Monday, March 18 sees an injection of new blood into the original London production of the now globally successful musical Mamma Mia!.
The musical's plot revolves around a wedding: a young girl, Sophie, wants an old-fashioned white wedding to her boyfriend, Sky, much to the surprise of her hippie-era mother, Donna, who has relocated to a new life on a Greek island.
As well as overcoming maternal objections to her proposed lifestyle, the girl has another secret task — she wants to find out who her father is. To that end, and having read her mother's diaries, she invites the three men who are candidates for the position . . . all set to a sound track of Abba's greatest hits — 27 of them!
Theatrenow visited Laura Michelle Kelly (Sophie) and Paul Basleigh (Sky) at the Prince Edward Theatre ahead of their stepping into their roles on March 18. What's it like becoming part of the Mamma Mia! company? Laura: "It's a great birthday present! I turned 21 last week, and the company gave me a huge cake with 21 candles on it. I have to say that although I've really enjoyed being at Les Miz, Whistle Down the Wind and Beauty and the Beast, there's something very special, from the management to the cast, of being in Mamma Mia!. It's a very feel-good show for the actors as well as the audience." Paul: "There's definitely a party atmosphere backstage. . ." Laura: "And it's great the way everyone gets up and dances in their seats at the end!"
Laura is new to the show, but you've been associated with it for a while, Paul? Paul: "Yes, I've played Eddie, Sky's friend, and have been number-two then number-one understudy as Sky, and I got to play the role for several weeks, so it's great to be able to play it full-time now. And I've had none of the occasional jealousy you get in the business; everyone's been really supportive."
Sky gets stripped nearly naked by his mates on the stag night — have you had to spend time looking your best for the scene? Laura: "He's in great shape already! He's a dancer. . ." Paul: "But I've had to cut out cakes and biscuits for the last couple of weeks, just in case!"
You both obviously get on very well. Does this mean the papers might see an offstage romance, too? Laura: "No! He's too much like my brother now for there to be any romance in the air!" Paul: "We're just good friends, though a previous couple did get together in real life, I believe."
If the onstage chemistry between these two is anything like the dressing room, then Mamma Mia!'s latest cast will continue to show the sort of zing that keeps the queues forming outside the Prince Edward's box office every morning as a new audience anticipates seeing true love conquer all, to music by Abba.