Here we go again, Nashville! Mamma Mia is the next big musical coming to TPAC, opening April 26. If you’re familiar with ABBA, you’re going to love this show. The book was written by Catherine Johnson, and the score was arranged by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, who are original members of the group. Nominated for several Tony awards its premiere year, it became an incredibly successful show, with the ninth-longest run in Broadway history at nearly 5,800 performances.

Mamma Mia is a jukebox musical set on a beautiful island in Greece as the wedding of Sophie and Sky is about to commence. Sophie she wants her father to walk her down the aisle, but she doesn’t know who he is. You see, Sophie’s mother Donna was in a girl group back in the day and enjoyed the company of a few men. Sophie narrows it down to three gentlemen, based on her mother’s diary entries, and invites them to the wedding, hoping she can figure it out in time for the wedding. Of course, hilarity ensues.

Harry Bright is one of those potential padres—now a very successful banker with a big secret. It’s a role that is a lot of fun to follow throughout the show. In the production coming to TPAC, the role of Harry Bright is played by New York-based actor Andrew Tebo. He was gracious enough to take the time for a Q&A with O&AN about his life, his time with this production of Mamma Mia, and what we should expect from the show.

 

You grew up in Missouri. How did you originally get into theatre?

Yes, I grew up in a small town named Wentzville, Missouri, about 50 minutes west of St. Louis. I was fortunate enough that my high school had a thriving music and theatre program. My first production was my freshman year of high school. I was in the chorus of State Fair. That's when the theatre bug bit me, and I've been performing ever since. I attended college at Southeast Missouri State University and graduated with a BFA in Acting/Directing. Since graduation I've traveled all over the country. I just knocked off my 50th state touring with Mamma Mia! Not too bad for a small town boy.

 

For those readers who haven’t seen this show, tell us a little about your character.

I have the great pleasure of playing Harry the English banker formerly known as "head banger." He's one of three suspected fathers to the bride-to-be, Sophie. Harry's become this uptight banker, and now he's back to relive his wild side and has a secret that he needs to get “out” in the open!

 

You’ve been with this production of Mamma Mia for a while now. Do you feel like your portrayal of Harry has evolved?

This is my second leg of tour playing Harry. He's different in some ways from when I started back in March. In my first months with the tour, it was a completely different cast. With a different cast comes different dynamics. Different ways of playing off each other. But all in all, his essence is the same. He's a better guitar player now, for sure! When I started, it was my first time playing guitar, and I really had to practice to get "Thank You for The Music" right. Thankfully Harry hasn't touched a guitar in 21 years so it was okay if he was a little rough around the edges. Ha! But I've really locked it in since, and I feel like I could add playing guitar to my list of special skills.

 

This is a show with some incredibly awesome women in the leads. If you had the chance, what female role would you perform and why?

Donna! I think it's one of the toughest musical theatre leading roles of all time: Extreme vocal parts filled with comedy/drama, and add in basically carrying a show you've got a performer’s dream role. Our Donna, Erin Fish, is a powerhouse and a joy to share the stage with, every single performance, but I'd love the challenge to slip into her disco boots for a night.

 

What do you think made Mamma Mia the success it has been?

Mamma Mia opened in the wake of 9/11, and I think it was a bright, positive beam of light in what was a dark time in our country. The show has a way of putting a smile on every audience members’ face. Mamma Mia has something for everyone. No matter who you are you're going to have a connection with one character or another and leave happy.

 

The life of a traveling actor is very taxing. You’re never in the same city for long amounts of time, keeping you away from family and the people that you like to see. What keeps you motivated?

I'm living the dream. That's all I can say. I currently make my living traveling the world performing and making people laugh. What more could I want? Yeah, sometimes the migrant life is hard, but I look around at my tour family and friends and think about how fortunate I am to be doing what I love.

 

What has been your favorite part about traveling with Mamma Mia?

The audiences! People love this show and it is my joy to perform it each and every day. I also love exploring new cities and I'm really looking forward to spending the week in Nashville!

 

What’s the one thing that Nashville audiences in particular should pay most attention to about this specific production?

The high energy of this cast! It's one of the hardest working groups of people I've had the pleasure of working with. We bring it every night and have a blast performing this show. Come ready to sing and dance, Nashville!

 

An earlier version of this story, as well as the original version in the April print issue, included photos from a production other than Mamma Mia. We regret the error.

Tickets are available at the box office, by phone at 615-782-4040, or online at www.tpac.org. Photo at top: Kyra Belle Johnson (Sophie), Chad W. Fornwalt (Sam), and Andrew Tebo (Harry) in the 2015 North American tour of MAMMA MIA! Photo by Joan Marcus. Actor photo via Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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