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'Mamma Mia!' sails onto Howard High's stage

As the days grow shorter and colder, Howard High School’s drama club invites you to travel to the sunny Greek islands.

Riding on the waves of the popular musical “Mamma Mia!,” its movie and a hit sequel released this past summer, Howard High is presenting the ABBA infused musical for its fall production

“This is the area premiere for a high school,” said Laura Greffen, head of the theater department. “Toby’s had it. We are the first high school.”

With a cast of 58 actors and a tech crew of 25, the production features colorful jumpsuits, disco tunes and lots of dancing as it tells the story of a young bride-to-be, Sophie, searching for her father, and of her mother, Donna, who is searching, unknowingly, for love.

“I love this show,” said Justine Hurst, 18, whose character, Tanya, is a friend of Donna. “The energy is super.”

Featuring such popular ABBA songs as “Dancing Queen,” “S.O.S” and the title song, “Mamma Mia,” the music isn’t easy, Greffen said.

“The music was very clearly written in the ‘70s to be recorded in a music studio,” Greffen said. “That was a challenge. Getting it perfect for that ‘ABBA’ sound.”

Two vocal teachers were needed to coach the cast. Greffen’s husband, Luke Greffen, helps with the “mixing” of music and voices during the show.

“This was a big team,” Greffen said, of her crew. While there are adults involved the show, the production, from set construction to choreography, is run by students, she said.

“We let them take over all parts of it,” Greffen said. “The adults support.”

For the first time, the drama department is using a projection screen for a background. Images of the ocean, a full moon, fireworks and more flash across it as the cast and crew move doorways and scenery effortlessly on and off the stage as needed. Many of the costumes — including the show’s signature flashy jumpsuits — were sewn by hand, according to Greffen.

“The costumes are incredible,” said Alison Brodbeck, 16, who plays Donna, owner of the villa and mother of the bride-to-be. “I have never seen such detailed costumes for a high school show.”

Brodbeck, along with cast members Toni Olafunmiloye, 15, and Hurst, have several numbers together and are often singing and dancing in platform boots.

“It is a really challenging dancing while singing,” Hurst said. “It is very difficult.”

For Eddie LaPointe, 17, “Mamma Mia!” marks only his second show on Howard’s stage. The former cross-country runner is still surprised he was able to secure a major role as Harry, one of the three possible dads for Sophie.

“Before last year, I didn’t sing at all,” the senior said. “I love the role I have. I’m excited to have it.”

Another challenge, Brodbeck said, was relating to her character.

“I am playing someone more than twice my age,” Brodbeck said. “I had to step into my mom’s shoes.”

While many people may be familiar with the show and its characters, the cast has worked hard to create their own production.

“It is so well known, it did put pressure on us to perform better,” said Morgan Sturgill, 16, who plays an island girl. “It was good pressure.”

“I think we do a good job,” Brodbeck said. “We put our own spin on it. The audience will have to come see what it is.”

Howard High presents “Mamma Mia!” on Nov. 1-3 at 7 p.m., at Nov. 3 at 2 p.m.

Other high school fall productions are:

Atholton: “It’s a Wonderful Life, A Live Radio Play,” Nov. 10, 16, 17, at 7 p.m.; Nov. 11, 3 p.m. 6520 Freetown Road, Columbia. 410-313-7065.

Centennial: “Clue,” Nov. 15-17, 7 p.m. 4300 Centennial Lane, Ellicott City, 410-313-2856

Glenelg: “A Christmas Carol,” Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1 at 2 and 7 p.m. 14025 Burntwoods Road, Glenelg. 410-313-5528

Hammond: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Nov. 8-10, 7 p.m,., Nov. 10, 2 p.m. 8800 Guilford Road, Columbia. 410-313-7615

Long Reach: “Check Please” and “Black Comedy,” Nov. 8, 8:30 p.m., Nov. 9-10, 7 p.m., Nov. 11, 2 p.m. 6101 Old Dobbin Lane, Columbia. 410-313-7117

Marriotts Ridge: “You Can’t Take it With You,” Nov. 15-17, 7 p.m., and Nov. 18, 3 p.m. 12100 Woodford Drive, Marrriottsville. 410-313-5568

Mount Hebron: “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” Nov. 30-Dec. 8, 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. 9440 Old Frederick Roadm Ellicott City. 410-313-2880

Reservoir: “A Christmas Carol (a comedic adaption),” Nov. 15-17, 7 p.m., Nov. 17, 2 p.m. 11550 Scaggsville Road, Fulton. 410-888-8850

River Hill: “Anne of Green Gables,” Nov. 1-4. 12101 Clarksville Pike, Clarksville. 410-313-7120.

Wilde Lake: “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Nov. 15-17, 7 p.m. 5460 Trumpeter Road, Columbia. 410-313-6965.

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