We Caught Up with Natalie O'Donnell, Star of the New Mamma Mia! Show
ABBA fans rejoice! The hit musical Mamma Mia! is here to take over Australia once again, with a stellar cast of new and old favourites.
Here's the thing about ABBA: they make insanely fun music. An obvious statement, I know, but it needs to be said; for all the people that may bash them, absolutely no-one can resist singing along when 'Dancing Queen' starts playing. There is a reason they re on of the most ubiquitous acts of all time- because no-one made pop music quite as gratifying as they could.
Mamma Mia! captures all the feel-good fun of their music, and all the often-underestimated emotion too (they have some tracks that really tug on your heartstrings). We were lucky enough to talk to one of the main stars of the show, Natalie O'Donnell (in the lead role of Donna), to pick her thoughts on what promises to be a fantastic production. She told us all about the stellar cast and challenges of putting together such a massive show, and you can read all about it here!
IN: What is your personal connection to the music of ABBA? What’s your favourite song of theirs?
NO: ABBA was a prominent soundtrack to my childhood. There was a time when we just had the Abba Gold compilation on repeat and I clearly remember dancing around the lounge room to it with my sister.
My favourite song in the show is 'Slipping Through My Fingers' and my absolute favourite song of theirs is ‘When All is Said and Done’.
IN: What do you think it is about ABBA songs that make them so timeless?
NO: I think the fact their music is just so honest and that they are really wonderful musicians and artists. Ultimately, really good music is survives fashions and decades. Also so many of their songs are based on their own experiences and that resonates with people no matter what generation.
IN: What challenges have you faced trying to vocally perform some of these pieces?
NO: A lot of their songs have big octave jumps and they all generally require a lot of stamina. I’m very careful about also balancing the singing with the spoken word of the show. A lot of the time it’s the speaking that actually fatigues you, so I put in a lot of focus early to try and ensure I wasn’t putting even extra pressure on what is already a big vocal load. There’s a big range that travels from pop belt to a gentle delicate sound so it requires a lot of flexibility. But I’ve loved the challenge of it all.
IN: What was it like acting under Gary Young’s direction, and how has it been performing with the rest of this stellar cast?
NO: Oh Gary is just amazing. He created such a playful and safe environment in which we could discover the show. He made me feel really empowered to really play which is the biggest gift the director can allow you. And he understands the heart of this show so beautifully.
Of course it’s about the music and humour but ultimately if the story doesn’t have emotional heart we are robbing the audience from the full experience and Gaz really instilled that in us all. And our cast are just superb. Not only talented but excellent humans and it’s a real privilege and joy to share the stage with them.
IN: You previously performed in this play back in 2001. Besides the change of role, what has been different about performing this play this time around?
NO: I see the story in a completely different way through Donnas eyes. Little things I never noticed first time round. And hindsight is a really wonderful thing with this experience. I adored it last time and feel lucky approaching it knowing what a gem it is and the real effect it has on people. And also now the film has brought a whole new audience to it. We often have four generations of family coming to see us which I think is so brilliant.
IN: What else sets this production apart from other plays you’ve performed in (such as Les Mis)?
NO: I’ve never experienced a show that makes people so utterly joyful. And I really respect that we are bringing to the stage a story and themes that are relatable to so many people. Mamma Mia really does allow people to reminisce and reflect of their own experiences and friendships and that’s really a very special thing.
IN: Have there been any funny stories to come out of rehearsals?
NO: Too many! I think my fellow Dynamos Alicia Gardiner and Jayde Westaby spent as much time crying with laughter as we did actually rehearsing! They make me laugh A LOT!
IN: What should audiences expect from this production?
NO: A really heartwarming celebration of family, friendship and life all tied up with a soundtrack that defies anyone not to get up and DANCE!
IN: Finally, when this is over do you think you can ever listen to ABBA the same way again?
NO: ABSOLUTELY! I honestly never tire of hearing it and how lucky am I that it’s now a soundtrack to such wonderful memories I’ll take away from this experience.