Mamma Mia Marks a Joyous Return to Live Musicals

When faculty member Zoë Iacovelli and her team were pondering which musical would be presented by the Upper School this winter, she says the choice was clear. One particular show has the tunes, the laughter, the fun, and the joy—not to mention the numerous ensemble numbers that could accommodate one of the largest casts ever to grace a Rivers stage. Last week, months of planning and hard work came to fruition in two energetic performances of Mamma Mia.
The tuneful compendium of songs by Swedish supergroup ABBA, strung together by an improbable but irresistible plot involving a bride, a wedding, and a paternity case, was indeed the perfect show for the moment. The pandemic pushed last year’s musical into an online format; Mamma Mia marked a joyous return to the live stage, celebrating not just the performance itself but the return to something like normal. The show took place at Regis College, as it has for many years, and Regis’s guidelines meant that the performers wore face shields and the audience was masked. But those minor concessions couldn’t dampen the exhilaration in the room. Nor did a snow postponement of the second performance diminish the contagious enthusiasm of cast and crew.
 
In her program notes, Iacovelli wrote, “Sometimes all we can ask for is to be transported into another world for a couple of hours and smile.” That was mission accomplished for this production. Mamma Mia is set on an idyllic Greek island, and the cleverly designed set truly evoked a rustic taverna. Ninth grader Sarah DuBard shone as bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan, raised on the island by her protective mother, Donna. The role of Donna requires a powerful voice and a talent for both comedy and drama; senior Marin Broderick brought all those qualities to the Regis stage. Sophie has never known her father’s identity, but she has secretly invited to the wedding three men from Donna’s past (played to comic perfection by Alex Massarotti ’23, Colin Falvey ’23, and Andrew Ho ’25), hoping to uncover the truth of her paternity when they arrive. Hijinks both hilarious and far-fetched ensue.
 
Along the way, a talented cast squeezed in nearly two dozen ABBA hits. Audience members were treated to such memorable, hummable tunes as “Super Trooper,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and, of course, “Mamma Mia.” Many songs pulled the large ensemble on stage for joyful dance numbers, several choreographed by students. Beyond the dozens on stage, students filled crew and tech roles, joined the professional musicians in the pit, and assisted with the costumes. Faculty members also joined the team, with Julia Auster-Hogan serving as producer and Cathy Favreau heading up costume design, and parents did their part behind the scenes.
 
Staging a musical on this scale takes a village, and Iacovelli is quick to acknowledge the efforts of all who helped make it happen. “The students and creative team poured their hearts into this show in hopes of uplifting our audience, and I am so proud to say I think we did our job,” she said afterward. “I couldn't have asked for a better team, cast, and crew; their individuality and dedication made this music come to life.”
 
By the time the dust has settled following the stage wedding, Sophie has not one but three new fathers, Donna has also become a bride, and the audience has been treated to a couple of “extra” songs—“Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo”—guaranteed to end the show on a high note. Iacovelli, directing her third Rivers musical (but only the second to be performed live), was thrilled with the outcome. “I am so incredibly grateful the Rivers community has reacted with such love and positivity towards our production of Mamma Mia,” she said. “To say this experience was rewarding is an understatement. It is a feeling of pride in our theater community I will never forget.”

To view a photo gallery of the show, click here.
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