Southern Theatre presents: Mamma Mia!

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Quinten Sargent

(left to right) Baylee Scribner, Michaela West, and Faith Escobar rehearse “Dancing Queen” as Donna and the Dynamos.  

Quinten Sargent

“We wanted to have a play, a musical that was going to be exciting. There’s enough depressing news on TV, and we didn’t want to do anything super heavy,” said Erick Wolfe, Chairman of the Missouri Southern Theatre Department and director of the University’s spring production of Mamma Mia!.

With some help from the music department, Southern theatre takes us on a journey to the Greek island of Kalokairi, where bride-to-be Sophie invites three of her possible dads to her wedding without her mother’s approval.

The musical, Mama Mia!, which is based on the music from Swedish pop group, ABBA, and includes the title track, “Mamma Mia!” and the disco hit, “Dancing Queen.” 

Wolfe says he is excited to be directing his first play at Southern this season, and the help he receives from students, faculty, and staff is “amazing.” David R. Sharlow, Director of Choral Activities, will also direct the musical numbers performed by the group.

Although a fun production the closure of Taylor Performing Arts Centermakes preparation for curtain difficult, says Jackie Marshall, Speech Education and Theatre major, and Stage Manager.

“Normally when you do a production you have four or five days where you are getting your cues right, and getting everything right before you open,” said Marshall.

“Because we can’t use Taylor and we’re having to use Joplin High School we only get two days at the high school to do all of the technical things we would normally spend a week doing,” said Marshall.

In a report from the University’s engineering firm, Olsson, an inspection found horizontal and vertical cracks, and displaced walls in Taylor. 

However, Wolfe believes that the Taylor Auditorium closures haven’t been a terrible issue. Although finding a new location was difficult, Wolfe assures that was done early on.

“We don’t have low morale or anything, everyone is excited to get to go to Joplin High School and present it there. They’ve got a beautiful theatre space,” said Wolfe.

Brianna Simpson, freshman speech/theatre education major has loved working with the JHS Performing Arts Center staff to coordinate Mamma Mia!, her first leading role.

Simpson recalls dancing and singing along to ABBA, watching the musical when she was eight years old. She recalls wanting to be Sophie, before she even began in theatre, but says since her dream has always been to play Sophie, in Mamma Mia!.

“It’s exciting and intimidating. I have to make a good impression on the department so they’ll want to keep me around,” said Simpson.

Although Simpson doesn’t identify with Sophie’s naïve character traits, she does identify with her ambition and individuality.

“She’s a dreamer, and I as a performer am a dreamer, and my dream is to perform, and her’s is to travel,” said Simpson.

Considering university theatre to be more difficult than high school theatre, Simpson believes that her classmates make the transition smooth with an accepting, loving space where everyone can have fun.

Last semester, Wolfe worked with the theatre department to create a campus wide poll allowing different departments the opportunity to help decide what productions should come to campus.

After the campus inquiry, the unanimous decision to perform Sweeney Todd was made, which Wolfe assures will be a fun production.

“We want to give the audience what they want to see but also do something that’s challenging for our students,” said Wolfe.

Aside from the show, Wolfe is excited about growing as a department. They are planning on transitioning to a six-show season, and going to touch on more political pieces, in accordance with the fun pieces.

“For the first time ticket sales are online and they are going great so it makes it a little more accessible for everyone to just buy them on their phone or online and boom, done,” said Wolfe.

Mamma Mia! first took stage last night at Joplin High School’s Performing Art’s Center at 7:30 p.m. The show will continue Feb. 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m. and a last performance on Feb. 23 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased online at mssulions.universitytickets.com or at the door upon entry General admission and Faculty/Staff admission is $10. Students and Senior admission is $8.