Northwestern production of 'Mamma Mia' highlights real life friendships

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Apr. 27—As a Northwestern senior, Nathan Bedoy nearly made it through his high school career without joining the school's theater program. But, with one semester to go, he decided to give it a shot.

For his first role, Bedoy will appear in Northwestern's production of "Mamma Mia" as Sam Carmichael.

Kelsey Priday, the show's director, explained she chose "Mamma Mia" after seeing Tipton Community Theatre's production of the show.

"We have such a talented group that I just wanted to highlight," Priday said. "It's got a big cast that highlights so many different characters and storylines."

The show's popularity and the music, a collection of ABBA songs, also encouraged her to pick the production. The show will feature live instrumentalists, as well.

Priday pointed out it would be the last Northwestern production for several seniors.

Bedoy explained he decided to join the production after talking to some friends who regularly participate in Northwestern productions.

"I came, auditioned and landed a lead," Bedoy said. "It's a little nerve wracking but I'm excited."

So far, Bedoy said, he's enjoyed the experience. There's a part of him that wishes he had joined the theater productions earlier, but he's still glad he got in for his final semester.

"My character is fun," Bedoy said. "It's kind of a weird contrast from how I see myself and the character because I have to move around things from my personality to be able to make room for Sam's personality."

The actor explained his character is more introverted than he is in real life. It's been fun to flip his personality for a bit.

Audience members who have already seen the musical's film adaptation should find the stage version familiar, Priday said. There are still a few changes, though. For example, some of the friend groups get a bit more attention on stage.

During casting, the director added, she tried to pair real friends with each other.

Selia Dunkin, Hailey Parrish and Lauren Lesko are three of those real life friends. Performing together, they'll portray Donna and the Dynamos. All three are seniors, also facing their final performance on the Northwestern stage.

Parrish, who is playing Tanya, said she's sad her time with Northwestern's theater program is coming to an end.

"I don't know what I did before I came here every day," Parrish said. "I love coming to practice."

Dunkin, who is playing Rosie, added, "It's also good that it's a fun last show. It's not as sad."

Lesko, who is playing Donna Sheridan, has been in theater for 11 years. She's considering taking on a theater minor when she goes off to college.

She remembers going to Northwestern shows as a child, knowing she would eventually go to high school there and already interested in the theater program.

"It's the perfect show," Lesko said. "I get to do it with all my best friends and the music's really fun."

Parrish agreed, adding, "I think it shows in our characters that we're actually friends in real life."

Also adding to the show's appeal, Lesko said, are the family dynamics in "Mamma Mia."

With Donna's three eligible bachelors and her mother-daughter dynamic with Kaitie Bonds, who is playing Sophie, Lesko said there are some fun interactions between characters.

"You can't not have fun while you're doing it. Especially if there's a crowd," Lesko said. "I'm so excited."

Other than the chance to sing along to some ABBA songs, Parrish said she hopes audience members walk away knowing how close each of the show's performers are.

"I hope they just get that the relationship within the theater community at our school is special," Parrish said. "We all are friends outside. And I think that's kind of uncommon."

James Bennett III can be reached at 765-454-8580 or