BWW Interview: Jessica Fredrickson of MAMMA MIA! at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
There's been no shortage of chances to see the hit jukebox musical, MAMMA MIA! in the area of late. Luckily, fans cannot get enough of the 1970s hits and endearing love story that takes place on a dreamy Greek island. Whether you didn't get to it yet somehow or have never seen MAMMA MIA! (and, just who are you?!), you're in luck as the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres has extended the hit run through Feb. 22, 2020 on its main stage.
Lead Jessica Fredrickson plays daughter and bride-to-be Sophie in the production opposite many long-time Chan actors, including her husband, Aleks Knezevich. She took time out from a busy show week of this highly infectious show to fill us in on some things we've been wondering about playing in a long-running show and specifically about Fredrickson herself, including how she get her first big break and a little scoop for next season!
Now that you've been playing Sophie Sheridan for several months, are you exhausted yet? You are on stage a lot and a part of a lot of the numbers!
Not really, thankfully! During this particular run, I have made sure to give myself time during the days to really rest (not working a second job) and make sure I do the things that help me gear up for the shows so that I don't get exhausted. Of course we have weeks with extra rehearsals to put someone new into the show and during those days I am extra careful to not vocally push and exhaust myself, especially leading into a two-show day! Otherwise, this show gives me energy, I love having a track that keeps me moving!
What number do you look forward to doing still, and why?
I always enjoy performing "Under Attack." It's a bit creepy and abstract and just so different than the rest of the show. It's a fun start to Act II.
What number are you not as excited about after months, knowing months more are ahead of you?
You know, I used to "dread" certain parts of shows if they give me some sort of vocal trouble. I now try to take a better mindset with these sections of the show because if you dread something, you just set yourself up for failure. I really try to look at each of my show-related challenges as a way to try again, get stronger and better and to rise to the occasion. And honestly, it's working, slowly but surely!
Do you feel like your relationship with Kerstin Rodau (as your character's mom, Donna) has grown or changed?
Keri has been my dear friend for a long time now, which made playing mother and daughter so special, right from the get-go. But I think this process has only deepened my love and admiration for her. She's a rock star and I love watching her work and I love our mother/daughter/friend dynamic. I'm so lucky she's my "Mamma."
You work with your husband, Aleks, who plays Sky, as well. What's it like for the two of you to play love interests on stage night after night? Do you two feel like this show is maybe easier to play because you're really in love?
We've had the privilege of working together quite a bit over the years and directly opposite each other a handful of times. Lucky for us, it's absolutely great. It definitely makes the onstage chemistry easier because you don't have to think about it being at all awkward or strange to kiss each other or be comfortable touching each other in that familiar way. I think it's also been really good for us in our own personal lives to work with each other because even if we've had some stupid fight about something at home we know that at the end of the day we have to come together and work together as a team for the good of the show. I think the show helps us move past some of our trivial things and put into focus what really matters. Not that our show matters more than our personal relationship but it helps us cut to the chase and get to the fact that we are a team on stage and off.
You have an extensive resume and have done a lot of roles here at the Chanhassen (CDT) and in the Twin Cities. How did you get your start in acting and when did you know you wanted to make a career of it?
Oh gosh, well, I suppose I started way back in middle school doing church plays and dramas, then some school productions, of course. But my first professional (paid) gig was a kid's stage production, which we then made into a video. At that time I met my dear friend Cat Brindisi who was also in this gig with me. We became fast little buddies and her dad, Mr. Michael Brindisi, came to see the show and afterwards asked me if I wanted to audition for STATE FAIR at CDT. They were looking for a replacement and I fit the right age/type so I died of excitement and wanted to audition. I ended up auditioning and getting the part and was so thrilled to be working at the theatre that I had always loved attending with my family. The three months that I performed in that show were so special to me, I knew that I wanted to be back there again someday! I didn't end up working at CDT until I was in "Bye Bye Birdie," many years later, but I felt like I was coming home. It's been a good home every year and show since!
That was a lucky break!
Did you/do you have any thoughts about going on to New York or other places from here?
I spent a little time in NYC about 8 years ago, but I don't think I gave it enough time to fully say that I gave it a real shot. It was amazing and lonely all at the same time so I can't say that I have a real drive to go back. But I guess, never say never? I'm so happy to be here working at a theatre that I love, with my husband, near my family, and in a space that feels like home. I'm happy, so why change that, right?
That sounds reasonable to me! This certainly is a great area to live and work in theatre.
Now that you have job security in this role until February, what do you want to do or are you planning to do after MAMMA MIA?
It's so great to have such a long stretch of job security, we are so, so lucky! During this run, Aleks and I are taking a two-week vacation (something we have never done while working before!) to Italy and we are so excited! The theatre was kind enough to let us go for a bit, and we are so grateful for a little time off to relax and reconnect offstage. We will be so excited to get back to the Greek island when vacation is over! We're also excited because after MAMMA MIA closes, we have both been cast in the next CDT's Main Stage show THE MUSIC MAN.
Thanks for the scoop!
More information and tickets: Visit www.chanhassendt.com/
Photos: Courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres: Jessica Fredrickson as Sophie and Aleks Knezevich as Sky.