Where: Royal Theatre
When: July 31 to Aug. 5
Tickets: $79, $89 (McPherson/Royal box offices 250 386-6121)
When her green catsuit split apart, Kaye Tuckerman turned crimson.
Tuckerman stars in Mamma Mia!, the touring ABBA musical touching down next week in Victoria. The native Australian has earned strong reviews in the U.S. and Canada as Donna, the mom who, in the 2008 film version, is played by Meryl Streep.
Phoning recently from Cleveland, Tuckerman said she'd suffered a wardrobe malfunction during the show's razzle-dazzle climax.
"During the finale last night, my green spandex catsuit split right across my butt," she said. "During Waterloo, I just felt this, crack! I was like, hmmm."
"Did you feel a cool breeze?" a reporter asked.
"There was a bit of a breeze and a bit of tearing sound, of spandex. There was a good fiveor six-inch tear. Audiences last night got something a little bit extra," Tuckerman said, laughing.
The show must go on - and that one did.
This New York production has proved popular in Victoria, selling 4,000 tickets on its first day of sales. Vancouver producer Henry Kolenko says he's anticipating a sellout here, although there are still tickets for the eight-show run. (Encouraged by Mamma Mia! sales, he plans to bring the STOMP dance troupe to Victoria in 2013.)
Mamma Mia! is a longrunning hit musical. It opened on London's West End in 1999, with a Broadway debut in 2001. Playwright Catherine Johnson created a fictional story around ABBA's pop hits. The group's kingpins, BjÃ¶rn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, took part in the creation of the project.
The concept of an ABBAbased musical was hatched by British producer Judy Craymer. Tuckerman has a dancer friend who was present when Craymer first talked publicly about her bold notion. At the time, her friend was performing in a production of Cats.
"All the dancers were like, 'Yeah, good luck to you. That sounds like crap,' " recalled Tuckerman, chuckling.
The musical has so far grossed more than $2 billion, making Craymer a rich woman. As of last year, Mamma Mia! has been performed in 16 languages, including Flemish and Chinese.
By the mid-1980s, interest in ABBA had waned. Tuckerman believes a key catalyst for the group's revival was the 1994 Aussie film Muriel's Wedding. A romantic comedy about a shy girl who's obsessed with ABBA, the flick was a surprise hit, yanking the Swedish supergroup back into the pop-culture vortex.
That was almost 20 years ago. So why does ABBA continue to be popular? Aside from the music's earworm catchiness, Tuckerman believes the songs - while deceptively simple - are well-composed: cleverly structured with complex vocal arrangements. As well, she suspects today's audiences find these breezy tunes a welcome escape from serious issues like world economic turmoil and global warming.
Winning the role of Donna was a coup for Tuckerman, who'd moved to New York City from Australia only six weeks before. Since August 2010, she's performed the show more than 600 times. Keeping it fresh isn't a problem, Tuckerman says, because audiences in each city are different.
She's enjoyed visiting locales all over the U.S. and Canada. However, the summer heat wave in the midwest has proved challenging. In one Kansas City theatre, temperatures were well over 37 C.
"I told myself, 'Focus, focus, focus.' Even getting the spandex on and off, your skin is wet. We'd have ice water off stage, towels dipped in ice water, fans just trying to circulate the air. Then you run on stage and it's like, 'Hellooo!' "
Terrible heat and faulty spandex aren't her only misadventures. In New Philadelphia, Ohio, a bat popped out while Tuckerman, as Donna, was performing a dramatic scene with the actress playing her daughter.
"This bat was just flying around, swooping behind her. I was going, 'Oh my God!' " A stagehand managed to trap the bat in a storeroom.
Tuckerman has no work lined up following the Mamma Mia! tour. She plans to return to New York to make the rounds of auditions. She hopes that having starred in a touring North American musical will stand her in good stead.
"Touch wood, I'll have the same good fortune when I get back in September," she said.
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