Abba-solutely Wonderful

A look back on “Mamma Mia!”
Reed Norberto

San Leandro High School Dramatic Arts’ performance of “Mamma Mia!” has been one of their wildest rides yet. Energy flowed from the actors and audience alike as Sophie Sheridan, played by senior Ava Probasco, raced to find out who of three possible men are her real dad in time for her wedding. 

“Mamma Mia!” is a musical written in 1998 by Catherine Johnson based on Abba’s music, transforming more than 20 of their songs into musical numbers. The musical is told primarily through these songs, using their lyrics to bring the narrative to life. 

“I’ve had some [musicals] that were comparable, but I don’t think I’ve ever had back to back dancing as much as I have this one,” said senior Nayana Clinton-Torrence, one of the featured dancers. 

The number of numbers, though lively in action, posed a challenge for the cast’s singing abilities. The minimal breaks between songs put everyone’s vocal chords under constant strain. 

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“[In] one of [Donna’s] songs, ‘[The] Winner Takes it All,’ this really powerful song about herself, there’s a really belchy note that I was having trouble with,” said senior Sophie Nguyen, who played Sophie Sheridan’s mother Donna Sheridan. 

One of the most memorable numbers was also the most different. “Slipping Through My Fingers,” a slower, emotional piece performed between Sophie Nyguen and Ava Probasco, mother and daughter, pulled heartstrings among the cast and audience. 

“Every day, I feel like it makes most of us tear up if we’re backstage,” said senior Spector Penn, a member of the male ensemble. “Some of us have to be in the dressing room so that we don’t tear up.”

Excitement from the cast was high going into opening night. Even with less than four months to prepare the whole show, everyone was confident with the work they had put in.

“Previews helped a lot,” said Nguyen. “I got my nerves out the day before, so I was really excited for that [first performance].” 

Part of that confidence came from the alumni that returned to help. Originally, “Mamma Mia!” was going to be the musical for the 2019-2020 school year, but had to be canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions. Although the freshman of that year graduated, some of those who missed their opportunity to perform helped this year’s cast bring the show to life. 

“We’ve had seniors from last year… come and, like, help throughout the process,” said Penn. “I’m really glad that we get to, like, have that.”

Overall, “Mamma Mia!” was a wonderful, rowdy and heartfelt theatrical experience for the cast, crew, audience and alumni.  

“The coolest thing about this musical is watching people that I’ve known all throughout high school, some in middle school, and watching them shine in this,” said Clinton-Torrence.

Be sure to listen to the soundtrack for “Mamma Mia!”


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