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Mamma Mia choreographer joins the cast

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Rebecca Moore’s introduction to live theatre, apart from watching it, started in September as choreographer for Mamma Mia!, a now sold out Theatre Tillsonburg musical that opens at the Otter Valley Playhouse on April 30.

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Recommended by Danscene’s Angela Farkas in Tillsonburg, Moore said ‘why not?’ when asked to choreograph of one of the largest, most ambitious musicals Theatre Tillsonburg has done in recent years in terms of rehearsal scheduling, budget and popularity.

It was a bit of a step outside Moore’s wheelhouse – which is all things dance – moving into the world of theatre. But really, it was only a side step.

“It’s a different vision from what I would see myself doing,” she admitted. “I never thought I would be into theatre, but I’m loving it so far. I’m really enjoying it. And it feels good being back on the stage again, either way, if I’m singing or dancing.”

Auditions started in September, and Moore taught actors simple dance routines during the auditioning process. She also gave input at the table with director Tom Heeney, assistant director Susan Lowrie, music director Dianne Clark, and producer Paul Clark.

Actors in Theatre Tillsonburg’s production of Mamma Mia prepare for opening night on April 30. The eight-show run has sold out. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News)
Actors in Theatre Tillsonburg’s production of Mamma Mia prepare for opening night on April 30. The eight-show run has sold out. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN

It wasn’t long before she added a new role.

“Originally I was just supposed to be the choreographer,” she said, “but a few people weren’t able to be a part of the show anymore. Dianne asked, ‘Can you sing?’ I said, ‘A little bit, yeah, but you’re going to have to help me a lot.'”

Moore was offered an acting/singing role on stage.

“I said, ‘I’m up for a challenge.'”

And here she is, almost 4-5 months later, choreographer for Mamma Mia… as well as being ‘Ali,’ close friend and bridesmaid of ‘Sophie’ played by Breanna Kyle.

“I have a little training in vocals, because at the school I went to in Toronto, Centennial College, they had a vocals class and acting,” said Moore.

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“When I was at Danscene I did a little bit of song and dance,” she said, recalling musical theatre. “I would always try to match the same notes with my duet partner…. but I wasn’t trained (singing).”

In addition to singing large group songs on stage, she sings smaller sub-group parts.

“It’s not really solos – it’s more like a duet. I have small, little duets now and then. It’s called a subgroup – certain people sing a certain part in a song.”

As choreographer, she has been working with the cast of 22 and the directors planning every step, jump, and movement to match the music. It started with listening to Mamma Mia tracks, which includes 28 ABBA songs.

She also went to see it live in Hamilton.

“That point of view really made my brain start to think of what I see, how I want this certain number to be, where I want certain keywords to be actions.

“I mainly focus on choreographing first. And then obviously I’m going to have to put myself in there. Sometimes I actually forget that… ‘Oh wait, I’m IN the show, I have to place myself somewhere.'”

Sunday, Feb. 23, the afternoon rehearsal focused on the song Money, Money, Money. Some choreography had been pre-planned, some made up on the spot – brainstorming.

‘Can we try this?’ she asks.

On stage, Moore demonstrates a two-arm wave from the right to left. The action gets a nod from director Heeney. Other ideas do not. It’s all part of the process.

“I’m hoping that once everyone feels comfortable, I can step back and see if it actually looks good,” she said, seeking another angle or perspective – something that’s difficult on stage in the middle of the acting and singing.

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“I try to remind myself to record the process. Even though I’m still in rehearsal, I have to make sure I’m doing my job as choreographer.”

Actors/Singers/Dancers in Theatre Tillsonburg’s production of the musical Mamma Mia rehearse at the Otter Valley Playhouse. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News)
Actors/Singers/Dancers in Theatre Tillsonburg’s production of the musical Mamma Mia rehearse at the Otter Valley Playhouse. (Chris Abbott/Tillsonburg News) jpg, TN

Not all of the actors are trained dancers, which means she is teaching that aspect, perhaps similar to how the music director teaches her Ali’s singing parts. The catch, however, is that Moore is only 20 years old – not the youngest in the cast, but one of the youngest.

The creative ideas have been flowing, no matter what the age, and so far it’s working.

“Tom and I, we see the exact same thing. He has a vision and I have a vision, and somehow they’re always colliding. And somehow everything… it just comes together. Like, it’s amazing, it actually shocks me sometimes. For example, Under Attack, he’s thinking monsters, he’s thinking ghosts. I’m thinking ugly arms, flaring costumes. So we’re meeting halfway.

“And Dianne, she’s known me since I was little. I used to do theatre camp all the time here, and as much as I need to be up on her level (in choreography), I’m not strong in my vocals, so I’m glad she’s there with me.”

The age difference is not something she thinks about.

“One person told me, ‘It doesn’t matter how young you are, it matters how much you give. How much you give to the chorus. It’s what your experience is…’ and I understand that I’m at a very young age, and I don’t have a lot of theatre experience, but I do come from a very competitive background. So I see and I hear what judges want. I’ve been on cruise ships, I have seen shows. I’ve seen high school shows. I’ve seen the theatre aspect and I feel like I am giving my dance experience and my visual experience.”

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It’s purely a volunteer experience for Moore, just like everyone else in Theatre Tillsonburg. Mostly it’s a ‘fun distraction’ for the full-time college student.

“Yes, this is my ‘fun distraction’ from school,” she laughed. “And I need it – I need it. I need this. This Mamma Mia has really let me focus on my selfcare. Because school is so much. I’m in a program for child youth care – it’s a lot. This is my time away from the trauma, all rules I have to learn. This is like my getaway.”

As they move into the home stretch, nine weeks away from opening night (April 30), Moore said she could see herself returning to theatre some day to choreograph.

“I would choreograph theatre another time in Tillsonburg,” she nodded. “I don’t think I’d do it anywhere else.”

She also sees dance in the future.

“My goal is, by day CYC, and by night, something to do with dance – whether it’s theatre dance or just dance. I want to go places. So far it’s going good. I can see it.”

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