Opening this week at the John W. Engeman Theater is musical sensation “Mamma Mia!” featuring the music of ABBA. With the production in its final week of rehearsals we sat down with lead actress Michelle Dawson, who plays Donna Sheridan.
Born and raised in Vermont, Michelle dreamed of being an actress from a young age.
“I got bit by the bug early on and didn’t look back!,” she said.
At the age of 18, she was crowned Miss Vermont to compete in the Miss America pageant. Since then, she has appeared regionally and on Broadway, where she was in Cyrano – The Musical; Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark; Showboat and Mamma Mia! On Broadway, she understudied for Donna and Rosie before going on to play Tanya and Donna in the National Touring production.
“I toured for over two and a half years with Mamma Mia! It was an absolute highlight in my career. I had the fortune to play Tanya for a year and Donna for over a year and a half,” Dawson said. “One of my biggest highlights on tour was the 2009 Tony Awards. They did a segment on national touring companies, and I performed ‘Dancing Queen’ as Donna.”
Despite her familiarity with the show and her role as Donna, performing with a new cast and creative team has brought with it a new perspective and unique experience for Michelle.
“I came in knowing all the music and the script, and it’s the same type of role, but it’s a director’s whole new vision,” she said. “With a different director comes new insight, things I hadn’t thought about before.”
Dawson continued, “One of the reasons audiences love it so much is because we are real people. Donna’s a mother – she’s a single mother – and she has a lost love, and I think a lot of [people] can relate to that… She’s earthy and she works hard, you know, running the joint and doing it all on her own and not really taking a moment to think about herself and what she wants.”
Enhancing the characters and story of Mamma Mia! is, of course, the iconic music of ABBA. The musical features 22 of ABBA’s greatest hits, including “Dancing Queen,” “Super Trouper,” “Take a Chance on Me” and more.
Showings of Mamma Mia! at the John W. Engeman Theater are slated to run 8 p.m. on Thursdays; 8 p.m. on Fridays; 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays; and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Some Wednesday and Sunday evening show times are available.
Tickets are $76 on Saturday evenings, and $71 for all other performances. Tickets can be purchased by calling 631-261-2900, by logging on to EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main St., Northport.