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'Mamma Mia!' takes a chance on her

Australian actress from a sporty family gets lead in the ABBA-based musical after resisting musicals as a kid. She credits family connections for her love of the Swedish group.

June 23, 2011|By Candice Baker
(Courtesy Joan Marcus )

Thousands have moved to New York City with the proverbial stars in their eyes, only to spend a lifetime seeking a lead role in a Broadway-pedigree show.

For Kaye Tuckerman, it took seven weeks.

The affable Australian actress who stars as Donna Sheridan in the touring production of "Mamma Mia!" — the musical based on the songs of ABBA — never planned on a career in theater. In fact, the self-described surfer girl once scoffed at musicals. But serendipity has woven its way through her life, time and again.

"My dad bought tickets for 'Annie' once when I was about 10, and my brother and I were horrified," Tuckerman recalled. "We were like, 'We don't want to go to that thing!' Needless to say, we went finally, after having several secret meetings to figure out how to get out of it. But I saw it and ended up wanting to be in musicals."

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Tuckerman grew up swimming and surfing in an athletic family. Her father had connections in the Australian amateur theater circuit and the art scene. One had a connection with RCA Records, so when Tuckerman came home from school, she often would find ABBA records and tapes on her pillowcase or her dressing table.

She became a huge fan at a very, very young age.

"I used to do little ABBA puppet shows in school, even," she said, describing her wobbly creations. "Yes, that was a long, long time ago, but I've always been a great, great fan of their music. Australia was where they first really made it big."

She eventually got involved in shows like "Pippin," "Grease," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Godspell" and "Oliver!"

"It's really weird in a sporty family to have kids who are drawing and singing. Your parents almost say, 'What did we do wrong?'" Tuckerman said. "But I continued to perfect my work, and the more work I received."

Her first roadblock came when she decided to work in New York: the common issue of how to get a visa.

But providence struck again, when Tuckerman met a lawyer who suggested she get a green card. In a light bulb moment, Tuckerman applied, and it was approved a year later.

She moved to New York early last year, and went with countless others to a general audition for the touring production of "Mamma Mia!" To her shock, after many callbacks, she was offered the lead role.

"It just blew my mind," Tuckerman said. "At this time last year, I kind of was having a mini meltdown that everything happened so quickly. Why, of all the people in the world, would I have this opportunity?

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