Stories & Cast Interviews
Meet Jennifer Swiderski
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.
Meet Mariah MacFarlane
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.
Meet Elise Kinnon in MAMMA MIA!
Elise Kinnon plays Tanya in Mamma Mia and she is also the Associate Director/Choreographer of the show. We met up with her and here's what she had to say!
I grew up in Brisbane, Australia! One of four kids we were all musically inclined. We grew up on a beautiful piece of land with gum trees and even koalas and kangaroos.
My high school acting teaching, Narelle McCoy was instrumental in my career. Always encouraging and helping to nurture my growth as a young actor. Also the Conroy's! I won a scholarship to The Conroy Dance Centre after family friends encouraged my Mum to let me audition. We couldn't afford for me to do such a lavish extracurricular activity and that scholarship changed my life and my family's. We all ended up at the studio and my teachers (Rachelle, Nicole, Marcus, Marisa, and Jan) were all so supportive and challenged me to become my best. I think I was influenced to become an actor early on, watching a lot of old classics growing up (Singing in the Rain, Seven Brides etc.) and always adored the singing and dancing. I knew I wanted to end up on the stage and make my way to the Big Apple!
I performed in Mamma Mia last summer at Theatre Aspen. I actually fell in love with the show! It is such a feel good show and the audience leaves smiling. It also celebrates all of these strong relationships between women. I have an absolute blast onstage with Michelle Dawson and Jen Swiderski.
I do know the film, Mamma Mia! I think it's great that stage musicals are now being turned into films. Gets more Broadway to a wider audience.
Some of my favorite shows? Oh wow, where to even begin?! I have a huge soft spot for 42nd Street, I've done the show 3 times including touring with the production all across Asia. It's such a sweet story of small town gal making it big and you can't beat those massive tap numbers. I'm kind of a sucker in general for the golden oldies, I adore White Christmas and Singing in the Rain. I would love to play Sherrie in Rock of Ages, all that 80's Rock gives me life! Would also love to do The Rocky Horror Show and The Wild Party. It's fun to constantly get to change eras and styles!
When not on stage, I am an avid outdoors gal! Growing up in nature and then living in the concrete jungle it's tough sometimes to get into nature. Though I've been very fortunate with contracts often in Colorado so I get my hiking fix in. Last year I conquered my first 14,000 foot mountain called La Plata. My husband (Justin) and I are also big into snowboarding, camping, playing with our sweet dog Bundy and seeing live music and theatre.
Lately, I've been obsessed with listening to music by Marian Hill and Hozier. Though my usual go to's are Ella Fitzgerald, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Duke Ellington, Ray Lamontagne, Lior and Tower of Power.
About Mamma Mia
Mamma Mia! was written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, based on the songs of ABBA, composed by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, former members of the band. The title of the musical is taken from the group's 1975 chart-topper "Mamma Mia".
The musical was the idea of theatre producer Judy Craymer. After seeing the 1983 musical Chess, for which Andersson and Ulvaeus also wrote the music, and heard their song "The Winner Takes It All," she realized the theatrical potential of the group's pop songs. She had to find a way of unlocking that potential, with a story strong enough to carry them. “I knew from the outset that Mamma Mia! had to be much more than just an ABBA compilation or tribute show. The story had to be as infectious as the music and provide a strong feel-good factor.”
Craymer enlisted playwright Catherine Johnson to write the book. She found that many of the early ABBA songs were more innocent, naive and teenage-orientated, and later on, they became more mature and reflective. And, of course, it was women who sang them. So that suggested a story about two generations of women, namely a mother and a daughter. “I wanted to write about a working single mother who had got her life together and the relationship she had with her daughter who she absolutely adored but fought with.”
Her challenge was that “whatever happens in the story, I always have to come back to the song… We didn’t want to have those awful clunky moments where people burst into song. To me, it was very important that I create believable characters and gave them all a true storyline, and I absolutely worked to get the story and the songs to work together.” The story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs drove the ensuing enchanting tale of love, friendship, and identity set in a Greek island paradise.
Mamma Mia! premiered in London’s West End in 1999. After successful USA West Coast runs, it opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre in 2001, and then at the Broadhurst Theatre in 2013. After 5,773 performances, Mamma Mia! ended its record-breaking 14-year Broadway run in 2015, making it the eighth longest-running show in Broadway history.
As of 2017, the show continues in London's West End, where it is the eighth longest-running show in West End history. It has been performed in more than 40 countries and across five continents.
A film adaptation of Mamma Mia! was released in July 2008. Featuring much of the creative team from the original London production, it starred Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Pierce Brosnan.
Director/Choreographer Mark Martino, when asked why he thinks this show remains such a musical theatre favorite and why it elicits a cult response from its fans, said, "I think there are three reasons. The first is the ABBA music. Except for The Beatles, no one else has sold more records than ABBA. It is music we always love to revisit. I defy anyone not to know how "Dancing Queen" goes. Mothers pass it on to daughters and it comes around again and again so that it becomes family music. Actually, the entire musical writing is very clever; there are complex harmonies; they overdub themselves many times, and all the hooks are so singable and memorable. At the same time, there is an underlying current of Swedish melancholy that is moving. Then, secondly, the story that is built around the music is so sweet, so charming, so unabashedly sentimental, so romantic! It is about love and loss, and all those things which tug at our heartstrings. Lastly, it radiates pure joy. When it opened on Broadway in 2001 right after 9/11, many people thought it wouldn't work, given the tragedy that had just happened. Yet somehow, it proved to be the perfect time precisely because it is so joyful that the audience's enjoyment is directly proportionate to what is on stage. There aren't that many shows where the cast gets to have as much fun as the audience, and this is one of them. That comes irresistibly across the footlights. The plot is really very simple: 'Who's my Dad?' But is has a sweetness and humor; it's accessible and moving, and when it opened, it also helped that you couldn't get a ticket for such a long time.”
"I'd like them to feel when they leave," he says of the Mamma Mia! audiences, "that they have spent a couple hours with people they would like to know better. And, of course, "I would love to have the audience think that they should be dancing, too!"