Take a huge cast of talented, seasoned young Whanganui High School students, an engaging script, a stack of Abba songs, some devoted staff members and a dedicated behind the scenes team, and you've got a hit musical.
Whanganui High School staff, students and parents have teamed up for this year's big production and it's all coming together in preparation for the first performance in a few days' time on the stage of the Royal Whanganui Opera House.
"We chose Mamma Mia! because the lead cast is quite large and we wanted to include as many of our seniors as we could because for the last two years we haven't done a show," says co-director Roz Armstrong.
This is the last opportunity for many of the school's Year 13s to shine on a big stage.
"Last year we were doing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Covid hit."
Rescheduling it for this year would have meant recasting it as so many in it were last year's Year 13s.
Mamma Mia! seemed the perfect fit after a two year hiatus and more achievable in the available time. Mamma Mia!, for example, does not have the challenge of a flying car. Rehearsals began in March.
Roz is impressed with her young cast.
"They're amazing to work with: quite mature in their approach. They've been really good at coming to rehearsals and really easy in terms of how we work with them.
"We didn't have enough parts for all the people we wanted to cast, and there were still others that we could have easily cast – it was challenging.
"We have some amazing singers, amazing dancers, amazing actors … and some are amazing at all three!"
Some of the cast are looking at a career in the performing arts.
"I think they have great potential to do very well, and even the ones who are not looking to do something like that career-wise will definitely stay involved."
Roz says the production has been a huge joint effort with teachers and students taking leadership roles.
"Because it's been a long time since we've done anything, we're very excited to be back in the Opera House and we'd love everyone to come and support these kids. They've worked really hard and we've got a cast of about 70 with crew on top of that. Linda Hardcastle is – of course – doing our costumes."
For most of the cast this is the last chance to be in a school production. For many this is a springboard into a career in performance.
"They've been rehearsing all term," says musical director Jeanette Jones, who took them through their musical paces immediately afterwards, with such numbers as Money, Money, Money and Super Trouper, songs enriched with well-executed harmonies and parts, songs made famous more than two decades before this Mamma Mia! cast was born.
And the quote of the day: "Mamma Mia; we wanna see ya."
What: Mamma Mia!
When: Wednesday, May 19 to Friday, May 21 at 7pm, and Saturday, May 22 at 5pm.
Where: Royal Wanganui Opera House
Tickets: Adult $20, child/student $15, family (2A + 2C) $60.