For actress Helen Hobson, playing the iconic role of Donna in Mamma Mia! is like meeting up with an old friend again.
She stars on stage in the role that was played by Meryl Streep in the smash hit film of the show.
Every time you do the show you create this magic, special relationship.
It weaves ABBA hits into the story of Donna, whose daughter Sophie is about to get married on the Greek island paradise where they live.
Sophie wants to make sure the father she’s never known is going to be at her wedding, so she invites the three likely suspects without her mum’s knowledge - and comic chaos ensues.
Helen said of Donna: “She’s changed over the years. I was involved in the very first international tour back in 2004. I was lucky enough to play Donna then.
“Subsequently I’ve done it at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. When we were on the original tour the producer Judy Craymer came to see us in Edinburgh with myself, Geraldine Fitzgerald as Tanya and Joanna Monro as Rosie.
“She just loved us and wanted us to come into town, so she brought us into the Prince of Wales after nearly two years on tour. I had auditioned for the West End before and never got close.”
Helen said being given that chance by Judy opened the door for other West End roles, including Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers.
She teaches at a drama college and has plans to mentor younger actors and help them get a foot on the ladder because she knows only too well how tough that can be to achieve,
Helen returned to the role of Donna in 2013 in the West End when the actress playing the part transferred to Viva Forever and they needed a replacement who could step in quickly.
Helen said: “I’d just given birth to my little girl in the February and I was back in the show in August-September. When they said ‘we’d love you to come in and do Donna, I said, ‘no, that’s ridiculous, I’ve got a small child and a husband’.”
She was persuaded to take the job, with husband David, a theatre technician, taking on the childcare role.
Helen said: “All four Donnas have been very different, this one even more so. Our director pushed us to try and explore different things.
“As soon as you’re improvising with with other actors, they’re bringing something completely different to the table. Acting is about reacting, not just dishing out your Donna.
“It’s one of the most extraordinary leading lady roles to play.”
A special part of the show for Helen is the connection with the other Dynamos, Donna’s oldest friends who had a music group together as youngsters.
She said: “My Dynamos this time are Gillian Hardie (Rosie) and Emma Clifford (Tanya). Every time you do the show you create this magic, special relationship in the rehearsal room. The three of us get on so well.”
Helen said that the show always gets big reaction from audiences who love to sing along with the hits.
Amazingly, she wasn’t an ABBA fan: “When I was growing up, I lived in a small village in the West Country. Pop music passed me by because I was so into animals and horses. I used to milk a goat then walk a Shetland pony! That was my teenage life, I jwasn’t into pop. I loved music and played flute and piano and played in an orchestra.”
So, to the amusement of the cast, when she first joined Mamma Mia!, Helen had to learn the words of songs that the rest of us know by heart!
Mamma Mia! is at the Lyceum from February 27 to March 14. Book online at Sheffield Theatres