By Andrew Gans
22 Jun 2012
In November 2004 I chatted with the great Judy McLane, who, at that time, was part of a trio of leading ladies, along with Carolee Carmello as Donna and Liz McCartney as Rosie, who had just joined the internationally acclaimed musical Mamma Mia! at the Winter Garden Theatre. About a week ago, I again had the pleasure of catching up with this versatile singing actress, who, after more than seven years, has stepped into the leading role of Donna Sheridan, the independent single mother whose carefree past catches up with her on the eve of her daughter's wedding, in that same long-running hit musical. McLane, in fact, recently welcomed a slew of new co-stars, including Felicia Finley as Tanya, Lauren Cohn as Rosie, Aaron Lazar as Sam Carmichael, Daniel Cooney as Bill Austin, Graham Rowat as Harry Bright, Christy Altomare as Sophie and Zak Resnick as Sky. During her lengthy run in Mamma Mia! — McLane has been a principal player in the production longer than any other actor — the actress has also had a chance to tackle other roles, including a recent turn as Diana Goodman, a mother battling depression and bipolar disorder, in Pioneer Theatre Company's fall 2011 production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal. In our recent interview McLane, a Drama Desk nominee for her work as Vienna in Off-Broadway's Johnny Guitar and a Helen Hayes Award nominee for her role as Phyllis in the Signature Theatre's acclaimed production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, spoke about her work in Next to Normal, singing the demanding title role in two different productions of Evita and, of course, her new role in Mamma Mia!; that interview follows.
Question: How are you?
Judy McLane: I'm great! [Laughs.] Here I am in Mamma Mia! seven-and-a-half years later. Isn't that crazy?
|photo by Joan Marcus|
Question: When did you originally audition?
McLane: For Mamma Mia!, I initially went in for Donna seven-and-a-half years ago in 2004…and got a callback, went into the callback, and by that time — in the between time — they had hired Carolee [Carmello] because she's fabulous. And, I got to the audition, and I sang "Winner." They said, "We love you. We want to use you. Can you read Tanya?" And, I said, "Well, I haven't looked at this. Can you give me a minute?" So I went in the hallway with David Grindrod, and we went over the scene and went back in, and I got a call the next day for Tanya. So that was that!
McLane: They called and asked if I would come in again, and you know, I wanted to keep it very much on the down low… It was a pretty fast change because all of our creatives were in Argentina putting in another company, so they did a pretty fast changeover this time — a whole new company of seven new people. So they called and said, "Would you come back in and audition for Donna?" I got a call from Eric Woodall at casting, and to be honest, I wasn't sure. At first, I thought, "Oh, do I want to invest in this?" When you put a role on the shelf, you say, "Okay, I'm done with that." And, I wasn't sure. I had to think about it for a day or two. And then I realized, "Wow. I have been with this show. I adore the show. It's a great role. I might as well go in and invest again." That's what happened. I basically said, "Okay. I'm going to go back in and do this."… And, it felt really great singing this stuff. Then they called. And, it's so funny… Weeks before that, I was doing a reading of a show with Felicia [Finley], and I turn to Felicia and I said, "Felicia, you need to be doing my role in Mamma Mia!" [Laughs.] This was months before any of this happened. And, she said, "Oh, my goodness… Well, okay." I said, "Yeah, you need to do my part." And, I went back to the theatre and actually sat and told other people, "Felicia Finley would be amazing [as Tanya]. They need to hire her." And, next thing I know, I'm auditioning, and I find out that Felicia is playing Tanya. Now, I didn't tell anyone — I had no influence over them — but it was just funny that was kind of put out there in the world, so I am thrilled she's there. Thrilled! Continued...