If you ever want a feel good and entertaining night out, you can pretty much bank on MAMMA MIA! Judy Craymer’s vision of staging the tale of family and friendship that unfolds on a Greek island and set to the timeless songs of ABBA (music and lyrics by members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus) is an all-time favourite…just ask my mom who had put in her ticket requests as soon as she heard it was returning. The musical has been seen by more than 60 million people of all ages in 50 productions in 16 different languages and it’s here in Toronto at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (August 9 to 19, 2018) as part of the International Tour.
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to interview both Shona White, who plays Donna, as well as Lucy May Barker, who plays her daughter, Sophie, in the current stage production…
MAMMA MIA! is one of the musicals that we know people will go see over and over again. It’s pure entertainment and fun for us to see how different performers make it their own. How do you keep the role fresh?
Shona White: MAMMA MIA! is such a fun show to be a part of it’s really very easy to keep the role fresh. The magic of live theatre is being able to react to the other actors. Tiny little things change on a daily basis whether that be as simple as a look in someone’s eye or the way a line is delivered – it’s just such fun to play. We have such a wonderful, playful and generous cast -it’s a joy to bring the show to life together every night.
What goes through your mind when delivering such an emotional song like ‘The Winner Takes it All’ that requires you to give it your all?
SW: The journey throughout the show which has led Donna to this moment drives the emotion behind the number. She has effectively been backed into a corner and can’t help but reveal her feelings to Sam. As an actress I feel completely in the right place emotionally by the time I get to the scene as so much has happened leading up to it.
What’s it like to be compared to Meryl Streep in the movie version?
SW: Well of course the stage show came first so in fact Meryl had a multitude of Donnas who had come before her to take after. What I will say is I am a huge fan of hers and to even be mentioned in the same sentence as such a screen legend is a great thrill. I think she’s wonderful in the movie.
MAMMA MIA! Here We Go Again, the newest film just came out in theatres with the story line centering around Donna when she was a teen. Have you seen it, yet? If so, then we ask, has anything from that story changed the way you view your role in this musical?
SW: I have seen it – in fact I was very honoured to be invited to a very special preview screening. It’s fabulous! It made me laugh and cry in equal measures. Our show is the original story so there is no comparison really. It doesn’t change Donna’s core. As Sam would say “She’s still Donna!”
What do you wish people to know about this particular production?
SW: Well I have been involved in the show for many years and I have to say this is a very special bunch of people both onstage and off. We are travelling the world together and we all have a real bond. Almost 20 years on ultimately it remains a really fun show with the fantastic music of ABBA and an amazing night out at the theatre. We can’t wait to perform to Toronto audiences.
So, who do you think (or maybe wish) was Sophie’s dad?
SW: Now that would be telling! To quote Donna’s diary “dot dot dot!”
Lucy May, the story leads up to the wedding of your character Sophie with Sky, played by your real-life fiancé, Phillip Ryan! You’re getting married pretty much every night, what’s that been like?
Lucy May Barker: There were certainly a few tears the first time we did that scene after getting engaged! (Happy tears, I should specify!!) Walking down the aisle to Phillip every night knowing I actually get to do that for real is amazing & super special… but I might be a bit nervous if over two thousand people and a stage full of people in funny hats are watching us on the actual day! Haha!
Soooo, any cues you’re taking from the show to plan your own wedding?
LMB: Well my Mum assures me that my Dad is definitely my one and only real dad, so hopefully no MAMMA MIA! themed paternity surprises on the day…!!! Joking aside, this show is where Phillip & I met and has been the starting point for the life we now have together, so we think it’d be fitting to have the day filled with colour & music & fun… basically a massive party surrounded by all the people we love, much like the last couple of years of our lives!
This is a story with so many great themes (unconditional family love, self discovery, finding true love, independence, etc), what has been the most impactful for you?
LMB: I totally agree, the themes are brilliant. There has definitely been a lot of self discovery for me over my time with MAMMA MIA!. It’s such a happy company & a positive environment, which makes it the perfect opportunity for everyone to grow personally, and feel really comfortable & supported doing it.
MAMMA MIA! is still relevant today even for those who aren’t familiar with ABBA songs or the story line, what would you want younger generations to know and why should they see it?
LMB: I think one of the reasons the show has stood the test of time is because yes, the songs are incredible – that goes without saying – but the story is about people. People of every age can come to the show and directly relate to the characters and relationships and emotions they’re seeing in front of them. And of course, for anyone that might like to see muscly boys in wetsuits, there’s also that!!
If you find yourself in a karaoke bar, what would be the one ABBA song that you sing? Mine would be Fernando or Knowing Me, Knowing You…or maybe Mamma Mia.
LMB: I think my answer would depend on how many drinks I’ve had in said bar!! I probably wouldn’t attempt ‘The Winner Takes It All’ at the end of a good night!
So, we will ask you too…who do you think (or maybe wish) was Sophie’s dad?
LMB: I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside so many fantastic actors playing my potential Dads over the last three years, and I’ve learnt so much from all of them. I really couldn’t choose. But if I could put my own (real life!) Dad on stage for just one night to hear him ruin all the amazing songs, I definitely would! Let’s just say I definitely didn’t get my singing ability from him…. I hope!!!
MAMMA MIA! is on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto from August 9 to 19. For more information and tickets visit www.mirvish.com.