“Mamma Mia!” is a big show any way you look at. It’s been seen by over 54 million people worldwide and has grossed over $2 billion at the Box Office. So landing a part in the national tour is a big deal.
For Grosse Pointe native Jennifer Wingerter (Weingarten), it’s a dream come true. She’s excited to be returning home when “Mamma Mia!” hits the Fisher Theatre in Detroit November 5-10, 2013. As someone who grew up in the local theatre community, Jennifer was happy to chat with us about life, love, theatre, and bringing it all together.
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself and your path to discovering a career in professional theatre.
JW: Growing up in GP, I was hugely involved in any and all performance opportunities the community had to offer. I began dancing at The Turning Pointe Dance Studio at about 3 years old and my Kindergarten teacher at Ferry, Mrs. Peterson, suggested that my parents send me to Grosse Pointe Children’s Theatre. They did, and I was in my first musical, Oliver, at the age of 5. I participated in all of the shows at Parcells and Grosse Pointe North including "The Wizard of Oz" (Cowardly Lion), "Annie" (Annie) and "Once Upon a Mattress" (Winnifred). I was involved outside of school as well doing shows with Grosse Pointe Theatre, Paper Bag Productions, Roseville Artistic Theatre, and in third grade I had the honor of performing with Kenny Rogers at the Fox Theatre. I attended Interlochen Arts Camp up in Traverse City and Stagedoor Manor in NY. Clearly I was destined for this business. After high school, I made the move to NYC graduating NYU: Tisch and I’ve luckily been working consistently ever since.
Q: We hear that you met your husband while performing on a cruise ship?
JW: It’s true. Vince and I met while performing as production singers with Celebrity Cruise Lines. Our first 6 months together was spent traveling the Baltics, Mediterranean, Europe and Arctic Circle. Since then, we’ve performed at theatres all over the country.
Q: And now you’re touring together in “Mamma Mia!”? What’s that like?
JW: We are so excited to be touring together. Sure beats not touring together! It’s really a great way to spend the first 9 months of our married lives. It’s like a 9 month honeymoon…that we get to share with an incredible group of people while performing in a great show. Together this is our first National Tour however we have performed a 7- month, 3-theater tour of “Me and My Girl” where we played the romantic leads performing in Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona.
Q: The ensemble in this show gets a big workout, and you’re also understudying two principal roles – Donna and Tanya. How do you prepare for something like that?
JW: I couldn’t feel more fortunate being a part of this incredible ensemble. Everyone is such strong performers giving 110% every show. The energy comes from each other and what audience brings to us. There is a tangible exchange that happens from the audience to the stage and back.
Understudying Donna and Tanya is an immense task and there’s very little time for rehearsal as we are often either in performance or on the bus. A lot of it is up to us, as understudies, to learn from the sidelines. We do, however, have an incredible Dance Captain, Carly Wielstein, who is a very helpful resource. It will be a blast to play onstage with the other Dynamos and sing these iconic songs should I have to step in.
Q. Do you have any advice for young people hoping to make a career in the theatre?
JW: Jump In! Don’t wait! To parents, put your kids in dance EARLY. To students currently interested; get involved! Audition for the school and community shows, take dance classes, participate in choir AND band and take your academics seriously. To be a well-rounded performer you have to be a well-rounded person. You have to prove to yourself that this is something you want to do with your life. It’s not an easy road but is a fun and rewarding one.
Q. Do you look forward to performing back in Michigan?
JW: I can’t wait! I’ve wanted, for so long, to bring a tour to Michigan and I’m so glad that it happens to be “Mamma Mia.” This show is for everyone; young, old, male and female. It’s hysterical, touching, and a blast! We have people singing along to their favorite songs and dancing in the aisles during our finale. I have tons of family and friends already holding tickets and more hoping to get them. I can’t wait to see everyone at the stage door. Many of my close high school friends have moved out of state. Luckily, the tour will be stopping in many of their cities too.
Our thanks to Jennifer Wingerter (Weingarten) for taking time out from a crazy tour schedule for this interview. Make it a point to see Jennifer – and her husband Vince – when they perform together in “Mamma Mia!” at the Fisher Theatre, courtesy of Broadway in Detroit. The play runs November 5 - 10 and tickets are available at the Fisher Theatre Box Office or online.