Thanks to the producers of Mamma Mia! UK tour and The Mayflower Southampton, I was invited to interview one of the cast, watch the warm up for that evenings show and have a back stage tour. In essence – a theatre lovers idea of a perfect way to spend a couple of hours. I met with Dawn Williams who is part of the ensemble and cover for the role of friend Lisa. We had a chat about what it’s like to be in such an iconic fun international show as Mamma Mia! and what she enjoys about her touring life.
What it’s like being on tour?
I’ve done a few tours and I really enjoy them. The different theatres and places you go to and different audiences reaction. I get paid to sing and dance doing what I love it’s like a dream come true I feel really lucky. You eat together, you live together and rehearse together so you do get closer, it feels more like a family unit.
What is your personal favourite number in the show?
I’d probably say that I really enjoy Does Your Mother Know – I do the backing vocals offstage for it and as I cover for Lisa I then get to perform it, I just love the vocals. Also Gimme, Gimme, Gimme and the whole of the mega mix at the end. It’s such a fun part of the show, you feel like you get to see the musical and then at the end you have a concert to.
When did you start your performing journey start?
I went to Laine Performing Arts in 2009 and Graduated in 2012, so four years now. This is my third big contract. My first was Shrek on tour, as baby bear. Cats was my second and I played Rumpleteazer in London and now this. But this is my first role actually being me, in the others I’ve been animals, which is really lovely, I get to be me and have fun. It’s like a party and there are hen nights in and people dress up its such fun.
How do you keep the energy so phenomenally high?
Every show is different and every audience reacts differently. Some are quiet throughout and then go crazy at the end and others are out for the party atmosphere and you can see them singing along its great. We all love the music and I think that’s what keeps us all so enjoying it. Every section builds and by the time we are all on stage our energy has also built up and we wouldn’t let it drop, as you wouldn’t on a night out and that’s what it feels like.
Is there a role that you aspire to?
I’d love to play Penny in Hairspray or Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. I like the comedy and character roles.
I also like to understudy and be in the ensemble but have the chance to go on and play the role, I like that opportunity.
Is there anything that has gone wrong whilst you’ve been doing this show?
Nothing major maybe little things but the audience wouldn’t know. We sometimes have cut shows where we usually have two male and two female, one of which is cut from that performance and it’s then really great for us to work out how we can work as a team. The girls in particular have a lot to move around so the fact that we know each other so well means we can adapt and still do it as a team. That does feel a little different when you are part of a touring company rather than in a static show situation.
Have you a favourite scene?
Super Trouper going into Gimme, Gimme, Gimme with the dance break I love that. Free dancing and the thought process between the two. It’s our interpretation and we do tell ourselves that it’s the first time we are doing it. I like to look at other people and watch their expressions and feel their experiences.
Do you have a worry point in this show?
I don’t, not in this show although I do worry about the heels. They are made to our individual feet so they give extra support where we need it, but they are higher than normal dance shoes so I guess that worries me a little. I worry about the heels breaking so I’m always quite glad when I’ve done my first number in them and can think right they are ok they didn’t break.
Do you have any superstitions or rituals?
I do a little bit, in this show when Lay all my love is on we are stage right and ready to move tables on and I alway set one glow stick on Jenna’s chair and then have one for my own. And I always like to do a double pirouette before I first go on stage. So not too many on this show.
Now my usual favourite three fun questions:
If you could go back to any era in history when would you go back to and why?
Well I have a massive love for Doris Day so I would probably go back to when she was in her prime and be her hugest fan.
If you could have a super power of be a super hero what would it be and why?
Initially I thought I’d like to fly but I’d also like to be invisible or hear through walls or a combination so that I could go into audition rooms and find out what the panel is looking for before I audition?
Who do you think is the most influential person in the world or your world today and why?
I’m going to say my parents because in this industry I always ask their advice about agents and jobs. In the wider world I’d still say my parents as I ask them about who they voted for or on big decisions I ask their advice.
I have to say it was an absolute pleasure to spend time with Dawn such a fun and fabulous person an absolute delight to interview.
Second Part of this article.
I then watched this extremely talented cast (if you want to read my review of the show click HERE) warm up. They have both a vocal and physical warm up. Various versions of scales plus some tongue twisters to mobilise both the vocal chords and mouths. The physicality of the dance warm up had me feeling that I’d be worn out after that, let alone then going on to do a full two and half hour show.
Once the stage had cleared I was then shown backstage and told about the tour and the show in detail.
A seven piece band is in the orchestra pit, with just the drums being tracked, which gives the authentic Abba sound we all know and love. As we moved around and I heard about the costumes, the set and technical aspects it made me realise something. We all moan about ticket prices and yes we all do it, but if you had heard how much some of the costumes cost, the microphones and how much of an entourage is required to make every performance go as smoothly as it does. Then you too would realise that every penny of the ticket fee is used to make our enjoyment experience the best it can possibly be.
The Mayflower is vast backstage and when a company such as Mamma Mia! move in they move in entirety. They literally pick up the set and transport it to the new venue. More often than not it fits, causing only a couple of hiccups on the tour. This is where the technicians, the cast and crew make it work and effortlessly adapt.
They have their own laundry, hair and make up and make sure that everything is as pristine from the very first tour date to the last. Attention to detail is second to none, even to the fact that this show is set on a Greek island so the cast that are depicting as being residents there all have to have that sun-kissed glow. They have the choice of the company spray tanning booth or usual self administered lotions either way they have to keep that tan topped up, so authenticity is key.
I thank the producers, the Mayflower, the cast and company all for their time, particularly Dawn Williams, for being a delight to interview and Charlotte Nelson, who coordinated and invited me.