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Reigning Miss Ohio and former Norwalk pageant winner has lead role in “Mamma Mia!”

Matt Roche • Updated Feb 28, 2019 at 11:29 PM

MANSFIELD — A familiar face is playing the lead role in “Mamma Mia!” — reigning Miss Ohio Matti-Lynn Chrisman.

“Mamma Mia!” — a production in which ABBA songs are used to tell the story — is being performed this weekend and next at the Renaissance Theatre.

Local residents might recognize Chrisman as a previous winner of Norwalk’s scholarship pageant, Miss Maple City.

Capturing the Miss Maple City crown in November 2017 qualified Chrisman for her third appearance in the Miss Ohio event last summer. As it turned out, the third time was a charm for this Cambridge native as Chrisman won the $10,000 scholarship, a 2017 Chevy Cruze and a spot in the Miss America competition last September.

Chrisman returned to the Norwalk pageant last November to crown her successor.

The Renaissance Performing Arts Association held auditions for “Mamma Mia!” in December and Chrisman landed the role of Sophie Sheridan — a young woman whose search for the identity of her father culminates in three men from her mother's past returning to a Greek island they last visited 20 years ago.

The role requires a lot of singing, but that’s no problem for Chrisman.

A Kent State University graduate with a degree in musical theater, Chrisman participated in multiple university theatre productions and sang in several ensemble and A cappella groups.

Chrisman said she began performing when she was in elementary school and “fell in love with it.”

Despite being in lots of shows over the years, Chrisman never had participated in a Renaissance production and feared she would be viewed as an outsider, “like the new kid in high school.”

Those fears never materialized, though, as everyone proved to be friendly and welcoming, creating an enjoyable behind-the-scenes atmosphere, she said.

Performing to ABBA music has a familiar feel for Chrisman. As a child, she and her sister frequently watched the movie version of “Mamma Mia!” and made up dances to the songs, she said.

Chrisman’s reign as Miss Ohio ends in about three months. She has about a semester of schooling remaining before she can earn her second degree. Chrisman hopes to have a career in theater at the management or marketing level and wants to continue performing.

“I don’t think I’ll ever give up theater,” Chrisman said.

“Mamma Mia!” is being directed by Renaissance artistic director Michael Thomas, who grew up in New London and whose father served as the Huron County recorder.

To him, Norwalk was “the big city” back then. Thomas fondly recalled visiting the Woolworths department store located near the county courthouse. These days, Thomas splits his time between a bigger city — New York — and an old farm house in Butler.

Donna Sheridan will be portrayed by Maddie Beer, who said she had “an ABBA phase” in college, giving her familiarity with the music for this production.

Carolyn Demanelis, who portrays Tanya, recalled a childhood in which her mother played ABBA songs around the house and in the car, making Demanelis “very” familiar with the band’s music, she said.

Kristin Kaufman portrays Ali, with Katie Harrigan as Lisa and Leah Gesouras as Rosie.

The male lead roles are filled by Ryan Shreve as Sky, George Swarn as Pepper, Drew Owens as Eddie, Kyle Miller as Harry Bright, Beau Roberts as Bill Austin, Colton Penwell as Sam Carmichael, and Patrick Clinage as Father Alexandrios.

The cast is rounded out with Islanders and wedding guests portrayed by Bryce Dials, Beverly Dowdell, Haley Foss, Desi Hunt, Beth Anne Jarvis, Rowan Kempf, Kayla Kirtland, Kym Lamb, Kristal Lawrence, Jessica Miller, Ross Pruetmiller, Andrew Pugh, Kameron Puster, Chantel Ross, Andrew Shaffer, Christian Shepherd, Megan Shepherd, Katlyn Shrewsberry and Kyle Von Kamp.

“Mamma Mia!” is part of the 2018-2019 Richland Bank Broadway Series. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. March 9 and 2:30 p.m. March 10 at the Renaissance Theatre, 138 Park Ave. W. For ticket information, visit MansfieldTickets.com, call 419-522-2726 or go to the box office from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

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