Northern Virginia high school stages first full-scale musical in 17 years with glittery production of ‘Mamma Mia!’

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Mamma Mia!' at C.D. Hylton Senior High School (Part 1)

For the first time in nearly two decades, show tunes are echoing down the hallways of a local high school.

C.D. Hylton High School students Shariyah Coles, Victoria Gentilini and Arianna Wrighten bring The Dynamos to life on stage in their production of "Mamma Mia!" (Tristan Troyer)((Courtesy C.D. Hylton High School))

C.D. Hylton Senior High School in Woodbridge, Virginia is staging its first full-scale musical in 17 years with “Mamma Mia!” on Thursday, March 14, Friday, March 15, and Saturday, March 16 at 7 p.m. all three nights.

“I went to school in Prince William County, I graduated from Osbourn Park High School in 2016,” Theatre Director Tristan Troyer told WTOP. “When I started here last year, I was like, ‘Holy moly, there is no theater department.’ … I decided to become a sponsor of the club. They hadn’t done any type of production in 17 years. Last year we did a very small one-act show. … In the fall, we did S.E. Hinton’s ‘The Outsiders’ … now we’re doing ‘Mamma Mia!'”

Based on Catherine Johnson’s 2001 Broadway show that became a 2008 movie, the jukebox musical uses the hit songs of ABBA to tell the story of 20-year-old Sophie, who is preparing to marry her fiance, Sky, on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairin. She invites her three dads to her wedding without her mother knowing.

“You are being transported to the island of Santorini essentially,” Troyer said. “We’ve got a 50-foot set with 8-foot walls. You’re gonna see blue shutters, a bar, you feel like you’re stepping into a tropical paradise. Of course we’re going to have bright, glittery disco suits, disco balls and feather boas. You feel very much like you’re stepping right in the movie.”

Granted, the current students weren’t old enough to see the film when it came out 16 years ago.

“I wasn’t really familiar with the movie or the musical, but I know the songs,” Actress Victoria Gentilini told WTOP. “Since I am in it (now), I did get to watch the movie, so that was actually really cool. I took some of that inspiration and put it into the musical. … I was previously in the club, so I was already in ‘The Outsiders,’ but this one was a bigger production, so I was a lot more nervous picking the monologue and having to practice the song.”

Gentilini will play Sophie’s mom Donna, while classmate Yan Nshimba will play the role of Pepper.

“I was also already in ‘The Outsiders,’ so I was like, ‘Of course, I gotta try out,” Nshimba said. “I already knew which monologue I wanted to do, so that was fun, but the singing part I was really nervous about, so I think that showed during the audition process, but I still enjoyed it.”

Of course, the main star of the show is ABBA, providing the entire soundtrack.

“I really like ‘Mamma Mia!’ and I really enjoy ‘Lay All Your Love On Me,’ especially the choreography,” Gentilini said.

“Anybody that’s part of the cast knows that I love ‘Dancing Queen’ with all of my heart,” Nshimba said. “I’ll be here and I’ll be in the back just singing along with it. I’m really off key though!”

“For me, one that I like the most because it’s sort of different from all of them is ‘Slipping Through My Fingers,'” Troyer said. “It just shows the connection between a mother and a daughter and it pulls on the heartstrings. … I saw it on Broadway. Every year when I was in high school, our high school would take a field trip up to New York City, so I saw it in probably 2014. … I love ‘Mamma Mia!’ and I love ABBA, oh Lord!”

For the faculty and students, the rebirth of high school theater is a community experience.

“I think because of how diverse our school is, there’s so many people of different backgrounds, but we all have something in common, which is the arts,” Gentilini said. “The admin is so supportive. We’ll give them posters and they’ll post them in their classrooms. They’re really supportive of this musical and that’s so nice to see that the adults in our school really do care about what we’re doing.”

Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students.

Find more information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Mamma Mia!' at C.D. Hylton Senior High School (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.


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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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