Betsy Padamonsky Talks “Mamma Mia!”, ABBA & Becoming Donna

Betsy Padamonsky on Equalit365

Betsy Padamonsky portrays Donna in the “Mamma Mia!” Farewell Tour and she might just be the biggest ABBA fan we will ever meet. “Mamma Mia!” entertained Broadway crowds for 14 years with 5773 performances. It was actually one of the first shows to open on Broadway after 9/11.

“Mamma Mia!” is a smash hit musical based on all of our favorite ABBA songs. We have “Honey, Honey”, “Money, Money, Money”, “Dancing Queen”, “Super Trouper” and of course, “Mamma Mia” just to name a few. As the story goes, Sophie is getting married which prompts her to figure out who her father is, after all of these years. Sophie and her mother, Donna, live on a Greek island paradise. It might be good to mention that Sophie didn’t mention her quest to find her father to mother. Donna does seem a bit surprised when three former suitors/romantic interests show up on her doorstep for the wedding. You can only imagine what hilarity and confusion ensues. 

“Mamma Mia!” Farewell Tour opens in Seattle at The Paramount Theatre tomorrow and runs through April 2, 2017! Get tickets here! You will be dancing in the aisles. Trust me!

"Mamma Mia!" Farewell Tour

The Company of the “MAMMA MIA!” Farewell Tour. Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia, 2016.

Earle Dutton: Tell me a little about you? Did you grow up listening to ABBA?
Betsy Padamonsky: (Laughter) I did grow up listening to ABBA. My parents bought a stereo when I was about eight or nine. ABBA “Gold” was my first CD. I remember my brother and I really loved it. I used to put on shows in my basement. I would just do it all the time for anyone that would watch me. That album is just really the quintessential Abba. It is really all of their hits.

ED: What does it mean for you to get to perform these songs on stage around the country?
BP: It is just incredible. I feel like such a dork saying this but I have to pinch myself every night. It is like a rock concert every night when we get to the finale. I am just living my dream!

ED: Have you had the chance to meet Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (original ABBA band members)?
BP: No, that is like an ultimate dream. They sent us a little opening night message. It was on the call board when I came in. I was very humbled by that. Judy Craymer, who is pretty much the mother of the entire “Mamma Mia!” empire, sent me flowers on opening night with a card that read ‘Welcome to the island.” I was completely humbled and floored. That was an exciting moment. They said they were inviting Benny and Björn to the last show. I think I would just pass out if they really show up.

Mamma Mia Farewell Tour

(L to R) Dustin Harris Smith, Lizzie Markson
“MAMMA MIA!” Farewell Tour, Kevin Thomas Garcia, 2016.

ED: What is your favorite ABBA song or memory?
BP: I think for me, one of my favorite songs has always been “Knowing Me Knowing You”. As a kid, I was always creating these stories. I just loved the stories that all of the ABBA songs had in them. “Knowing Me Knowing You” was such a fun story. I was always acting out all of the different parts in the song. I really love “SOS” as well. It is another great one. I love singing “One Of Us” too. I don’t think it is a song that most people remember but it is such a great song. Again, it has all of those acting moments.

ED: What is your favorite thing about your character, Donna?
BP: I love all the different dimensions she has. She could be played very one-sided which is really just hard and tough. I am running this business and I have my daughter. I have this hard exterior. But, when you look at her character she really has all of these different facets. She has this warm side with her friends. Her barriers really start to break down in Act Two because she has the fight with Sophie and an argument with Sam. I like that that she is a multi-dimensional character that is real. It allows me to tap into different sides of the human spirit. It makes her very relatable. You can really see yourself in her.

ED: What is your favorite part of the show?
BP: Oh, wow. I really love the bedroom scene at the beginning with the two best friends. We have such a good time doing that part. I also really love the part they call ‘The Donna Song’ because I am on the stage for like fifteen minutes. It is a real marathon. It includes my moment with Harry, which is “Our Last Summer”, “Slipping Through My Fingers” with Sophie, into “The Winner Takes It All”. I really like that bit of the show.

ED: How many times have you seen the movie or Broadway performance?
BP: I have never seen it on Broadway. I have actually never seen the movie all the way through. I have listened to the cast albums. I think not seeing the show really helped the directors. I was sort of a blank slate for them to mold.

Mamma Mia Farewell Tour Seattle

(L to R) Cashelle Butler, Betsy Padamonsky, Sarah Smith
“MAMMA MIA!” Farewell Tour, Kevin Thomas Garcia, 2016.

ED: Is there someone in the cast that really makes you laugh?
BP: (Laughter) Oh my gosh, it is funny because the cast is like a big dysfunctional family. They all know that I am a jokester. I think it was a little different for them when I joined the cast. For me to focus, I need to connect with everyone before the show. I hug everybody and have a laugh with them. Andrew Tebo (Harry) makes me really have to focus on stage sometimes. The two of us have so many little inside jokes that we really just have to buckle down and focus on stage. The fun also helps our character’s relationship. Harry and Donna have a fun relationship so it really makes sense. Sarah Smith (Rosie) will give me a look sometimes. We have just had so many fun things happen. We have had some little shared glances across the stage and we have to try not to giggle. Niki Badua (Lisa) she can always get me laughing. She is a great one. Everybody is really awesome.

ED: Do you have a dream role you would love to play?
BP: It is funny because this was at the top of my list for so long. I always thought I was more of a Tanya. When the directors met me they told me I was definitely a Donna. I had a motherly quality that just made me a Donna. They said a lot of times they have had a Tanya switch to a Donna. I think that sometimes you have to accept that you have outgrown your dream role. It is sad but then you find other dream roles. I am in the process of finding my new current dream role. I am more of the mother figure now. I can still do leading lady roles but I need to find more of them that are appropriate for me at my age now. I always wanted to be Elphaba in “Wicked” but I am just too old for that one now. Right now, a role I am loving is the mother in “Fun Home.”

“Mamma Mia!” opens in Seattle at The Paramount Theatre tomorrow and runs through April 2, 2017! Get tickets here!

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About Earle Dutton

Earle Dutton is the Chief Blogger and Editor of Equality365.com. He founded Equality365.com in 2013 to provide information about LGBTQ friendly events of interest, and to support LGBTQ entertainers and supportive artists who visit our community. Earle is a successful businessman in the Pacific Northwest has a long history of support for and involvement in, the Northwest LGBTQ community. His personal interests include: music, theater, pets, culinary arts and technology.

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