Don’t wait, take a chance on “Mamma Mia!”


Junior Zoe Hayward (left) and seniors Rebecca Helft (center) and Arielle Blumenfeld (right) rehearse a scene from Palo Alto High School theater program’s latest show, “Mamma Mia!” The production is the first musical in four years hosted in the Performing Arts Center. According to lead actress Zoe Hayward, after two months of hard work and countless rehearsals, the Paly Theater is officially presenting its enactment of “Mamma Mia!”. “It was a pretty fast rehearsal process,” Hayward said. “We started right after winter break, and there were tons of rehearsals from then until now, so timing was definitely a challenge. But we definitely overcame it and worked together, and it came together in the end.” (Photo: Leena Hussein)

The Palo Alto High School’s rendition of “Mamma Mia!”, a classic musical featuring songs from the popular Swedish pop group ABBA, will immerse all theatergoers in a captivating story about a young bride’s quest to discover the identity of her long-lost father.

Paly’s interpretation blends elements of the past and present to create an unforgettable experience for the audience. With a retro feel that evokes the era of ABBA’s heyday in the 1970s and contemporary touches that give the production a modern twist, the show is a perfect fusion of nostalgia and excitement that will have you singing.

Junior supporting actor Matthew Arradaza said that the audience’s perception of his character, Sam, would have been weak if he had not chosen to interpret Sam in his own way.

“I really tried to escape from the original play and just really take from reading the play,” Arradaza said. “I took my own acting choices and really tried to make Sam mine. I tried to listen to the songs [in “Mamma Mia!”] and I’ve really enjoyed them. I chose to have my own take on the play to give it [the play] my own voice so that I could really do the play with authentic character on stage.” 

If you are a fan of musicals, you will not want to miss this performance by the Paly Theater.  Directed by dance teacher and theater director Alyssa Bond, the musical was so popular that it sold out on both the opening night and the following night. 

Since the school only puts on musicals once every two years, this is a rare opportunity to experience the magic of a live musical and orchestra and witness the incredible talent of the “Mamma Mia!” cast and crew.

When listening to the classic ABBA song, “Dancing Queen,” sung by junior Annelise Belle Klenow, senior Arielle Blumenfeld, and senior Rebecca Helft, one cannot help but want also to dance like a queen to the groovy beats and instrumentals. The cast and crew continuously nurture an ideal setting for the audience to become fully immersed in the music.

The show opens with a desperate attempt by Sophie Sheridan, played by junior lead actress Zoe Hayward, to uncover the truth about her father’s identity, sending a letter to the three men who could potentially be the one — Sam Carmichael, Bill Anderson, and Harry Bright, played by Arradaza, junior Kyle Vetter, and senior Kyle Xu. But as the story unfolds, Sophie’s plan takes an unexpected turn, leaving her in a desperate search for her real father as her wedding day approaches.

The tension builds between Sophie and her mother, Donna Sheridan, played by Blumenfeld, who is unsure about the prospect of her daughter finding out the truth about her past and potentially losing her forever. 

With the support of assistant director Jack Champlin, Bond is able to put Hayward in the spotlight.

According to Arradaza, the extreme time crunch was the biggest challenge the cast and crew had to face in the process of rehearsing the musical.

“This is one of the first musicals we’ve done in a while,” Arradaza said. “So, really trying to nail all of these aspects in just a couple months, getting the vocals and the choreography right, and really making sure the acting is excellent as well was important.”

According to Hayward, the experience of meeting new people and working on the play in a time crunch was unforgettable.

“It was a really exciting experience to be able to meet so many new people that share a passion for theater and love ‘Mamma Mia!’,” Hayward said. “It was really cool to … put on this amazing, high-energy show.”

Supporting the singing actors was an orchestra composed of drums, a guitar, and pianos. Teacher conductor Jeffrey Willner creates an atmosphere that captivates the audience and makes them feel like they are a part of the cast.

According to junior pianist Joy Ji, once she got over the initial fear of playing in front of a large audience, the performance was near-flawless. 

“The first 10 seconds of the opening night was the most nerve-wracking part for me because we needed to pay close attention to the conductor and start the overture all together,” Ji said. “However, the other parts were smooth and we played well just like we had practiced during our rehearsals. In the end, we had to make minor changes to adapt to the singers, but everyone did extremely well.”

According to Champlin, even though the musical was excellent, not everything can work perfectly each time they perform and not every note can be hit perfectly by performers and musicians alike. He said the one thing that could have been beneficial to make the play better would have been a little more rehearsal time. 

“A lot of people had time management issues,” Champlin said. “We had so many rehearsals and so much to do, and it didn’t feel like enough rehearsals. There was a lot of stress, but we pulled it together in the end.”

“Mamma Mia!” takes the audience on an emotional journey that includes love, laughter, heartbreak, and joy. The show’s music, characters, and storyline are highly engaging and make for a highly entertaining night out. It’s a popular choice for those seeking a fun and enjoyable experience.

You can catch “Mamma Mia!” 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in the Performing Arts Center.