Sarah Krndija on Embracing the Dynamic World of Mamma Mia! The Musical

As the curtains rise and the vibrant set of Mamma Mia! The Musical unfolds before an eager audience, Sarah Krndija stands at the center as Sophie Sheridan, carrying the essence of the beloved character, intertwined with her own unique energy. Our recent interview with this multi-talented actress provides a deep dive into her journey, her preparation process, and her approach to one of musical theatre’s most recognised roles.

Having transitioned from roles as diverse as an American villainous-cannibal-pirate in Prime Video’s comedy series ‘Class of ’07’ to a middle-aged office drunk in ‘9 to 5 The Musical’, Sarah’s versatility stands as her strength. “Jumping between forms has made me a better, more flexible, and open-hearted collaborator,” she remarks. It is this adaptability that saw her gracefully transition to the role of Sophie, allowing the material to challenge her after a year immersed in comedy.

How has your diverse career experience in both screen and stage prepared you for your role as Sophie in Mamma Mia! The Musical?

I think diversity in any career makes you a better practitioner.  Jumping between forms (theatre, musical theatre, film/tv) and getting the chance to play a wide and varied range of roles within those forms has made me a better, more flexible and open hearted collaborator. I’m really lucky to have had the opportunity to stretch myself as an actor and feel the growing pains of improvement while being employed.

Just before auditioning for Mamma Mia! The Musical, I’d shot Prime Video’s original comedy series Class of ’07, playing an American villainous-cannibal-pirate, then ended the year with two  musical theatre gigs, one as a middle aged office drunk in 9to5 The Musical (Crossroads Live) and the other as 16 year old Cecile Caldwell in a parody of Cruel Intentions (DVE), so I was definitely in a state of creative flow and feeling a bit brave, and after working in comedy all year, Sophie’s material felt like a scary (good-scary) sea change.

In the world of theatre, the journey from script to stage is a dynamic one. For Sarah, her character discovery and preparation are very hands-on, embracing improvisation and an in-the-moment energy. “Intellectualising scripts doesn’t really work for me,” she admits. On film sets, she leans into meticulous planning, drawing up detailed timelines to keep her performance consistent. But in theatre, particularly with a constantly evolving character like Sophie, Sarah finds joy in “playing out her story 8 shows a week,” and always staying open to fresh discoveries.

Can you share how your process for preparing for a musical role like Sophie differs from the process for a role in a film or a TV series?

Sure! My preparation varies broadly from project to project and centres around if the work is established or new. Probably the most important thing for me across both is to have a tight understanding of the style of the world I’m creating a character in. I can get a bit of that information from the audition process, some from era and content/dialogue, and then the rest from conversations with creatives, either during rehearsals or in pre production when filming.

Intellectualising scripts, or analysing a character’s actions cerebrally doesn’t really work for me. I am a very visceral person and will do most of my discovery and preparation on my feet. That can mean booking a studio for a few days and working scenes with actor friends. Or making the deliberate choice to try a scene  or song a thousand different ways on the floor while in rehearsals.

In film and tv you are shooting non-chronologically, so I’ll build a timeline/graph of events for both the series and my character, it’ll include things like when my character was last seen in the story, the scene before mine chronologically, and the scene that proceeds the one we’re shooting. I’ll have a really elaborate and dense version of this and then a condensed one, so that when I wake up to a last minute schedule change I’m able to go in to that day comfortably.

This of course isn’t necessary with Sophie, once she posts those letters in the overture, she’s hardly offstage. I love that flow of story, one scene to the next, which you don’t get in film and television, but that luxury also requires a level of stamina and some considered vocal choices. For MM I worked with my voice teacher, to build a bit of a Sophie vocal matrix that’s sustainable and feels great to do 8 times a week. Acting wise, I’m quite happy to discover as I go on Mamma Mia!, I get to play out Sophie’s story 8 shows a week for 10 months of the year, I wouldn’t want to be tied to choices I made in week one (within reason, please don’t read this Ed Wightman*), a cast discovers so much together as a troupe so staying awake to that discovery is one of the most important parts of the job to me.

*Resident director of Mamma Mia!

The iconic tunes of ABBA, the heartbeat of Mamma Mia!, resonate with Sarah not just as an actress but as a musician. While her prowess with the violin doesn’t directly influence her relationship with the songs, she reveres ABBA’s remarkable ability to craft hits, gushing about how “hum-able” they are.

ABBA’s music is so iconic, and Mamma Mia! The Musical is globally loved. How did you approach embodying Sophie’s character, knowing that she is such an integral part of this world-renowned musical?

With excitement! During the audition process I felt the team really celebrated my uniqueness. I never felt beholden to a certain version of Sophie or pressured to make choices that had been made in previous productions. Truthfully, I just really love her as a character, and deeply empathise with what she’s going through. She’s a girl wanting to find out who her dad is. The fact that that character comes with a cult following is a really cool bonus. Plus, it means we get a mega mix. And we love a mega mix.

Sarah’s journey with Mamma Mia! has been studded with memorable moments. From emotional run-throughs of ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ with co-star Elise McCann to spontaneous on-stage antics during previews, each memory adds a distinct color to her experience. But amidst the shared laughter and songs, it’s the deep connections with her co-stars, like her emotional confrontations with Tim Wright or the camaraderie with Martin Crewes, Drew Livingston, and others, that truly anchor her to the narrative.

Many heart warming, goose bumpy moments! But the memory that takes the cake is sitting too far on the edge of a banana lounge during Martin Crewes’ emotional ballad and flipping the chair in our third preview. (He didn’t miss a beat).

At the heart of it all is Sophie’s dynamic character, a young woman on the cusp of a new life chapter, driven by her quest to discover her father’s identity. Sarah sees a reflection of herself in Sophie’s naïveté, the innocent belief that a single revelation can set everything right in life. It’s this innocence, blended with Sophie’s passion, that Sarah was most excited to bring to life.

Mamma Mia! The Musical is a kaleidoscope of love, laughter, and music, and with Sarah Krndija at its core, it’s a show that promises an experience beyond just the familiar ABBA tunes. It’s a portrayal of hopes, dreams, and the intricate dance of human relationships, all set to a timeless musical backdrop.

Mamma Mia is playing in Brisbane until September 24 before heading to Melbourne from October 4th.

Photo Credit: David Hooley

Tickets can be purchased HERE.

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