Chloe Tucker and Philip Morris are wondering where spring went.
While most people involved in putting on a show this time of year are working in summer stock somewhere, that’s not the case for these two. Tucker is playing Sophie, the bride-to-be in the national touring production of “Mamma Mia!” and has been in the role since last August. Morris, meanwhile, is the CEO at Proctors, which is hosting the smash hit here in Schenectady from Tuesday through Sunday.
While June through August is typically a slower time for the downtown theater, Morris has been busy making sure his venue’s attempt at year-round Broadway entertainment is a success.
“My wife tells me to enjoy the summer, and I said, ‘Is it summer?’ ” joked Morris last week. “I know we’re asking the folks to change their pattern a little bit, to come to Schenectady and Proctors in the middle of the summer. But we’re hoping to make coming to Schenectady a summer theme.”
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: Through Sunday
HOW MUCH: $65-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
For Gazette theater writer Carol King's review of this show, click here.
If any show can do that, it’s probably “Mamma Mia!” Nominated for five Tony Awards when it came out in 2002, it is one of the most successful stage shows in history. It is still running on Broadway, having recently performed show No. 4,000, and has been mounting North American and worldwide tours since 2005.
For Tucker, who turns 22 in September, the experience ended a yearlong bout with the doldrums.
“This has been the kind of experience that changed my life,” said Tucker, who was in a self-described emotional slump when she decided to take a chance and audition for a role in the national touring production. “I’ve been out on tour since last August; you kind of forget what time of year it is, but I’ve been enjoying it. You’re always moving, seeing new places, and there’s always something going on. I’m signing on for another year.”
A graduate of the Hamilton Academy of Music in Los Angeles, Tucker headed to the Boston Conservatory of Music after high school but was only there for about six months. A finalist in the MTV show “Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods,” she left school and headed for New York to pursue the MTV opportunity and to seek her fame and fortune. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well.
“I kind of went to the audition as a joke, and then I ended up making the top 15, so everyone is telling me how I have to quit school and go to New York,” she remembered. “I was really young, I didn’t know anybody, but I packed up all my things and went to New York. Well, it was awful; I was awful. I fell flat on my face. I was so depressed, and my pride didn’t let me go back to school, so I just went back home to L.A. to try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.”
Tucker says she was facing some serious depression, and went to the “Mamma Mia!” audition just to get out of her apartment.
“I was truly having trouble just getting myself out of bed each morning,” she said. “The only reason I went to the audition was I thought it’d be good experience and something to do. I ended up staying there the whole day reading Sophie scenes. I was hoping I’d get a callback for Ali or Lisa, Sophie’s two friends. I went back once for a dance audition and didn’t hear anything for three weeks. Then, finally I got a phone call saying they wanted me to play Sophie. I think the phone call kind of saved my life.”
While the sky seems the limit now for Tucker’s career, she tries to look back at her MTV experience as a learning tool.
“I do regret not going back to school because I was learning so much there,” she said. “At the same time, I don’t know if I would really change anything. The bad experience I had taught me how to be humble. I’m trying to learn things from all these experiences, and everything I’ve gone through should help me with the challenges ahead of me. So, looking at it that way I really don’t have any regrets.”
Connected to Sophie
In “Mamma Mia!” Tucker’s character is trying to determine the identity of her father, and toward that endeavor invites three of her mother’s ex-boyfriends to her wedding. Set on a Greek island in the Mediterranean, the story is told through the music of ABBA, the Swedish supergroup from the early 1970s, long before Tucker was born.
“I think a lot of people can relate to this story,” she said. “It might be a little silly, but it’s about real relationships and it has great songs. They’re [ABBA] not from my generation, but I grew up knowing their songs and I have a newfound respect for them. I think they were brilliant.”
In the past year, Tucker feels like she has developed a close bond with her character.
“I love Sophie, and I see a lot of myself in her,” she said. “She keeps growing and changing. She’s a character that will always be very close to my heart.”
Australian actress Kaye Tuckerman is playing Sophie’s mother, Donna.
Worth another shot
This will be the third trip to Proctors for the national tour of “Mamma Mia!” It played to a virtually sold-out theater in its 2006 run, and also did very well in October 2008, filling the seats to nearly 90 percent of capacity. Still, summer theater is a bit different, and Morris concedes that last year — his first attempt at bringing Broadway to Schenectady during the summer — was not a huge success. “Cats” and “Miss Saigon” did not attract nearly as many people as Proctors had hoped.
“The shows were terrific, but the attendance was not great,” said Morris, who has also scheduled “West Side Story” for later this summer. “We lost a fair amount of money, but we decided to commit to another summer in order to see what we could do. We need to do a better job getting everyone’s attention, and we feel like ‘Mamma Mia!’ and ‘West Side Story’ are two good shows to try and do just that.”