HF-L artistic director CJ Tomaszewski (standing) talks through a scene with some of the cast during a rehearsal. Photo by Tricia Connors

Get ready to go back to the 1970s and 1980s when Swedish pop group ABBA was one of the rulers of the airwaves as the Honeoye Falls-Lima High School Drama Club presents Mamma Mia! for its spring 2024 musical.

Mamma Mia!, written by Benny Anderrson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, is based on the songs of ABBA and takes its title from the group’s 1975 chart-topper Mamma Mia. The smash hit musical, which ran nearly 15 years on Broadway until closing in September 2015, is set on a Greek Island where a young woman named Sophie, who is about to be married to her fiancé Sky, dreams of having her father walk her down the aisle. There is just one problem: she does not know who her father is. She discovers her mother’s diary in which her mother Donna describes dates with three men, Sam, Bill and Harry. Suspecting one of them might be her dad, Sophie invites all three to the wedding without Donna’s knowledge and all three accept the invitations and arrive on the island for the wedding. As the chaos ensues with unexpected reunions and nostalgic moments, the musical is infused with the enduring songs of ABBA such as Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, SOS, Honey/Honey, and Take A Chance On Me.

HF-L presents the show on Thursday, March 21st at 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 22nd at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 23rd at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the HF-L District Auditorium, located at the HF-L Middle School, 619 Quaker Meeting House Road.

The cast features Taber Gloor as Sophie Sheridan, Mike Ruff as Sky, Madison Fleming as Donna Sheridan, Owen Dack as Sam Carmichael, Zach Boehm as Bill Austin, Braeden Weaver as Harry Bright, Maeve Connors as Ali, Amelia Somers as Lisa, Maia Gathercole as Tanya, Ava Youngblut as Rosie, Henry Burke as Pepper, Andy Fosler as Eddie, Mary Repass as Alexandrios, Raegan Banker (Ensemble), Claire Connors (Ensemble), Kate Gabrielsen (Ensemble), Maggie Grann (Ensemble), Samantha Healy (Ensemble), Kaylee Henshaw (Ensemble), Olivia Jacobs (Ensemble), Hannah Miller (Ensemble), Paige Moscicki (Ensemble), Jenna Quinn (Ensemble), Madalyne Sousou (Ensemble/Dance Captain), Bria Torpey (Ensemble), Sophia Torres (Ensemble), Nora Anderson (Ensemble), Addie Beutner (Ensemble), Reese Carter (Ensemble), Asher Curcio (Ensemble), Kai Ferraro (Ensemble), Max Jacopille-Bornheimer (Ensemble), Sophia Jacopille-Bornheimer (Ensemble), Macy Letendre (Ensemble), Teagan O’Connor (Ensemble), Dariamne Osso (Ensemble), Brianna Rowles (Ensemble), Skylar Cooper (Ensemble), Elias Courtney (Ensemble), Maylee Cross (Ensemble), Kayla Donner (Ensemble), Grace Francis (Ensemble), Abby Fraser (Ensemble), Emma Kingsley (Ensemble), Abbigail Maylin (Ensemble), Rory Papietro (Ensemble), Nolan Tompsett (Ensemble), MacKenna Weaver (Ensemble) and Sophia Woodcock (Ensemble).

Kaelyn Frame and Kayla Wells are the student directors. Students involved in backstage crews such as stage crew, lighting, sound, costumes, etc. are Penny Armes, Aiyana Basciani, Amy Bianchi, Owen Boggio, Lita Brady, Casey Briggs, Ellen Burke, James Camardo, Ellie Camp, Ethan Cole, Madeline Conklin, Mackenzie Corry, Brinley Cross, Ellie Davis, Anna DeClerck, Adam Depuy, Colin Donner, Ash Ford, Will Gabrielsen, Evie Ha, Olivia Henderson, Schuyler Herbert, Ivy Hoskins, Eva Jackson, Hazel Jokl, Parker Kester, Keren King, Frederick Kirkwood, Lucy Kirkwood, Jenna Lawrence, Finley Neenan, Megan Parrish, Brennan Powell, Eden Powell, Alessandro Pringle, Evelyn Rose, Sam Roth, Lilly Shull, Isabel Torres, Katelynn Vukosic, Gianna Woodcock, and Maddie Wright.

Like the students in the show, all the songs from ABBA were all over the airwaves before HF-L artistic director CJ Tomaszewski was born. The HF-L alum (Class of 2019) stepped in as artistic director when long-standing director John Hennessey went on medical leave for this spring.

Tomaszewski graduated from New York University in May 2023 with a Bachelor’s of Music in vocal performance (concentration in music theatre). He returned to the area and began teaching private music lessons and also plays piano for many of the choruses in the HF-L school district. When he learned about Hennessey needing to step aside, Tomaszewski applied and “got the gig”.

“It has been such a joy,” said Tomaszewski of returning to the theater and the district where he played so many memorable roles in HF-L High’s musicals, most notably as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family in his senior year. “I have never had a job that I enjoy this much. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”

Tomaszewski found out about two weeks before auditions for Mamma Mia! in December that Hennessey was stepping aside. He was already going to be part of the show as Ken Kreuzer, the conductor of the pit band, had asked him to play keyboard in the band. He interviewed for the position of artistic director on the Tuesday the week before auditions and then got the word from vocal director Ken Goold that he had been approved. The students, who had been concerned about who would direct the show, learned that he was going to step in as director at auditions.

“I think the students would agree that we are all learning together,” Tomaszewski said. “Many of the kids are new to music theatre. Of the principal leads in this show, only Owen Dack has had a big supporting role in a show before.”

Tomaszewski knows what it is like to be in the students’ shoes bringing a show to life. His roles during his HF-L High years were Von Hussler in Mary Poppins as a freshman, Mr. Hasler in The Pajama Game as a sophomore, his hilarious role as Madame Lucy in Irene as a junior before his bring-down-the-house role as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family. After high school, he went to NYU and was in four main stage productions in the program where he held three leading roles. As a freshman, he got the role of White Rabbit in Wonderland. Then COVID hit, so his next roles weren’t until his junior year when he played Duane Fox in Applause and Orpheus in Orpheus and the Underworld. As a senior, he pivoted away from performing and into directing.

“I worked with the most amazing people performing, but I knew that I didn’t want to be doing the audition thing,” Tomaszewski said. “I got into playing piano and music directing and I wanted to move into the creative side of things. All the dramatic and acting courses that I took and the teachers and coaches I had for them prepared me for this opportunity.”

Dack, Fleming, Ruff and Gloor all said that they were introduced to the music of ABBA by their parents either through hearing the songs on car rides or the movie Mamma Mia!. Tomaszewski said the same is true with his experience with the show.

“My parents introduced me to the movie and it has always been one of my favorites,” he said.

Both he and the students have been learning throughout rehearsals.

“I am learning how to work with kids as my other experiences have been with adults,” he said. “I am also learning how to be a director. The kids and I appreciate learning together. I am open to them giving me suggestions.”

One concept that is not always a part of school musicals is having understudies for some roles. Tomaszewski has three students who are able to swing between roles if illness strikes: Repass is the understudy for both the roles of Donna and Rosie, Quinn for the role of Tanya and Claire Connors for the roles of Sophie, Ali and Lisa.

“It is a testament to the amount of talent here at HF-L,” Tomaszewski said. “Having Mary, Jenna and Claire able to step in to those roles during rehearsals when they were needed has been incredible. For instance, Mary stepped in to the role of Donna for a run-through last Saturday (March 2). She was really prepared and kept the rehearsal going. Their ability to take over the roles in rehearsals has been invaluable.”

Tomaszewski says one of those teachers and coaches who he is indebted to is Hennessey.

“Without his influence, I don’t think I would have gone into music theatre at NYU,” Tomaszewski said. “He recognized my talents and gave me opportunities all four years of high school. Whenever I would be in rehearsal with John, he always found a way to let me find and infuse part of my own personality into a character and let me go with it, like finding the splendor in Uncle Fester. He helped me grow into the director that I am right now.”

13WHAM News (Channel 13) will feature HF-L’s Mamma Mia! next Monday (March 18) on its morning show.

©2024 Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?

Skip to content