If you want a girl’s night out in the West End, then you couldn’t find a more fun, good-time show than Mamma Mia!. The jukebox musical, which weaves a story of a wedding and long-lost fathers around the music of Swedish pop group ABBA, as been entertaining London theatre audiences for the last fourteen years. Now residing at the Novello Theatre, numerous casts have paid tribute to the lasting popularity of ABBA performing such classic hits of theirs as ‘Take A Chance On Me’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’, and of course, ‘Mamma Mia’. Dianne Pilkington plays Donna Sheridan, the mother of the bride who is unexpectedly confronted by three of her past loves, in the current cast – the role played by Meryl Streep in the 2008 film adaption. Alongside her though, is an array of wonderfully talented performers all the way through the cast, from the principal actors to the members of the ensemble. Included amongst those ensemble members is the lovely Nikki Mae, who features in this week’s In Profile.
Nikki Mae’s journey to the West End stage began in Sidmouth, the small, coastal town in Devon. Growing up there, she became involved in the Sidmouth Youth Theatre after overcoming her performance anxiety, singing in such amateur productions as Les Miserables with the company. She left college at the age of 19 to attend the London-based Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts; one of the UK’s most prestigious drama schools. It has produced such musical theatre stars as Connie Fisher, Matt Rawle and Oliver Thornton, and now, musical theatre star of the future, Nikki Mae. She performed in a variety of productions whilst training, playing such roles as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Maria in West Side Story and Yum Yum in Hot Mikado.
After graduating from Mountview, Mae started working on her professional theatre credits. One of her earliest roles came in Bill Kenwright’s 2008 UK touring production of Evita, playing Peron’s Mistress in the Lloyd Webber/Rice musical in a star cast which also featured Louise Dearman (Eva) – and later Rachael Wooding in the same role -, Seamus Cullen (Che), Mark Heenehan (Peron) and James Waud (Magaldi). Another UK tour followed, with Mae then taking on the leading lady role in the stage musical of High School Musical 2. She played Gabriella Montez, shy braniac and love interest of basketball star Troy Bolton, in the production, performing opposite Liam Doyle as Troy. She then went on to play Jill Squander in a production of Mother Goose at the Stafford Playhouse.
Her next role took her overseas as she appeared as Crissy in Hair Live at Ahoy at the Ahoy Arena, Rotterdam, and it was while travelling with the show that she was invited to play Princess Jasmine in the panto production of Aladdin in Kuala Lumpur. She then returned to Hair to perform in the European tour, playing the part of Crissy and also understudying the principal role of tribe member Sheila.
It was Shakespeare who brought her back to the UK, for a production of the playwright’s romantic comedy, The Tempest, at the Theatre Royal Bath where she played Spirit and Goddess. She then took the title role in a panto production of Cinderella at the Theatre Royal in Torquay, allowing her to return to Devon for a family Christmas. She was offered the part without being asked to audition, the faith put in her fully repaid with an acclaimed performance that was highly praised by critics. Anne Broom for The Stage wrote of the young star in her review: “Pretty Nikki Mae is a dream Cinderella with a lovely voice and warm and endearing personality.”
Her other theatre credits include originating the principal role of Ava in the workshop of new musical Take Jack, providing backing vocals on the live shows of The Voice of Ireland and the subsequent winner’s single on the Universal Records label, and also singing back-up on Stephanie Pearson’s recording of My Parade. She has also appeared in HSM2 televised performances on such programmes as Blue Peter, The Alan Titchmarsh Show and GMTV.
Mae is now currently performing in the ensemble of the West End production of Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre, where she covers the leading role of bride-to-be Sophie Sheridan, as well as bridesmaid Lisa. Mamma Mia! marks her West End debut.
Nikki Mae seems to have it all: looks, talent and a role in a West End musical. It really does appear that the sky is the limit for this young performer and I would expect to see her on many more West End stages to come, hopefully in the starring roles that she deserves.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Saturday 14th September 2013