After a 14-year run on Broadway, the hit show “Mamma Mia!” closed in 2015 as one of the longest running Broadway shows of all time.
Now, with the show’s current “farewell tour” wrapping up later this summer, the popular ABBA-inspired jukebox musical might soon be gone for good.
But for actress Lizzie Markson, the end of “Mamma Mia!” is only the beginning.
When the non-equity “Mamma Mia!” farewell tour stops at the Saenger Theatre (June 6-11) as part of the East Jefferson General Hospital Broadway in New Orleans series, Markson will be playing Sophie, a role she landed last spring just weeks after graduating from Elon University in North Carolina.
“It’s surreal,” said Markson, talking on the phone from her hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania, where she’s spending a few days off between shows. “It’s the most incredible thing that’s happened to me. This iconic show — on its farewell tour around the country — it’s amazing, and I try to appreciate it every single show.”
“Mamma Mia!” written by Catherine Johnson with music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, of the 1970s Swedish pop group ABBA, centers on bride-to-be Sophie, who’s on a quest to find out which of her mother’s three long-ago lovers is her dad. It’s a sweet, life-affirming romantic comedy with Sophie and her mother Donna (Betsy Padamonsky, in this touring production)—not to mention the nostalgic tunes — anchoring the action.
Markson wasn’t yet born during the height of ABBA’s heyday, and she was barely in grade school when “Mamma Mia!” first premiered on Broadway. Nonetheless, Markson professed a “warm fuzzy connection” to the music of ABBA, thanks to an early-aughts bubblegum pop outfit called A*Teens.
“It was just all ABBA songs, but by this kid group. I thought they were the original,” Markson admitted. “I feel embarrassed to say that now, knowing that they’re absolutely not, but it wasn't until I was auditioning for the show that I discovered ABBA and that they are the brains and the heart behind the music, not A*Teens.”
“Actually, because I’m home on break, I just found this old CD that my friend burned for me with all the A*Teens music and my friend’s handwriting on it, so that’s fun,” she added. “I remember dancing around to it in my bedroom and bathroom and stuff.”
It didn’t take Markson long to realize how many other people around the country share her connection to the music.
She singles out the heartfelt ballad “The Name of the Game” and the fun-bopping “Honey Honey” as favorite numbers (“I love having fun with it and being weird,” she said of the latter), but the show’s big audience sing-along finale — which includes “Dancing Queen” and “Waterloo” — remains a highlight night after night.
“I love the finale because everyone is having the time of their lives, onstage and in the audience, and I love really feeling like we’re sharing the experience with them,” Markson said. “They’re giving it back to us, and I really dig that.”
When the tour ends in July, Markson will have spent nearly a year on the road (“Living everywhere and nowhere,” she likes to say) and will be ready to regroup and figure out what’s next.
“Since now it’s becoming real that it will end, I’ve been auditioning for things that I can, when I can,” she said. “If I don’t get something, then I will move to New York and keep on keepin’ on.”
“There’s definitely that knowledge that this isn’t a secure career, but I feel like if I love it enough, and if I work, it’s going to be okay.”
WHEN: June 6-11
WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 1111 Canal St.
TICKETS: Start at $30
INFO: (504) 287-0351 or www.BroadwayInNewOrleans.com