As Mamma Mia prepares to roll into Austin for it’s performances at the UT Bass Concert Hall, Austin Entertainment Weekly sat down with Olivia Ashley Reed who plays Lisa in the National Tour.
AEW: What is it like getting to perform this iconic ABBA music every night?
Olivia Ashley Reed: It’s such a treat! Here’s a funny, and sad truth though, I knew the songs “Dancing Queen”, and “Mamma Mia” growing up, but I didn’t know they were by ABBA! It wasn’t until college, when a friend told me about ABBA, and I looked at her like a deer in headlights, and she stared at me like I had five heads. Needless to say, when I was cast in this production of “Mamma Mia!” I quickly learned these iconic ABBA songs, and grew to truly enjoy singing them, and dance to them. The audience loves these songs, and has a blast at the show, which makes my job even more exciting!
AEW: What are your favorite moments in the show? Is there a part that is particularly fun and enjoyable?
Olivia Ashley Reed: My favorite moments in the show are, “Honey, Honey”,”Voulez-Vous”, “Does Your Mother Know?”, and the Finale. There are many other moments that I enjoy, but these four stick out the most to me when narrowing it down. Each of these numbers has a ‘moment’ that I love and connect with. In “Honey, Honey” it is when Lisa asks Sophie if she is sure about her plan to invite her three possible dads to her wedding. It’s a genuine moment in that number, and I love that Lisa brings the three friends back down from cloud nine, and makes sure Sophie is sure of her actions and the repercussions. The other three numbers that I mentioned are particularly fun because they require so much energy, and they are sexy, and comical in their own way. The whole show really feels like one big concert, but it’s during the finale where the band gets to rock out, and the performers are allowed to break the fourth wall, and party with the audience!
AEW: Have you ever experienced any funny or crazy mishaps backstage?
Olivia Ashley Reed: Oh yes! There are funny/crazy mishaps happening backstage all the time, and I’ve had many myself. One time my counterpart, Ali, and I were on stage at the beginning of the show, behind a large set piece waiting for our queue line tour in on stage. Moments before we were supposed to run on stage and greet Sophie we realized that we did not have our backpacks! Allie and Lisa are visiting Sophie on the island, and they just traveled to get to her, so having the backpacks is an important little detail! Well, Allie and I were nervously freaking out, and mouthing to our stage manager who was off stage that we did not have our backpacks! She tried to think of a way to get them to us. Should a stagehand nonchalantly walk on stage and hand them to us? Should they be tossed to us? The answer is no, none of those options where ideal, and it would have made too much of a scene. So! Allie and I ran on stage without our backpacks, and all was okay! Even though we were anxious before going on stage, and nervous laughing at our situation, we had to pull it together, and run on stage like nothing was wrong! We learned our lesson though, always check to make sure your props are there before the show starts, don’t just assume they’re there!
AEW: While performing and traveling with MAMMA MIA!, what have been some of your favorite places to visit? Do you get a chance to explore the cities you travel to?
Olivia Ashley Reed: I loved being in Kansas City, Boston, Portland, and New Orleans. Each city we’ve been to has been wonderful in its own way. We’re currently in New Orleans, and such a treat! The food is fantastic, the architecture is stunning, and then music is superb! With more months of touring, I’m sure I’ll have many more cities to add to my favorites list, and I can’t wait! We do get a chance to explore the cities during the day before the show, or before a rehearsal. Members of the cast are very good about finding activities to do in the city, and planning out the details. A lot of people enjoy doing some touristy activities, but also enjoy doing activities that are new, and possibly different. I’m so grateful to be on this tour, because it is taking me to cities in this country that I thought I would never get to see!
AEW: What advice would you give to young theatre artists who want to pursue a career in musical theatre?
Olivia Ashley Reed: Stay persistent! Hard work truly pays off, and while it may be a rough road at times, the reward makes it worth the while. Take dance classes, and acting classes, and voice lessons to further your training, and develop strong technique in each field. Being well-rounded is very important, but knowing how to market yourself and your strengths is even more important. Have fun! Performers have the opportunity to have fun at work. We get to make other people smile, laugh, cry, and be transported to a different world. Be kind. Being supportive of others, and friendly to fellow people at auditions, and cast members says a lot about one’s character. People want to work with kind, hard-working, generous, intuitive, creative people, so it’s important to leave your ego at the door. I once had a director tell my cast that in middle school, and it stuck with me ever since then! And lastly, don’t be afraid, or discouraged. There are going to be many opportunities, and sometimes it’s meant to be, and other times it isn’t. However, that does not mean you are not talented. Keep a positive perspective, and stay persistent!