Who is Donna without her Dynamos? The actresses who play Tanya and Rosie speak about their characters, Abba and delicious, Malaysian food.
It was a hot Wednesday afternoon in Hong Kong. The street outside was empty, save for the occasional bus or tram passing through or a gaggle of tourists strolling the thoroughfare.
You could almost lull yourself into a deep slumber.
And it was in such a setting that I walked into the Harbour Plaza North Point’s lobby for an interview with two stage divas.
Actresses Sue Devaney and Geraldine Fitzgerald (not to be confused with the Geraldine Fitzgerald) had just concluded two rounds of interviews with a Malaysian TV and radio station.
As I approached them, I could sense a hint of lethargy. Anticipating a difficult interview, I cracked a large smile and greeted the two British ladies.
What greeted me were smiles brighter than the rays of the sun streaming in. And immediately, all reservations vanished and I knew I was in the presence of larger-than-life personas.
Devaney and Fitzgerald, English television and stage thespians, play Rosie and Tanya respectively in the international tour edition of Mamma Mia! The Musical, which was playing in Hong Kong last month. In the 2008 film adaptation of Mamma Mia!, Julie Walters played Rosie and Christine Baranski played Tanya.
Speaking to them and basking in their radiant aura, I knew why Devaney and Fitzgerald are the right ladies for the role ... they embodied their stageside characters even in real life.
Throughout this interview, there was always more than a hint of jest with the two.
“I’m meant to be the tall and glamorous one, although you wouldn't think it, looking at me now!” quipped Fitzgerald.
Almost immediately, Devaney asserted, “And I’m the short, unglamorous one!”
A solitary moment of silence and then... some hearty and boisterous laughter filled the room.
Mamma Mia!, based on the songs of Swedish pop group Abba, is set to get the Malaysian crowd up on its feet when it opens at the Plenary Hall in Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on Dec 18.
Set in a beautiful Greek island, the musical follows the story of bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan who invites three men, one of whom could be her father, to the wedding. This fact is unknown to Donna, her mother.
All hell breaks lose when Donna stumbles upon her past lovers a day before Sophie’s wedding and it is Tanya and Rosie’s job to keep Donna from an emotional meltdown.
What makes the friendship of Donna (played by Sara Poyzer), Tanya and Rosie work is their disparate personalities. All three are members of the group Donna and the Dynamos,
“We have different personalities but the three of us gel together nicely and that works for the Dynamos,” said Fitzgerald.
“Three different types of people which you often get and who are good friends ... I think it’s quite true to life,” she adds,
Fitzgerald played the same role when the musical last played in Kuala Lumpur in late 2008. Audiences would remember Tanya for the cheeky and flirtatious song Does Your Mother Know ((from Abba’s sixth album Voulez-Vous in 1979) in which she quells a young man’s advances.
Devaney, known for her roles in British soap opera Coronation Street and sitcom Dinnerladies, said the charm and appeal of Mamma Mia! lies incontrovertibly in the classic Abba songs.
“Everybody knows the Abba songs and I think that makes it a feelgood musical. I personally like the song Mamma Mia, especially when the ensemble performs it at the end. It’s just fabulous,” the Rochdale-born comedy actress pointed out.
There is an added edge to the musical. Unlike many musicals and theatre plays out there, the women are in the lead roles. Mamma Mia! is essentially a story about women.
“It is very much a woman’s show and it’s a great thing. It’s about friendships, which is very strong, it is about mothers and daughters and love and young love and love later in life,” added Fitzgerald.
As we eagerly await for the beloved musical Mamma Mia! to hit our shores, the two ladies are equally enthusiastic about the Kuala Lumpur dates.
“Delicious food. There is very good food in Malaysia,” confessed a grinning Fitzgerald.
To stand a chance to win free tickets to the musical, enter our online contest at http://contests.thestar.com.my/mammamia/. Seventy-five pairs of tickets are up for grabs. The online contest will end on Oct 31.
Mamma Mia! The Musical will be staged at the Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, from Dec 18-21. It is organised by Yvents! and presented by Maybank with Star Publications (M) Bhd as the media partner. Tickets, priced at RM190, RM290, RM390, RM490 and RM590 (excluding a RM3 ticketing fee), are available from TicketsPeople. For details, call 03-2287 2727 or visit ticketspeople.com.