Albert Einstein High School
"Honey Honey," haven't you heard? Falls Church High School's production of Mamma Mia! will have you saying "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do." The dazzling jukebox musical uses the music of ABBA to follow Sophie, played by Kate Schlageter-Prettyman with a perfect lively and youthful energy, as she prepares for her wedding to fiancé Sky (Colt Armstrong) and tries to track down her unknown father from three possibilities she found in her mom's diary: Sam (Jack Kearney), Bill (Jimmy Benjamin), or Harry (Luis Silva). The unexpected reappearance of her old flames at her taverna in Greece brings back lots of memories for Sophie's mom Donna, who was portrayed by Mariela Palencia with the maturity necessary for the role.
Falls Church's production of Mamma Mia! did a fantastic job exploring and expanding on the comedy of the show and clearly had a lot of fun doing so. The ensemble of the cast brought with them incredibly high energy and contagious joy that spread to the audience in an instant. Moments like a dance performed entirely with flippers and scuba goggles added hilarity to the show and allowed the audience to have fun the way that the actors were. Particularly impressive for their comedic skills were Lucia Ku as Rosie, who had a strong sense of her comedic character and consistently made hilarious acting choices, and Jimmy Benjamin as Bill, whose strong sense of comedic timing added a lot of humor to the show, with the two actors stealing the show with their performance of "Take a Chance on Me." Another standout comedic performer was Liam Patterson as Father Alexandrios/ensemble, who owned the stage even when he did not speak and created a hilarious and fully developed character in the short time he played the officiant of the wedding.
The vocal performances of Falls Church's Mamma Mia! were also impressive. Schlageter-Prettyman's voice was sweet and innocent to match her character, Palencia stunned the audience with the power and control of her voice, creating a performance of "The Winner Takes it All" that was truly breathtaking, and Kearney performed with a skill and maturity that shone on the stage. Lucia Ku and Madison Kenkel (Tanya) both performed their songs with a perfect mix of gorgeous vocals and comedy.
The technical elements of this production were incredibly effective in transforming Falls Church's stage into a small Greek island. The sets (Liam Patterson, Scarlet Emmerson) opened up like a doll's house with other scenery inside for efficient scene changes and brought Donna's taverna to life on stage. The lighting of this show (Jenny Tran, Brian Guiterrez Lujan) made use of color to create the atmosphere, having the stage fall red during a nightmare sequence or pink as characters explored their love, also making use of their ability to blend light colors together to recreate the way the sun painted the sky orange. The lighting team used a moon projection in the sky and a water effect on the pier to transport the audience right to Greece, creating a scene that was both visually appealing and helpful in creating the story. The costumes (Daria Kazemi, Liza Plis, Monty Deitz) of the show also added to the environment and character of the production, most notably the costumes The Dynamos wore as they performed for Sophie's bachelorette party.
Falls Church's production of Mamma Mia! was certainly on the "Money, Money, Money" as they transformed their stage into a Greek island, having evident and contagious fun as they performed their playful and cute rendition of the ABBA musical.
Loudoun Valley High School
Taste the heat of the sun, feel the turquoise waves lapping at the edge of your little boat, and feel the beat in your chest as Falls Church High School shows you a catchy pop-driven adventure. With twenty-four hours left before her wedding, Sophie greets her three possible fathers, Sam, Bill and Harry. Their presence gives Sophie's mother, Donna, one more anxiety to add to her heap of stresses as she prepares her small taverna for the wedding. Sophie tries to figure out which of the men should walk her down the aisle as she stumbles through celebration shenanigans, while Donna tries (and fails) to ignore her three former flames. Falls Church High School displayed a campy, entertaining flick through the classic Abba-inspired jukebox musical Mamma Mia!
The flamboyant '70s style that comes with the show can be hard to capture, but Mariela Palencia as Donna and Kate Schlageter-Prettyman as Sophie handled it roundly. Palencia's full, vibrant pop style was consistently resonant, and gave her songs a magnetic presence from curtain up to concert. Her solos were strong, and her misty-eyed duets with Schlageter-Prettyman were sweet and tender. Schlageter-Prettyman herself was a joy. Her delicate, soaring vocals and her naive gesturing gave her a childishness that propelled her through her careening story. Her conflicts with her fiancé left lumps in the throat, and her open face let her connect with everyone and everything around her.
Donna's grounded conflict with each of her abandoned lovers was equally charged and awkward. Her rapport with Sam, the most prominent of the bunch, felt familiar and cozy, and Palencia's radiant voice blended extraordinarily well with Jack Kearney's broad, enthusiastic Broadway tone to create a series of delightful numbers. Their chemistry during their final song was earned by a series of affectionate brushes leading up to it, and the understated connection between the two was charming. When on his own, Kearney had a playful style that gave him a distinctly fatherly vibe, and he easily carried his solo numbers with his hands in the pockets of his stiff khakis.
The atmosphere within the production buzzed with the electricity of a concert, aided by the stunning and clever lighting designs and executions by Jenny Tran and her team. The designs held a range of dazzling effects throughout the show, from brightly colored and perfectly timed flashes enhancing the catchy beats of the music to a simple golden spot beam with fog caught in it to project the atmosphere of a dream. The creatively maneuverable set worked together with the crisp, passionate ensemble to add to the immersion of the performance, with sections of the island's buildings and decorations being shifted organically by an ensemble of islanders with a natural movement that made cast and crew indistinguishable. These fluid transitions never let the story leave the island; every person on stage lived and laughed in that taverna every day.
Falls Church's Mamma Mia! felt homey; the snug set was comfortable and the production as a whole portrayed the thematic nostalgia that was integral to both the plot and the music with consistency. Watching the production felt like vacationing to a nearly-forgotten childhood haunt, playing all the old games for an evening, and then setting off into ordinary life again, momentarily enriched. The company's dreamy Greek isle was as joyous to visit as it was to live on, a snapshot in the picture book of a treasured life.