Personal Reflections on Mamma Mia!

Mark Turner

Over the course of my six months at SMUS, I have attended a variety of events for the first time. One of the events that has been gradually building in terms of expectation and anticipation, was the annual Senior School musical. I’m told that there is a complicated process – equal thirds science, art and magic – in choosing the musical. This year, as we all know, it was Mamma Mia!.

As this term’s pace gradually quickened, parts were allocated, rehearsals took place, and general levels of confidence rose. As opening night approached, it became apparent that this is no ordinary school show. First of all, tickets for the performances sell like hotcakes. If you’re lucky enough to get one, you then learn that all the principal characters are ‘double cast’, meaning that twice the normal number of students get to experience the pressure and sense of achievement of quite literally being in the spotlight.

And so, the event drew close. Four performances over three days with more than 2,000 tickets sold. I was fortunate enough to attend the opening event on Friday, March 1 with invited guests for an Advancement reception. It had been a productive day with a series of Board meetings and I was anticipating the opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy. That was exactly how the evening unfolded: a most convivial Advancement event for donors at the Headmaster’s Circle level and beyond – many thanks to the organizing committee – then it was on to the school bus for the short trip down to the McPherson Playhouse. It was great to be in the back seat again – memories of my youth, often as one of the least well-behaved members of a school trip, came flooding back.

While in the McPherson Playhouse, one was immediately struck by the wonderful Art Show – again, brilliantly planned to allow as many of our diverse audience as possible to view the creative output of our artistic community. The range of works was outstanding. My only regret being that with numerous conversations taking place, I did not have the opportunity to appreciate the work in proportion to its quality. I have arranged to go back at a quieter moment.

Once the curtain lifted, one was immediately swept along on a tide of enthusiasm and emotion. The opening refrain from the large orchestra – all members of the school community – quickly proved that this would be a polished performance. The key characters were flawless in their delivery of complicated roles, even down to the fine nuance of conveying humorous emotion, and as an audience we were fully transported to Donna’s taverna on a Greek island. Indeed, talking of Donna’s taverna, we must mention the team that designed, built and painted a fantastic set, which brought the audience into the very heart of the action. Creative use of video technology in the background allowed us to almost hear the soft sea breezes and lapping of waves in the distance.

Now we are back to the routine of school with memories of a wonderful series of performances slowly fading. I emphasize the word slowly, as I hear the ABBA tunes being hummed repeatedly around the school campus. I know that this school musical brought joy to thousands and provided opportunities for hundreds of students to be involved in a major team project and develop leadership and confidence in their abilities. Being the veteran of quite literally hundreds of school plays and dozens of school musicals, I rate this amongst the very best.

On behalf of all of us fortunate enough to be in one of the Mamma Mia! audiences, I extend thanks to everybody who invested time, energy and talent to give us an experience which will remain an uplifting memory for a very long time.

… and now thoughts turn to 2020!

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Mark Turner
Mr. Mark Turner is Head of School at St. Michaels University School.

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