Behind the Scenes - MAMMA MIA! Part 3 - with Suzie Mathers (Sophie)
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Hit musical Mamma Mia! has returned to Perth for the productions 10th anniversary and Perth audiences can now join the 40 million plus people all around the world who have watched the characters battle love on the Greek Islands, all the while tapping along to the story propelling magic of ABBA’s delicious brand of pop.
Suzie Mathers, from WA, plays bride-to-be, Sophie Sheridan.
Suzie graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts with a BA in Music Theatre in 2007. Whilst studying at WAAPA, she performed in various productions which included playing the role of “Edith Faulkner” in David King and Nick Enright’s The Good Fight at the 2007 New York Music Theatre Festival and the role of “Winnie” in Annie Get Your Gunf or Peach Productions.
Shortly after graduating Suzie made her professional music theatre debut in the original Australian cast of Wicked, which also had her performing at the 2009 Helpmann Awards, the 2008 Vision Australia Myer Music Bowl Carols by Candle light and singing at the Etihad Stadium and SCG. Suzie is now delighted to be performing the role of Sophie, the bride-to-be, in the 10th Anniversary Return Tour of MAMMA MIA!
Here Suzie talks to Flourish...
Q: This is the 10th anniversary of Australian production of Mamma Mia! and many of your co-stars are returning to their old roles. What’s it like playing Sophie for the first time amongst veterans?
Suzie: To start with I was a little nervous about that but working with members of the original and touring cast has been amazing! The knowledge and guidance they have given me, especially being a newcomer to the principal life, has been invaluable! Often Anne Wood or Robbert Grubb would offer up a suggestion that would help make an entire scene just click! I feel very priveleged to being playing Sophie alongside so many wonderful Australian actors!
Q: What’s it like performing for your home crowd of Perth? Is it something you look forward to or dread?
Suzie: This is the first time I’ve been in a show that has toured to Perth so I’m very excited to get onto the Burswood stage. I’ve been living and working on the east coast for the past few years and have had a ball but there is nothing like being at home. There is one night that I am a little nervous for. I have 130 family and friends coming to see the show on the one night. Should be a lot of fun but when that curtain goes up I can only imagine the butterflies I’ll have.
Q: Abba was notorious for their romantic turbulence, each member being married to another at one time. Is this reflected amongst the cast of Mamma Mia? Do you all get along?
Suzie: The cast of Mamma Mia! are like one big family. We spend so much time together and this is the third city on the tour so we know each other very well and get along like a house on fire. Our personal relationships are transferred into our stage relationships and I think it makes the show very honest.
Q: The musical is set in the Greek Islands, but it must not feel like a constant holiday! How do you capture that celebratory feeling for the audience when performing the same thing over and over?
Suzie: Doing 8 shows a week does get tough but when the curtain goes up something just takes over you and it doesn’t feel like you’re doing it for what might be the 150th time. Every audience brings something new to the show also, so that keeps it fresh and alive night after night.
Q: Obviously the songs of Abba play a large role in the script, which number do you think relates most to your character and why?
Suzie: All the numbers relate to my character because unlike some “juke-box musicals” the songs in Mamma Mia! further the story and the character. I think “I have a dream” is the song that shows Sophie’s journey throughout the show. Sophie begins the show hoping to find out who her Dad is so that she can find out who she is and sings the song to the universe. By the end she is sings the song again, reflecting on her journey and realizing that knowing who she is comes from within.
Q: What impact do you think the 2008 film version of Mamma Mia! has had on audiences? Do you feel a need to mimic the actors who played your filmic counterparts?
Suzie: I have watched the movie once but didn’t refer to it during the process of rehearsing Sophie. I think every role that every person plays has to come from within and will never be real if it is a copy of someone else’s work. What the movie has done though is bring a completely new audience to the show. Not only do we get the people who have grown up with ABBA but now we have children as young as 3 or 4 sitting on booster seats singing along and knowing all the words to the songs! It’s great to watch the many generations getting up at the end and dancing in the aisles.
Q: You are considered a triple threat (singer, dancer and actor) but Darren Yap, director of the show believes your voice is spectacular and a true instrument. Which is your favourite and why?
Suzie: Well I’ve trained in all three areas but I’ve done more singing than the others. When it comes to Music Theatre you can’t have one without the others so I’ve learned to love all three equally. However don’t expect me to be wearing ballet shoes doing a dance solo centre stage!
Q: At age 26 you have already had an enviable career with roles in The Good Fight, Annie Get Your Gun and Wicked. How important has your training at WAAPA been in the development of your career?
Suzie: Very important. To be honest I don’t think I would have done any of it without my WAAPA training. It really does set you up for the industry. They give you all the tools you need and it is a respected institution so the name alone gives you a head start.
Q: You studied Accounting at UWA and are apparently a math whiz, why musical theatre?!
Suzie: Math Whiz!! Ha!! I’m good at numbers but not a whiz. The accounting stuff was easy to do. Not really a challenge so it was the next step when I finished high school. During the time I was there though I discovered the amateur theatre circuit in Perth and I was hooked! Then there was no question about what direction I wanted to take my life in. I’m just lucky that so far it has worked out.
Mamma Mia! runs until 1st of August at Burswood Theatre – Ticketing through Ticketek.