Call Redialed: NEW John Tartaglia Interview: "Mamma Mia!" at Bucks County Playhouse
Ever since I saw Tony nominee John Tartaglia originate the role of “Princeton/Rod” in Broadway’s Tony Award winning musical Avenue Q, I have been a fan of his. In the years following Avenue Q, I have seen John in NEWSical 2006: The Next Edition, Shrek, ImaginOcean & on Playhouse Disney’s Johnny & The Sprites.
This summer John brings his talent to New Hope’s premiere theatre destination, Bucks County Playhouse, for a summer of fun! John goes behind the curtain, into the role of director, for Bucks County Playhouse’s production of the international sensation Mamma Mia!
Set on a beautiful Greek isle on the eve of her wedding, Sophie invites three men from her mother’s past to try to discover the identity of her father. Featuring 22 of ABBA’s greatest hits such as “Voulez-Vous,” “Take a Chance on Me” and “Dancing Queen,” Mamma Mia! builds to a finale that simply can’t be missed!
Mamma Mia! will be the “Dancing Queen” of Bucks County Playhouse through August 3. Click here for tickets!
1. This summer you are directing Bucks County Playhouse’s production of the world-wide hit musical Mamma Mia! How did you come to direct this production? I was thrilled to be asked to direct it by Robyn Goodman, Alex Fraser and Josh Fielder, the producers- Robyn was one of our producers of Avenue Q and we’ve remained close over the years. She thought I was the right guy for this show and here we are! I was so flattered to be asked!
2. What made you want to direct it as opposed to being in the show? Well, I still love to perform whenever I can and try to keep myself active as an actor, but in the past eight years I’ve really fallen into a career of directing and I love it - there’s something so exciting about watching a vision that starts in your head come to life onstage. But, I would have had a great time playing one of Sophie’s Dad’s as well! Luckily - we have three amazing guys who do just that, so I get to sit back and watch!
3. With hundreds of productions already mounted around the world, how will you put your mark on this production as director? I was really interested in finding the heart and the connection in the show. Everyone knows ABBA and Mamma Mia! - everyone knows the music and expects the jump suits and the disco ball and the sequins etc.
But, there is a really beautiful story in this show about a young woman searching for who she is, and people searching for connection. That’s the part of the show that I hope to bring out front and hopefully show a little more of it in this production.
4. What do you relate to most about this show? I think Sophie’s journey. I come from a divorced family and understand that journey you have as a young person in trying to understand how things came to be the way they are between your parents and that feeling of wanting to understand to help define who you are. Basically, how you got to be you. I am also very close with my Mother and she, like Sophie’s Mom, sacrificed a lot to give me a good life. I very much relate to their relationship.
5. Do you have any fun rehearsal stories you can share with us? Ha! Too many and some not ok for print! We had a blast rehearsing the show because it’s just so much fun - I mean - who doesn’t love this music and those carefree dancing days when you’re young and have no worries? Needless to say, we had a lot of silly moments - staging “Dancing Queen” with our three main ladies was unadulterated ridiculousness!
6. Which scene has been the easiest/most fun to cultivate? Which one has been the most challenging? Staging “Lay All Your Love On Me” with the guys in flippers and goggles was so much fun and a test in “Ok, how far is too far?!” Which, with this show almost doesn't exist! The hardest was definitely “The Winner Takes it All” - it was so important to me and the actors to get that moment right and find the pure truth in it.
7. Mamma Mia! tells the story of a girl getting married who invites three men from her mother's past to try to discover the identify of her father. Have you ever encountered a similar experience where someone from your past came into your present that helped you discover more of who you were? Great question! Well, I think in my case, I can relate to the idea of learning about who your are from your past. Learning about how my parents met, fell in love, divorced, found love again, etc definitely helps shape who you are - it makes your parents seem human and when you’re an adult you can appreciate all that they did for you.
8. One song from Mamma Mia! is "I Have a Dream." What dreams do you have that you still want to see through? I love this question! Well, I feel so fortunate to have achieved so many of my dreams - I love a lyric in “Thank You For the Music” - ‘I’ve been so Iucky, I am the girl with golden hair, I wanna sing it out to everybody - what a joy, what a life, what a chance!” I feel that way every day! (Well, I mean, I don’t have golden hair..but...) I have a dream of having a family and I want to be able to change the world for good....I hope that’s something I can do.
9. Another song in Mamma Mia! is "Our Last Summer." When you hear this song, what summer memory does it evoke for you? Hmm…summer is my favorite...for me it’s the days as a kid where summer went WAY too fast and the days seemed so short because you had no worries. Popsicles and pools and the smell of cut grass and laying outside all day - I miss those days!
10. Finally, if you were to cast "Princeton" & "Rod" from Avenue Q in Mamma Mia!, who would they play? HA! Oh, well this is easy - Princeton is definitely Sky...and Rod would take on Donna for sure - he wants those 11 o’clock numbers and would accept nothing less!
More on John:
Directing credits include: Stephen Schwartz’s The Secret Silk on Princess Cruises (creator and writer),The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan, Shrek the Musical, Annie and Matilda (St Louis MUNY), national tours of Jim Henson’s Dinosaur Train Live! and Sid the Science Kid Live!, Claudio Quest (NYMF - Winning six awards including “Best in Fest” and Best Director), Lord Tom (York Theater) Shrek The Halls (Dreamworks Theatricals), Because of Winn Dixie (Arkansas Rep), Jim Henson’s Musical World (Carnegie Hall).
As an actor - Broadway - Avenue Q (Original Broadway cast- Tony Nomination), Beauty and the Beast (Lumiere), Shrek the Musical (Original Pinocchio). John wrote the acclaimed, Drama Desk honored Off- Broadway musical ImaginOcean. TV highlights: Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles (Creator and Co-Executive Producer, Emmy Nominee for Outstanding Performer), Johnny and the Sprites, (Disney Junior - eight Emmy award nominations including John as “Outstanding Performance in a Children’s Series,”) Sesame Street (PBS-13 seasons), Ugly Betty (ABC), “Kip” on Jim Henson’s Word Party and “Hank” on Julie’s Greenroom (starring Dame Julie Andrews) both on NETFLIX. John can be heard every Sunday on Sirius XM On Broadway on his show Sunday Funday with John Tartaglia.