Mamma Mia! continues to dance its way into the hearts of audiences this month at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, MD. Running until September 9th, Mamma Mia! is the story of a daughter’s quest to discover her father’s identity, which brings three very different men from her mother’s past back into her life. Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with Heather Beck who plays Donna, the protagonist’s mother in the performance.
“This performance is just absolutely fun!” Began actress Heather Beck. “The show is just high-energy, and it can’t help but put a smile on the faces of our audiences.” Beck’s depiction of Donna, who is also portrayed by Meryl Streep in the on-screen version of Mamma Mia!, brings another layer to the character. “I’m able to bring into this show a big part of myself. That’s what makes this show so much fun for me. I feel that I can connect with Donna. This is especially in the 2nd act when there are a lot more heavier issues to tackle.”
For tour-de-force Beck, performing and the arts is in her DNA. “My entire family is musical, and it wasn’t until college I decided that I wanted to give it a shot. When I finally did I basically caught the acting bug. I had seen a lot of shows at Toby’s in high school, and [Toby’s] has always called to me. I would sit in the audience as a viewer and was moved to cry watching some of these performances. I wondered if I would ever have the opportunity to evoke that emotion for audiences. When I was finally hired here it was a big dream for me!”
Beck has worked in and out of Toby’s for the last 19 years. “I also worked with some other theaters in the area. I did Olney Theatre for a bit, as well. When Toby’s opened in Baltimore I worked there for a period of time, as well. Currently, I’m a sign language interpreter for Howard County Public Schools so performing now depends on that schedule.”
For this specific performance, Beck enjoys performing many of the musical dance numbers throughout the show. “There are so many it’s hard to pick my favorite one, but I think I have fallen in love with the song ‘Mamma Mia!’ itself. It feels completely freeing to sing this song while the characters – the three men of Donna’s romantic past – are frozen there. It makes me feel like I’m entirely free on stage by myself, even though there are 300 people in the audience around me! I feel like it’s my own time when I’m doing ‘Mamma Mia!’”
With the sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again now in theaters, Beck has maintained a firm decision not to see the sequel until after the Toby’s production is over. “I’m very excited to see it, but I don’t want any outside influences changing my performance in this production.” Beck also added, that if she were given the opportunity to say something to her character of Donna she would tell her to relax. “I would tell her not to stress out so much. [Donna] is so stressed about this one thing that happened earlier in her life, and everything eventually works out for her. Whatever problems you go through in your life, you ultimately come to this wonderful place. I would tell Donna that she needs to settle down and enjoy the ride.”
For more info on Mamma Mia! at Toby’s, visit: Tobysdinnertheatre.com
- Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.