BWW Interview: Steph Parry Talks MAMMA MIA! THE PARTY
Steph Parry's previous work includes 42nd Street, Mamma Mia!, Wicked and Billy Elliot. Her current project is the immersive theatrical dining experience Mamma Mia! The Party, which begins at The O2 on 29 August.
What was the first musical that really inspired you?
I went to see Joseph in the West End when I was about 10 and I remember being so inspired by Linzi Hateley, who played the Narrator. Before then, I hadn't ever seen a musical and I remember thinking "I want to do that!".
Where did you train?
I trained at Arts Ed from 2001 to 2004.
What was your first professional acting job?
My first job was playing Rosalind in a UK Open Air Tour of As You Like It. To have trained in musical theatre and suddenly be playing a lead in a Shakespeare play was such a learning experience for me - loved it.
There were 14 of us in the cast, and we travelled around the UK in convoy in two cars and a couple of vans. We put all the sets up and down ourselves and slept three or four to a room in Travelodges for three months. I look back on that job very fondly - I worked with some incredible actors, and we all just mucked in together and became great mates.
You've had experience covering several roles in big shows - and the most amazing understudy story, dashing over to save Mamma Mia!. What advice would you give to people who are understudying/covering, and what was the best part of your last-minute Mamma Mia! experience?
I think as long as you know your part then you're fine. That's the most important thing as a cover - learn the material and trust that your fellow actors will have your back. They're the ones who are on stage every night, so they can adapt and help you out if you become stuck.
Mamma Mia! was such an awesome experience, and definitely not where I expected to end my evening that day. The best part of it was getting to play Donna one more time. I just love that role, and that show. That was a really good example of the cast rallying around to help. They were AMAZING!
You're back in the ABBA world now for this new show - is it nice having experience with the music already?
Yes, I think it is. I love the music so much and it's such a treat to be singing some different songs this time round.
Did you listen to ABBA growing up?
Tell us a bit about the premise of Mamma Mia! The Party
It's set on the island of Skopelos (where the movie Mamma Mia! was filmed). I play Kate, who was part of the costume department and, while filming, fell in love with Nikos, who owns the Taverna where Mamma Mia! The Party is set. I don't want to give too much of the story away though...
Is there a strong link between the Mamma Mia! films/the original stage show and Mamma Mia! The Party?
Mamma Mia! The Party is an original script, so it's not based on the stage musical. Other than ABBA's music, our connection to the movie is that my character in the script worked on the original film.
It's interesting mixing theatre/restaurant/nightclub like this - how do the elements work together, and is that a new challenge for you as a performer? Or is it helpful having a 'real' Greek taverna setting?
It's so much fun. The guests will really feel like they're a part of the show. The great thing as a performer is that no night will be the same, as it will totally depend on the audience we have in each evening. Sandi Toksvig said something interesting the other day: "It's like we're missing one of our principal roles right now - the audience". They're going to play such an important part in our show every night. I can't wait!
Have you collaborated with Sandi on adapting the show for British audiences?
Sandi has written such a fun script, which I think British audiences will love. It's been so wonderful working with her. She's been so open to any ideas and inputs we have, which is really special.
Do you have opportunities to interact with the audience or improvise on the night?
Yes! There's a structure for everything, but if the guests don't respond in the way that we expect them to then we'll have to just go with it. Keeps things interesting!
Which ABBA songs might we hear in the show? And do you have a favourite number?
All the favourites I think. I don't think any ABBA fan would be disappointed. One of my favourite ABBA songs is "The Winner Takes It All", which our Julia Imbach sings, and it's such a heartbreaking moment in the show. My favourite number to sing is "When I Kissed the Teacher" - so fun!
What do you think it'll be like performing in The O2? It's a mammoth venue!
It's awesome. Not great for my wallet as there's so much to do there in our spare time! But when people see the epic taverna that's been created, they'll be blown away.
Will you be joining in the dancing at the end?
I've been known to partake in a little dancing...yes!
And finally, why do you think people should come along to the show?
Honestly, it's going to be an experience you won't forget for a long time. Everything from the food to the incredible venue, the performances, the music, the laughs - it's a night to remember for sure. Come and party with us!
Photo credit: Dewynters London