Stories & Cast Interviews

Friday, May 12, 2017

Meet Michelle Dawson

Posted by: Matthew Orlander on Friday, May 12, 2017 at 11:00:00 am Comments (0)

   Michelle Dawson plays Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia!

    

                             Michelle                   w/Jennifer Swiderski as Rosie & Elise Kinnon as Tanya

I grew up in a little town called Charlotte in Vermont (farm country). I showed horses around the east coast until I went to college. I have wonderful memories of that time in my life.  

I started doing plays and musicals in middle school and also with community theatre. I was hooked immediately into the world of musical theatre. I later went on to receive a BFA from Carnegie Mellon and would eventually make my way to NYC. 

I've had the fortune of being part of Mamma Mia in a number of instances, first starting in 2008. I toured on the Broadway National Tour as Tanya for a year, then continued on the road for another year and a half as Donna. In 2009, I represented the national tour performing Dancing Queen on the Tony Awards. I joined the Broadway Company in 2011, where I understudied the role of Donna and Rosie. Last summer, I was Donna at the Engeman Theater’s production of Mamma Mia, and here I am in 2017, lucky enough to be doing it again at the WBT!

I love working at the WBT and I believe this marks my 17th show. I started working here back in 1995 as Julie Jordon in Carousel. I am forever grateful for how much the WBT family has given me over the years.

My dream role is Donna in Mamma Mia as it has always been the “IT role” for me. Looking down the road, I think it would be fun to create a new role in a new musical.

When I'm not on stage, my 12-year-old son, my husband, house, and 2 dogs keep me busy! I've also started teaching voice privately and I absolutely love it!

Also, I like to listen to all types of music from musicals to today's top hits! 

Meet Nathan Cockroft

Posted by: Elizabeth Jankovic on Friday, May 12, 2017 at 10:45:00 am Comments (0)

Nathan Cockroft plays Sky (Sophie's boyfriend) in Mamma Mia!  

Sky and Sophie (Mariah MacFarlane)

Hey, I grew up in Greeley, CO in the foothills of the Rockies. My family owns a dairy farm, so I spent my time evenly between the farm and town as a child. I have a twin sister; growing up we were very musical, and we often passed our time singing and dancing. Naturally, growing up in Colorado, I spent a lot of time hiking and camping in the mountains and fostering a love of the outdoors. Nothing makes me happier than the aspens changing color in the fall!

As far as my career, I became an actor kind of by chance. I had a lot of varying interests growing up, and I stumbled upon theater in middle school, and started actively pursuing it in high school. I actually didn't start voice or dance training until I started college at Oklahoma City University. From there, I've kept fairly busy working regionally and on board Disney Cruise Lines in their stage productions! 

I first heard of Mamma Mia! during college, and was aware of the Broadway and touring productions when I moved to the city; however, I had never seen a production until I started here at WBT.

I have seen the movie, and I enjoyed its fun energy. I know that this show has inspired a sort of cult following with the popular ABBA score, and I'm excited whenever any show gets a film expansion to the franchise. I think it's so exciting when this art form can reach the masses in every way possible.

Some of my favorite shows are by Stephen Sondheim; I am a huge fan of his prolific shows, and would have to say that many hold dream roles of mine. It's never easy to hone in on just one dream role in the large spectrum of theater. My real dream is to help create a role from its inception and originate that role. There's a real freedom and sense of ownership in breathing life into an idea and giving it a physical form!

When I'm offstage, I'm a complete outdoors person; I love running, hiking, biking, being outside. My personal favorite is sitting under a tree with an iced coffee and a great book I can get lost in!

Some music I have currently been listening to is a blend of Marc Broussard, Ed Sheeran, and Christopher!

 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Meet Jennifer Swiderski

Posted by: Aidan Healy on Monday, April 24, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

 Jennifer plays Rosie in Mamma Mia!

        

                        Jennifer                                     With Brent Bateman as Bill Austin

I grew up in the Washington DC area doing theater at a young age. I started dancing at 3 and that transitioned into being in my first professional stage production of Annie when I was 8 years old. I still remember my lines and some of the choreography.

I've always been drawn to storytelling. I started as a very young dancer which transitioned into professional stage productions by the time I was 8. I was hooked and lucky that the area where I grew up had many theaters and my parents were willing to drive me alllllllllll over the tri-state area. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

So I first heard of MAMMA MIA when I moved to New York City after college and that huge famous marquee was above the Winter Garden. In 2010, I was invited to audition for the national tour of Mamma Mia and finally decided to see the show. I really didn't realize how much of the ABBA canon I actually knew! It was as like a rock concert and unlike anything I'd seen before. So joyful and fun. The audience was on its feet and electric. I couldn't wait to take this show all over the country.

After touring for 2 years, I was asked to join the Broadway company and of course, accepted, delighted to be performing alongside some of the actors I had seen at the Winter Garden just a couple of years prior. I continued with the show when it moved to The Broadhurst and remained with the Broadway Cast, performing in the show's historic closing in September of 2015. That was an incredible night I'll remember for the rest of my life.

And the show has remained with me!

A few month after it closed, I directed MAMMA MIA (along with DRIVING MISS DAISY in repertory) at the historic Weathervane Theater in NH. A few weeks later, I played Tanya in MAMMA MIA at Main State Music Theater directed by our own Mark Martino. To now step into Rosie is such a treat. I've grown to love all three of these women. They're real, they're loyal, and their independent. Roles like this, for women, aren't that common in musicals.

This is my first time at WBT and I love the people! The cast is fun and talented, and the crew is THE BEST: Kind, really excellent at their craft, and thoughtful. We're very lucky.

The movie, heck yeah I saw the movie MAMMA MIA. To be honest, it's not my favorite. I think this particular story, with its sense of FUN and silliness, lends itself to being told on stage more than the screen. The screen is so literal. There are some beautiful shots in the film and Meryl Streep can do no wrong. I just think we're more inclined to go along for this ride in a more intimate environment where the audience and the actors can have a relationship.

Some of my dream roles have been Lina Lamont in Singing in the Rain, Rona in Spelling Bee, and all 3 of the dynamos in Mamma Mia! It doesn't get more fun than that! I also just premiered as Rosemary Clooney in a new musical called Tenderly, the Rosemary Clooney musical. It's an incredible story. You guys should do it here! Your audiences would LOVE IT. Such great music...

In addition to performing, I love teaching acting and directing. Helping people be the best version of themselves and sharing stories with audiences is such a passion of mine.

Also, I just got married in September. (I met my husband on the national tour of Mamma Mia!) We are head over heels for our feisty 7-pound puppy named Betty White. She's a little dog with a big personality and we love taking her out and about in NYC .

Some music my husband and I listen to is a playlist for our wedding reception and it's my favorite thing. A little bit of everything- from Louis Armstrong to Prince, with some Beatles and James Brown for good measure.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Meet Mariah MacFarlane

Posted by: Pia Haas on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at 12:00:00 am Comments (0)

Mariah plays Sophie Sheridan in Mamma Mia!

  

     Mariah                                                       With Michelle Dawson (as Donna)

I grew up in Duxbury, MA about 45 minutes south of Boston. My father was the theatre teacher at the high school so I actually literally grew up in the theatre with my afternoons being spent with my dad painting sets or sitting in at rehearsals. I have played piano since I was 5 years old and I learned to sing by singing along with the songs I was learning on the piano. I also played the oboe and was going to pursue classical performance in college. My first musical wasn't until I was at Emerson College where I got my BFA in Musical Theatre.

Obviously, my dad was a big factor in this dream. No matter what I wanted to do he supported me but when I decided to go into theatre he definitely helped me in whatever way he could. My vocal teacher in College Sabrina Learman will always be one of my biggest mentors. I had no vocal training when I got to college and a few of my teachers had doubts about my vocal abilities. She never once doubted me and is pretty solely responsible for the voice I have today.

I have seen many of my friends in productions of this show before and I always thought it is such a fun show to watch but it would be even more fun to be in. I had been seen for this role probably 20 different times before I finally got the job here so I am incredibly happy to finally have the opportunity to perform it. The music is so vibrant and the story is so truthfully simple it is such a joy to see the audience light up every night. 

 I actually really enjoyed the movie version of Mamma Mia, except for the singing of Pierce Brosnan, which brings me to what I think of movie musicals. I think there are some really wonderful examples of them such as Rent and Chicago where they are able to enhance the stage version. However, when they cast people who cannot even remotely sing and must be auto-tuned to death all the integrity of the songs and character are completely lost.

Some Of My Favorite shows are; Sunday in the Park With George, The Last Five Years, The Last Ship, South Pacific. Dream roles; Clara- Light in the Piazza, Dot - Sunday in the Park, Nellie - South Pacific.

 I am a professional dog walker so I am usually walking up to 20 dogs a week when I am not in the show. I am also a singer/songwriter who plays gigs at the Bitter End and Rockwood occasionally. Other than that, I love to run and bike and catch up on some Hulu with my boyfriend, Trent, when he isn't in his show. Coordinating two actors' schedules can prove difficult!

I am a folk/rock/country lover. In particular Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek, Crosby Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell. I also have a love for contemporary pop music and whenever I run I have a whole playlist of it.