Nearly 20 years after it debuted in London, “Mamma Mia” remains one of the most successful musicals of all time, the ninth-longest running show in Broadway history and one of only five musicals to have run for more than 10 years.
To date, it has been seen by over 60 million people worldwide in 50 productions in 16 different languages. Mamma Mia – how can we resist thee?!
Written by Catherine Johnson, the musical is playing in the Philippines as part of its international tour.
Shona White, who plays the principal role of Donna Sheridan, told Bulletin Entertainment that “Mamma Mia” has stood the test of time because of its relatable storyline.
It is about a young woman who, on the eve of her wedding, invites three men from her mother’s past, any one of whom could be the father she has never known, back to the Greek island where she has been brought up.
It’s a celebration of love, laughter, family and friendship – exactly what the world needs now, White said.
“Mamma Mia” features the songs of ABBA. Apart from giving the musical its name, the single also established the Swedish pop group as an international hit act.
To millennials, here’s a quick backgrounder: In 1974, in the English coastal town of Brighton, a group known in their native but unknown to the rest of the world won the Eurovision Song Contest with a song entitled “Waterloo.”
ABBA, with Agnetha Faltskog, Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (their initials made the group’s name), had arrived and the rest is not merely history but the stuff of legend, selling over 350 million records worldwide.
Nicky Swift, who plays the role of Rosie, shared she grew up listening to the songs of ABBA.
“My dad is a huge fan. I know their songs before doing the show,” she said, adding that her favorite is “One Last Summer.”
Playing Tanya is Helen Anker, who is into “Does Your Mother Know.”
White, on the other hand, goes gaga over “Dancing Queen.”
“’Dancing Queen’ was the number song the same day I was born. That’s a trivia for my age!” she quipped.
“I think, that’s one of the reasons ‘Mamma Mia’ remains relevant. The music of ABBA is timeless and so is the musical. They may not perform together anymore on stage but we relive their songs through this show,” she added.
Other songs that are featured in the musical are: “Chiquitita,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!,” “Honey, Honey,” “I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do,” “I Have A Dream,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Lay All Your Love On Me,” “Money, Money, Money,” “One Of Us,” “Slipping Through My Fingers,” “S.O.S,” “Super Trouper,” “Take A Chance On Me,” “Thank You For The Music,” “The Name Of Game,” “The Winner Takes It All,” “Under Attack,” and “Voulez-Vous.”
White shared a lot of things goes through her head every time she delivers the emotional song “The Winner Take It All,” which requires her to give all, vocally, mentally and physically.
“It’s about the journey my character Donna has been through. That drives the emotions behind the number. It’s, like, you are forced to recall all the good as well as the bad memories when you meet three important men in your life. As an actress, I feel I’m in the right place by the time I get to the scene because I know what’s gonna happen,” she explained.
Asked to name one particularly difficulty they encountered while doing the show, the three laughed.
Anker shared, “Tanya is quite similar to me. She loves nice things and she wears high heels, like, all the time! And that’s the challenging part, I need to wear a five-inches heels throughout the show. I’m worried about my ankle!”
White said the challenge for her is to maintain her energy.
“It’s a very tiring musical. We dance, we sing, we jump, we run, that’s why need to have a good stamina. A big emotional, physical journey, indeed,” she quipped.
When life imitates art
The story of “Mamma Mia” leads up to the wedding of Sophie Sheridan and Sky, played by Lucy May Barker and Phillip Ryan, respectively.
Here’s the thing: The two happen to be a real-life couple. Indeed, life has imitated art for them.
In a separate interview, Barker and Ryan revealed they became a couple while performing the show and got engaged five months ago.
However, theirs was not love at first sight. When they first met in 2015, Barker wasn’t a fan of Ryan.
“I think because in this industry, a lot of people are not authentic. So many people spend their whole personal life also putting on a show. I just didn’t believe that Phil was different,” she admitted.
“Mamma Mia” has been an absolute life-changer, she noted, “both personal and professional.”
How is it working with your real-life fiancée, we asked.
“I feel lucky. Not everyone is giving the chance to work with your partner. It’s nice that we spend as much time together as we do. Like Sophie and Sky, we see much the world as much as we can. Everything I do with life is with her,” Ryan said.
Barker added, “It’s nice to have him on house and on work. It’s amazing to have my other half support me every time I get tired. Aside from that, there’s no acting required for us because we are real-life in love with each other!”
Doing the show, it seems that they are getting married pretty much every night.
“Yes!” Barker laughed. “It’s actually weird but in a nice way. I’ve worn many wedding dresses (in shows) but here is quite different. The first time we did the wedding scene, I almost cried. I was like, ‘Oh my God! Is this for real?’ That’s the reason ‘Mamma Mia’ will always have a special place in our hearts as a couple.”
Completing the cast are Leisha Mollyneaux, Lottie Henshall, Matt Jordan-Pidgeon, Michael Nelson, Daniel Crowder, Matthew Rutherford, Tamlyn Henderson, Matthew Ronchetto. At certain performances, Donna will be played by Natalie Langston.
Directed by Nikki Davis Jones and produced by Lunchbox Theatrical Production, “Mamma Mia” runs up to Oct. 21 at The Theatre at Solaire.