Performing in ‘Mamma Mia!’ all summer is dream come true for two actresses

Tanya (Erin Ormond), Donna (Stephanie Roth, and Rosie (Jenni Burke), laugh together in this scene from a rehearsal of ‘Mamma Mia!’ at the Chemainus Theatre. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

For Stephanie Roth and Jenni Burke, spending the summer in Chemainus, as part of the cast of Mamma Mia!, is a dream come true.

Neither of the actors are new to Chemainus or to the theatre, but what makes the summer of 2019 really, really special is that they are great friends who haven’t seen each other for several years.

Roth is playing Donna in the show, Burke, her close friend, Rosie. Roth has performed in The Sound of Music this season, as the Mother Abbess, and two years ago, she was in Rock Legends. Burke was part of The Buddy Holly Story, which came back for a second year by popular demand. This, however, will be her first summer season at Chemainus.

Asked if it isn’t just amazing that an outdoor, sunshine show like Mamma Mia! can be performed in as intimate a venue as the Chemainus Theatre, they both agreed.

“It’s the magic of theatre,” Roth said. “It lives strong in Chemainus.”

This is a remarkable experience for the two women.

Burke said that most of the production team is female, and “it feels very joyous, it feels very empowering. The friendship and the female power and bonding is great. It’s not that common to find it.”

Roth than added, “What is super special about this production is that my dear friend, Jenni Burke, and I get to play best buddies onstage and we have an enormous love for one another. This is an absolute gift.”

Jenni adds, “Yes, it’s a real dream come true.”

Working with Erin Ormond, another favourite with Chemainus theatregoers, who plays Tanya, is also special.

“She’s wonderful. The camaraderie is fantastic. It’s so much fun,” Burke said.

And as it’s been almost four years since she’s seen Roth, that adds even more realism to the reunion, she said.

“When I got to see her for the first time, I got to clock how that would feel going to an island and seeing my friend for the first time in three years. A lot of things have changed for Stephanie, too. She’s had a little girl. There’s life imitating itself in this show. It’s so easy.”

Seeing the set and the costumes for the first time, it’s easy to imagine the sound of ‘Dancing Queen’ in the background, and the actors said audiences will be ready to party when they arrive.

This is not the first musical for either of these actors, either.

“I predominantly do musicals,” Roth said. “I’ve been in the industry since I was 16. I grew up in Ontario but I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the world doing various productions. And this is not the first time I’ve done this show. This is my third time.”

Burke said, “You have to kind of forget the last times and come to it with a fresh mind.”

But, with a new director, and a new musical director, and new costumes, it also gives you the chance “to experience it in a deeper way,” Roth added.

A different hand on the wheel would make a difference. They’d quickly find out that it wasn’t what they’d done before.

“It’s not, but still I know what this is and there’s comfort in that and then there’s courage to try different things because you know what’s under your feet and trust someone else’s vision. I have found it incredible to dig deep and find new connections in this piece.”

According to Burke, the first time you play a role, “you’re just trying to get it memorized at first, but now, you’re kind of open to this new experience. It’s like going back to your favourite recipe. And knowing it’s going to be a good thing, you can add a few different spices to it to deepen the flavours.”

That’s the special quality of professional theatre. Actors bring all their experiences with them and can unpack them as needed.

“I’ve only been to Greece once. Believe it or not, we went together,” she said. “But there is a magic about an island and that magic exists on Vancouver Island, too. As soon as you get onto it, you know it’s special. I’m not from here but I have a romance with this island. It was such a no-brainer and a delight when I got the call saying, ‘We’d like to offer you a summer in Chemainus doing Mamma Mia! with one of your dearest friends.’ There’s a lot of gratitude in the air.”

Audiences are going to like “incredible singing, the joy rising everywhere, the heart, the love, the chance to laugh, and possibly, there might even be the chance to do a little dancing in the aisles,” she said.

Roth said, “I think the music is going to resonate with people, they’ll remember a summer they had. Your body just comes alive hearing the music. We have an incredible onstage band.”

The crowd for the summer musical at Chemainus is always happily expecting a great time, and this show is sure to deliver, and more, they said.

Tickets are available now at https://tickets.chemainustheatrefestival.ca/TheatreManager/1/online?event=0 or call the box office at 1-800-565-7738.

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