(PCM) It is time to say farewell to the well-loved tour of “Mama Mia,” a show that has for decades been making memories for fans of Abba and musical theater.
Front and center in the role of bride-to-be Sophie, is 23-year-old Lizzie Markson, who has fond memories of her childhood and teen years in Allentown, PA., and always dreamt of an opportunity like she is having with the current national tour, The Mama Mia Farewell Tour, which began in October.
Before being chosen for the current tour, which comes to the Merriam Theatre in Philadelphia, for a holiday engagement from Dec. 27-31, she was familiar with Abba’s music, and the movie starring Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, but had not yet seen the Broadway show. Now, she is thrilled to be exciting audiences far and wide. “I had seen the movie, but when the tour came along, I didn’t really remember it,” Markson recently recalled from a tour stop in Vancouver, B.C.
Q: Tell me how this amazing role happened for you?
LIZZIE MARKSON: I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Elon University in North Carolina in May . I majored in musical theater. My friends urged me to audition, saying they thought I’d be good for it. I also listened to an Abba cover band called “A’Teens,” while I was growing up, so I knew the music.
Q: Tell me about growing up in Allentown PA.
LM: it was a lovely childhood and I really love it there now. This may sound annoying but when I was growing up I wanted to be somewhere else. But now I appreciate growing up there.
LM: There was great theater, arts, and dance training and a perfect community for me. Parkland High School where I graduated had a great theater department and a wonderful dance studio. It is an inspiring place.
Q: While you are traveling so much through July 30, 2017, on this tour, how often do you get home?
LM: Allentown is a centrally-located place so I went home often. I am going home for five days for our first break.
Q: Who still lives in Allentown from your family?
LM: My parents. I also have a sister who goes to medical school in Philadelphia and a brother in New York. So, Allentown is very convenient gathering place for everyone.
Q: What do you love about theater?
LM: So many things. I love that it let’s people – from so many different walks of life, perspectives, backgrounds and races — come together for two hours and get lost in a story.
Q: What else?
LM: I think that stories are incredibly powerful tools. Stories are able to carry out many functions — heal, start conversations, and ultimately make you feel something. It is super important to keep the arts alive right now, and I think theater has a special way of touching and reaching people.
Q: What about “Mama Mia?”
LM: This show in particular is really special because we get to bring it to so many different corners of the continent, not just the 10 blocks that make up Broadway in New York City. It also lets people smile and have fun for two hours. Especially, with the climate of our country and the election – this lets people escape and have fun and forget whatever else is going on in their lives.
Q: Tell me about how you see your character of Sophie?
LM: Sophie, the bride-to-be. She sets the whole show in motion, and I think I enjoy playing her so much because she has a child-like optimism and hopefulness and thinks everything will go perfectly. Of course it won’t. But she is doing her best to keep all the chaos at bay that she has unintentionally created, but she finds herself unable to do so.
Q: I know theater lovers who have seen “Mama Mia,” many, many times, so they sing along and dance in the aisles, and think of it as an old friend. They enjoy the music, and the characters, and keep going back.
LM: I hear very often that this is a favorite show for many people, and they say they have seen it many times. A lot of people have specific memories of Abba’s music and that’s why they are attached to the show or specific memories of seeing the show on Broadway.
Q: Do you have any favorite fan stories?
LM: Yes. A woman came up to me after the show the other night to say ‘She said this was the first show she had seen with her mother who passed away several years ago; so now she will see the show every year when it tours in honor of her mom and it makes her happy.
Q: What is one of the best aspects of being in this musical?
LM: Well, people really, really, really love this show. People in the show are itching for it to start they are just so excited. So it is really great to be part of a show that people are that excited about.
Q: Do you ever get homesick on the road?
LM: Actually, two weeks ago I started getting very homesick. It’s such a new experience and a big part of it is that things are constantly changing. You have no home base, but it’s in a different sense than I am used to. You are not in the same bed every night, and you have to cart your things around every day or every few days. All of this makes you crave home.
Q: Your career really took off quickly.
LM: Yes, I just graduated earlier this year, and I am having the time of my life. When I get a little tired I can say that it’s easy to crave the idea of home. The cast is really wonderful and now at this point being with all of them feels like a family. I feel comfortable and at home here, even though I often miss my family.
Q: Since you are from Allentown, who is planning to come and see you perform in Philadelphia?
LM: A lot of my really close friends from home and the local Jewish Community Center are taking a bus trip to Philly to see the show. My parents, friends and people I haven’t talked to since high school will be there. I will probably have someone at each of the Philadelphia shows – which is super exciting.
Q: Have your parents seen you in the show already?
LM: Yes, they came to see me in Tucson, Arizona, at the end of October.
Q: When you are not rehearsing, performing or traveling how do you spend your time?
LM: Exploring a new place that I’m in since we are going to some really wonderful places. I enjoy running – it is a nice and visceral way to get a sense of a place and breathe it in. I also seek out yoga studios or funky cafes. I have loved Victoria, B.C. it is cold, but it feels good, and it is absolutely beautiful
Q: Do you eventually want to perform in a Broadway musical?
LM: Well, it’s never been something I was set on. What I want professionally is to feel fulfilled, and artistically stimulated and happy. I’ve never personally felt a super important pull to be on Broadway; so if I am able to continue to do what I love to do, I will be elated.
For information on the tour please go to: http://www.mammamiaontour.com/mm/
For more information about Lizzie, go to: www.lizziemarkson.com