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'Mamma Mia!' star heads to Keller, talks about life on road

COURTESY: KEVIN THOMAS GARCIA / MAMMA MIA - Actresses Niki Badua, Lizzie Markson and Chloe Kounadis perform 'Mamma Mia' on its exciting final farewell tour. It stops in Portland from March 24-26. "Mamma Mia!" star Lizzie Markson says her job is the most sedentary, yet most active one out there.

The 23-year-old-star of the successful comedy musical and eighth-longest running show in Broadway history will find her way to the stage at Keller Auditorium, Friday-Sunday, March 24-26.

A celebration of mothers, daughters, old friends and new family found, "Mamma Mia!" is inspired by the storytelling magic of ABBA's songs, including "Dancing Queen," "S.O.S.," "Money, Money, Money," "Take a Chance on Me," and, of course, "Mamma Mia!"

The show is on its final farewell tour. The Tribune caught up with Markson before her 149th show on the tour. She is in the lead role as Sophie, a 20-year-old bride-to-be:

Tribune: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you ended up as a performer on Broadway?

Markson: I grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I actually danced my whole life. I started dancing in the studio when I was 5 years old or so and did that until I started taking voice lessons and did a summer theater camp and kind of wavered back and forth between dancing and acting until I started getting into theater more in my sophomore year of high school.

I did one show and I start thinking about, what do I want to do in college? And I did "Aida" and I remember just feeling like the swelling of the music and knowing that I had to pursue that or I wouldn't be honoring what makes me the happiest.

So then I decided to pursue that I auditioned at a bunch of colleges and ended up at Elon University (Elon, North Carolina). And I got this right after graduation. I think I found out about this a week after graduation in May.

COURTESY: LIZZIE MARKSON - Lizzie Markson stars as Sophie in 'Mamma Mia!'Tribune: What has it been like on tour for "Mamma Mia"?

Markson: First of all, it's still a blast. The hardest part, when I get tired, is from long bus days. ... This week is a lot because it's a lot of one- or two-nighters.

Honestly, my back ends up in a lot of pain from sitting. I have the most sedentary yet the most active job. So that can be tiring, but you can find a way to work through it in those next two hours you have before the show. What helps is that the audiences are so excited about the show it's like you can't help but have fun. Especially the one- and two-nighters because they know it's only there for those nights so they're very appreciative, and we really feed off of that.

Tribune: How long will you be in Portland? Do you have plans when you get here?

Markson: Only a couple days. But I'm so excited for Portland. I feel like this is very cliché, but one of my favorite shows is "Portlandia," so it's a big reason why I'm excited.

I don't really know exactly (where to go) but I have a friend in Portland that I'm going to reach out to, and I'm going to see if there's any must-do's and must-sees to do while I'm there. I wish we had more time in Portland, I'd really love that. But I'm going do as much as I can to feel like I'm getting a taste of the culture in Portland.

Tribune: When you hear "Portland," what comes to mind?

Markson: First I think of Fred (Armisen) and Carrie (Brownstein, stars of "Portlandia.") I feel like my view is heavily covered by "Portlandia," and my one friend who I know from Portland — who is very open and a little hippie-like — and I think of walking into a coffee shop, where everyone's very friendly and has stickers covering their laptop.

Tribune: Do you have any rituals or routines before going on stage?

Markson: I get to the theater an hour before, and I really try to take that full hour of getting ready and putting on my makeup and everything as a way to get in the zone. Not like get in my character or anything like that, but just kind of release my mind and be present with that experience. Like free myself of whatever worries or whatever's been going on in my day. Whenever my mind is racing with thoughts I try to calm it so I can be present in the show.

Tribune: Who or what are some of your inspirations?

Markson: Well, I would say honestly my biggest, I don't want to say crutch — tool — that has inspired me for a lot of this is my one acting professor from freshman year at Elon. That's been a big thing for me. And, you know, keeping the show alive, 140 performances in, which is mostly just living in the moment and the spontaneity of it. Even though I have done it 140 times, I do it like it's the first time.

I feel like what I use as kind of a window into her is thinking of her as having this childlike belief. So giving her the filter of a child in the way that children don't really think of consequences and don't really think things through. They just kind of act on impulse and think things will go their way. ... So I definitely overthink things as a human, personally, but I think a lot of what drives Sophie is this hope. She has this intense belief that it will go perfectly because how could it not?

So keeping it in mind that she has a childlike hope and belief has helped me.

"Mamma Mia!" stages at Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St., at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 24, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 26. For tickets: www.BroadwayInPortland.com.

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