Tuesday, November 30

‘Honey, Honey,’ FHS to stage ‘Mamma Mia!’

By Betsy Reason

Fishers High School’s theater director Anna Nickell has wanted to direct the “Mamma Mia!” musical for several years.

One, because it’s a great show, she said. Secondly, the show’s popularity would help recover some of the school’s lost ticket revenue over the past couple of years since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s fun and familiar,” said the theater teacher and head director of the musical production, “Mamma Mia!” which is on stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at FHS Auditorium. Tickets are still available at theatrefishers.com.

ABBA’s timeless songs tell the tale of a mother, a daughter and three possible dads in a young woman’s search for her birth father that unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. The show features a large cast, lots of laughs and explosive dance numbers.

Patrons will be singing along, and wanting to dance at their seats, with the dozen familiar songs that include: “Honey, Honey,” “Dancing Queen,” “SOS,” “Knowing Me, Knowing you.” and “The Winner Takes It All.”

The timing for this FHS musical couldn’t have been any better. ABBA released a new album, the band’s first album in nearly 40 years, on Nov. 5. “Voyage” debuts at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart dated Nov. 20, according to billboard.com.

“Mamma Mia!,” which has been performed in more than 40 countries and across five continents, is a musical by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and produced with arrangements from Musical Theatre International. Nickell said it takes nearly 100 students to stage this musical. With about 40 students in the cast, plus another 45 students in the production crew and 10 student musicians in the orchestra pit, there is a lot of coordinating of roles, both on and off stage, Nickell said. All grade levels are involved.

The director’s greatest challenge?

“For me, it’s coordinating all of the moving pieces and making sure everything is being done in a timely, efficient way that also stays true to the overall vision,” she said.

“Sometimes finding the energy to teach all day and then direct is a challenge, too,” said Nickell, who has been teaching and directing for 10 years, at FHS for one year.

The cast has rehearsed four to five times a week for an average of two hours per rehearsal in addition to three full Saturdays for tech and choreography.

While Nickell started working on the show in July, the show was cast after school started, in late August, and began rehearsals immediately. The only break was a week of Fall Break. She also rehearses with individual students at times during the school day.

Nickell doesn’t work alone. Her assistant director is Amy King, a technology specialist at FHS. Her daughter, Katelyn King, portrays Sophie’s friend, Ali, in the musical.

“I have greatly enjoyed sharing my knowledge and love of theater with the students of Fishers High School,” said King, who has assistant directed youth productions at The Belfry Theatre in Noblesville. “Working as the assistant director at the high school has a few differences from community theater but not many. One difference is that most of our cast and crew have been friends for a few years, have been in other classes or even grade levels with one another. Because of this, our directing team has been able to focus more energy on choreography, character building and blocking.”

Stephanie Gutting, a Spanish teacher at FHS, is the costume coordinator.

For this show, they have borrowed or rented things from Footlite Musicals, a more than 65-year-old community theater company in Indianapolis, and also Dramatic Images Theatrical Productions in Indy, and from Fishers Choir program.

“Stephanie, Amy and I have also done a lot of Goodwill shopping,” Nickell said. “We gave the kids specific instructions for things they could bring in, as well, as many of the costumes in the show are things they have at home.” A couple of moms are also helping with minor alterations.

Andy Smith, a performing arts teacher at FHS, is the tech director and oversees student construction of the set. Nickell said the show saved some money by repurposing lumber from last season’s musical production, “The Addams Family Musical,” at FHS. Nickell does all of the designing and programming of the lights, and then collaborates with Smith, who is responsible for all of the other tech elements.

Nickell’s student teacher this semester is Bailey Hunt, helping assistant direct along with King, who also serves as parent coordinator. Ben St. John, a FHS choir director, is vocal director. Chris Dessent, a FHS band director, is pit conductor. Rick and Chris Barber are choreographers. Plus, there are two accompanists.

What else? Nickell said, “It’s going to be a great show, and we hope everyone will come to see it.”

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.

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