he played Sebastian in the production of “The Little Mermaid”, which is one of his favorite memories. For this show, he portrays Sam Carmichael, the lead male role.
“I would say playing a large role comes with its struggles,” Lightner said. “You have to play this character who you have no similar experiences with, then find a way to make the audience connect with them.”
Despite the pressure and expectations, Lightner has found ways to take some of the weight off. “Mr. Uthe is very helpful in giving guidance to help play the part,” Lightner said.
Senior Lucky Cheedella is participating in the show as a featured dancer. Cheedella has had twelve years of classical Indian dance training as well as experience with Bollywood dance. However, this was the first musical at BV West that she joined the cast of.
“I was in [the] crew for a lot of shows,” Cheedella said. “I wanted to try something new this time. It’s pretty intensive [for a cast member]. There are seven costume changes, it’s kind of crazy.”
The pressure of being on stage is something Cheedella consistently faces.
“I’ve been dancing a long time so I’ve made techniques to deal with the stage fright,” Cheedella said. “I like to think of people as inanimate objects so that they can’t have opinions.”
Applying these techniques was important when the “Mamma Mia!” cast performed a snippet of their show during the Sweetheart dance assembly on Friday.
“For underclassmen, don’t wait till senior year to get out of your comfort zone, no one is going to judge you,” Cheedella said.
She reflected on the fun she had participating.
“I love bonding with the dancers, I’ve found a lot of new friends here. And performing on the stage is the biggest payoff,” Cheedella said.
After months of hard work, cast and crew members will finally present all that they put together this week.
The show will be premiering from February 10th through the 12th at 7 p.m. in the PAC. Saturday will also have an extra matinee performance at 2 p.m., to offer those who can’t be out as late a chance to see it. There will also be a free performance Wednesday, Feb 9 at 7 p.m.