PCHS dancing queens to take the stage for ‘Mamma Mia!’

With legendary director Pat Rinello, show set to be most professional production yet
March 28, 2019 at 4:09 a.m.
PCHS dancing queens to take the stage for ‘Mamma Mia!’
PCHS dancing queens to take the stage for ‘Mamma Mia!’

By By Sarah Wolpoff- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Here they go again; the Port Chester High School Drama Club is aiming to make the audience exclaim “Mamma Mia!” for their upcoming spring musical.

And by bringing the 1970s ABBA pop songs that everyone knows by heart to life, they already expect to hear the audience singing along as if they were in the ensemble themselves.

The Drama Club is gearing up with a mix of Greek Island attire and glam outfits of the 70s to debut “Mamma Mia!” next weekend. The feel-good story, set to iconic ABBA songs, depicts a tale of self-realization of identity and female independence as it follows 20-year-old bride Sophie Sheridan’s quest to find her biological father days before her wedding.

After reading her mother Donna’s diary, Sophie discovers three men could potentially be her dad. So, she invites them to her wedding, triggering an emotional roller-coaster for her mom.

“Mamma Mia!” will showcase Apr. 4-7, Thursday to Sunday, in the Port Chester High School auditorium. On Thursday and Friday, the show starts at 7 p.m., on Saturday it’s at 7:45 p.m. and on Sunday there is a matinee at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $16 for adults, $10 for students, and can be purchased at showtix4u.com.

“It’s very bright, colorful, lively, our choreography is great, this show is really a lot of fun,” said senior Grace Herbert, who stars as Sophie in the show. “A lot of the audience coming will know the show because they know the music. Even if they’ve never seen it before, they know (ABBA), so we know they’re going to be singing along. We’re hoping that happens and we’re excited to bring that energy.”

Drama Club Advisor and show Producer Stephanie Darrow said this year they wanted to go big, and “Mamma Mia!” is certainly big. With 32 students in the cast and 25 in the crew, it’s the largest performance the drama club has seen in a long time.

Darrow described this spring musical as the most professional production she’s ever produced. They brought in experts to work with the students, such as Musical Director Stephen Ferri and Choreographer Ashley Smith-Wallace, and it shows. At rehearsal two weeks before showtime, the vocals were bold and pitch perfect and the elaborate choreography that often spills into the auditorium itself was precise.

Many attribute the show’s grandeur to the director, Pat Rinello, a Port Chester theatrical legend who came out of retirement for the play. Darrow said she essentially begged Rinello to direct, and Rinello said Darrow was very convincing.

Rinello graduated from Port Chester High School in 1961 and briefly returned to teach theater in 1969. After taking a hiatus to raise her son, she continued her career at Rye Neck High School to build a thriving theater program until she retired around five years ago.

“In high school, I had no preference about what I wanted to do with my life until I walked into that auditorium,” Rinello said, while praising then-drama teacher Laura Hackett. “She brought such joy into performance, rehearsal and the creative process, and I was hooked. My first love is always Port Chester. I have such an infinity for the community and the kids.”

Rinello started her career in the Port Chester High School auditorium, and said it feels incredible to come full circle and spend a later chapter of life there. Especially when it involved inspiring students to come out of their shells with confidence on the stage, which is why she pursued teaching to begin with.

Senior Olivia Perrone, who stars as Donna in the play, said because of Rinello the cast feels more prepared for “Mamma Mia!” than they have for any other show.

“She’s made all of us grow as actors. This is my 17th theater production, and I don’t think I’ve ever been this good at acting in any of my shows,” Perrone said. “She gives very clear direction, you know exactly what her vision is, and she’s a lot of fun to work with.”

As a show, “Mamma Mia!” features several strong female relationships while the cast of dancing queens demonstrates the different, acceptable identities and life choices women should be empowered to make. Both leads agreed that it’s relatable and refreshing to display such “girl power.”

“A lot of this show is about not needing to depend on a man, which I think is really cool,” Herbert said. “In today’s day and age, with everything we see going on with politics, it’s really nice to have a kind of feminist show.”


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