You can dance, you can jive at TJ High’s ‘Mamma Mia!’
Thomas Jefferson High School students are inviting audiences to sing and dance with them as they journey to Greece to bring the heartwarming tale of “Mamma Mia!” to life.
The high school stage at TJ will transform into the Greek islands from March 14 to 16, where the largest cast of TJ students ever — totalling 96 — will perform an interactive version of the story they say will bring music lovers to their feet to dance along to the final number.
“It’s fun music,” said director Sandy Barker, who has been behind the TJ musicals for 24 years.
“Mamma Mia!” tells the story of Donna who is preparing for her daughter Sophie’s wedding. Sophie secretly invites three men from her mother’s past with the hope she will meet her real father so he can escort her down the aisle.
The music is by ’70s chart-topper ABBA.
“It’s a really fun and upbeat show,” said junior Paige Krupp, 17, who stars as Donna. “I like the characters and their development throughout the show.”
For the last several years, TJ theater has performed Disney-style shows. Barker, however, has found students also love performing in more modern productions such as “Grease” and “High School Musical.”
For “Mamma Mia!”, the students have enjoyed getting into the ’70s vibe.
“It’s definitely get-stuck-in-your-head music. I find myself just humming and singing the music while I’m lying in bed or sitting on the couch watching TV,” said junior E.J. Blaker, 16, who plays Bill.
The show features a few large ensemble numbers, several of which include the entire cast filling the TJ stage.
Outside of the cast, there also are students performing in the pit, working on sets and helping with costumes. In all, Barker estimates about 200 students are working on the show — a quarter of the TJ student population.
“These are kids from every walk of life,” she said. “They work hard together, and they build some friendships that end up lasting a lifetime.”
“Mamma Mia!” is a musical many cast members have loved for years. Senior Mia Como, 18, a dancer, went to see it performed at the Benedum, and it’s Krupp’s favorite show.
Cast members say the show — and TJ theater in general — has truly bonded them.
“TJ always has enthusiastic kids in theater,” said senior Zack Downer, 18, who plays Harry. “That’s what really bonds us together is the passion we have for theater. It’s not like a job — we just like being on stage.”