Creek’s ‘Mamma Mia,’ From the Perspective of an 8th Grader

CMS student Peter Philpott talks “Mamma Mia!” after seeing it March 2

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Norah Rudnick

Two rows of catwalks span the ceiling of Creek theater, illuminating the stage. Students at Creek get to hang and design all of the lights individually over the course of the two months before the production opens. “Mamma Mia!” ran from March 2-5, and middle school students got to see it before opening night as a preview.

Peter Philpott, Middle School Contributor

Recently my grade was invited to see a matinee showing of “Mamma Mia!,” the Creek theatre program’s spring musical. To say the experience and the environment were excellent is not only an understatement but just a start. Both the production quality and the acting talent were stunning.

Let me make this clear: I am in no way a theatre expert, or even someone who goes to a lot of shows. I’m at Campus Middle School, in eighth grade, and have not been to enough shows to talk about the more specific details. I’m probably not going to be part of the theatre department at Creek unless I choose to try out for pit band as a trumpeter or French hornist.

However, I always appreciate a well-acted, well-sung show with quality sets, costumes, and lighting. And “Mamma Mia!” was most definitely one of them.

The first thing that caught my eye was the set design. As soon as I entered the theatre, my mind was blown by the size and detail. The way that characters interacted with it and the way that new sets were conjured simply by being lowered from the ceiling took me by surprise. These students effectively created buildings from scratch and it was magical to watch. I have seen professional shows where the set design wasn’t that intricate and the characters didn’t interact with it nearly as much.

I wanted to talk to students about the set because it was so skillfully created. Senior Dylan List, the associate scenic designer on the production, who maps out and builds sets, recalled working on the set for the show. “Working on this musical has been hugely rewarding and so much fun,” he said. “It was very cool to see the ideas I had drawn out on paper standing right there in front of my eyes.”

One part of the set that caught my eye was the arch towering above the other buildings in the center of the stage. List mentioned that the arch was an important part of the set to him, saying that the logistics of it made it difficult to construct. “Not only was it a big challenge to actually build it,” he said, “but it was also a puzzle figuring out how to get it up and into place.”

The lighting was spectacular as well. The spotlight was steady and gave an important and bold mood to the stage during certain musical numbers involving solos by Donna (Miranda Joyce/Kate Hadden) and Sophie (Bella Mitchell/Ella Basham), as well as other characters. I learned from the lighting department that they used new $7,000 lights called “cycs” to give an ambient color to the background of the stage, and it worked flawlessly.

Junior Sofia Berkowitz is a lighting designer on the production. “Working on lights is both fun and infuriating,” Berkowitz says, because of burns and malfunctions, “[But] I would absolutely recommend, not just lighting, but CCHS tech and theatre in general.”

One outstanding lighting moment was during “Under Attack,” where the performance was also heightened by the ensemble’s matching black outfits. And the skillful costume design didn’t stop with “Under Attack.” The ensemble’s beach clothes gave the show an exotic and vacation-y look. The wedding dress made by senior Sara Manos did not look like an amateur craft. It was a beautiful work of art, mixing in shiny satin with airy chiffon. “My crew and I had so much fun laughing in the costume shop while working and we all bonded very quickly,” Manos said. “It was the best part of my day every day.”

The polar opposite of the wedding dress came with blindingly colorful disco suits, a nod to ABBA’s signature outfits when they performed in the 1970s.

I’m not a big fan of ABBA, but I can say confidently that I enjoyed the performance of these songs better than the original recorded versions. That’s almost never true, but the singing was on point. The voices of these actors gave the entire performance a Broadway vibe while also making it sound like a 70s disco. And I’m not the only eighth grader who enjoyed the vocals. “I was really impressed by the singing,” Sarah Huo, another eighth grader at Campus, said. “Their singing is really good.”

All of my peers, including me, were invited to see “Mamma Mia!” on March 2. Nearly everyone came. “We want to introduce our program to as many 8th graders as possible to show them what they can become next year,” Karter LaBarre, master carpenter on the “Mamma Mia!” production, said. “The arts are super important to us and we want to share them with as many people as possible.”

It worked. “The musical did get me interested in theatre, I would love to try out for pit orchestra or acting if I had more time,” Huo said. “I think it’s something many people enjoy doing which also makes it so incredible to watch.”

This musical was an extraordinary show to watch. The most surprising thing out of all of it was that everything – the sets, the lighting, the costumes – was done by students. It was a professional production, and if I went to see this show at the Denver Center of Performing Arts, I wouldn’t have guessed that it was done by high-schoolers. It makes me excited to be at a school with such talent in all the fields, not just the ones I’m going into.