a group of women standing on top of a stage
Lola Yong, Chrislyn Lowell and Mallory Hughes perform the song ‘Super Trouper’ at the Coral Shores Performing Arts Center during a ‘Mamma Mia!’ rehearsal. KELLIE BUTLER FARRELL/Contributed

The set design is nothing short of impressive. Step into the Coral Shores Performing Arts Center and prepare to be swept away to a magical Greek island paradise, complete with whitewashed buildings, signature blue doors and trim, cobblestone floors and a stunning ocean backdrop. 

“I want to give a lot of credit to Kaya because she spent like an insurmountable amount of hours here,” said CSHS drama teacher Caitlin Yong of the parent volunteer behind the beautiful scenery. Kaya McCoy is an artist whose three sons are involved in the upcoming musical.

“We made a scale model this year and I think that really helped plan out the blueprint,” said McCoy. “I’m pleased with how it turned out,” she added.

“Mamma Mia!” is a high-energy theatrical production set to the music of Swedish group ABBA. This is the directorial debut for Yong, in her first year of teaching at the school she attended. Managing an onstage cast of 30 students and another 10 backstage student crewmembers was not an easy undertaking.

“Because it’s my first year and trying to get to know who I’m working with, I did a double casting situation where I had a principal and an understudy cast,” said Yong.

One “Mamma Mia!” cast member is Yong’s younger sister, Lola Yong. Lola is a Coral Shores senior and this is her first time performing in a production. 

“We try to keep the family and the work relationship separate, but I like seeing her in action, I like seeing her being an adult because it’s just empowering,” said Lola Yong of her older sister Caitlin.

During a recent dress rehearsal, Yong’s parents volunteered to watch the musical to provide support and feedback. For the last several months, the Yong family has been living and breathing “Mamma Mia.”

The cast of ‘Mamma Mia!’ holds a dress rehearsal in advance of opening night, scheduled for Friday, April 5. KELLIE BUTLER FARRELL/Keys Weekly

“It has been ‘Mamma Mia’ all day, all night for the last six months,” joked Theresa Yong. “They’ve been practicing songs and singing and dancing in the living room.”

The “Mamma Mia!” storyline revolves around a bride-to-be trying to find her real father. She invites the three prospective fathers to her wedding, unbeknownst to her mother, Greek island hotelier, Donna.  

“I’m a little nervous but I’m confident in myself and I know that we’ve all worked really hard for this and it should run pretty smoothly,” said senior Chrislyn Lowell, who plays Donna.

“I think it’s come together quite well, actually,” said freshman Mallory Hughes, who plays Donna’s friend Rosie. “I think everybody has been putting effort in memorizing their lines, singing the songs and doing the choreography at the same time and it’s a lot but everybody has been so prepared.” 

This will be the first play for freshman Jeramiah Ortiz. He landed the role of Bill, one of Sophie’s prospective fathers.

“I’ve always loved singing and dancing so I saw this and was like, why not,” said Ortiz of what motivated him to audition for the show.

Senior Cole Ferger plays Harry, another of Sophie’s prospective dads. For the last two years, Ferger has run the spotlights for Coral Shores productions but decided to step out onto the stage this time around.

“I thought it would be fun to try something else,” Ferger said.

Sophomore Sebastian McCoy plays Sophie’s fiancé, Sky. When not onstage he is the captain of the Coral Shores High School wrestling team.

“I have a tough side where I love pushing myself to the limits but this is also a creative freedom for anybody who wants to do whatever the heck they want after school,” McCoy said .

McCoy’s younger brother, Christian, is a stagehand and says being behind the scenes can be just as rewarding as being in front of an audience. 

“It’s really fun. I recommend it for everyone; you meet new friends and you get along so well and it’s amazing to be here,” the younger McCoy said.

“Mamma Mia!” opens on Friday, April 5 at the Coral Shores Performing Arts Center. There will be a total of six performances. Audience members are encouraged to don their best disco outfits and to be prepared to dance the night away. Tickets are $10 at the door and $7 if bought in advance.

“I really can’t wait to see how it turns out,” said Caitlin Yong, “because I know everyone is working really hard.”

Kellie Butler Farrell
Kellie Butler Farrell is a journalist who calls Islamorada home. Kellie spent two decades in television news and also taught journalism at Barry University in Miami and Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She loves being outside, whether spending time on the water or zipping down the Old Highway on her electric bike, Kellie is always soaking up the island lifestyle. Kellie and her husband own an electric bike rental company, Keys Ebikes.