Mars High School finds a way to produce ‘Mamma Mia,’ despite pandemic

“Mama Mia” was supposed to be Mars Area High School’s musical last spring, but a week before it opened, everything closed.
Senior Ellie Howell says there were lots of tears.

“It just really hit the entire cast hard because especially since we were one week away, we had been working for almost four months straight, every day after school,” Ellie said.

But the school found a way to put on the show, with some changes: Clear face shields or masks for those who choose; a cast of 70 instead of more than 100;  no orchestra for fewer people; 10% capacity in the audience; and rehearsing on zoom and with masks until the very end, never knowing if the show would really go on.

Mars Area High School choral teacher and director of the musical, Jennifer Kennedy, said, “I told the kids we had to rehearse every day as if it would be our last time together, and if it was going to be our last time together, is that what you’re happy with?”

The students are so grateful they were able to perform the show six times over two weekends with no COVID cases or disruptions.

Ellie said, “I’ve always loved to sing. I’ve always loved to act. It’s always been a big part of my life, and without it, I felt like there was really something missing.”

Kennedy added, “I’ve never in 17 years seen as much joy and happiness and tears, not just from students but from parents and other members of the community that were there”

Luckily, most of last year’s leads were juniors but Zach Brunotts, a senior this year, was one of the students promoted to fill an open lead role, in his first high school musical ever.

“It was a constant pattern of — this thing isn’t happening this year. This thing’s getting pushed back. This thing is canceled.  It just didn’t’ feel like anything was going to come out, and we were so lucky to be able to have this one thing,” Brunotts said.

Musical directors at schools around the region are sharing their ideas with each other and many schools are working toward putting on some form of in-person musical this spring.

At Mars, the musical is traditionally funded by ticket sales, which were limited by the pandemic, and the budget is now 75% underfunded for next year’s show.  They’re hoping to raise $25,000 on a Go Fund Me Campaign. We have a link for you HERE.