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‘Mamma Mia!’ to Make Wheeling Debut

May 4, 2012
By PHYLLIS R. SIGAL - Design Editor , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Australian actor Kaye Tuckerman is living proof that you can do it all.

Singer, actor, recording artist, creative producer, director. She has done it all. In Kenya. In Australia. In Asia. In the U.S. She has enjoyed all aspects of her creative life, with no preference for one over the other.

"My life flows nicely. Things pop up when they're meant to."

Article Photos

Kaye Tuckerman

And, now, touring with "Mamma Mia!" in the lead role of Donna Sheridan since 2010, she's got more than 500 shows under her belt and 200 or so more to go before the tour comes to an end.

"Mamma Mia!" will have the audience members dancing in the aisles Monday and Tuesday at the Capitol Theatre. Curtain is 7:30 p.m.

In Cincinnati earlier this week, she was just finishing the final minutes of her yoga practice when we spoke on the phone. Life on the road is tough - especially weeks where they are in four cities. But her calming yoga helps to balance her, helps her to focus internally and it also energizes her. It gets her "ready to hit the day," she said.

That, and her orders of nuts and protein bars from, delivered to the "next city," keep her healthy. "Pretty much a vegan," she prefers to skip the fast-food stops.

"Mamma Mia!" is her first U.S. tour. She toured in 19 shows previously, including the original Australian tour of "The Boy From Oz," "Jesus Christ Superstar" in Australia and the Asian international tour of "Les Miserables" as Cosette, just to name a few. And "The Wild Party," "South Pacific," "Sunset Boulevard," "John & Jen" and "Closer Than Ever," ... to name a few more. She also has toured the world with her solo cabaret shows.

"I dreamed about getting a green card for 20 years," she said, having done community theater since she was a child. It wasn't until she met a director during one of her shows that she even knew of "this thing called Broadway," borrowing a phrase from the hit musical "Spamalot."

"I had no idea. ... 'Oh, my God, this place exists!'"

In Australia, she said, only one or two big shows come a year. If you don't get one of those, you don't work.

"When you love something, and you want your career to progress, you think about what can I aim for next," she said. She likened it to working in a mail room. You may start in the mail room, but you want to eventually own the company. After "The Boy From Oz," she spent time honing directing skills, writing cabarets and casting.

"I was having a great, great time." But, her boss at "The Lion King" told her "you should be singing." She entered a competition, won it and was sent all over the world. During that time, she also worked with college students because of her directing background.

Then, in 2010, she came to New York, and did a turnaround - "Back to where I started, in musical theater."

Her first audition in New York, she recalled, was for "Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark," on Broadway.

"I almost blew the audition because halfway through I realized that was really (director) Julie Taymor there, not someone playing Julie Taymor. I didn't get it, but it was a thrilling experience."

She auditioned in April of 2010 for "Mamma Mia!," booked the show in May and started rehearsals in August.

"I was never content to be a big fish in a small sea. I'd rather be a minnow in a big ocean and be inspired by really great people."

It's that kind of inspiration that fuels her artistic passion, she said.

She first saw "Mamma Mia!" in Melbourne, Australia, and loved the show, loved the music of ABBA and loved the actress playing Donna.

"It was one of the most thrillingly raw performances." She thought, "I want to be her."

She was always in the wrong age group for the part of Donna, and usually up for the role of Tanya, one of Donna's best friends. "I thought maybe someday I'll be right for it."

Someday is now for Tuckerman. At least until August when the tour ends.

And she absolutely loves the role of Donna Sheridan.

"Donna. Aaahhhh, Donna. She's unreal, she's a great character. She didn't fit in, she hit her stride in the 'flower-power days.' She was meant to be a good Catholic girl. But, she traveled, got pregnant and was disowned by her family. ...

"She didn't say, 'Oh, no what have I done?' She said, 'This is what I've done. I'm going to go live on a Greek island and bring up this child,'" Tuckerman said. "She had incredible backbone and humor to get her through."

When that child, Sophie, is around 20 or 21, she wants to get married, and she invites three potential fathers. "Chaos ensues. Donna's world comes collapsing down," Tuckerman said.

And it all happens to the tunes of ABBA.

So what's next when the "Dancing Queen" stops dancing in this show?

Someone at a recent west coast performance asked Tuckerman if she's going to take a break.

"I looked at her like she was an alien. I'm such a workaholic, it never occurred to me I could have a break - I could go home or I could lie on a beach."

The next step is "a big unknown" at this point. "Audition season is starting up now," she said. "I'll wait and see what my agent thinks."

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