Cast of “Mamma Mia!” performing “Super Trouper” by ABBA. “Mamma Mia!” was Franklin’s fall musical. Image Credit Anabelle Jukkala

Once a year, the Franklin High School (FHS) theater department presents a musical for the community to enjoy. This year, “Mamma Mia!” took FHS by storm. “Mamma Mia!” follows the fabulous mother daughter duo, Donna and Sophie Sheridan, in the days leading up to Sophie’s wedding. Unbeknownst to Donna, Sophie has read her diary, revealing the three possible men who could be her father. Sophie is then inspired to invite them to her wedding. Donna, having raised Sophie as a single mother in Greece, is dumbfounded when the three men: Sam Carmichael, Bill Austin, and Harry Bright show up to the island unannounced. Throughout the musical, we see young and naive Sophie battle the challenges of adulthood and see that she has her full life ahead of her, while Donna reflects on her past and is reunited with old friends.  

From the amazing music (I mean c’mon, it’s ABBA), to brilliant disco choreography, courtesy of Sonia Kellermann and Portia Hall, and overall energy—I had high expectations going into “Mamma Mia!.” Safe to say, I LOVED IT! 

“Mamma Mia!” pulled on my heartstrings more than any other musical I have seen. The show was quite long, exceeding a little over two hours, which did make me think some of the songs could have been cut. The program decided to keep all 28 songs in the performance, when most musicals tend to be around 20 songs. That being said, the majority of the songs in the musical were amazing. The live band, led by FHS band director Jason Owens, carried the entire show. They worked tirelessly, mastering their parts day after day and downloading the exact keyboard samples to directly mimic the sounds ABBA uses in their music. The keyboards they used have 26 different sound patches downloaded that the players would switch between for different songs. One key could go from making a percussion sound to a whistle depending on the song being played. 

Along with the pit band, the lighting and set design immersed the audience in the story brilliantly. The set team did a beautiful job of building the taverna and hotel with built-in stairs and doors which allowed for dramatic entrances, and the lighting team worked tremendously to support the different emotional transitions within the scenes. 

The culmination of these elements: the music, lighting, and set design, produced a stunning show. A perfect example of this is when Donna, played by Amelia Dusevoir and Anna Gunderson, sings “The Winner Takes It All,” which never failed to make me tear up. The solo displays Donna reflecting on the end of her relationship with Sam, played by Henry Takiguchi and Max Weaver. The song truly showcased the actors’ talents and their strong voices. It’s a beautiful song, and I can’t think of anyone more fitting to sing it than Dusevoir or Gunderson. 

Songs such as “Money, Money, Money,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!,” and “Does Your Mother Know” were my favorites in the show. Their high energy and raunchy nature, specifically in “Does Your Mother Know,” made me laugh every time. These songs also consisted of dance numbers which continued to captivate the audience.

I would like to specifically congratulate the actors who played Sophie: Delia Graham and Crea Sisco. Both absolutely demolished the role and truly brought their own essence to the character. Graham gave a more angelic, dreamy performance whereas Sisco’s was more expressive and dynamic. Songs such as “Thank You for the Music” and “Honey, Honey” clearly showcased these performers’ musical talents and ability to emote while singing. 

I will say, certain songs, such as “Under Attack” and “The Name Of The Game” were painfully redundant due to their repetitive chorus and challenging to comprehend for audience members who were unfamiliar with the broadway rendition of “Mamma Mia!” 

I must also give special recognition to the leading lady squad, The Dynamos, the “world’s first girl power band,” which gave me everything I needed and more. Besides Donna, The Dynamos consisted of Tanya Cresham-Leigh, played by Madeline Dominguez and Sophia Goble, and Rosie Mulligan, played by Freya Maher and Georgia Newman. From songs like “Chiquitita” and “Super Trouper,” I was able to truly see the strength of The Dynamos’ friendship, as well as the friendship shared between the actors themselves. Maher has a beautiful alto range that gave every song a captivating, soulful twist. Goble gave the role of Tanya every raunchy and kooky tinge it needed. Along with Goble’s beautiful voice, her amazing dancing skills also impressed. 

Our other leading trio, the infamous dad squad, consisting of Sam, played by Takiguchi and Weaver; Bill, played by Logan Markwell and Toby Moore; and Harry, played by Brian/Brie Gardener and Twylo Landey, truly lived up to expectations. At times, the actors struggled with the challenging vocal ranges presented by songs like “S.O.S” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” Despite this, their amazing acting skills and embellishment of their characters shined through. I was particularly intrigued by Twylo’s use of a British accent for their character, Harry. The dynamic between the three, seemingly foreign men, presented so naturally on stage, despite them all knowing one another off stage. My favorite scene with the dads is during “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” when each of them seem to recognize the scary reality of possibly being Sophie’s father while the chorus continues to sing and skip in a jolly little circle. 

Speaking of the chorus, they did phenomenal! For some other productions, I’ve felt the chorus really brought down the performance, but this crew did the exact opposite. The chorus added a dazzle that the musical couldn’t live without, especially for numbers with large group dance breaks like “Money, Money, Money” and “Voulez Vous.” Many of the chorus members had previous dance experience with the Dance at Franklin program, which helped solidify the performances. 

The steamy plot-twist at the end of the show truly left me, and the rest of the audience, in awe. The closing scene begins with Sophie and her fiance, Sky, about to get married, when Donna confesses that Sophie’s father is at the wedding. The disruption leads to one of the men, Sam, declaring his love for Donna, which she returns with a kiss as the two of them get married, with the encouragement of the chorus singing “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do.”  As a romantic myself, I really loved this ending, especially the dramatic flair that Sam brought to the scene. Given this musical being played by high schoolers, the added level of maturity with the kiss gave a sense of legitimacy to the entirety of the production. 

At the end of the show, the cast came out for curtain call, and of course got a well deserved standing ovation. This was then followed up with a three song sing-along made complete by a dramatic outfit reveal. It was a very cute moment and gave the audience an opportunity to sing along, like all the “ABBA” lovers wanted to do throughout the whole musical. 

Overall, “Mamma Mia!” was a smashing hit, and I cannot wait to see what these talented musicians, singers, and dancers have in store for us for the coming year.

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