BWW Interview: Sara Poyzer, New West End Donna, Talks MAMMA MIA!
Sara Poyzer, whose previous work includes Billy Elliot, has been starring as Donna Sheridan on the Mamma Mia! tour and now takes the role in the West End production at the Novello Theatre.
What was the first musical you saw?
I think it was Guys and Dolls at the National years ago. I don't remember much, other than that it was brilliant and it was then I decided I wanted to have a go at my local amateur dramatics society.
When did you realise you wanted to pursue an acting career?
Not until my early twenties. I'd loved the theatre from an early age, but couldn't imagine a career as an actor. It just wasn't something I thought was possible
Where did you train?
I spent three years on the acting course at the Guildford School of Acting
What was your first professional job?
My first job was in the TV series Playing the Field by Kay Mellor. It was a swift learning curve, but one that really enjoyed. I worked with some fantastic actors and learned so much over the 12 weeks of filming.
Were you an ABBA fan before coming into Mamma Mia?
When I was around seven years old, my dad bought ABBA's greatest hits to cheer me up as I was ill with chicken pox and I became a real fan. I've got a couple of old vinyl albums framed on my wall at home. I owe much to ABBA!
Had you seen the show or film?
I've seen both the film and the show, as my sister was in it for many years. It's good to rewatch the show now and then to be reminded of the audience experience. I think it's a wonderful show and I'm proud to be part of it.
Tell us about Donna and how you approached the character
I've always said that if Donna was a real person, I'd want to be her friend. I think she's flawed, but then we all are and it's what makes her appealing to me. She's vulnerable but tough.
Like many people, she gives herself a hard time, but she's a strong, independent woman and a loyal friend. I approached the character like I do any - it's all about the script and the clues to the character can be found there. I love playing her.
Can you relate to her - the search for love, the strong female friendships?
I'm a huge fan of women - I love their company, their friendship and the support they can give each other - so the Dynamos are something I can really relate to: strong, honest, straight-talking, loving friendships that are also great fun. We have such a laugh at work and I hope that shows in the performances.
What's it been like playing opposite your real-life husband?
Fantastic! I had the most fantastic time working with Richard [Standing] - he is my best friend and offers huge support to me both on and off the stage. I hope the fact that we're really married added an extra frisson to our performances!
How challenging is the score?
The score is a wonderful combination of over 20 of the songs of ABBA. Frida and Agnetha make the songs seem so easy to sing, but they have terrific voices and it is a challenge to combine the storytelling elements of the numbers along with the technical elements required by the music department. But I like a challenge!
What's your favourite number to perform?
"The Winner Takes It All" is a superb song - not just the melody but the lyrics are beautiful and the storytelling a wonderful opportunity for an actor to get stuck into.
Is it fun rocking out the ABBA costumes at the end?
I love it! It's fun to behave like a pop star for five minutes every night.
What's it been like touring the show internationally? Do you have different responses in different countries?
Touring the show to over 18 countries was the most exciting three years. Every city had so much to offer and yes, each country had a very different audience too. That kept us on our toes as different audiences had a different senses of humour, cheered in different places and generally responded in very different ways.
For me, the UK audiences were the best - there is something quintessentially British about Mamma Mia! and jokes like "You wait 20 years for a Dad and then three come along at once" really work here in the UK!
What are you looking forward to about performing it in the West End?
I love working in the West End - it's an exciting place to be and it'll be great going home every night after working away for so long. I'm thrilled to be back where the show originally began and can't wait to get started.
Why do you think the show has such enduring appeal?
Firstly, the brilliant songs of ABBA make this show the resounding success that it continues to be. But the show deals with universal themes that so many people can relate to: love, friendship, family, parenthood. It appeals to people of all ages, and as children grow up I see families returning with the next generation to enjoy the show time and time again. And men love it too - I think sometimes they're reluctant to come along, but it really is a show for everyone.
Mamma Mia! currently booking at the Novello Theatre until 3 March, 2018. Book tickets here from £32