Mamma Mia! Meet Broadway’s Liana Hunt | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

It’s almost 7 p.m. on a cold November Friday in New York, and Liana Hunt is sitting in her dressing room in Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre. Coffee in hand and still wearing her own clothes, she’s busy signing “Mamma Mia” posters. It’s one hour before the curtain rises.

All around the room are bits and pieces of Sophie Sheridan, the character she’s been playing for two years now—first on the national tour of “Mamma Mia” and now on Broadway. Sophie’s beaded top and tie-dyed skirt are on a rack, her hiking boots are on the floor.

“I have so much fun playing Sophie,” she tells us.

“Mamma Mia,” the musical written by British playwright Catherine Johnson based on the songs of ABBA, has been running on Broadway for 10 years now.

Liana, who studied musical theater at New York University, feels lucky to be part of the show’s 10th anniversary celebrations earlier this year.

Set on a tiny Greek island, “Mamma Mia” is about a daughter’s quest to find her father by bringing three men from her mother’s past back into their lives just in time for her wedding.

The show has been enjoyed by more than 50 million people around the world, and Filipinos will soon experience this musical when the “Mamma Mia!” International Tour makes its stop at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater for a limited season in January.

Liana says, “People just love it. There’s an infectious joy to the show.”

Super sat down with Liana to talk about her touring experience, the fans, and why playing Sophie never gets old.

Is it true that you received the news that you got the role for the “Mamma Mia” National Tour the day after you graduated?

Yes. I was working on my final college paper. I graduated a semester early in December and I had literally handed in my final college paper and then was flying home for Christmas break and yeah, I got the call the next day.

What was it like making the shift from the tour to Broadway? Was it a huge difference?

The show itself is the same, they maintain the show across the world but it was definitely a shift getting to live at my apartment and just walk to work and have a routine every day. On tour, the lifestyle is so crazy, and it’s a lot more tiring so it’s kind of a nice shift. And it’s really exciting too, because it’s been my lifelong dream to be on Broadway.

What was it like celebrating the 10th year of “Mamma Mia”? You did a lot of events, right?

My God, it was crazy. It made the show feel new again. We all kept saying it feels like opening night. It was so cool. So many people came to see the show, I had my family here and we had an amazing party afterwards. It was so exciting.

When did you first watch “Mamma Mia”?

Right before my final callback.

So you auditioned before watching it?

Yeah! I went in for Sophie and then I got a callback and I was like, I need to see this. And it turns out that one of the songs I assumed she was singing to her lover was actually to a potential father so I was like, it’s probably a good thing I saw the show.

What do you think it is about “Mamma Mia” that people love so much?

I think it’s definitely the music first and foremost. And I also think that the story is so relatable to people. And the characters, I think everyone comes and sees the show and feels like they’re watching people they know. I know when I first saw it I was like, oh my God, these are like my friends and my family. I think there’s an infectious joy to the show. It’s so unique. There’s so much joy and life to it.

In what ways do you relate to Sophie?

I relate to her energy and her spirit. Some of the things I don’t relate to are her gutsiness. She has a sort of wild quality to her. She just goes for things and doesn’t think them through at all, and I would say I’m the opposite of that. I’m a lot more careful. It’s fun to just play someone with so much abandon.

Did you watch the movie?

I did!  I thought it was great. I think it’s amazing to see the show in Greece with that amazing setting. It’s incredible. But I still think that the live experience is amazing. The music, the band, the amazing singers that every “Mamma Mia” cast has.

What are your other dream roles? What else do you want to do on Broadway?

Oh gosh, there are a lot and they change all the time. One role I’ve always wanted to play since I was little was Louise in “Gypsy.” That’s a few years down the road. Every year something new opens and I go, I wanna do that role and that role!

Do you have any show secrets you wanna share with us?

One thing you don’t see that’s so funny is we have this expression in “Mamma Mia” called “behind the wall.” Everything happens behind the wall. It’s a common phrase here. Oh behind the wall I was talking to so and so. And what that means is behind the scenery, behind the wall at several points in the show, a large group of ensemble and principal actors are behind there waiting to enter so most of the stuff that happens at the theater happens behind the wall. During “Thank You For The Music,” “Mamma Mia,” there’s a bunch of times a bunch of cast members are behind the wall and a lot of stuff just goes on back there.

What’s your favorite song from the show?

My favorite song to sing is probably “Thank You For The Music.”

What was the first show like for you?

My first show, I don’t remember at all. I was so nervous and overwhelmed and excited. It was my national tour debut. My first show on Broadway was the same, I don’t remember.

What have been some of the most memorable shows for you?

The 10th anniversary was definitely a memorable one. And one that I’ll also never forget was on the tour, when we played this incredible outdoor theater in Kansas City that sat about 8,000 people. We sold out every night that week. And the first time opened, there was a huge rainstorm and the audience was soaked but nobody left, they stayed and we did “Mamma Mia” to like 8,000 people in the rain. It was incredible.

You do this every night. How do you keep it fresh?

As an actor that’s part of our training, how to keep something fresh. Every night it’s different no matter what because it’s live theater and the audience is different and an understudy might be on. It’s never going to be the same, ever. If I feel like it’s becoming a routine, I try to give myself a goal for the night or discover new things or give my character new things to think about. I’m always active and never just sort of sitting by and letting the show happen.

What’s the craziest thing a fan has done to get your attention?

Oh my gosh! We’ve had some crazy Mamma Mia fans. I don’t know if it’s the craziest but it’s definitely the coolest. We have a fan here named Monica who has seen the show several times and for the 10th anniversary, she made every single person in the cast a cookie with their character. Every single person in the cast! It was a sugar cookie and then the frosting was painted with the tiniest detail and she knew what everybody’s costume looked like, everyone in the whole show. That was really incredible.

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