Johnson has performed ensemble roles in the smash Broadway run of the ABBA-fueled musical comedy for the past three years (starting in September 2002) — and has understudied the roles of frazzled Donna and wisecracking pal Tanya, playing each character more than 100 times.
The Chicago native takes on Donna full-time for a month of shows — in between Carolee Carmello's exit (she left Sept. 18) and Michele Pawk's entrance (starting Oct. 19) at the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre.
(Fanatics of the Broadway production of Mamma Mia! might remember it was Johnson who appeared, instead of star Louise Pitre, as Donna on location at the World Financial Center in 2002 to sing "Money, Money, Money" with the company as part of the CBS Thanksgiving Day Parade coverage.)
During her run with the show, Johnson took a break to perform her "greatest role," she said — as mother to one-year-old daughter, Linnea Elizabeth. Johnson's husband, Don Burroughs, is a busy actor currently playing Woody in Finian's Rainbow at Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. He recently appeared in Lincoln Center Theater's Dessa Rose.
Before joining Mamma Mia!, Johnson appeared on Broadway as Pam in The Full Monty as well as in the national tour, directed by Jack O'Brien. Other credits include Old Money (Lincoln Center), As Bees in Honey Drown and Hay Fever (Alley Theatre), Bedroom Farce (Old Globe), Floyd Collins (Skylight Opera), The Mikado (Utah Shakespearean Festival), As You Like It (Pioneer Theatre) and more. "I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to go on for Donna," Johnson told Playbill.com. "I love this company and I'm really thrilled to be a part of it. When I'm done, I'll be proud to re-join the talented ensemble members who work so passionately to make show come to life — both on stage and behind the scenes singing backup vocals live."
The current cast also boasts Sara Kramer (Sophie), Aaron Staton (Sky), Judy McLane (Tanya), Robin Baxter (Rosie), Peter Kelly Gaudreault (Sam), David Beach (Harry), Mark L. Montgomery (Bill), Joi Danielle Price (Ali), Keisha T. Fraser (Lisa), Ben Gettinger (Pepper), Albert Guerzon (Eddie), Bryan Scott Johnson (Father Alexandrios), Brent Black, Jen Burleigh-Bentz, Isaac Calpito, Christopher Carl, Lanene Charters, Joanna Chozen, Meghann Dreyfuss, Samantha Eggers, Shakiem Evans, Jon Erik-Goldberg, Megan Osterhaus, Sandy Rosenberg, Janet Rothermel, Ryan Sander, Patrick Sarb, Ryan-Michael Shaw, Britt Shubow and Leah Zepel.
Borrowing and reinventing ABBA's hit songs, the tale of family and friendship unfolds on a tiny Greek island. 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.
The score includes "Dancing Queen"; "The Winner Takes It All"; "Money, Money, Money" and "Take a Chance on Me."
There are currently 11 productions of the show playing in six languages around the world.
Produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East and Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal, the creative team includes Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus (music and lyrics), Catherine Johnson (writer) and Phyllida Lloyd (director). Choreography is by Anthony Van Laast.
Mamma Mia! plays at the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre (1654 Broadway) Wednesday-Saturday at 8 PM, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 2 and 7 PM.
For information, call (212) 563-5544 or visit www.mamma-mia.com.