Nearly 50 students, several teachers and volunteers will soon present Eatonville High School’s latest musical, “Mamma Mia!” on the auditorium stage.
Head baseball coach, teacher and senior advisor, Mike Moeller, returns as drama program director after eight years. In 2012, for the first time, Moeller directed the drama program.
Moeller presented “Footloose” in 2012, the first musical production at Eatonville High in nearly three decades; it sold out three nights in a row inspiring several years of musical productions.
After “Footloose”, several musicals were produced under different directors. Last year, however, a play was selected instead.
Eatonville High’s drama program nearly ceased this year without a leader in sight so Moeller took the mantel once more as director. Moeller decided immediately to do another musical.
“Musicals are good because they incorporate so many people,” Moeller said in an interview with The Dispatch. “If we are going to do it, we are going to do it big.”
In a musical you have your actors and actresses, dance crew members, artists to paint sets, a tech crew, stage crew, marketing crew etc.
Getting everyone involved has been a profound staple in Moeller’s teaching career.
“That’s always been my philosophy as a teacher,” Moeller said. “Try and get as many different kids from as different of backgrounds as possible to be involved.”
Moeller committed to “Mamma Mia!” in November.
“I wanted to get something that was popular and something that these kids would have fun with,” Moeller said. “That was a priority! That these kids would have fun.”
“Mamma Mia!” is a jukebox musical, meaning its plot surrounds pre-composed musical pieces versus music designed for the plot.
The musical was written by British playwright Catherine Johnson. The musical was written around Swedish pop band ABBA’s music and is named after their 1975 hit “Mamma Mia!”. The jukebox musical was first produced in England in 1999; it came to Broadway, New York, in 2001.
Eatonville High’s production is based on the Broadway musical which differs from the 2008 Hollywood film.
The story unravels on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi. The production chronicles a 20-year-old Sophie attempting to discover her true biological father. She is soon to be married and wants her father to walk her down the aisle.
Sophie tricks three men she’s learned about through her mother’s (Donna’s) diary into joining in celebrations, hoping to learn her father’s identity. Confusion, chaos and love ensue through various events, songs, scenes and dialogue.
From Moeller’s perspective the importance of the high school theater production can’t be overstated.
“I see this as an important historical high school center piece of the year,” Moeller said. “I think it’s an important piece of a high school experience. For the students, parents and the community involved!”
Music, dance, art and theater are just as important as sports Moeller believes; and that’s coming from the head coach of baseball! Support from the community helps garner cultural importance.
“I’m trying to get as much community involvement as possible because high school music and theater should be just as important to the community as Friday night lights with football games,” Moeller said. “When you do musicals, you can get the community out where it’s not just the parents of the kids but all of Eatonville out and that makes it special for the kids.”
Having the town involved, knowing what our youth is doing, encouraging them and watching them in action is great for the kids, he says.
“Ultimately, these are the memories in high school people always remember,” Moeller said. “We are making memories for these kids that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
The mother of Sophie, Donna, is being played by Lexy Miller, a senior student. Miller has been in drama all four years.
In an interview with The Dispatch, Miller gave some insight into her most memorable moments this year.
“My favorite part was getting to know kids I wouldn’t have otherwise,” Miller said. “A lot of them I probably wouldn’t have introduced myself to had we not been in the same room together for a musical.”
Miller commented on the fabulous music in the play and heralded Emily Phipps, this year’s volunteer vocal coach.
“The vocals are my favorite. I love love love to sing!” Miller said.
Phipps rejoins Eatonville High after recently graduating from Pacific Lutheran University with her Bachelor of Musical Arts degree. Phipps (then Randolf) was the lead of “Footloose” as a freshman; that was in 2012 under Moeller.
Playing Donna’s ultimate love, Sam Carmichael, is Logan Nelson, senior student. “Mamma Mia!” is Logan’s first experience in drama. Playing the trumpet in band, Nelson hadn’t previously sung. He’d hoped to participate in this year’s production, but was surprised at striking a lead singing roll.
“It’s been really fun working with Emily, our vocal coach,” Nelson said in an interview with The Dispatch.
Nelson has only missed one night since beginning practice; practice is every night Monday through Friday after school.
Phipps, in an interview with The Dispatch praised Nelson’s new found talent.
“Logan is a good singer!” Phipps said. “It’s a really good group of kids. There’s a lot of talent there, hands down!”
Nelson has loved how welcoming and kind everyone has been and is excited for the show.
“I’m really excited to see how it all comes together and think it will be really great,” Logan said. “I’ve really enjoyed the experience and think I’ll continue in college.”
Moeller praised the students as talented, hard-working and passionate.
Diverse and passionate teacher participation also makes the production possible. Several teachers, counselors and volunteers have donated many hours in making this year’s production a reality.
MaryAnn Baker, counselor, designed costumes and props; Melanie Rodewald, dance crew advisor, directed choreography; Elise Rodrigues, the band director, dictated musical direction and is the assistant director.
According to Moeller, musicals cost nearly $14,000 to fund ($10,000 alone for copyright) but if seats fill, profit is guaranteed and all profits fund future drama endeavors.
“Mamma Mia!” presents at the Eatonville High Auditorium on Fri. Feb. 21, Sat. Feb 22, Fri. Feb. 28 and Sat. Feb. 29. All showings begin at 7 pm. Adult tickets are $16 and children, student and senior tickets are $12.
Moeller encourages involvement with our community’s future.
“We’ve got a lot of great kids doing a lot of great things,” Moeller said. “And if you get the opportunity to come out and get a piece of the community, do!”