POWERFUL: Jessica Mordue is loving playing the role of Donna in Mamma Mia, the hit musical that is wowing Whakatane audiences. Photos John Morin

MAMMA Mia lead Jessica Mordue says she has landed her dream role playing the part of Donna in the popular musical, on now at Little Theatre.

Mordue’s powerful voice has stunned Whakatane audiences who have been flocking to see the Theatre Whakatane production of the West End hit musical, playing until May 25.

In fact, Mordue, who hails from Birmingham in the UK, first auditioned for the role about three years ago while still studying musical theatre in London.

She didn’t get the role for the London West End show.

“It was my own fault because I sang Beyoncé and it was probably the wrong style of song because I was young and still at uni,” Mordue said.

The singer-dancer-actress studied performing arts at the Arts Education School in London.

But she said landing the role for the Theatre Whakatane production was an honour.

“I have seen Mamma Mia a few times on West End and I just said one day I would really love to play Donna.

“She is one of my favourite characters, so at the time people would say come back in a few years’ time or things like that.

“It is an amazing role to play, she has got so much depth to her as a character and I like the fact she goes through so many emotions.”

Her character was feisty with her friends, witty and funny, said Mordue, yet deep down there was a more vulnerable side to her, which she tried not to show by keeping her guard up, “which is really interesting to play”.

Mordue has also enjoyed working with fellow cast members. She said her co-lead Eve Lyford, who plays her daughter Sophie, was amazing to work with, as was Calvin Kingi, who plays Sam, one of her former boyfriends who unexpectedly turns up at Sophie’s wedding.

“Actually, I have really enjoyed working with everybody. They are beautiful.”

Mordue said because all the actors were doing the show voluntarily, it was their passion for the theatre that was driving them.

“I think that makes it more enjoyable and I have made some very very good friends.

“When I first came here, I didn’t really know anybody and that was a bit difficult but now, I am making more and more friends and it is so lovely.”

Mordue landed on our shores just over a year ago, after meeting fiance, Kiwi Ben Walker, while working for a year as a singer aboard the Anthem of the Seas cruise ship.

These days she has taken on the role of head of singing at Stage Door Academy, where she has worked since last year. She is also a relief teacher at Coastlands Preschool.

“I have always loved singing from a young age and had an amazing vocal coach when I was studying.

“She helped me develop my legit voice, which is a very operatic, older voice.

“I learnt a lot from my teacher, and I bring this into my own classes because she taught me so much.”

In the show, Mordue has a commanding stage presence as she belts out several Abba songs, including some solos, in her deep and rich voice.

She said her teacher helped her develop her “legit style” which is classed as operatic.
“Although I do sing pop, I don’t class myself as pop singer. I have got quite a rich tone, very deep.

“I love jazz – it is one of my favourite styles and I love legit.”

Good news for Whakatane audiences is that she has no plans to leave anytime soon. With marriage on the horizon, she could be around for a few more Whakatane productions.

And she has been so grateful to the wonderful response from our audiences to the show.

“As long as we make them happy and they are smiling and enjoying it that is all what we want.”

Mamma Mia

  • Where: Whakatane Little Theatre
  • When: On until May 25
  • Tickets: Book at iTicket and Whakatane iSite