American singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat said, “A great song should lift your heart, warm the soul and make you feel good.” The talented and enthusiastic students of Jefferson Township High School (JTHS) will do just that for their audience in their upcoming spring musical production of Mamma Mia!
Mamma Mia! was a Broadway show in 2008 based on the hit movie in 1999 starring Meryl Streep. It revolves around Donna, an independent hotelier who owns Hotel Bella Donna in the Greek islands and is preparing for her daughter’s wedding with the help of her two old friends and Dynamos bandmates — wisecracking author Rosie Mulligan and wealthy multiple divorcée Tanya Chesham-Leigh.
However, Sophie, the young bride-to-be, has read her mother’s diary and somehow tracks down the three men who all dated her mother one long-ago summer — Irish-American architect Sam Carmichael, Swedish adventurer and writer Bill Anderson, and British banker Harry Bright. She secretly invites them to her wedding and believes that after she spends time with each of them, she will know who her father is and he’ll walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. Since Donna herself doesn’t know who Sophie’s father is, she is stunned to see them on the island and so the story unfolds. The musical was inspired by the music of Swedish 1970s hit-makers ABBA and is based on the music and lyrics by Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and the book by Catherine Johnson.
A hard-working student cast of 36 students have been very busy rehearsing their songs and dance numbers under the direction of their Choral Music Teacher/Director Chad Flynn and their Choreographer Kim Serzan. The Jefferson Chronicle learned that everyone including Flynn agrees that this upbeat musical is a 360 degree turnaround from the more serious dramas and musicals performed at the high school in the recent past, and they are embracing the exciting change to this more light-hearted theme.
Olivia Costanzo will play Donna with Ally DuHaime as Sophie and Sean Majury as her fiance Sky. Gia Lamonica is Rosie and Lily Snow is Tanya while Nicholas Smeilus, Patrick Flynn, and Charles Hess take the parts of Donna’s three ex-lovers.
Most of the students in the show are involved in many other school musical activities, including past JTHS dramas and musicals, Madrigal Singers, Chamber Choir, and Chorus, to name a few, while others play various sports, take AP courses, participate in various school clubs, and are National Honor Society members. Some are seniors so graduation is just ahead of them as they prepare to move on to college or jobs, perhaps pursuing life paths that will include music. They are personable young people committed to what they do and thankful for the friendships that have resulted from their involvement in the Music Department.
Despite their hectic schedules, it doesn’t seem to bother them to be spending 12 hours a day at school between their daily class schedules and their after-school activities. In fact, it seems they thrive on their long days because they absolutely love music, acting, singing, and dancing and feel it’s so worth it. Their busy schedules force them to be very organized in order to get everything done, evidenced by the fact that Lily Snow’s calendar on her cell phone is color-coded!
Music is their stress release as they keep up their grades, do their homework during study hall and during breaks in their rehearsal schedules, or complete their assignments when they get home. Despite early mornings, hectic days, and late nights together, they enjoy the camaraderie and friendships that music has given them.
Something else the students agree upon is their respect and admiration for their choral music director Chad Flynn, who works so hard in teaching them and guiding them musically, often spending more time with him than their actual families and vice versa.
Flynn, born and raised in Jefferson Township, was very involved in the JTHS Music Department while a student there. After graduation in 2000, he went on to study vocal performance at the New England Conservatory and music at the College of New Jersey. Flynn, who taught music elsewhere for several years, replaced JTHS Choral Director James Wynne when he retired during the 2018-2019 school year.
Maryann Cantwell, an avid Broadway theater goer, oversees the crew and has been involved in the high school’s musicals and dramas for many years in charge of set construction, props, costumes, and tech–all important aspects of presenting a great stage show. She recycles parts of sets from previous productions when possible and works closely with the director and the lighting and sound crews so everything is perfect.
Come join the celebration at one of the Mamma Mia! performances on Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 at 7 p.m. and a matinee on Sunday, March 22 at 2 p.m. Adult tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door while tickets for students and senior citizens are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Contact Chad Flynn in the Music Department at 973-697-3535 or any member of the cast and crew to purchase advance tickets.