Friday, 30 January 2009 18:00

Mandalay Bay’s Mama Mia! with Carol Linnea Johnson

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mamma mia las vegasBetter casting could not have been made than when Carol Linnea Johnson was chosen for the leading role, “Donna Sheridan” in Manday Bay's production of Mamma Mia! Recruited from the original Broadway production, Carol IS “Donna Sheridan”. Carol’s beautiful voice combined with her dreamy looks, and her ability to project fun-heartedness, make the role of “Donna” truly likeable and memorable. Very apparent is the fun Carol has while performing onstage, especially when interacting with co-stars and real life gal pals Vicki Van Tassel and Robin Baxter, who, by the way, were also terrific.   

Other than playing the spandex-clad “Donna Sheridan”, Carol has also performed on Broadway as “Pam” in The Full Monty as well as many Off Broadway productions. Carol has been seen on TV’s Law and Order, Another World and All My Children but admits, “Nothing beats live theatre.”     

   

 Buzz – I thought Mama Mia! was the best. I was blown away. How exciting is it for you to perform in Mama Mia!?  

Carol – You know, Mama Mia! is really unique. That’s the only way I can describe it. I’ve been doing it for a really long time because I started out as the understudy in the Broadway production. Then they asked me to come out here and take over the role. I mean, I was beyond thrilled. “Donna” is like one of the best female characters to play in musical theatre – and she’s modern. There are lots of great women’s roles but the music is so fun to sing and I think the way at the end – you get the, kind of, bonus – the bonus concert at the end…(laughs).

Buzz – Now, were you an ABBA fan before you were in Mama Mia!?

Carol – Probably like most people were in terms of I like “Dancing Queen”, I like “Waterloo”. I liked the ones that you kind of knew. But I also liked – I’ve always really liked movies that have ABBA in them. I really love Muriel’s Wedding. There’s something about ABBA because the costumes are so hilarious, the music’s so fun and it’s so easy to get into. And it’s a little bit kitschy, just kitschy enough to make it fun.

Buzz – And their lyrics are so simple, because I don’t think they spoke English.

Carol – Oh my gosh! And the girls who sang it spoke like NO English. They did it all phonetically. If you listen to it very carefully you could tell – they didn’t have a clue. Benny and Bjorn both spoke fluent English, but, you know…they’re Swedish.

Buzz – Now the one thing that really appealed to me was the chemistry between you, Vicki [Van Tassel], and Robin [Baxter]. You guys were just perfect together. It’s just perfect casting.

Carol – Oh, it is. You know, it’s funny because I had worked with Robin on Broadway because I had taken over the role of “Donna” for a couple months. I was so lucky, because when I got cast in the Broadway production, the woman who I understudied had two personal days a month. But she also had been doing it for a while so she took lots of time off. Near the end of my time there I had been on for like, eight weeks. And Robin Baxter was filling in for “Rosie” who had an injury. I thought she was like, hands down, the most phenomenal person I’ve ever worked with. So when they offered me the role of “Donna” in Las Vegas I actually asked the director to consider Robin for Rosie. “Please, please, please see her for Rosie.” So I begged and begged for them to cast her and they were smart enough to do it. So then I knew Vicki and we were like, “Oh, she sounds great.” Vicki is also phenomenal on and off stage. You believe that we are all very good friends because actually we are very good friends.

Buzz – So you guys pal around afterwards and hang out. You’re like buddies.

Carol – Totally buddies.

Buzz – I think it’s great that you guys performed on the Jerry Lewis telethon. It’s a great cause and it had to be a neat experience.

Carol – Oh, totally. There were 12 members of the cast plus Vicki, Robin and I. It was really exciting. It was very exciting. It was really fun. It almost reminds me – remember whenever you see like old Hollywood movies – or like even now when they show like the back lot and you have people walking around dressed like cowboys and some people are dressed as showgirls. Everyone’s in costume and driving around in golf carts. Well this was a little bit like that. There’s Carrot Top and there we are in spandex and there was like an Asian gymnastic team warming up. It was just really fun.

Buzz – So what is your favorite thing about performing in Mama Mia!?

Carol – (Long, thoughtful pause) I’d have to say  - it’s like a couple things. I feel incredibly lucky as an actor/singer to get to play the role of “Donna” just because it is so satisfying. You get to do it with such wonderful actors, who are not only great performers, but also great people. And then for it to culminate in the last ten minutes of the show and just see how up the audience is – how lifted they are – what a great time they had – it’s just sort of that collective experience. You know that old saying, “You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at the same time?” You sort of feel like for two hours a night, I get to have it all.

Buzz – You know, it’s a Vegas show that you can really take home with you.

Carol – It’s amazing the number of people who will all come out and be like, “Oh my God! This is our third time!” And I’m like, “Oh, have you been to Vegas before?” They’re like, “No! We saw it Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday!” They just keep coming back.  

 

 

 

Besides the music, one of the biggest reasons the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas’ production of Mama Mia! is so successful is, without a doubt, because of its outstanding cast. Yes, the songs are songs are brilliant, the story is fun, and the set is creative, but without talented people – the right talented people – in the show’s key roles, Mama Mia! wouldn’t be the smash hit it is. Mandalay Bay’s Mama Mia! made sure the best possible personnel were assembled from the show’s main characters to the ensemble. Kudos to the casting director!

Last modified on Monday, 22 September 2014 16:19

 

 

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