Mamma Mia! at Riverside Theatres

Packemin Productions, the team behind the hit productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Shrek, Wicked, Legally Blonde and The Phantom Of The Opera, will transport you to a Greek island paradise at Riverside Theatres, bursting onto the stage with a brand new production of one of the world’s favourite feel-good musicals… MAMMA MIA!

Featuring hit after hit from the incredible songs of ABBA including Dancing Queen, Voulez Vous, S.O.S, Take a Chance On Me and The Winner Takes It All, MAMMA MIA! tells the hilarious and heart-warming story of a young woman’s search for her birth father. 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.

James spoke with performer Courtney Bell about why this show continues to be so popular and why we're going to absolutely love this Sydney production. Read the full interview below:

Courtney Bell

Mamma Mia! is is not only a massively popular and long-standing piece of musical theatre history, but has also lead to two feature films. What was your relationship to Mamma Mia! and the music of ABBA prior to your involvement with this production? 

Yes it is such a juggernaut and I’m feeling very grateful to be a small part of that long-standing history! I first came across ABBA in dance school, and I remember when I was about 8 and in The Sound of Music (GFO) one of the adults put on Dancing Queen and they all started singing - including me! Everyone was shocked that I had any idea who ABBA was! Then when I was about 13 my Mum took my best friend and I to see the professional tour of Mamma Mia and we absolutely loved it! We bought the cast recording and sung along all the way home! When I saw it, I thought to myself that I’d love to play Sophie one day, so it’s a bit of a dream to be stepping into this role with Packemin! 

Mamma Mia! is the 9th longest running show in Broadway history and has made several tours throughout the world ever since. Why do you think this show has had such a long shelf-life? 

There’s something about an ABBA song that instantly connects with you, and takes you on a journey! The songs naturally fit into a story format, and Mamma Mia! is one that is filled with universal themes - love, relationships, heartbreak, family, discovering who you are and rediscovering who you are as well. These things are part of all of our lives in one way or another, so each generation will keep connecting with it and be passed on the magic of ABBA through the show. The show celebrates life and love to tunes that everyone can get up and dance and sing along to by curtain call! 

With Mamma Mia! being a world renowned show that much of the Riverside audience may already be familiar with, how do you approach your part? Does audience expectation affect how you see the part of Sophie? 

Yes everyone I have spoken to about the show have instantly recognised it and expressed how much they love it! It can be daunting, but I think that everybody who steps into a role can’t help but bring everything that’s unique to them to it - so it is already something new straight away! I guess I try and look at the script and score with fresh eyes, while staying true to the heart of it. I don’t think I portray something just because the audience expects it, but there are things inherent to the show that will be familiar, just with our own twist! 

You have quite a varied list of credits from Australian dramatic work, to Shakespeare, to most recently, the Australian and New Zealand tours of Madiba. How has your experience in this show differed from your previous ventures? 

That’s for sure! Being able to vary what I do and learn and grow from all the different experiences is something that I have loved about all the things I’ve been a part of so far! Plus it all feeds into each other in a way - like the lyrical qualities in Shakespeare tie in with the musicality of musical theatre! Or the rhythms of tap dancing helped me learn gumboot dancing in Madiba! For this experience, not only have I been able to learn and work alongside some of the most talented Australian musical theatre stars who bring a wealth of experience and talent to the stage; I also share the stage with people hoping to forge a career in the industry, and the energy and pure joy that they bring to the table is just so special. I’m really glad that I get to be a part of it! 

Why should Sydney, and Parramatta audiences see this production and what can they expect to take away? 

Who doesn’t love a wedding right?! You will get to see some of the best of our Australian theatre talent alongside local upcoming superstars, all combining to share our own version of one of your favourite hits! The theatre looks incredible, the energy is infectious, the songs are unbeatable and we are all set to party with you! 

RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS: 

 

Favourite production you have ever seen?

I loved Spamalot on Broadway! 

 

You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?

EUROPE I’ve never been! 

 

Dream show to perform in?

I’d love to play Roxie in Chicago 

 

Plays or musicals?

Ooooo good one, I’m going to have to go musicals! 

 

A hobby you have beyond the theatre?

Exploring antique bookshops. 

 

What’s next for you after this show?

The night after closing I’ll be performing with some incredible performers at the Actors Benevolent Fund’s annual fundraiser event. 

Mamma Mia! The Musical is running until August 17 at Riverside Theatres in Parramatta. You can get your tickets here.

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