Broadway Features and Reviews
The Men Of Broadway's MAMMA MIA!
By Ellen Anthony, Broadway Magazine
Visiting with the three male leads from Broadway's hit Mamma Mia!, it is instantly apparent that the friendship they develop on-stage is mirrored in real life. Playing the three potential dads of the show, Ben Livingston (Harry Bright), Pearce Bunting (Bill Austin), and Christopher Shyer (Sam Carmichael), could not be more different from each other, but clearly each would make a great father. Only Pearce is a father in real life (with a four-year-old son Milo), but all three are sensitive, thoughtful and in love with the women of Mamma Mia!
While all three actors unanimously agree that the relationship of the women is the heart of the show, no audience member watching would deny that the camaraderie and humor of the Dads is every bit a reason for the colossal success of the show. "It's about celebrating life," Pearce observes when talking about the show's considerable success.
This summer, the men are eager to see how their stage roles are brought to the big screen when Mamma Mia! the movie opens worldwide. In the film, the three fathers are played by Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Stellan Skarsgard. The distinguished Hollywood cast also includes Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Julie Walters, just to name a few of the accomplished artists involved in the film.
"I think the reason they cast actors who can sing is that with the script there is a lot to flesh out, a lot of relationships, a lot of chemistry," says Pearce about the A-List movie cast.
"From the movie trailers, they've certainly upped the ante of the sexy….there's the actual beach, the water, and the wet. I mean that's going to, I imagine, be very appealing," adds Christopher.
"I'm really excited to see the movie and what their take on it is. I'm a big fan of Colin Firth's work," says Ben, " I've never had an experience like this, it'll be really cool to see to have someone who I'm a fan of play a role that I am playing."
While they may speculate on some of the differences between the Broadway production and the film, they know of a few changes that are certain. Pearce plays the role of the Australian Bill in the Broadway musical, but he's excited by one change made for the film. "In the movie, Stellan Skarsgard is playing Bill and they've made Bill Swedish. He's not an Aussie," says Pearce. " I love Stellan Skarsgard. He's got one of these unbelievable voices, and just this kind of gruff, but really endearing, sweet but edgy manners."
As actors, the men cite a range of diverse influences in their own careers, from John Cleese ("I've spent my career imitating him," laughs Ben), to Meryl Streep ("I've been so influenced by women," says Christopher), to Cary Grant ("I always wanted to be like the characters in old Hollywood films," confesses Pearce). In Mamma Mia! the men's comic and dramatic skills are on full display.
Now in its seventh year on Broadway, the show continues to break records and attract stars in the audience from Shirley MacLaine to Hannah Montana herself, Miley Cyrus. For the men, they each have favorite moments from the Broadway production.
"I just think the whole show, not to take anything away from the three of us, but that mother and daughter relationship really makes the show…for me anyways. If you didn't care about those two and that relationship, it might as well just be a review of ABBA songs," says Ben when thinking about the Broadway production.
"For myself," confesses Christopher regarding one of his favorite moments, "for my own selfish reasons, I love being able to do the wedding and being witness by expressing my love for a women that I loved for 21 years and finally being able to voice that."
"To be able to do 'Take A Chance On Me' with Gina Ferrall is like a dream," grins Pearce. "It is the thing that completely butters my bread because she is a force of nature. We are like a couple of fullbacks throwing each other around. We both get each other really well on-stage and off-stage. It is like having your perfect scene partner. She chases me around. We kiss. We hug. I sit on top of her. There are just so many ridiculous things that we do," he laughs. As each man plays the possible biological father of bride-to-be Sophie, it is natural that the subject of fathers comes up in our conversation. Thinking about fatherhood in their personal lives, the men are touchingly honest. "My father died while I was in graduate school—I was playing Orestes in The Oresteia. He was supportive of my deciding to be an actor. He worked hard all his life but really wanted me to look forward to what I was doing every day," recalls Ben.
"My own father was a stranger to me," shares Christopher, "but I've watched many of my close friends with kids. I have to say that I really admire Pearce…when I see him with his son…he is a loving Dad, a real Dad."
"It's not the easiest thing at times," smiles Pearce, "but the theatre is the greatest place to raise a kid." As the conversation winds down, and the men head out to play baseball, it is refreshing that in a musical focused so entertainingly on a young girl's search for a father, it is clear that on Broadway, Mamma Mia! has found three perfect Dads indeed.
Broadway, Mamma Mia, Ben Livingston, Harry Bright, Pearce Bunting, Bill Austin, Christopher Shyer, Sam Carmichael, Milo, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Australian Bill, John Cleese, Cary Grant, Shirley MacLaine, Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, ABBA, Take A Chance On Me, Gina Ferrall, Sophie