Comedic actress/Broadway belter Felicia Finley, who memorably played the wind-blown Linda in the 2006 musical adaptation of The Wedding Singer, is back on The Great White Way, literally kicking up her heels in the long-running international hit Mamma Mia! Finley, in fact, is one of several new principal players — including Lauren Cohn as Rosie, Aaron Lazar as Sam Carmichael, Daniel Cooney as Bill Austin, Graham Rowat as Harry Bright, Christy Altomare as Sophie and Zak Resnick as Sky — who recently joined the production at the Winter Garden Theatre. The actress, whose Broadway resume also includes Smokey Joe's Cafe, The Life and Aida, plays Tanya opposite the Donna of Judy McLane, a long-time Tanya, who had hoped Finley would step into her shoes. Last week, I had the chance to chat with Louisiana native Finley, who spoke about her latest Broadway outing, her many other theatrical adventures, her admiration for the late Gwen Verdon and more; that interview follows.
Question: How did the role in Mamma Mia! come about for you?
Felicia Finley: I don't know! It came out of thin air. It happened very quick. I had worked with Judy McLane about a year ago now, and she and I had done a reading together. And, she was thinking about leaving [Mamma Mia!], and one day she comes into rehearsals, and she said, "You have to do the role I'm doing. I'm leaving, and you have to do it!" [Laughs.] And, I had never seen this show. I was like, "Okay." And, I said, "Well, I love you for that, but I don't know anything about the show." Life went on, and let's see… Zak Resnick—who is in the show also—we were in this show called Disaster! with Seth Rudetsky, this sketch comedy show. And, we were doing one night a week… Every bad disaster '70s movie all put in one musical. It was hilarious. It was something I was doing because I had free time, and…one night Eric Woodall from Tara Rubin [casting agency] and a bunch of other people came to see the show, and then Monday morning I got [a call saying], "You have to come in very quickly to Mamma Mia! to audition."
Finley: Oh, yeah! I mean, I was born in the 70s… I remember jumping up on the couches and singing "Mamma Mia!" with my brother in our playroom when we were kids. We used to actually listen to the radio back then, and I remember ABBA coming on the radio and just screaming—just getting so excited that we could sing "Dancing Queen." I remember ABBA being huge. And then I saw the show before I auditioned, and I just loved it. [Laughs.] I hate to say it, but I didn't know if I would. And, I walked out mad at myself because I had not [seen it earlier]. I didn't know what I was going to see… It's my fault… It's hard for me to sit through any show for crying out loud…that's why they have Actors Fund [performances]. [Laughs.] For people like me, so we can all just be dumb gypsies together. Don't put gypsies in a regular audience, you know. I walked out of there just so thrilled about the storyline and how they threaded everything together. It's a good story. And, I had never seen the movie either… It really was surprising how much I went away with this perma-grin! [Laughs.] I looked like I had just [done] one of those commercials where my mouth was stuck smiling. It was very surprising.
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