With the approach of Troy’s newest musical theater production, “Mamma Mia!,” looming just over the horizon, it’s important not only to recognize the work that goes on onstage, but behind the scenes as well.
To an audience member, watching a production means you see only what has been carefully prepared and performed in front of you. What you may not realize is there have been weeks of editing and revising to get everything ready for the performance.
The actors and actresses work hard for weeks to work with their characters to make them their own, but a lot of the magic that happens is done by the people backstage as well.
Vanson Clendenin, a sophomore theater education major from Alabaster, is a part of the ensemble for the upcoming musical theater performance, “Mamma Mia!”
“My job in the show depends on the scene,” Clendenin said. “As the ensemble, we do tons of dancing and choreography.
“We also sing a ton, whether that’s onstage or backstage singing. I also help with transitions from scene to scene.”
Since the auditions for the show in January, the group has been rehearsing almost every day in order to level up to the standards of the production.
“This is a huge show, and there’s so much happening all throughout it,” Clendenin said. “Just making sure as an ensemble that we match our energy to that of the principals has been a challenge that we have had to rise up to.”
Erin Smith, a junior dance major from Huntsville, serves as an ensemble member and assistant choreographer.
Having set choreography to more than 12 different numbers, Smith has put in many extra hours making sure the choreography is interesting, yet still attainable to perform while singing.
“None of the dance moves were taken from the movie,” Smith said. “Everything you will see is original choreography inspired by the disco era.”
Kelsi Mills, a sophomore theater major from Moody, is responsible for making the cast and ensemble look appropriate for the setting of the show.
Mills is the assistant costume designer, hair and makeup designer and wardrobe supervisor for “Mamma Mia!” She also helps to design, build and alter all costumes used for the show.
“For hair and makeup, I decide what everyone’s hair and makeup will look like based off of the costume they’re wearing and the character they’re playing,” Mills said. “I also manage quick changes back and side stage.”
The show depends on not only the students, but also the faculty who help with the technical aspects.
Frank Marquette, a professor of practice in the theater and dance department, serves as the set designer and production manager.
Though there is an existing expectation for the sets in such a widely known production as this, there is still a process that Marquette goes through in order to create the perfect imagery.
“Most people know they’re going to a Grecian romantic getaway, so you have to fulfill that,” Marquette said. “That being said, I take the director’s concept statements that I get before every show and try to fulfill it as best I can as a designer.”
He said his most difficult challenge was being able to design a stage that over 60 people could dance on and have platforms that could take the “live loads” and the “dynamic energy being thrown around.”
“The challenges were much more practical than artistic,” Marquette said. “The artistry is fun, but the practical aspects have to work.”
Besides set design, the lighting design works to make the play really come to life.
Jeremy Hodges, a lecturer of theater and dance, is the light design technician who creates all of the lighting used in the production.
“As one of our bigger shows, this one has something like 115 lights in it, give or take,” Hodges said. “I start by programming the light board and telling it when and how certain lights should come up and what they look like.”
Hodges said sometimes people can assume the lights are easy when, really, there is a long process involved.
“You don’t just show up and turn on the lights,” Hodges said. “You think about it for months ahead of time.
“There are things in this show that I am not sure will be as beautiful as they are in my head. But when you start turning it on and you hear the voices around you going ‘ooh’ and ahh,’ that is so satisfying.”
Not only does the lighting have to work with the scenes, but it also has to work the musical score.
The score used is from theater productions of “Mamma Mia!” and will consist of four different keyboard parts, guitars, a bass and percussion.
Micah Marshall, a senior graphic design major from Odenville, will be playing auxiliary percussion in the pit band.
“Some parts have been changed to modernize it or to add emphasis to certain parts of the song in a dynamic fashion,” Marshall said. “Otherwise, it is extremely close to the original and it is all live.”
With the exception of a few students, most of the musicians are music educators or professionals at their instruments.
There are many different factors that make up a production such as “Mamma Mia!,” but when all of those are combined, you get a well-put-together performance the cast and crew are excited to showcase.
“Mamma Mia!” is set to be presented on April 19 at 7 p.m. and April 20 at 2:30 and 7 p.m. in the Crosby Theater.
Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for reserved seating. They can be purchased online at http://troytheatre.org.