Arianne Davidow and Debbie Pappas discuss Mamma Mia! Kavinoky Performances
Hit Musical Plays Throughout January at Kavinoky Theatre
Buffalo, New York – January 04, 2018 – D’Youville’s Kavinoky Theatre presents the smash hit musical Mamma Mia! for the month of January. We decided to ask some questions of rising star Arianne Davidow, who plays the lead character Sophia, and Debbie Pappas, who plays her mother Donna, about Mamma Mia and acting in general.
D'Youville: What led you to a life of theater?
Davidow: I started dancing when I was three years old and was in the competitive dance world until I graduated high school. Having a strong dance background, I started auditioning for musicals in high school as an ensemble dancer. By my junior year, I started finding a true passion for singing and acting as well and decided to major in Theatre at Niagara University. I absolutely love how cohesive all facets of theatre are, and I'm so fortunate to delve into all three passions of mine (singing, dancing, and acting) in Mamma Mia.
Pappas: I grew up with two older sisters who were very involved in their high school musicals and talent shows, and with a piano in the house, the kids would sometimes come over to rehearse. I was smitten with it all.
D'Youville: Who inspired you along the way or you saw that blew you away?
Davidow: I did not grow up in a theatrical family, but my mom loved disco music, and my dad raised me in classic rock and roll. Watching performers in these genres such as Carole King, Donna Summer, Diana Ross, Linda Ronstadt, Freddie Mercury, Frank Zappa, and so many others made me realize how much emotion goes into song production and performance. Seeing these singers bring context and meaning to each song inspired me to bring my own experiences and apply them to each performance I do. When I can pull an audience into a soft ballad as much as I can with a raging uptempo jam, it gives me so much excitement to know I'm making that personal connection through a shared love of music.
Pappas: Meryl Streep, Joan Crawford, Anne Baxter, Katharine Hepburn, Louise Rainer ...
D'Youville: To date, what’s been your most challenging role?
Davidow: Every role I’ve performed has posed its own specific challenges, whether hitting that money note in a musical or finding the delicate nuances within a play. However, I’d have to say one of my most challenging roles to date was Maggie in The Seedbed, a role I performed in the Spring of 2017 at Irish Classical Theatre Company. It is a contemporary play that had only been produced twice prior to our production, so I truly developed the role with the playwright, our fantastic director Greg Natale, and three incredible actors who shared the stage with me. Between the modern Irish dialect, we used and the extreme circumstances encompassed within a familial setting, it was an incredibly challenging yet important role for a young actress such as myself. Sophie poses similar challenges, as I delve into the psyche of a girl hoping to find herself by finding her father just days before her wedding. I love tackling these roles and bringing my own persona into each character I have the opportunity to bring to life.
Pappas: Real life. I know that sounds like a smart ass answer, but it is the truth!
D'Youville: How did you find out about the production of Mamma Mia at the Kav?
Davidow: I’ve been lucky enough to work with many of the talented actors affiliated with the Kavinoky, and I had also been cast as Ulla in the Kav’s Curtain Up production of The Producers just a few months before auditions for Mamma Mia took place. I saw the audition notice on the Kavinoky’s website and knew I had to audition for this show!
D'Youville: What do you like or is different about the Kavinoky vs. other spaces?
Davidow: This is only my second show at the Kavinoky, so I’m certainly still discovering my own place within this theater and finding ways to make my process cohesive with the ways of the Kav. I love the classic proscenium stage and the more intimate setting, where we truly can connect and interact with the audience – yes, we also can 100% see you texting or sleeping during the show. It allows us to share the audience’s energies and bring a more personal experience to the large musicals we perform there. The Kavinoky is also such a beautiful theater, I get excited to rehearse and perform in that wonderful space. In addition to these more technical aspects, the production staff has become a second family to me, and the directors and producers cast actors that often don’t get a chance to work together, which brings an amazing energy to the show.
Pappas: I love that the Kavinoky is a grand Edwardian-style theater with a balcony, and yet is still relatively small with under 300 seats.
D'Youville: What excites you about playing Sophie and Donna?
Davidow: Oftentimes I am cast as larger than life characters who are very different than my actual persona, for example playing the Swedish bombshell Ulla in The Producers. But with Sophie, I love how down to earth she is, and how much I can explore this character who is similar in age and mindset to myself. Sophie has a line in the song “Name Of The Game” where she says, “I’m a curious child, beginning to grow.” Being in my early twenties I’m often expected to know exactly what I want and where I’m going, but in reality, I’m only beginning to explore what I can do and who I’ll become, just like Sophie. I also love Sophie’s free spirit and kindheartedness and her dedication to discovering herself and what she wants in life.
Pappas: Many things, but among them my mother has been wanting me to play this role for years, so it's exciting for me that I'm finally doing it. She'll be there on opening night and probably again later in the run.
D'Youville: How have you been preparing for your roles and the play in general?
Davidow: As with any production, I’ve been memorizing my lines, reviewing blocking and choreography, and finding where Sophie fits into the world of Mamma Mia. This includes developing her relationships with her mother, her two best friends, Sky, and her three possible fathers. This comes from work both onstage and off, and things we discover from the script and backstories we create on our own. It’s such a fun process to really place myself into Sophie’s mind and explore how she reacts to the situations she finds herself in throughout the show.
Pappas: Aside from the normal prep of studying the script and rehearsing, when I play any character, I find that I am thinking about who that character is and what her emotional journey is, seemingly/almost constantly, throughout the day.
D'Youville: How have the rehearsals for Mamma Mia been going?
Davidow: Rehearsals have been fantastic so far! We began with music rehearsals and then quickly were able to be in the actual theatre for blocking rehearsals by the end of the first week, which is great for us to get a feel of the space and the set pieces. Our director and choreographer Lynne Kurdziel Formato is incredible, giving us an outline structure of what she wants and then allowing us to bring our own characterizations to each scene and musical number. She allows us the freedom of making our own choices while also ensuring that those choices fit into the world she has envisioned for the show, which is wonderful. As we go into our final week of dress rehearsals and preview shows, I can't wait to see how much further the show progresses before the official opening night!
Pappas: Fine, thank you. And how has your work been going for you? [Editors note: Everything has been going fine in D’Youville’s marketing and communications department. Thank you for asking.]
D'Youville: As it’s rather ambiguous in most productions, if you had to guess, who do you think Sophia’s father really is and why?
Davidow: Many people are under the impression that Sam, the true love of Donna's life, is Sophie's father. However, I've gone through all three paths in my mind of who the father could be: Sam, Bill, the single, adventure-seeker who never showed interest in having children, or Harry, the London-based suitor that wooed Donna with his spontaneity and love of music. I like to picture that option #3, Harry, is Sophie's true father. He has a pure love for music and dancing, which have clearly been passed down to Sophie. I also make a very strong connection with Harry in the song "Thank You for the Music," which is personally one of my favorite songs in the show, making Harry my personal father figure of choice.
Pappas: You're not going to like my answer – but if Donna has no idea which of the three is Sophie's father, then how could anyone else possibly know? In the story, there are reasons to believe that each of the three can very well be the father. Donna doesn't know who it is, and neither do I!
D'Youville: Do you have a favorite Abba song and why?
Davidow: I have two current favorites – ABBA has such a wide variety of songs, it definitely depends on my mood that day! The first is the final song in the MegaMix of our show, "Waterloo." I have never found myself subconsciously humming a tune more than “Waterloo” – it's so catchy and fun! I also love "Angel Eyes," which is not in our show, but has the same driving groove that makes all of the ABBA music so enjoyable.
Pappas: The original recording of "Chiquitita" became my favorite Abba song a few years ago when my daughter had me really listen to the lyrics for the first time, in combination with the lush orchestration that builds in such a sublime way. No other song seems to be able to combine such heartbreak, friendship, and glorious optimism quite like this one does.
D'Youville: If you had to pitch people to see Mamma Mia at the Kav, what would you say to them?
Davidow: If you want to see some of Buffalo's finest actors dancing in disco outfits and singing some of the most groove-worthy songs from the 70s, come see this show!! The group of actors in this show will have you dancing and singing along throughout the show, and where else can you escape to a Greek island in the middle of this Buffalo winter? I couldn't recommend this show more, and we hope to see you all there!
Pappas: I wouldn't know where to begin! I'm honored to be a part of such a huge collaborative effort with so many talented people. Just come see it!
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