For a woman who has played the lead part in the musical Mamma Mia more times than you have probably had hot dinners, you would expect her to be a massive ABBA fan.
But that is not the case for Helen Hobson, who plays the role of Donna in the musical featuring the songs of the Swedish pop legends.
Mamma Mia can be seen at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate from Tuesday, January 23, to Saturday, February 3.
The enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on a Greek island paradise has been a West End and global phenomenon.
The musical will be packed with songs by the Swedish pop icons including Waterloo, Dancing Queen, Money, Money, Money and Take a Chance On Me.
Helen said: “There were a lot of people who know all of the songs inside and out.
“When I did it for the first time, we were rehearsing and performed Waterloo, I was out of step with everyone and I didn’t know the words, much to my shame.
“I’ve learnt them all since but came to this show as an outsider.”
Helen has plenty of form with the role having played it on and off since 2004 in locations as glamorous as Taiwan, Kuala Lumpur and Birmingham, she joked.
Helen added: “The role of Donna has become iconic since the movie when Meryl Streep played it; it is an absolute thrill to be asked to play it again for this tour.
“I’m going off to some new places for the tour including Milton Keynes and Northampton.
“The biggest challenge is that it is a big part, the leading part in the show.
“She’s on the stage a lot of the time and it is a big musical. There is not a lot of respite.
“So much so that there will be another lady, Kay Millbourne, who will play my part for one of the eight performances during the week long run.
“But you do your best to stay in shape, eat right.
“This is a show that generates so much love that you have to give it your all.”
Does the fanbase add an extra pressure?
Helen said: “A little, but also there are a lot of people working on the show who have been on it since 2004, there is a continuity of the behind the scenes personnel.
“It is a show which everyone working on it loves and that enthusiasm rubs off on people.”
And Helen says that this is a show which everyone can enjoy, even the men in the audience.
She added: “It is just such a feel-good show and one that all of the audience enjoy. There are men who enjoy it who have a tear in their eye and a song in their heart during the finale.
“There are times when as an actor, you question why you are doing this job, but then if you can spread some joy for two-and-a-half hours while the show is on, then you know you’ve done a good thing.”
Mamma Mia has music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus and is written by Catherine Johnson, directed by Phyllida Lloyd and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast.
Creator and producer Judy Craymer said: “It’s thrilling to be bringing the much loved musical to Northampton for the first time.
“It’s a wonderful night out, with a sunny, fee-good story and the irresistible songs of ABBA. We can’t wait to share the fun with Northampton.”
Anyone wishing to book tickets for the Northampton dates, the tickets are priced from £15 to £59.50.
For further information about the show or to book tickets in advance call the box office on 01604 624811 or, alternatively, visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk