Yael Reich understudies the role of Sophie and is in the ensemble of Mamma Mia!, which is at Queen Elizabeth Theatre until Sunday. (photo from Broadway Across Canada)
Yael Reich is making her national tour debut with Broadway Across Canada’s Mamma Mia!, which has returned to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage, and runs to Sunday.
Featuring more than 20 ABBA songs, Mamma Mia! is set on an island in Greece. Bride-to-be Sophie wants to find her father, who she has never met, so that he might walk her down the aisle. From her mother’s diary, she narrows her search to three men, all of whom she invites to the wedding to figure out which one is her dad. The situation threatens both her relationship with her mom, and her wedding.
Reich understudies the role of Sophie and is also in the ensemble of the tour, produced by Work Light Productions, that has made its way to Vancouver.
“Being an understudy is one of the most incredible things I have had the privilege to do,” Reich told the Independent. “It’s both challenging and rewarding. Probably one of the most challenging parts of being an understudy is maintaining focus on your own role in the show while becoming fluent in your understudy role.
“I’ve been a part of companies before where we’ve had to do four and five shows at a time in repertory – a different show each night – which can be confusing. I’ve actually found it more challenging to maintain two roles in one show because, often times, my ensemble character will be on stage at the same time as Sophie.
“I’ve had the privilege of going on for Sophie a few times so far and have had an absolute blast!” she continued. “It is extraordinarily rewarding to finally get the chance to embody a role that has been encompassing my headspace for months. It was particularly special getting to do the role with this company. The artists we are surrounded by in the cast and crew are all beyond supportive and encouraging, and it was incredible to have the opportunity to exchange dialogue, intention and creativity with them.”
Reich made her professional theatre debut with Bigfork Summer Playhouse in Montana. She played Anita in West Side Story in the summer of 2014 and returned to play Aldonza in Man of La Mancha and Lily St. Regis in Annie in 2015. “Between those two professional engagements,” she said, “I had the privilege of making my debut at the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville as part of their winter season.”
Reich received her bachelor of fine arts in musical theatre summa cum laude from the University of Florida in May 2015. By that time, she had already been working for more than 15 years.
“I began singing jingles for my father in 1999 and have been a lead vocalist for his advertising company, Sound Branding Ideas, ever since,” she said. “I got my start in theatre at age 8 with the Galaxy Centre for the Arts in Seminole, Fla. My training there ranged from pop voice, piano, percussion, studio recording and dance, alongside the shows we would put on. I auditioned for the arts magnet program and attended the Pinellas County Centre for the Arts for high school, majoring in musical theatre. Having specific major coursework at that age was incredibly valuable because it instilled a sense of purpose and perseverance in me, which has proven instrumental in the cutthroat professional world.”
Also instilling a sense of purpose and a strong foundation from which to face the world is her upbringing.
“Both Judaism and Jewish culture have always played a significant role in my life,” she said. “Coming from an incredibly traditional and religious family, I was brought up with strong beliefs. I spent most of my time in the synagogue and Jewish day school studying Judaics and practising Jewish rituals, most of which involved singing. I actually managed to lead every service involved in my bat mitzvah weekend, including the majority of the Torah portions and the Haftorah.
“Recently, having spent so much time focusing on my career and training, I have devoted much less attention to the religious aspect of Judaism, but have come to find a much greater appreciation for the cultural aspect. The Jewish people are such an incredibly resilient, eclectic and unique people. Their sense of community and commitment to the people as a whole is what I find most important.”
Remaining performances of Mamma Mia! include shows Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.; and Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $35 and are available through ticketmaster.ca or 1-855-985-5000.