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Taylor High School's MAMA MIA!

Anna Bucher, Elayna Bender, and Hannah Hodge portrayed the dazzling girl group, "Donna and the Dynamos" in Taylor High School’s production of Mamma Mia!

Review by Samantha Heilman, Highlands High School Critic Team

The students of Taylor High School were the true dancing queens with their energetic production of the hit musical, Mamma Mia! With disco-ball lights and bell bottom jeans, audience members were whirled into the 70's.

It's T-minus three months until Sophie's wedding, and her biggest dream is to have her dad walk her down the aisle. Only one problem: she doesn't know who her dad is. There's only one reasonable answer: to invite all prospects to her wedding! The musical follows Sophie in her journey of self discovery with these three potential fathers, her mother, and herself.

The energy put into the production was eminent onstage. Not only did actors boogie down, but crew was right on as well. All around, the efforts of these students went unmatched.

Mama Mia! shows the relationship between a mother and daughter as they grow older. Portrayed by Elayna Bender and Macy Ilg respectively, the two maintained a strong, loving connection even when the two characters would quarrel. Additionally, Bender did not back down from the challenge of living up to the interpretation of the famed Meryl Streep, who played Donna in the film. She maintained Donna's outgoing nature while still making the iconic character her own.

Showcasing his acting range, Blake Wanek's portrayal of Harry "Headbanger" included stellar comedic timing and off-the-hook vocals. Featured in various hilarious scenes with the 3 potential fathers, Wanek's character choices made him an audience favorite. However, we saw a more tender side of Harry in the breathtaking "Our Last Summer," his duet with Donna in Act II. Matching his comedy was Rosie, portrayed by Anna Bucher, who had the audience rolling during "Take A Chance On Me."

The production wouldn't have been complete without the work of Jake Elsen. Designing the sound, lights, and set; as well as stage managing the show, brings new meaning to the phrase "Jack of all trades." A specific standout was the set, which required all hands on deck. Assisting Elsen was Angel Hockemeyer, Callum Metz, and Mariah Clark. Full of vivid colors, the set depicted Greece in an astounding manner. Bright blues and beachy tans made the set look like it came straight from the movie.

By the end of the show, Taylor had people itching to bring back the sparkly tops and bellbottom jeans of the 70's while blaring some ABBA. It was a reminder of the importance of family and priority. So, "Thank You For the Music" Taylor High School!

Donna Sheridan (Elayna Bender) pushes away her creeping feelings when her past lovers unexpectedly return to her life in Taylor High School’s production of Mamma Mia!

Review by Helena Hennessy, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team

A story of found family and everlasting love: Taylor High School's production of Mamma Mia! brings about a sentimental air in which we can all still, fondly, recall "Our Last Summer."

The musical Mamma Mia, written by Catherine Johnson, is based on classic music from the pop group ABBA. Set on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi, this story follows mother and daughter Donna and Sophie Sheridan. As her wedding day approaches, Sophie is determined to discover who her father is, and as a result, invites three possible candidates. Renowned for its messages of personal strength, this show displays utmost vulnerability when it counts.

Taylor High School's rendition of Mamma Mia! wonderfully showcased the bona fide intentions of their characters, perfected their musical performances, and successfully enchanted their attendees through sincere and unfeigned messages. Striking lighting and their breathtaking set design brought about feelings of pure bliss and enjoyment.

Elayna Bender embodied Donna Sheridan's tough façade, all while allowing her internal longing for love to shine through her performance. While the number "Mamma Mia" was noticeably upbeat, underlying tones of vulnerability poked through, as Bender excellently depicts the deep-rooted insecurities and self-doubt that lie within Donna's past. Bender showed a natural ability to exchange energy and form a genuine connection with anyone accompanying her on stage. With Henry Aug as Sam Carmichael, their chemistry was palpable, as they were able to depict the complex relationship and perpetual pining between Donna and Sam with immense care and passion. Aug skillfully characterized how Sam's admiration for Donna never faded over time, with his earnest ballad "Knowing Me, Knowing You," and his pleading vocals throughout, embodying this. In response, Bender's chill-inducing, melancholic, profound rendition of "The Winner Takes It All" reveals the same truth on Donna's behalf; they still hold all the abiding love for one another as they once had.

A delightful enacting of Sophie Sheridan from Macy Ilg depicted the character's naivety at the forefront, yet her genuine intentions and yearning for a sense of belonging reigned superior. Ilg delicately rendered Sophie's meekness, as well as how her words could shoot to kill when provoked; yet she returns, remorseful, to those who have shown unceasing endearment for her, particularly her mother Donna. In the tearful duet "Slipping Through My Fingers," Ilg and Bender harmonize, illustrating the undying love that Sophie and Donna will always have for one another. Doting friendship is personified throughout the show through Donna, Tanya (Hannah Hodge), and Rosie (Anna Bucher). The spirited disco tune "Dancing Queen,"performed by the trio, livens their bond and conveys the reliance between them.

Mamma Mia! calls for dazzling design and tech elements. As the story takes place on a dreamy island in Greece, this show's set design, coordinated by Jake Elsen, consisted of coastal-style architecture and hues of oceanic blues. Lighting, operated by Dakota Gibbs, Clayton Picchioni, and Alex Feltner portrayed the inherent mood of each scene; vibrant when joyful and simple when momentous. Choreography from Elayna Bender, Logan Duerk, and Delana Hinman brought each sprightly musical number to life.

Heartfelt portrayals of complex characters and the way in which the relationships between them were diligently portrayed, enlivened Taylor High School's production, with moments of elation at the surface, and ones of depth implicit.

The ensemble jumps to life when Sam proposes to Donna in the finale of Taylor High School’s production of Mamma Mia!

Review by Katie Mundy, Saint Ursula Academy Critic Team

See the students, watch the lively scenes, and dig the absolute dancing queens of the Taylor High School students in their production of Mamma Mia! As the pink and blue color palette, eccentric characters, lively movements and iconic relationships fill the stage, the quintessential tale of an anomalous family is brought to life with pizzazz and creativity by the talented cast and crew.

Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical written by Catherine Johnson based off of the songs by the Swedish supergroup ABBA. The musical covers the story of Sophie Sheridan, a 20 year old bride-to-be who wants to supplement her identity with the discovery of who her father is. Invitations are sent to the well-known personalities Harry Bright, Bill Austen and Sam Carmichael; and the three potential dads of Sophie work in tandem to turn the pre-wedding festivities into a nightmare for Sophie's mother Donna Sheridan. The musical has had several adaptations from stage to film and continues to be a convivial story today.

The cast and crew of Taylor High School not only took to the stage with enthusiasm and hard work, but also they held up the important messages of the show in a mature yet bubbly manner. From the energetic musical numbers like "Take A Chance On Me," to the superb set, the cast and crew worked in tandem to display their creativity and determination in the show. All facets of the students' work put into the production were made clear and executed with flair.

One of the most notable aspects of this production was the impeccable chemistry between the characters. The mother-daughter relationship between Donna (Elayna Bender) and Sophie (Macy Ilg) was executed by an adequate balance of vocals, heartfelt lines, and a loving atmosphere created by the actresses on the stage. Bender's powerful, rich voice complemented Ilg's melodic and pleasant tone in songs such as the tear-jerker "Slipping Through My Fingers." Bender also well-communicated the relationship with her primary male counterpart Sam Carmichael (Henry Aug) Bender and Aug supported each other vocally in the string-for-love song "SOS." An abundance of articulation and expression put life into their performances and made the relationship memorable.

The three dads of the production were effortlessly hilarious and displayed their several talents in differing ways. Blake Wanek in the role of Harry Bright, aka "Harry Headbanger," was priceless. He well-demonstrated his canorous voice in pieces like "Our Last Summer" and established his 1/3 of Sophie's dad that he was with a remarkable persona. Additionally, Bill Austin (Luke Childs) was revealed to be an adventurous and easy-going character in his well-spoken reminiscing of the past. Finally, Sam Carmichael (Henry Aug) completed the dynamic of the fathers with his fun-loving and devoted delivery of the character. Together, Wanek, Childs and Aug authorized their paternal role in the plot and had eye-catching interactions with each other.

Equally as impressive, the technical elements of Mamma Mia! Embraced the spirited show and worked in harmony with the actors to incorporate talent into the musical. One crew that stood out in particular was the lighting crew (Jake Elsen, Dakota Gibbs, Alex Feltner and Clayton Picchioni.) A spectrum of color flooded each number, well-complemented the moods, and highlighted the characters to better the understanding of the audience.

All elements considered, Taylor High School well executed the iconic and beloved musical Mamma Mia! with enthusiasm and glamour. An array of talent was delivered by both the cast and crew in unique, impressive approaches.

All of Sophie’s best intentions of finding her father come back to haunt her in her nightmare “Under Attack” in Taylor High School’s production of Mamma Mia!

Excerpts From Other Top Reviews

"The crew of this show truly enhanced the performance and made the show an overall success. The set (Jake Elsen and crew) featured a hand-painted cobblestone floor, buildings with functioning windows and doors, and was rounded out with a free standing-balcony, moving audiences from scene to scene and immersed them in the story."

-Grace Hoffmann, Roger Bacon High School Critic Team

"Anna Bucher, playing Rosie had the whole room laughing in the song 'Take a Chance on Me.' She never broke character the entire production and you could feel the strong bond between her and Elayna Bender, playing Donna. All of the ensemble were a big part of making this musical as entertaining as it was. They were consistently engaged in every scene and having them pop out of the windows in major songs helped bring a lively feeling to the Greek town."

-Kayla Kilgore, Roger Bacon High School Critic Team

"The set was clever in itself, but its creativity was highlighted both figuratively and literally by the breathtaking lightning. Jake Elsen, Dakota Gibbs, Alex Feltner, and Clayton Picchioni took lead in lighting, and their choices added to the show immensely, especially in moments like "Voulez Vous," where the use of dark blue shadows and spotlights created an unforgettable image onstage."

-Ali Lewis, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team

"One of the most well-acted and portrayed characters in this production was Donna portrayed by Elayna Bender. With a great balance of sass and emotion, Bender's portrayal of this character was truly memorable. In addition, Anna Bucher's performance as Rosie was also very memorable, as she made the character lovable and her amazing vocals helped contribute to so many beautiful harmonies."

-Elaina Ward, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team

"Throughout the show there were various sets of trios, each with their own dynamic. Donna and the Dynamos: Donna accompanied by Tayna (Hannah Hodge) and Rosie (Anna Bucher) had palpable chemistry on stage and played off of each other's acting incredibly well. The trio of potential dads, Sam Carmichael (Henry Aug), Harry Bright (Blake Wanek), and Bill Austin (Luke Childs) had the audience laughing every time they came onto stage. In addition to the trios, the Summer Night Singers brought accompaniment vocals to large numbers, popping out from behind windows and doors to strengthen musical numbers."

-Elizabeth Benton, Ursuline Academy Critic Team

"From the shock on their faces at the wedding to the high energy dancing, the ensemble gave a superb performance. They danced with immense energy to 'Voulez Vous,' 'Money, Money, Money' and many other numbers. They also had perfect comedic timing, such as when they all gasped during the wedding when it was revealed that Sophie had three possible dads. A hilarious member of this ensemble was Pepper, portrayed by Noah Tisevich. His humorous attempt to flirt with Tanya in 'Does Your Mother Know' was all the more exaggerated by his overconfidence and big stage presence."

-Libby Boehmer, Saint Ursula Academy Critic Team

"'Thank you for the music,' Taylor High School because this production of Mamma Mia! presented a gorgeous escape to a Greek island paradise with a splash of drama."

-Lily Anderson, Saint Ursula Academy Critic Team


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