ARLINGTON – For Grace Moberly, cast in the leading role of Donna in the Arlington High School Drama Department’s presentation of the hit musical “Mamma Mia!,” it’s literally the part she was born to play.
Just ask her sentimental dad, Scott Moberly, the drama teacher who directed her in the feel-good jukebox musical that starts Friday in Arlington featuring songs from the ’70s supergroup, ABBA.
“When Grace was just a tiny baby, the only thing that would really soothe her was the song ‘Dancing Queen,’ and we played it every year on her birthday after that,” Moberly said. “It’s been a part of her life forever.”
Grace, now a senior, has the enthusiam to match the energy that made the 1996 Mamma Mia! a fast-paced, dance-filled Broadway musical theater extravaganza, and movie that followed in 2008.
“My family grew up listening to Mamma Mia, and my dad and I have always wanted to do it,” Grace said. “We didn’t have the right to do it, but the second we did, it was a ground-breaking moment and we just lost our minds. I feel like I’m living my childhood dream.”
Performances will be 7 p.m. March 1-2 and March 8-9 in the Byrnes Performing Arts Center at AHS, with a matinee show at 2 p.m. March 9. Tickets are $8 for senior citizens and students and $10 for other adults.
The play is “Taming of the Shrew meets ABBA,” Moberly said.
The modern tale of love follows the story of Sophie who on the eve of her marriage has secretly invited three men from her mother Donna’s past to her wedding on an exquisite Greek island paradise, in a quest to identify her father. The men don’t know why they’re there, but they attend, and the reason gradually becomes clear.
Popular ABBA songs in the show include the title track, the ever popular “Dancing Queen,” “SOS,” “Take a Chance of Me,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Super Trouper,” “Waterloo” and “The Winner Takes it All.”
A key moment in the musical features a reunion of the band, Donna and the Dynamos, with Kathryn Stevenson (Tanya) and Bella Fryberg (Rosie) playing the Dynamos.
Kathryn said the singing, dancing and acting takes a lot of strength and focus.
“We try really hard to get our breath support up, we have to run around in circles and sing the songs,” she said. “It’s a lot of work to make it sound and look good at the same time.”
In addition, she was a member of the stage crew that designed an elaborate Greek island village plaza with white-washed stone houses, blue-colored doors and window shutters, and a terraced pergola fronting Donna’s Taverna.
This is the last play that the senior will do before graduating. She said she has loved getting to know the people, whether crew or cast members, or members of the pit. Everyone has put a ton of work into the production.
“It’s fun being a part of a group where everyone wants to be there and do their absolute best to make sure that it goes the way that we want it to,” Kathryn said.
In the past month, the cast has previewed dance numbers to an audience at the Stilly Valley Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, and last week in the hallway outside a school board meeting in the district’s main office.
“I love flash-mobbing places, just because I love watching everyone get thrown off guard a little bit, but I’m most excited for them to see the actual show,” Grace said.
Moberly said the musical tends to get audiences singing along, waving their arms and dancing in place. The cast has been made aware that their duets could become quartets or “more-tets,” so they are ready for it. In fact, they have added a surprise twist at the end of the play that will make the presentation interactive for the crowd.
Tickets available for purchase at arlingtonsd16.revtrak.net/high-schools/Arlington-High-School-Fees/mamma-mia-tickets/#/list