If you saw the McFarland High School (MHS) production of “Mamma Mia!” last fall, you witnessed one of the best in the state of Wisconsin.
“Mamma Mia!” was recently announced as one of a handful of high school musical productions to win the Jerry Award for Best Musical. The Jerry Award program is Wisconsin’s high school musical theater recognition program.
Nearly 90 productions from around the state were evaluated, and only a select few were recognized with the top prize of Best Musical.
McFarland High School has participated in the Jerry Award program since 2013. In that time, McFarland’s seven fall musicals and two spring musicals have been nominated for more than 100 awards, winning dozens of them.
“Winning Best Musical is really special for us,” said Patrick Fernan, one of the co-directors. “We’ve been nominated for Best Musical for every show, but we’ve only won once before – in 2014 for ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ Our cast, crew and production team should take enormous pride in earning this recognition.”
Many members of the cast and production team also received individual nominations.
Junior Will Karls won for Performance in a Supporting Role as Harry Bright, the Englishman who comes to find his lost love and discovers he may be a dad on the Greek island where “Mamma Mia!” is set.
“Will brought a maturity and sweetness to the role that I’m thrilled was recognized by the Jerry Awards,” said Brooke Hauser, the musical’s other co-director. “His performance delighted the audience.”
Other actors nominated for Jerry Awards were juniors Annika Hauser, Lucie Hodgkins, Alexcia Johnson, Drew Matheson and John Stuntebeck for Outstanding Performances in Lead Roles, and junior Cooper Hildebrand for Performance in a Supporting Role. The rest of the cast was nominated together in the Outstanding Ensemble category. Senior Mathilda Kleinhans was nominated for Best Stage Management. The show was also nominated in the categories of Director, Choreography, Orchestra, Musical Direction, and Costume Design and Scenic Design.
“This was our first production in the magnificent new performing arts center at MHS,” said Paul Gregg, McFarland High School choir teacher and show producer and musical director. “We broke all attendance records, and the community support was incredible. To earn Best Musical is really the icing on the cake that is the continuation of excellence for the MHS musical theater program.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the normal opportunity for the cast to perform live at the Overture Center in Madison won’t happen, but most of the cast, crew and production team gathered together via Zoom to listen to the live announcement of the Jerry Awards, celebrate as a group the big win and then learn what the fall 2020 musical will be.
“We used the opportunity to surprise the kids with the news that next fall our musical will be “Hello, Dolly!” Gregg said. “This musical won Tonys, Grammys and Oscars – including a Tony for Best Musical Revival just three years ago. We’ll bring down the house again in November.”
Each production participating in the Jerrys nominates one cast member who epitomizes the strengths of the musical they are doing.
“We take the Spirit Award very seriously,” Fernan said. “We nominate an actor or actress who is always working hard, always positive, always adding value and is a delight to be around.”
The Spirit Award winner for MHS was junior Abigail Komro.
“Abigail is such a perfect representative for the “Mamma Mia!” cast,” Hauser said. “Our show was great because of the strength of our leads and because our ensemble brought skills and energy to the stage every second they were out there. Abigail was a big part of our ensemble and exemplified all that we ask our cast to give to the production.”
All Spirit Award winners will participate in a joint recording of “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen” for the televised production of this year’s Jerry Awards.