VALDOSTA – Hank Rion knows the drill.
As director of "Mamma Mia!" the opening show for the Peach State Summer Theatre 2019 season, he works three weeks solid, 8:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. every day, with show choreographer Sarah Wildes Arnett, and the cast of performers.
Then open the show Friday evening, stay through Saturday to fine-tune, then Rion returns home to teaching theatre at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Fla.
Rion knows the drill because this isn't his first PSST! show.
He directed "Million Dollar Quartet" last summer and "Ring of Fire" in 2017. Both rock and roll shows. Great preparation for "Mamma Mia!" – a show fueled by the pop hits of ABBA.
The story is engaging. A hard-working, single mother has raised her daughter at their island resort. The daughter has never known her father, but as she prepares to marry, she would like to know who he is. The daughter discovers one of three men is possibly her father. She invites all three to the island to attend her wedding ... ABBA songs ensue.
And everyone sings.
"Even when they're off stage, the cast is singing back stage to back what's happening on stage," Rion said. "So, even when they're changing costumes back stage, they are still singing."
Meanwhile, the live orchestra plays in a room on the second floor of the VSU Fine Arts Building but the music is piped into Sawyer Theatre.
The live show is the same as the 2008 movie, said H. Duke Guthrie, PSST! managing director. Like the movie, Guthrie warns some parental discretion is advised.
Guthrie said PSST! has designated the 7:30 p.m., July 3, performance of "Mamma Mia!" as the "singalong performance" when the audience is invited to singalong with the cast on stage. The singalong is one date only and audiences will be asked to refrain from singing along during other dates.
People may have a tough time not singing along, with songs such as "Waterloo," "Dancing Queen," "Mamma Mia," "Money Money," "S.O.S.," "The Winner Takes It All," etc.
Rion said the show is every inch a song and dance show. He worked closely with Arnett throughout the planning stages earlier this year and the long days and evenings preparing for opening night.
Arnett had one less day of rehearsal. She arrived the second day after returning from Australia where she competed in the Down Under Crossfit Challenge. She is a Valdosta State University associate professor of dance and has worked with several PSST! shows during the past few years.
The opening of "Mamma Mia!" is the start of the 30th annual PSST! season.
Combined with the Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance-sponsored Jekyll Island Theatre of the late 1980s through '90s, PSST! is observing 30 years of summer theatre.
Peach State has been part of Valdosta summers for more than a dozen years. The General Assembly designated Peach State several years ago as the official musical theatre of Georgia.
PSST! operates under the umbrella of VSU Theatre & Dance.
The season opens June 7 with "Mamma Mia!" then "Little Women" opens June 21 followed by "Crazy for You," June 28. The shows then play in rotating repertory through July 21, according to the PSST! 2019 schedule.
"Mamma Mia!" has already sold out its open weekend performances. But no need to send an "S.O.S." just yet. Plenty of performances are still available into July.
THE CAST: Haley Aguero, Kelly Fletcher, Jim Ballard*, Joe Mason, Olin Davidson, Jace LeGarde, Anne Marie Snyder, Kirbi Mason, Kaitlyn Batchelor, Emma Safon, Geoffrey Reynolds, Christian Hatcher, Dylan Van Slyke, Axel Barry, Olivia Bell, Kaitlyn Batchelor, Rachel Gubow, Christian Hatcher, Savannah Kern, Amani Logan, Meredith Mehegan, Becca Mighell, Chas Pridgen,Jeremy Reasoner, Geoffrey Reynolds, James Rowell IV, Emma Safon, Christian Shupe, Loren Stone, Dylan Van Slyke, Bekah Ward, Brad Weatherford. *The actor appears through the courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
DIRECTION, PRODUCTION: Hank Rion, director; Sarah Wildes Arnett, choreographer; Joe Mason, vocal director; David Springfield, music director; Ruth A. Brandvik, scenic designer; Genny Wynn, lighting designer; Martha H. Cooper, costume designer; Jason Lee Courson, projections designer; Zach Cramer, sound designer; Phillip Brulotte, technical director; Joseph Borkovich, stage manager.
Peach State Summer Theatre opens with "Mamma Mia!"
Show dates: 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 7; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 8, Pay What You Can Performance; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 15, Interpreted for the Deaf in American Sign Language; 3 p.m. Sunday, June 16; 3 p.m. Sunday, June 23; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 29; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 3, Sing-Along Performance; 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 5; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 10; 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 12; 3 p.m. Sunday, July 14; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20.
Where: Sawyer Theatre, Valdosta State University Fine Arts Building, corner of Oak and Brookwood.
More information: Visit www.valdosta.edu/psst or call the box office, (229) 259-7770, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays.