Georgia Kate Haege is currently touring the country in the National Tour of the hit Broadway show, Mamma Mia!. Haege, a native of Sydney, Australia, plays Donna and she told me recently that she is loving doing the show, even after being on tour for a year and a half. “People can’t help it, they just smile,” she said. “I even watch from the wings sometimes backstage before going for scene and I’m smiling and I’ve seen it hundreds of times.”
In the interview, we chat about touring life, her audition for the show, moving from Australia to New York City and of course, Mamma Mia!.
Mamma Mia lands in San Diego, April 3rd-5th. Click here for tickets! For more information and tour dates in your city, click here.
Mamma Mia! is such a fun show and I think people who come to see it are so ready for a good time.
Georgia Kate Haege: They are, they really are. And even if you came in a bad mood or not having a great day, you’re going to leave with a smile on your face because it’s not just the music. But there are the great songs of Abba, that are just so catchy and melodic and hooky, you can’t help but sing along. And it’s uplifting and then the jokes, the one-liners and the dancing. Even the costumes. People can’t help it, they just smile. I even watch from the wings sometimes backstage before going for scene and I’m smiling and I’ve seen it hundreds of times.
I would imagine for you, it’s kind of the same. No matter how your day is going as soon as you step on stage it’s kind of hard not to have your day wash away.
Georgia Kate Haege: Do you know what, it absolutely does. You could be tired or having a bad day but once you’re on stage it goes.
How did you get cast in the show?
Georgia Kate Haege: They wanted me to come in and audition but I was away on another tour so they said, “Well, can you send the tape?” It was my fault entirely. I just dropped the ball. I didn’t get to it. I was busy. I should have, I just wasn’t thinking.
And then I emailed them to say, “Look, I’m coming back to town can I come doing it in person?” Because I always preferred doing auditions in person rather than filming. So I got back into New York and I turn up at this audition for a completely different project, something that was casting for Broadway. But the casting director was the same, so I walk into the room, and I’m like, “Oh, hi Nikki. I’m sorry I haven’t sent you a tape.” And she was like, “No worries,” really nice about it.
So I sing my song for this other project and I could tell that her mind was just elsewhere and she said, “Let’s get you on tape doing ‘Winner Takes It All’, do you know it?” And I was like, “I think I know it well enough. I know it well enough to do it for an audition.”
So she filmed me on her iPhone or iPad. I’ve got the lyrics in my hand on my iPhone and the piano player has the music on his iPhone. So it was technology bringing everyone together.
I got a call the next day saying we want you for a callback. So that was really cool. And then I did the callback for the whole creative team from Broadway and got cast from that. So I only had two auditions so it was pretty cool.
How do you like the whole touring life?
Georgia Kate Haege: You’re on a bus a lot. You’re in a theater a lot. You’re changing hotels, sometimes you wake up and you don’t know where the bathroom is because you just change hotels so often. You’re lugging suitcases. But that’s also fun.
But to be away from all your friends and relationships, that can be lonely. You’re with the same people all the time which can be a blessing or curse. And it’s tiring, you know? It’s not like doing a show on Broadway where you’re just in the same theater all the time.
Our dressers change, the people who help us get dressed backstage. They have to teach them every single time how to do things. It’s definitely more of a challenge.
But the good stuff is like getting to entertain across the country, getting to see the country. I’m from Australia so it’s been kind of amazing to see as much as I’ve seen. And bringing that joy to smaller communities that don’t always have access to theater. Or they do, but don’t have access to Broadway or theater regularly unless it comes through. So that’s pretty cool.
I’m kind of like a creature of habit and having my local grocery store and my local restaurants and stuff. So this has been good for me. Like a year and a half of this, I think it’s character building for sure.
How long are you supposed to do the show for?
Georgia Kate Haege: The contracts are up the first week of July. They did offer but this is my second year of it so I just said it’s time for me to move on. I need a new challenge. It’s a wonderful role, it’s a fantastic show but I just needed a new challenge and to get myself back to New York and get seen in there. They are going to continue going on but they’re going to audition for new cast members I think. Some people are staying.
You sing a ton of songs in the show. What you do to keep your voice and shape? I know some actors, when their show is dark they don’t talk.
Georgia Kate Haege: I do vocal rest a lot and I don’t drink. I don’t go out. That’s another reason why touring is hard because I don’t get to party with the younger kids in the ensemble. I live like a nun. No, seriously , I’m not even kidding. I don’t talk all the time. I do mute Mondays because I sing and talk so much. So yes, it’s definitely been a lot of discipline. A lot, a lot of discipline. I haven’t drank since my birthday, which is in February. Which isn’t that long. I find that it’s better to give it all up and get sleep. I’m constantly carrying my water bottle around.
So I think that’s a little isolating, playing the lead role. You just want to be your best for stage but you seem to miss out on the social goings on with the cast. Like, I feel like I have to separate myself but they all understand and I love everyone in the cast, we all get along.
You’re are from Australia. How did you make the decision to move from there to New York?
Georgia Kate Haege: Yeah, I just finished college and I got my Bachelor of Music and a girlfriend of mine, we’d been watching Sex and the City, I know cliché. She’s an architect. And so we said, “Let’s go over and have a scouting mission of New York.” And she set up a job for herself before we left Australia. I didn’t, so I had to get there and figure it all out.
And I thought, I’ll just give it six months and it just kind of snowballed, the work never really dried up. So I just stayed and she left and went back to Australia. It’s now 13 years, 12 ½ years. I’m a resident now and have a green card.
Can you imagine yourself moving to LA?
Georgia Kate Haege: I’ve got quite a few friends who are moving to LA and quite a few who already live there, Australians. They’re like, “You got to come to LA!” And I do love LA but I think in theater it’s not really the place to be. If you’re doing theater, New York is really where you should be. I like that I don’t have to have a car and all of that. I can ride my bicycle to take the subway, you know?
What’s been your worst audition?
Georgia Kate Haege: Oh my God, I’ve had a few shockers. I’m not the world’s greatest dancer, I’m a good mover and I can learn the choreography if given the time. Which is lucky in the show because we do have to dance but it’s not super, super challenging choreography. It just takes a while to get your head around it.
But I once went to one where I sang and then they said, “Just dance freestyle.” Literally like no music. I don’t even remember what it was for. I had been out for lunch with a boyfriend at the time and had a glass or two of wine, so I was kind of feeling uninhibited. And I just remember, like dancing around the room like an absolute lunatic, like a whirling dervish kind of. Nothing coordinated about it and just at the end of it thinking, “Oh my God, that was horrible” and just fleeing the room.
And my boyfriend was like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you had alcohol and went to this audition.” I was like, “Thank God I did because I think I would’ve been really nervous.” Freestyle dance, that’s not my forte. So I remember just being horrified and embarrassed.