THERE was a time during rehearsals for new Australian production of Mamma Mia! the Musical when cast members Ian Stenlake, Phillip Lowe and Josef Ber felt they were in an entirely different show to the rest of the ensemble.
The trio play Sophie’s potential dads Sam Carmichael, Harry Bright and Bill Austin respectively and were working on their opening scene where each is returning to a Greek island after 20 years to reunite with old flame and Sophie’s mum, Donna.
“My favourite part of the show is our arrival scene,” Ber said.
“It’s a double-edged sword because at one stage in rehearsal we felt like we were in a play while everyone else was doing a musical. We were segregated for a while and that bonded us fairly early.”
Stenlake said it seemed a funny situation because they would be doing the scene in one rehearsal room and would hear the ensemble next door “singing their guts out”.
“We’d walk in there and they’d be absolutely wrecked and we’d be like ‘Hi everybody, what a lovely creative day’,” Lowe said.
However, the scene is crucial to the musical and Ber said although “the script is not Mamet” there was a lot to mine from it about the dad characters.
“They’re all there for a reason and not just because some old flame gave us an invite to a wedding, there’s another specific reason each of us has come back,” Lowe, who attended WAAPA, said.
“That’s been the joy of it for me, fleshing out that side of it.”
The performers said the production, which started its national tour in Canberra last year, was not just a success because audiences loved Mamma Mia! the Musical but also because they enjoyed this reimagining of it.
“It’s the same script but everything else is new, from the set to the costumes and choreography,” Ber said.
“That was appealing, knowing you could create this character again and you weren’t stuck to anything before.”
Stenlake, who was last in Perth for the 2016 season of Georgy Girl: The Seekers Musical with Lowe, said he had not seen the film version, so his only knowledge of the musical before being cast was attending opening night of the first Australian Mamma Mia! The Musical production in 2001.
“I remember watching it, being too old to play Sky but not old enough to be a dad,” Stenlake said.
“I thought ‘When I grow up, I want to play a dad’. And somehow I’m pulling it off now.”
What: Mamma Mia! The Musical
Where: Crown Theatre Perth
When: May 15 to July 1