ALHS students return to the stage for the first time in two years


Abby Chalmers

Holt, Cunningham and Anfinson perform one of Donna and the Dynamos’ songs, “Super Trooper.” The girls are good friends both on and off stage, which helped them get into character. “I like all of the ‘Donna and the Dynamos’ scenes,” Cunningham said, referencing the numerous songs the trio sings together throughout the show. “Katie, Morgan and I have such a great bond. This helps tie into how we play our characters.”

This Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., the Albert Lea High School choral department will be putting on the fall musical, “Mamma Mia!” The show follows the chaotic events that take place in the lives of Sophie and Donna Sheridan, played by senior Grace Dawson and junior Ava Cunningham, just before Sophie’s wedding. In the days leading up to the wedding, the Sheridans find themselves in a sticky situation: three of Donna’s former lovers show up to attend Sophie’s nuptials, and any one of them could be Sophie’s father. The musical details all of the heartwarming and heartbreaking moments of the mother and daughter’s journey as they struggle to resolve the complications of the past. 

Choir teacher and musical director Diane Heaney selected the musical with her students in mind. 

“I picked ‘Mamma Mia!’ because it has lots of characters, lots of parts for people,” she said. “We have the kids to do it. Also, the students really like the music, and they got excited about it. So, I think it was a good choice.” 

Auditions for the musical were held in early September, and rehearsals began shortly after. In the beginning practices were shorter and often focused on specific scenes or musical numbers. As opening night approaches, rehearsals have begun to consist of full-show run-throughs, complete with music from the pit orchestra and stage lighting. Senior Jared Turrubiartes, who plays potential father Bill Austin, said that practices have become more enjoyable as the production comes together and finds it easier to perform well. 

“We have become a lot more serious about the show, and every cast member has a huge part in the show,” he said. “The lights, pit, mics and costumes have allowed myself and many others to be more in character.” 

Junior Joseph Yoon, who plays another potential father Sam Carmichael, echoed Turrubiartes’ comment about the recent rehearsals. 

“Rehearsals now consist of us running through the show with all the set changes and the pit playing, which I think is more fun because we get to sing and really get into our characters,” he said. 

A ready-to-present show was brought about by months of hard work and frequent rehearsals. Many cast members had to take steps out of their comfort zones to truly get into character. Junior Ryan Utz, who plays third potential father Harry Bright, had to pick up an accent as part of his role. 

“Learning how to speak and act in British has been a real curveball,” Utz said. “[It’s] not how I thought my first musical would go, but it has been one of the highlights of my day since we started.”

Even for characters without British accents, there were challenges to overcome. Cunningham noted that it’s vital for the cast to thoroughly memorize their lines and cues. 

“You also have to consider that everything you do affects someone else,” she said, pointing out that changing where you put a prop or a set piece could impact someone else’s ability to efficiently complete a set change. 

After the cast and crew worked through the difficulties of putting the show together, they began to make the show their own and have had opportunities to bond with their castmates. Both Yoon and Turrubiartes have appreciated the chance to sing and dance with their friends. 

“I think one of the biggest benefits this experience has given me is allowing me to strengthen new relationships and have fun with my peers while doing things I enjoy,” said Turrubiartes. 

Other cast members have been grateful for the opportunity to grow as actors and singers. 

“Mrs. Heaney and Ms. Klinghagen have taught me so many new things,” Cunningham said. “Mrs. Heaney is such an amazing director; she has pushed me to be my very best.” 

After countless hours of effort, the cast and crew are excited to share their work with the audience. 

“Whether you know the show or not, we hope you’ll be able to dance in your seat the entire time,” Cunningham said. “The cast and crew have worked super hard to make this show the best it could possibly be.” 

Tickets for the show can be purchased online at www.alschools.org/tickets or at the door.