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NHS troupe stages 'Mama Mia!' for five nights starting Friday in Drea Ferguson Auditorium.

PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - The Newberg High School drama troupe will unveil its production of 'Mama Mia!' on Friday. On Wednesday, seniors Emily Bush (left), who plays ' Rosie,' and Hailey McCollum, who comprises the role of 'Donna,' rehearse a singing number.

While you won't see Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth or any other Hollywood luminaries, the Newberg High School cast of "Mama Mia!" is determined to get toes tapping and smiles creasing faces as it prepares to stage the musical in Drea Ferguson Auditorium.

More than 85 NHS students, ranging from actors to musicians and "techies.' as director Mike McConaghey likes to call them, have conspired to stage the musical on five nights over the next two weeks. Performances are set for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Nov. 18-20, with an additional matinee set for 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Rehearsals began with the onset of school in the fall, said McConaughey, who has continued imparting his knowledge of all things theater after migrating over from C.S. Lewis seven years ago.

"We perform a musical every year," he said, "but this is the first main stage musical since 2019, when we performed 'Matilda."

The troupe's annual application of thespian practice is pretty well the same from year to year.

"We stage the fall musical, our winter play in February, our Shakespeare play in April ('Twelfth Night' in 2022) and our Tournament of Plays in May," McConaughey said. "In addition, this year we are adding a performance from the brand new musical theater class. We will be performing for three nights in April. This class includes many of our advanced theater students and will be a great show."

As opposed to past performances where student directors guided actors through their paces, McConaughey has employed a different group this time: "My student theater board has served in the roles a student director would have taken on."

This particular production will only see NHS actors, whereas some past performances have employed youngsters from area elementary and middle schools.

"This year we are only NHS students on stage," McConaughey said. "We have some students serving as techies that are from other school environments that don't have the opportunity to participate in a school program."

Music will be provided primarily by NHS students as well, although McConaughey said some community members will descend into the orchestra pit to provide the tunes for the production.

McConaughey added that the production represents a welcome return to in-person production.

"It has been a difficult and crazy couple of years, but the theater program is growing and has an amazing amount of talent, including our younger and up-and-coming students," he said. "The future looks really bright for our program."

McConaughey explained that the plot of "Mama Mia!" involves 20-year-old Sophie, who is getting married on a Greek island.

"She wants to have her dad walk her down the aisle," he said. "She just doesn't know who he is. Her mom won't talk about it, but after reading her mother's diary, she has narrowed it down to three men. She invites them all to her wedding without her mother knowing."

The director added that the story grows as the wedding guests arrive and old flames are rekindled.

"(It's) a fun story of love and growth and lots of dancing," he said. "'Mamma Mia!,' featuring the music of ABBA, is packed full of fun laughs and a good time."

McConaughey added that he hopes the play will be an escape from what has been a trying time locally and around the world.

"I chose this show for NHS because I wanted a show that was fun, upbeat and easy for folks to enjoy," he said. "We have had so many months of setbacks and compromises. This show is all about fun and having a good time."

Tickets, which are available at the door or reserved by calling 503-554-5305, are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Masks will be required for all audience members while indoors. Family groups will be spaced apart according to Oregon Health Authority regulations.

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