Clark family star in MAMMA MIA!
A father and daughter, yes. A father and two daughters, yes. But the whole family! Wow. Now that’s different.
The Clark family doesn’t do things by halves. All four members – Gary, Kirsten, Alexia and Tayla – play an important role in Abbey Musical Theatre’s upcoming production of MAMMA MIA!, three of them on stage and one backstage helping with costumes.
When Kirsten, an itinerant music teacher, said ‘‘this is a show we all could do’’ the family agreed.
They auditioned and, in one of those once in a lifetime moments, father and daughter – Gary and Alexia – play father and daughter, well almost, on stage.
To explain the ‘‘well almost’’, you have to know the story behind this smash hit musical based on the songs from ABBA.
Sophie (Alexia Clark) is getting married on an idyllic Greek island and her one wish is to have her absent father walk her down the aisle. But, at the time of her conception, her mother, Donna, was having a fling with three different men.
So Sophie sends them each a wedding invitation in the hopes of learning which one is her dad. Sam Carmichael (Gary) answers the invitation.
Who is Sophie’s dad is never made certain in the spellbinding musical but Sam’s the man who stays on. In Gary’s words ‘‘Sam has no other choice. There’s still a spark for Donna.’’
There’s also another reason. Sam, the architect, brought Donna to the island 20 years earlier and scribbled the design for her building, The Taverna, on the back of a menu. Now it’s been completed and Donna is very much the entrepreneurial owner.
All four members of the Clark family perform at home. Musically that is. When one starts to sing the others join in. It’s spontaneous combustion. In various combinations they’ve even appeared on stage together but this is the show where all four are taking part.
‘‘It’s a show about family. We’re a family, we can do that,’’ Kirsten said. ‘‘It’s a show for people of all ages so it appealed to us. We grew up with ABBA, in fact my first LP was an ABBA recording.’’
Alexia recalls that she and Tayla used to create their own musicals. They were about growing up with frequent costume changes and always a musical montage at the end. Always included in the montage was the ABBA number Gimme, Gimme, Gimme.
Tayla sees family as a sense of belonging, being able to be who you are and loved for it.
Music began for Gary and Kirsten at the Glen Eden Playhouse Theatre where they first met. There were shows such as Wizard of Oz and Worzel Gummidge and then, when Gary was transferred to Blenheim, he performed in Little Shop of Horrors as the crazy dentist.
When it was Alexia and Tayla’s chance to star in Hairspray for Abbey Musical Theatre – Alexia was Penny and Tayla was Tammy – mum and dad worked backstage. Alexia was Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street and, with Kirsten, played Kate Monster in Avenue Q. Kirsten was Christmas Eve. Tayla performed roles in Annie and Fame at Freyberg High School.
Now they’re together as a family in the same production. ‘‘Our greatest strength is our greatest weakness,’’ they explain. When one of them is not part of the family circle they feel vulnerable.
Each of them has a special moment in MAMMA MIA! when they feel the sense of family. For Alexia as Sophie it’s Thank You For the Music. ‘‘Donna tells me ‘I began to sing long before I could talk’ and that’s me.’’
For Tayla it’s Chiquitita "which is a song about giving support to friends when they’re down,’’ she comments.
Gary loves the lines which ‘‘tell your daughter to make the right decision. Go with your heart’’ the script says. Now, for Gary, they’re typical dad type words.
All four members agree they have the same interests but, within those interests, they have various strengths. In MAMMA MIA! they hope those strengths will be demonstrated in the music and characters they play in the Abbey Music Theatre production.
Three Clark members perform onstage in MAMMA MIA! – Alexia, left, Gary and Tayla.