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Wednesday October 18th, 2017

Posted at 9:00am

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Preparing for their next musical, a local theatre group wants to make people shout “Mamma Mia!”

After months of rehearsals, the time is almost here for Windsor Light Music Theatre (WLMT.) On November 17th, their production of Mamma Mia will hit the Chrysler Theatre at the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts (located at 201 Riverside Drive West.)

Although licensing is currently restricted through Music Theatre International, WLMT’s long-standing relationship with the group paid off: Windsor Light became one of the rare theatre companies in North America to be offered pre-release rights to the musical.

Needless to say, they jumped at the opportunity.

“The popularity of Mamma Mia! is what drew us to it,” said director Chris Hickman. “We knew that people would be excited to see it as well as be in it. This production has such a wide appeal because the music is so familiar. Seeing how these well known ABBA songs are woven together to tell a story creates a heightened level of engagement for the audience. They can follow the plot because they know the words.”

The director’s assessment seems to be right so far: Over 60% of tickets have been sold and two matinees were added to meet demand.

As momentum grows, fans are getting excited as well.

“I haven’t seen Mamma Mia on stage yet,” said WLMT preferred ticket holder Danica Hobbs. “I’m extremely excited for this performance — I’ve already started listening to my ABBA CD and own a DVD of the movie adaptation.”

This is the third time Hickman has sat in the director’s chair for Windsor Light. Starting as an actor, his over 15 years with the group have seen him in many positions. This includes being a board member, marketing director and assistant director.

Having such experience made Hickman the best choice when auditions began in May. More than 130 people came out before being narrowed down to 26 onstage performers and 20 background singers over two weeks.

It’s a process the director took very seriously.

“Casting any production can be a daunting task, therefore it is vitally important that they are done in a fair and efficient way,” he said. “Potential cast members had to complete a public vocal audition and dance audition. From there, selections were narrowed down and call-backs occurred.”

Rehearsals began right after casting and have continued since May. Aside from a break in July, performers have been at the studio twice a week for a total of six hours ever since. As the main cast learns choreography, background singers practice melodies and volunteers build the set. Beyond this, props are also being made with an entire paint crew adding special touches to the design.

Even though the music and plot won’t change, the show will be unique to the area. From set and light design, choreography and staging, the group has its own creative vision for the production.

Hickman hopes it keeps everyone involved feeling satisfied and valued during the process.

“WLMT has been around for 70 years,” he said. “It is a well-oiled machine that has established, efficient structures and processes in place that allow for consistency in the creation of a show. My hope is that our volunteers feel valued and appreciated. Since this is a group made up of volunteers, it is vital that people enjoy what they are doing.”

Although the director’s favourite song is up in the air, he hasn’t gotten sick of any. Changing daily, he admits it’s usually how an actor interprets the lyrics that sways his opinion. On some days he prefers the upbeat tunes while the ballads jump to the forefront on others.

When it comes to the show however, he hopes that people have a good time either way.

“I want our audience to walk away from our production with a spring in their step and a smile on their face,” said Hickman. “Our purpose is to entertain. I want our audience to feel like they were able to suspend their disbelief and escape within the story for a couple of hours. If you haven’t purchased tickets yet, what are you waiting for?”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Hobbs as well.

“If you want to journey away with the audience and witness some amazingly talented local individuals performing, this is for you,” she said. “I’m a preferred ticket holder and I’m still in awe at every performance. Seeing a show come alive on stage is just beautiful, there’s nothing else like it in windsor-Essex.

Following the first performance on Friday, November 17, Mamma Mia will run until the 19th and from Friday, November 24, to the 26th. Shows will take place at 8 p.m. on all dates with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission ranges from $16-$36, depending on age.

Tickets can be purchased through the WLMT box-office by phone at 519-974-6593 or at their website.

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