BACKSTAGE: Mamma Mia – Shaping the Show

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Year II student Ryan blogs about his summer contract with Kelowna Actors Studio in their production of Mamma Mia.

Hey there again! I’m here with another update on the Kelowna Actors Studio’s production of Mamma Mia the musical! In the last post I wrote, we had only been about two weeks into our rehearsal process and had covered all the songs and some staging. Now at this point, we are over a month in to the work, and we’ve accelerated into full thrust in rehearsal.

We all had a lot to work on before our week break from rehearsals around the Canada Day long weekend, so we rehearsed almost nonstop. I wasn’t even present for all the rehearsals, and I felt nice and busy. We focused on mainly choreography with the collective ensemble, as we have various levels of dance experience in this show! I knew it would take some time for most, if not all of us to get these fast-paced dances into our heads.

Even the songs with slower movement could prove difficult, as the timing in ABBA songs doesn’t always match up on exact words. I found myself doing simple head turns at the wrong times, simply because some of the music is so complicated. But with our choreographer Jennifer Davies’ vigorous counting and clapping, we managed to clarify so much. If it weren’t for her patience and determination, we wouldn’t have made it through some rehearsals.

We even received flippers that some of the other men and myself will wear during an iconic scene, featuring the song “Lay All Your Love On Me” with Sidney Cummings and Vinny Keats. It took a while to get used to the flippers, having to run with knees up to your chest, and dance without feeling like your foot is being shredded by the flipper. I personally didn’t feel that much pain, but maybe it’s because I was the only one wearing socks with their flippers.

Ryan with the poster for Mamma Mia, opening August 2nd at the Kelowna Community Theatre.
After a good amount of dance rehearsals, and constant mental rehearsing, we had all finished the first Act of the show! It was a bit rough, but it was finished! We all got together for our last rehearsal before our break and ran through the music and dance numbers to go with them. Before we moved on, our musical directors had to remind us all that we had to all sing while we dance, and not just breathe heavily into our microphones. We then pieced the songs and scenes together in the correct order for the first act.

It was so exciting to see everything connect so well, despite many movements and lyrics being forgotten throughout. Regardless, I got to see what the leads had been working on privately with the director, and how splendid their characters were coming along. The big dance numbers by that point were coming along really well, and we’re at the point where character stuff is needing to be added into our performance while we dance. I am having so much fun, and I think the whole cast feels the same way. These classic songs and wicked 70s dance moves are filling us with energy every day.

Overall, our show is in good shape, and at least we have a shape now! You can see how things are going to develop from here, and which things are going to be so much greater when they’re all fixed up. I also think that the ensemble in this show is so hard working, and full of good vibes for each rehearsal. Always ready to make sure that the stage glows with brilliance, and our lead actors shine as much as they can.

And now we move on to our last month of rehearsals before our opening night! I’m so excited, and the fact that there is one month left means that we’re about to kick it into gear. And hopefully we will be moving into the theatre soon, so we can practice with ample space! I’ll write again next time, when we get into the thick of it here at the Kelowna Actors Studio. Thanks for reading!

For more information about this production, visit the Kelowna Actors Studio website.


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Ryan Nicolai

Ryan Nicolai

Ryan has played roles in many shows in his hometown of Kelowna, BC, such as Billy Elliot, Mary Poppins, Chicago, Anne of Green Gables, and Spring Awakening, with the Kelowna Actors Studio. When he’s not performing, rehearsing, or studying, Ryan can be found working as a barista in his home town, spending time with friends and family, writing, or playing video games.