Natalie O'Donnell Mamma Mia! The Musical Interview

Natalie O'Donnell Mamma Mia! The Musical Interview

An Interview with Donna Sheridan

The global musical phenomenon, MAMMA MIA!, commenced its new national tour at the Canberra Theatre Centre with a SOLD OUT season! The production commences in Brisbane at QPAC's Lyric Theatre from December 26th 2017.

The tour will continue onto Sydney's Capitol Theatre from February 11th 2018, Crown Theatre Perth from May 15th 2018, Melbourne's Princess Theatre from July 10th 2018 and the Festival Theatre at Adelaide Festival Centre from October 9th 2018.

This exciting new production of MAMMA MIA! is produced in Australia by Michael Coppel, Louise Withers & Linda Bewick.

"MAMMA MIA! is exactly what we all need - an uplifting, fun-filled, heartfelt night at the theatre which puts a smile on your face and a spring in your step. The timeless tracks of ABBA never fail to bring joy to audiences across the world and we are delighted to be producing MAMMA MIA! once again across Australia. We are also thrilled with the incredibly talented creative team and cast we have assembled to bring this story and these songs to life on stage night after night." Withers says.

Starring in this brand new Australian production as mother-of-the-bride Donna Sheridan is Natalie O'Donnell. Natalie began her acting career in 1998 with her professional debut in the Australian production of Les Misérables. Since then she has sustained a remarkable career in theatre, television and film across the world. She has starred in many musicals including most recently in Australia in Jerry's Girls, Songs for a New World and Next to Normal. Most poignantly Natalie starred in the original Australian production of MAMMA MIA! as Sophie in 2001. It will be very special to see her come full circle now leading this new production in the role of Donna.

In the role of Donna's daughter and bride-to-be Sophie, is emerging young Australian actor Sarah Morrison. Sarah has just completed a sell-out national tour in the Australian musical Ladies in Black starring in the lead role of Lisa. This was Sarah's breakthrough role gaining critical acclaim and adoration by audiences alike proving her star is certainly on the rise. Sarah began her career as a member of the Children's Chorus with Opera Queensland before graduating from Ballarat Arts Academy.

Starring as Donna's vivacious and loyal friend Rosie is Alicia Gardiner who has extensive career highlights in theatre, television and film and is best known to Australian audiences for her role as nurse Kim Akerholt in the award-winning series Offspring. In another nostalgic twist, Alicia also played alongside Natalie O'Donnell in the original Australian season of MAMMA MIA!

Jayde Westaby joins the Dynamo trio in the role of much-married friend Tanya. Jayde, originally from the UK, has enjoyed a career on London's West End appearing in The Rocky Horror Show, Chicago, Sweet Charity, Jersey Boys and Grease amongst others. Most recently in Australia she was part of the world premiere season of Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical.

Award winning actor Ian Stenlake stars as Sam Carmichael, one of Sophie's unsuspecting fathers. Ian has sustained an extensive television career over the years, including starring roles in the Nine Network's Sea Patrol for 5 seasons as Lieutenant Commander Mike Flynn, furthermore in Stingers, Murder Call and Dance Academy. He has also continued a vast theatre career appearing in shows such as Cabaret, Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma and most recently Around the World in 80 Days.

Stage and screen actor Phillip Lowe plays Harry Bright another man from Donna's past who could be Sophie's father. Phillip has appeared in many theatre productions including Crazy for You, Cabaret, Mary Poppins, High Society and recently starred in Georgy Girl - The Seekers Musical portraying Seeker Keith Potger.

Josef Ber, acclaimed theatre and screen actor plays Bill Austin the third potential father in the light-hearted story. Josef has appeared in many and varied theatre, television and film productions including Ned, Rush and Redfern Now.

Sophie's adoring fiancé Sky is played by Stephen Mahy who's career spans roles in musical theatre productions such as Miss Saigon, Jersey Boys, Grease, and the most recent Australian production of The Rocky Horror Show playing Brad.

In addition, Monique Sallé plays the role of Ali, Jessica Di Costa as Lisa, Sam Hooper as Pepper and Alex Gibson-Giorgio plays Eddie alongside an incredible supporting cast Stephen Anderson, Jadie Bastow, Dion Bilios, Du Toit Bredenkamp, Annie Chiswell, Matt Edwards, Josh Gates, Catty Hamilton, Matthew Hamilton, Emma Hawthorne, Zoe Komazec, Sarah Kate Landy, Courtney Monsma, Clay Roberts, Leigh Sleightholme, Thalia Smith, Lisa Sontag and Zachary Webster.

Set on a Greek island paradise and inspired by the story-telling magic of ABBA's timeless songs, writer Catherine Johnson's heart-warming tale centres around a young bride-to-be. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter's quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother's past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. Over 60 million people all around the world have fallen in love with the story and the music that makes MAMMA MIA! the ultimate feel-good musical. And now, in what will be a stunning new production, we want you to come join the party of a lifetime. A celebration of love, laughter and friendship, MAMMA MIA! is a fabulous night out for audiences of all ages.

The Australian production will be Directed by Helpmann Award winner Gary Young, with the creative team also including Choreographer Tom Hodgson, Musical Supervisor Stephen Amos, Set Design by Linda Bewick, Costume Design by Suzy Strout and Lighting Design by Gavan Swift and Sound design by Michael Waters.

A beautiful bride, a proud mother and three possible fathers. It's a trip down the aisle you'll remember forever!

Mamma Mia! National Tour Dates

Lyric Theatre, QPAC
From December 26th 2017

Capitol Theatre
From February 11th 2018

Crown Theatre
From May 15th 2018

Princess Theatre
From July 10th 2018

Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
From October 9th 2018

Interview with Natalie O'Donnell

WAAPA alumni, Natalie O'Donnell is delighted to join the MAMMA MIA! Australia cast as 'Donna', coming full circle from her original appearance as 'Sophie' in the 2001 Australian Tour for Littlestar/Universal/Dainty Consolidated Entertainment.

Natalie has appeared in many musical & theatre productions both locally and internationally throughout her career. Some of her highlights include Songs For a New World (Co-Lead) Blue Saint Productions; Next to Normal (Diana) Hayes Theatre/Doorstep Arts; Murderous Instincts (Lauren) Savoy Theatre, West End; The Sunshine Club (Rose) Sydney Theatre Co; Les Miserables Cameron Mackintosh; The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Olive) Melbourne Theatre Co, for which she was nominated Best Female Artist in a Featured Role in Musical Theatre at the 2006 Green Room Awards; Jerry's Girls (Co-Lead, as Herself) and Crazy For You (Polly) for The Production Company.

Natalie's television credits include: The Doctor Blake Mysteries; Mako: Island of Secrets; Mr & Mrs Murder; Rush; Satisfaction; All Saints and the made for television movie of South Pacific; starring Glenn Close. She has also appeared alongside Nia Vardalos and Richard Dreyfuss in the romantic comedy, My Life in Ruins and in the independent Australian film Taj.

Question: How does it feel to be back on the Mamma Mia stage?

Natalie O'Donnell: It feels like a really fulfilling full circle, I did the show when it originally came to Australia and I played the role of Sophie and I am coming back to the Mamma Mia stage as Donna, seventeen years later. There are not a lot of opportunities to revisit the shows you've loved the first time, around. It's pretty amazing to do the show, a second time around, in the role of Donna.

Question: Is it strange playing the role of Donna, instead of Sophie?

Natalie O'Donnell: When I first got the role of Donna, I was beyond excited but I didn't know how to shift my head going from one role into another which I'd seen the incredible Anne Wood do, so often and she is on my pedestal of incredible women.

Once we got into rehearsals and I was approaching the work, I realised that enough time had passed and it felt like a new experience, for me. It's a reimagining of the show so the sets and costumes are all different. It's been a beautiful reflection as there have been time along the way were I remembered lovely things that happened last time and I've got a really great hindsight into what's important in the show including what you bring to the show but also how lucky I am to be a part of it.

Question: Can you relate to your character of Donna, at all?

Natalie O'Donnell: Absolutely, coming into Mamma Mia at 40-years-old, I looked at the show differently and Donna has themes of friendship, lost love and family (including kids growing up) and I am smack-bang in the middle of that (except for lost love, I have a beautiful husband), I'm able to reflect on those themes and value those life experiences.

Question: Have you given any Sophie-advice to Sarah Morrison?

Natalie O'Donnell: I really have tried not to and from the beginning I said my door was always open if she had any questions to ask but she's such an incredible actor and I think it's important that she sees it as her own journey. We've had chats about my experiences, along the way. Sarah Morrison is very qualified and doing so beautifully in the role of Sophie.

Question: Why do you love Mamma Mia! The Musical?

Natalie O'Donnell: Mamma Mia! The Musical is a universal story and although it can be passed up a simple story because of the wonderful music, it's important to note, it's so much more than that. I think we realised early on that sometimes we'll have four-generations of family in the audience so there is something in the show, for everyone. Mamma Mia! The Musical celebrates life and music which is without a doubt, so uplifting which has an incredible effect on people.

Mamma Mia! The Musical is a really touching and human story which I really value.

Question: Do you have a favourite musical number, from the show?

Natalie O'Donnell: I love Slipping Through My Fingers, it is a song that Donna sings about her daughter. I have an eleven-year-old daughter and it's such a beautiful song. I also love The Winner Takes It All which was previously something that slightly terrified me, that I had the responsibility of delivering such an epic number.

ABBA were such incredible song tellers through their lyrics and they wrote about things that were so personal to them. The lyrics fit so beautifully into where we have the songs in the story, it's a lovely journey to go on, every night.

Question: Do you have any pre-stage rituals to ease nerves?

Natalie O'Donnell: I always have a coffee and it depends show-to-show and where we are, in the week. On a two-show day, I need to get up and make sure my body is already warm before I get to the theatre as towards the end of the week, it does take a little bit longer, as I fatigue more and more. I am a big fan of Rescue Remedy as I do, like a lot of performers, suffer a bit of anxiety from time-to-time. I'll do anything I can to ground myself whether that's meditation or taking five minutes to myself, to make sure I have my head in the right place and I'm centered. I have the mantra "enjoy it and do your job" (laughs).

Interview by Brooke Hunter