MAMMA MIA! broadway

Soap opera set to ABBA
Woman searches out her real father in the musical Mamma Mia!
Uptown Magazine, Winnipeg – by Jared Story

Mamma Mia!, indeed. You've got a young woman, Sophie, who's about to be wed but has no one to walk her down the aisle because her mother, Donna, won't tell her who her father is. After a little diary-snooping, Sophie figures out that mom was with three dudes (separately, we're pretty sure) during the summer before she was born. Doing the rational thing, Sophie invites all of them to the wedding without her mother's knowledge. Throw in a paternity test and the plot line looks like the makings of an episode of The Maury Show.

"It sounds so sordid, the plot line, but it's all handled very lightly, with care and affection. No one's going to get hurt," says Sean Allan Krill, who plays possible dad Sam Carmichael. 

Far from trashy daytime TV, Mamma Mia! is actually a hilarious hit musical set to the glistening pop tunes of Swedish sensations ABBA. The songs from the band with the backwards B were of course not written specifically for the musical, but according to Krill you really can't tell.

"ABBA songs have always been kind of theatrical even though they weren't written for musicals," Krill says. "There are a lot of story songs, and a lot of them really lend themselves really well to telling this story. They changed a couple lyrics here and there, but most of the time they fit the songs in pretty amazingly well in telling this story."

Even if you can't name more than two songs by ABBA (I can name three), a reported 370 million in album sales means there is a damn good chance you know more about the band than you think.

"I think a lot of people come and see it and go, 'Oh, I didn't know I knew this song... I didn't know I liked this song so much,'" Krill says. 

So who's Sophie's daddy? Well, Krill can't disclose that bit of information, but you'd probably get a different answer from all three potential pops anyhow.

"I spend my show thinking that if this is my daughter and she's never had a father, then why, Donna, won't you let me be her father now?" Krill says. "If she's never had this entity in her life, this paternal figure, why won't you let me be that for her?"

"That's where I live in the play, trying to get Donna to let me in on what the truth is in the matter. I think I have to think that I am the best candidate, but I think we all think we're really the dad."

You'll have to check out Mamma Mia! for yourself to find out who's the real old man. And again, don't worry - this is a G-rated game of Who's Your Daddy? so bring the kids, grandma and the mailman.

"There's a lot of information that comes out at the end," Krill says. "It's sort of the Mamma Mia! version of a Shakespearean ending where all the secrets come to light in the last scene, except nobody dies and, like on Maury Povich, nobody throws any chairs, either."

Mamma Mia! Stars in Charm City
by James Howard

One of the first shows to play in the newly renovated Hippodrome Theatre here in Baltimore was the mega-hit musical, Mamma Mia!  No sooner did it leave than the question of when it would return surfaced.  Well, just over two years later, it is back in Baltimore, shiny spandex, romantic plot and sizzling ABBA tunes intact.  This time, the show also brings with it several new stars, including Laurie Wells and Sean Allan Krill, who play Donna and Sam.  Both have varying lengths of tenure with the show, but it is clear that the few short months they have spent together have brought new dimension to the show with a wonderful chemistry that has added a new layer of depth to this crowd-pleaser.  The level of emotion between the pair is very honest and, from what they told me, very real for both.
I was fortunate enough to have each of these wonderfully talented actors take time out to answer a few questions.  There is no way to adequately put on the typed page the genuine warmth, generosity and mutual respect these people convey toward each other and even toward this writer.  Meeting them has truly been a highlight of my writing for this site. 
I first spoke with Sean Allan Krill, who plays Sam:

James Howard (JH): Welcome to Baltimore, Mr. Krill!  You are a relative newcomer to the show.  How did you find the "fitting in process"?  

Sean Allan Krill (SAK): Thanks for the welcome!  It's nice to be in Baltimore; I have never toured through here before, so I'm excited.  It's so nice that we have 2 weeks to spend in the city. I really like it so far; haven't had the chance to explore much, but I think on Monday I'm going to get out and see some sights.  Great audiences - beautiful theatre!  

JH: How did you find the "fitting in process"?  Have Milo Shandel (Bill Austin) and Laurie Wells (Donna Sheridan), who were both with the show when it was last here, and other cast members been of help?  How so?

SAK: Yes, I joined the tour about 6 months ago. Laurie [Wells – Donna], Carrie[Manolakos – Sophie], Corey [Greenan – Sky] and I went into the roles on March 7 in Tucson, Arizona.  They had all been involved in the show before, so I was the only really, really 'new guy'.   They were great.  I remember being so overwhelmed and surprised at the feel-good vibe of this company.  It's a GREAT group of people, and though, of course touring, comes with its ups and downs, the general attitude of this company is so positive and welcoming.  I was, and remain, so grateful for that.  Martha Banta, the managing director of the tour, was so wonderful about letting the four of us find our place in the show on our own.  Never once did I feel I was being crammed into a role in a 'cookie-cutter' show.  She was especially great about letting Laurie and I explore these roles, and Sam and Donna's relationship.  Laurie and I, from day one, really took a liking to each other and were both so intent on 'finding the love' between these two otherwise sort of embittered characters.  Martha was totally on board with that and allowed us to discover so much on our own.  It was, surprisingly for me, a really artistic, challenging and fun process working on this show; I must admit that when I took the job I fully expected it to be exactly the opposite - that I would be told where to go, when to turn my head, what word to stress...  that wasn't at all the case.  We actually started the process with sitting around the table and just reading through the scenes.  'Table work'!  I loved it.  And then when we got on our feet the first time, Martha said, "Okay, so you enter there and need to be here by the time you sing (for the lights) but in between, let's just play and see what happens."  Again - so unexpected, and perfect for me - because that's my favorite way to work.  Milo [Shandel] and Ian [Simpson] (who play Bill and Harry) were also wonderful about 'playing' with me in rehearsals and allowing me to 'be my own Sam' - I'm sure not an easy task, since they've both been doing this for quite awhile.  Love those guys.  And Carrie - wow, I am so lucky that I sing "Knowing Me, Knowing You" to her - she is so earnest and present every night, and makes singing a potentially awkward 'I-just-divorced-my-wife-that-the-audience-doesn't-even-know' song a joy to perform, I guess because now it feels less selfishly motivated, and more about helping Sophie.    
JH: What is it like touring in such an amazingly popular show?  How are the audiences in general?  How do you like the audiences in Baltimore so far?  The Hippodrome?

SAK: Touring in this show is so fun.  I love seeing these places I've never seen.  This is an amazing country, and doing a national tour affords me the chance to really experience a lot of different places I otherwise don't know I'd ever get to see.  And doing this show?  Wow, it's a blast.  I don't know what else to say.  I mean, I really cannot imagine a more 'feel-good' show than Mamma Mia! - it's just true.  And being in it is so much fun.  It's work, yes, as with any job - but wow is it fun to sing this great music (I stand by the fact that ABBA's music is so much more than fluffy disco-era schmaltz - I think their writing and recordings are the stuff of brilliant, perfectly executed pop music) and go home every night riding the high of the finale of the show.  The audiences LOVE the show - they're always on their feet at the end, having a great time, dancing, singing along with us, laughing and pointing at my codpiece (is there really any doubt that Sam is The Dad? ...the clues are all there!)   ...I love it.  And Baltimore's been no exception either.  The audiences have been so receptive...  The Hippodrome feels very intimate compared to a lot of the large venues we play.  I always prefer that - I feel like a smaller house makes the story part of the show more accessible, and a little easier, from my perspective, to tell the story.  The fun and spectacle and amazing music of this show will always be there...  but having the story actually come through is what I think the challenge of being an actor in Mamma Mia! is - and I love that challenge.    
JH: What is your favorite moment in the show?  Why?

SAK: Hmm.  Tough question.  I think I have 2:  The first is, I guess, my favorite 'Sam moment' - and that is at the end, during the wedding, when Sam finally drops his proud male-driven bulls*!t and just owns up to his past mistakes and sort of reveals the secrets he's been hiding since he arrived on the island.  I don't know why I like it - I guess I liken it to a good old-fashioned Shakespearean 'recognition scene' when all is revealed, secrets come out that need to be heard, the air is cleared, and the characters are allowed to unite...  I'm a sucker for that.  A big, fat happy ending - maybe cliché, but it feels real to me, and I love the resolution of it all.  And specifically for Sam, who is sort of the 'bad guy' in the play for a while...  well, I just like having a chance to tell the audience his reasons for making the mistakes he made.  My second favorite moment is purely selfish:  I LOVE doing the "Winner Takes It All" scene and song with Laurie - her voice is so glorious, and I really love the fact that the whole thing, dialogue and song, feels like this great climactic scene...   but what I love most is that I'm the one that gets to stand there and have her sing that song to me.  I always say - I'm the lucky one;  I have the best seat in the house for "Winner".   When she kicks into the end of that song, with the band, and everybody singing the backups backstage...  all directed at me.  I mean, come ON - it's brilliant!  Who's the luckiest ABBA fan in the world???!!!??   
I next had the opportunity to ask Laurie Wells a few questions.
JH: Welcome back to Baltimore, Ms. Wells!  The last time you were here, you understudied the role of Donna, which you now play, and went on a few times.  How has the role evolved for you?  How is your performance different from when you were last here?

Laurie Wells (LW): It has really changed from when I was an understudy last year. When someone actually gives you the part you feel validated somehow. You can OWN it more than when you were asked to watch someone else and do what they do. You have permission to make it your own and take risks and really live the character on a day-to-day basis. You get comfortable with yourself and your character. 
JH: How do you keep your performance so fresh after years with the same show?  How do you prepare on a day-to-day basis? 

LW: Well, I love this role and every night it changes for me. Our director gave us a lot of freedom to really bring ourselves to the roles.  When my mood changes, so does Donna's. Of course, I keep my intentions the same, but I really stay available to THE MOMENT I am in. It does help that I am working with some remarkable actors, (Sean Krill and Carrie Manolakos) who really bring all of themselves to the show each night. They show up and LIVE the show every night. To prepare on a daily basis, I have a workout that I must do to warm my body up and I vocalize throughout the day to prepare. On tour, you really live the show. 

JH: What is your favorite moment in the show?  Why?  

LW: I love “Slipping Through my Fingers”; I think it is so true and so simple. I love my daughter,  [Carrie]”. I really love her and feel a motherly instinct towards her.  Donna (me) is also OBSESSED WITH SEAN KRILL!!!

Thank you, Sean, Laurie and Carrie.  Your time and your efforts for Baltimore audiences are truly appreciated.  And as the show says, “thank you for the music!” 

Mamma Mia! has come a long way, from skin-deep scrutiny to respected touring institution

by Jack Zink
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Laurie Wells and Sean Allan Krill are lighting up a South Beach Starbucks on an already bright recent afternoon when the leading lady of Mamma Mia! reveals that she, too, had this feeling along with the rest of the world -- but only at first -- that the show is, uh, well, you know. Puff.

The stage musical that launched the jukebox trend on Broadway and in London's hallowed theatrical capitals was greeted with official disdain at first, in 1999. But even then, critics and purists admitted they eventually had to let their intellectual guard down because the show works so well on every level, not to mention the irresistible Abba musical catalog.

Nearly seven years later there are 16 Mamma Mia! companies around the world, and the show is within challenging distance of shows like Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera and other mega hits whose pop culture dominance seemed absolute only a blink or two ago.

Wells is now a vivacious thirtysomething who says she's normally played characters older than herself. Onstage in Mamma Mia! during its recent Jackie Gleason Theater run, she easily played an uncertain but emotionally charged, nearly 40-ish single mom preparing for her daughter's wedding. And a woman about to relive her own youth.

The show is in Tampa now and returns Tuesday for a week at West Palm Beach's Kravis Center. Wells and Krill -- he's a handsome Carbonell Award nominee from last year's national tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie -- have clicked so strongly together in the musical's subplot that it rivals the show's main theme.

This is not a bad thing. It strengthens the plot's happy ending and ties together a whole tangle of emotional loose ends.

Wells auditioned for the show nearly five years ago and was called back 2½ years later to understudy the three main female characters.

"So I went and saw the show and it was like [pause] OK [pause]. That's fine. It's totally a fun show and it's money and it's going to be great."

She had left high school to move to Nashville to sing at the Grand Ole Opry and as a session singer with then-emerging artists like Faith Hill. But country music wasn't her thing, and another audition for Fort Lauderdale-based producer-director Jean Ann Ryan brought her to Fort Lauderdale, where she embarked as a featured singer on Norwegian Cruise Lines.

After several years on those and other ships, she moved to New York and like most, found that roles took her to regional theaters and tours around the country. Even her longest stint, off-Broadway in Our Sinatra, included a summer engagement at Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company.

"But then I got the job with Mamma Mia! and came out on the tour. I sat down and watched the show again on my first night of work, and it seemed unbelievable. I got the story, I cared about Donna and I wanted her and Sam to be in love."

Behind the Abba songbook, Catherine Johnson wrote a Shirley Valentine kind of story about a young woman who lost at love, went into exile and raised a daughter while starting and running a business (which just happens to be a funky resort on a romantic Greek island).

Now 20 and a bride to be, daughter Sophie invites three of her mom's former boyfriends to the wedding. One of them is her father. She hopes to solve the mystery for herself, and possibly for mother Donna in the process.

Wells has played Donna before as understudy the past two-plus years, but she took the role as her own just a few months ago when she and Krill were tapped as the tour's 2006 stars, along with Carrie Manolakos and Corey Greenan as the young couple.

Krill headed home to Chicago and several roles after the Millie tour, and auditioned for Mamma Mia! there.

"Then I was so pleasantly, wonderfully surprised when I met my Donna," he says, looking wistfully across Starbuck's conversation pit at Wells.

"We were sort of in love with each other from the first second of rehearsals," Wells responds.

But they're both talking character-wise, insisting the offstage relationship is strictly actor-buddy. The hook is that each is highly emotional and found in that quality a means to rekindle a 20-year-old relationship alluded to in Johnson's story.

"You've got two very cold characters embittered by life," Wells says. "We want to show that, but also, what we kept trying to find was the love, finding the moments where you can see this very strong attraction between them."

Wells saw that during her second viewing after she got the job, and realized the strength of Johnson's romantic story.

"I take my character pretty seriously. I don't think I'm doing fluff. I'm being true to the show as it's written. It's funny, honest, precise, and it's got that great music."

Music which she isn't entirely familiar with. Abba disbanded about 25 years ago, its catalog long since relegated to golden oldies status. Krill remembers growing up in Detroit and discovering the group's last album in 1981. He became a fan when it was uncool to do so.

Now, his familiarity with the group has paid off for both himself and Wells. The first time he rehearsed the song Knowing Me, Knowing You with the full cast singing backup, he fell down on stage, he was so overwhelmed by the experience.

Wells, on the other hand, remembers singing a song of her own choice at an audition and being handed the sheet music to The Winner Takes It All, the song she now uses to bring the house down.

"I thought `Well, this is kind of pretty, la la la,' but I'd never heard it before. Here's the deal. It wasn't my generation, honestly. When I hear it I love it but I didn't know much about them at the time."

Sean Allan Krill Talks with OIA
by Lin Orndorf
The World’s Number 1 Show featuring music from a gay-icon rock group!
A mother.
A daughter.
Three possible dads.
More than 20 million people from all over the world have seen the ultimate feelgood show that, through its story of a daughter’s quest to discover the identify of her father, celebrates the music of gayicon 70s musical group, ABBA.

That show is MAMMA MIA! and it’s coming to Greenville’s Peace Center for the Performing Arts August 8-13.
With more productions internationally than any other musical, since opening in London in the spring of 1999, MAMMA MIA! clearly is the world’s number 1 show, a show you will not want to miss.

Starring in the touring company of MAMMA MIA! is an extremely talented out actor/ singer/dancer by the name of Sean Allan Krill. He recently spoke with OIA from his hotel in Mexico City. Sean Allan Krill considers Chicago to be his hometown. “I’ve lived in Chicago for about 13 years,” said Krill. “I was an Air Force brat when I was growing up and we moved around, a lot.” All that moving around kept him from being very involved in music and theatre in school, but he says, “When I was a kid, I was always involved in the arts. We were a bit of a “hillbilly” family. My grandmother played guitar and we sat around and sang all the time. I love to draw and thought I’d go to school to be a graphic artist.”

A stage production of Snoopy by his high school changed all that.
“I got involved in theatre in high school because I played the trombone. They needed someone to do the ‘waawaawaa’ sound for the adult voices like in the Charlie Brown cartoons. So, all through the play I stood off in the wings to stage right and played my trombone for the adults’ dialogue.” The following year, he tried out for a part in Once Upon a Mattress, based on the fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. He’s been working in the footlights on the boards since. “I was hooked after that,” he told OIA.

Krill attended Wayne State University in Detroit. “They have a great theatre program. But when I went to college, I was undecided about a major so I took a lot of art and theatre courses. Acting class is what hooked me. I realized I liked being on my feet and delving into the characters and action. That and I didn’t really enjoy the other kinds of studying convinced me to focus on theatre. I don’t mean to say that there isn’t studying in theatre, it’s just different.”

His first professional job in musical theatre was in a production of Forever Plaid in Detroit. “It was during the summer between my junior and senior years of college.” In 1994, he moved to Chicago. “They were starting a Chicago company,” said Krill, “and I played Sparky in Forever Plaid for two years.”

Krill’s other credits include Dessa Rose, The Importance of Being Earnest, Travesties, Henry V, Brigadoon, 1776, The Pirates of Penzance, Damn Yankees, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

With a list of credits like that, does Sean have a favorite? “Steven Sondheim would have to be my favorite. I’ve never been able to decide if Sunday in the Park with George or Into the Woods is my favorite musical. I’ve done both in Chicago. I guess I’d choose George; it’s such a valentine to being an artist. Some of the insights Sondheim comes up with in his writing are simply genius, like ‘wishes come true, not free’.”

In 2003 Sean Allan Krill landed the role of Trevor Graydon for the national touring company of the Tony Award winning musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie. He spent a year touring with that production and, like his current tour, he drove to performance cities himself. Why did he crisscross the country in his own car instead of with the rest of the company? He took Dane, a dog he adopted from an animal shelter in Chicago, along with him. Now Krill and Dane are both on tour with Mamma Mia!.

Mamma Mia!, written by Catherine Johnson, is a sunny, funny tale set on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, a woman’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past to the island they last visited 20 years earlier. The story line is wrapped up in and propelled by music of ABBA.

What is it like for Sean to perform in what is currently touted as the #1 musical? “I joined the cast of Mamma Mia! around Valentine’s Day this year. It is so much fun! It’s a great big spectacular show. The real star though is the music of ABBA, he said.“I’ve always been a big fan of ABBA, even back when it wasn’t cool. I think they wrote some really great songs, not just disco and dance music. The first time I got up there and sang the songs with the full orchestra and live backup singers, I literally fell on the stage floor. I couldn’t believe I was singing this music that I had loved for so long.  Doing this show is one hundred percent fun. I can’t imagine a more fun show.”

Mamma Mia! is a musical with a huge following in the GLBTQ community. When asked
what his thoughts were on this Krill said, “I don’t know why that is. I guess there’s the musical thing. I know that’s a stereotype, but there’s always been a gay following of musicals, Judy Garland and the like. And, of course, there’s the ABBA connection. That has always struck a chord with gay men and I’m saying that as a gay man. Maybe it’s something in the vulnerability of the music. It’s open, honest and campy fun.” Krill continued, “Mamma Mia! definitely has elements of camp, poignancy, and the spectacular. But, it never pretends to be anything it’s not like high drama. You walk in and it says ‘let’s just have fun for two and a half hours.”

Sean’s driving on this tour, sometimes 14 hours a day, goes beyond the kind of family vacations many of us took with our families during the summer. “It’s just like any other thing,” he said. “It has its pros and cons. I love the experience of seeing different places and people. But I miss my home in Chicago and I’m traveling, driving, every day we are off which is always a Monday.”

Now that Dane is a full-grown dog, he’s really too big to go any other way than by car, according to Krill. “Dane was only about six months old when we started touring for Thoroughly Modern Millie. Now it’s old hat. He’s like ‘okay, here’s my hotel room, now just tell me where I go to bathroom’.”

All the traveling and performing with a touring production for months at a time can be hard on an actor’s personal life. According to Sean, “It can be hard and it is sometimes. I have a partner, Guy. We’ve been together for nine years in August. He’s an actor too. So, both our jobs require we travel a lot. Our other dog, Cleo, stays with Guy.

Right now he’s off so he and Cleo are with me. It’s great. It’s like a family vacation. This is when I feel grateful for my job. In a month and half, he’ll go on tour and that’ll be hard.”

They have the advantage of each of them knowing what the job of an actor entails, so, “There’s never a question of support, it’s what we do. Being an actor is more than a job, there’s a need to do this and we both understand that.”

With so many performances in many different cities, are there any that stand out?  Sean laughed and said, “You know, it’s funny you asked that. Last night something special did happen. Yesterday we went to see the pyramids in Teotihuacan (near Mexico City). We met this amazing man from the village there. He was the chief. He took us, all 40 of us, to his home for dinner and they did a tribal dance for us. All we had to offer in return was, ‘Come see our show.’ And they did, they brought us gifts, beads and necklaces and these crocheted belts that they wore during their dance. The belts are symbolic and are a source of energy to them and they use them in rituals.

After the show, a woman came up to me and talked to me in Spanish, she was holding one of these belts. It was bright red. Her son translated for her telling me that this day, this evening was so special to her. She told me that the belt had always been a great source of energy to her and she wanted me to have it.  I was very moved by it. This was obviously something she had worn for years and meant a lot to her. It was so amazing and I was so grateful to share something with them that had moved them also.”

What’s in the future for this talented and Jeff Award-wining actor? Does he ever think
about hitting the boards on Broadway? “Well, sure. Sure I do. I did a national tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie and now Mamma Mia!. I do think about it a lot, but I am of the mindset that I love Chicago and my home is there. Theatre doesn’t work the same in Chicago as on Broadway where they’ll stage a show for a year or two or more. In Chicago, it’s subscription based with people buying season tickets to several shows in one theatre so you have the opportunity to do a different show every few months.  But Broadway is what you strive for in this business. It’s a dream everyone has. Right now, I’m having too much fun in Chicago but if something takes me to Broadway, I’ll go. Of course, I know I can’t sit around waiting for them to call me. It doesn’t work that way but you never know. My agent calls with promising auditions; that’s how I got Mamma Mia!. I just kinda want to keep doing what I’m doing. My contract is for a year and when you’re under contract, you kinda turn off that part of your actor brain.”

He does have a future project in mind in the form of Kind Hearts & Coronets. “I’ve been work-shopping with brilliant writers and brilliant actors. For the time being, I just want to be the best Sam Carmichael I can be.”

After that, who knows where he’ll land, but Sean told us, “We [he and Guy] are thinking that New York is really where we would like to be after our current tours. We don’t know what’ll happen. We’re just throwing that thought out to the universe.”

In another year or so we may all know how the universe responds.

You can catch Sean Allan Krill in the role of Sam Carmichael and hear all the fabulous ABBA music when Mamma Mia! comes to the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in beautiful downtown Greenville, S.C. You can even win two premium tickets to opening night if you’re lucky. Just go to our website,, to find out how.

See you at the show!

interview with Laurie Wells.
WGN Chicago appearance 
with Bill Congdon.
ABC Chicago appearance 
with Anne Tolpegin. 
“Mamma Mia! Star Sean Allan Krill ‘FLIPS’”
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four 
“Behind the Scenes: 
Valentines Day with Mamma Mia!” feature:
Mamma Mia! oil painting unveiled 
at Tony di Napoli’s
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MAMMA MIA! north american tour
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