Final Bow

Final Bow: Mamma Mia! Matriarch Judy McLane Wraps Up Broadway's Last Summer of ABBA

Strange gifts, unexpected guests, and an 11-year trip down the aisle she’ll never forget.

"Don't take Paxil. Don't take Zoloft. Come and see Mamma Mia!"

It's wisdom that the show's leading lady Judy McLane says she's espoused since joining the cast 11 years ago — already three years into the ABBA jukebox musical's run as Broadway's most reliable mood-enhancer. Its perfectly blended cocktail of melody and spandex has kept New York's spirits high and McLane's skin bronze for over a decade ("I've been tan for 11 years straight," she says incredulously). But, as it goes on the Great White Way, all good things must come to an end.

The show plays its final performance at the Broadhurst Theatre on September 12, with McLane closing out its record-breaking run in the lead role of Donna — single mother to Sophie who surreptitiously invites her three possible fathers to her wedding. McLane has been performing the role since 2012, following a seven-year stint as Donna’s gregarious (and perpetually gin-soaked) friend Tanya, so we asked her to reflect on her time with both of these dynamic Dynamos before she bids a final farewell to her Broadway paradise.

Judy McLane plays her final performance as Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia! at the Broadhurst Theatre on September 12.
Judy McLane plays her final performance as Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia! at the Broadhurst Theatre on September 12.
(© David Gordon)

1. What is your favorite line that you deliver (as both Tanya and Donna)?
Tanya: "Oh please."
Donna: "Every morning I wake up and thank Christ I don't have some middle-aged menopausal man to bother me."

2. Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?

Whenever we had a show that we were trying to get through, we used MIA: Massive Interactive Acting.

3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show and how was it handled?

One of the times at the Winter Garden when it was raining really badly, it began leaking all over the stage. We literally had buckets on the stage. The blocking to avoid the puddles of water on the stage…It was just a constant, "Here, take this towel out on your next cue. Put this bucket right here." I'm trying to sing "The Winner Takes It All" and it's raining onstage.

4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
A Cinderella ornament. CJ, one of the fans, calls me her fairy godmother, so she got me a Cinderella shoe with a pumpkin on the bottom.

5. Who is the coolest person who came to see your show? (You can't say family!)
I loved when Colin Powell came. I thought that was just a strange, strange thing. Colin Powell— would you expect him to be a big Mamma Mia! fan? He loves the show. He used to come all the time.

6. Which ABBA number would you select as your personal theme song?
"Thank You for the Music." It's probably the corny one to pick but it's true. It's why I have a career.

7. What is your favorite audience moment from the show's encore section?
It was after the encore. We were taking pictures for Broadway Cares in our costumes, and a woman came up to me and she had tears in her eyes and she said, "I haven't had this much fun in forty years. You made my ninetieth birthday." I was blown away. It's one of my favorite moments ever from Mamma Mia!

8. Based on the evidence presented in the show, who do you think is Sophie's real father?

It's always dependent on who looks alike. Sometimes it's been Bill, sometimes it's been Harry. This time I think for sure it's Sam. We've all got that nose. [laughs]

9. Which costume will you miss the most?
I can't believe this, but I'm gonna say my lime-green spandex. It's so unique to the show [and] for me now it's almost iconic. It's what I've been seen in so much. Tanya's I didn't love so much when I wore that, but I do love Donna's.

10. What trait do you hope to have inherited from Tanya/Donna?
Tanya: Love of life all the time. No matter what is happening, just always lovin' life.

Donna: I'm a lot like Donna — [her] earthy quality [and] Donna's staying power. But she's always got a sense of humor even in the worst of situations. I could use more of that.

McLane with three of her former costars, Graham Rowat (Harry), Aaron Lazar (Sam), and Daniel Cooney (Bill).
McLane with three of her former costars, Graham Rowat (Harry), Aaron Lazar (Sam), and Daniel Cooney (Bill).
(courtesy of the production)

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Mamma Mia!

Closed: September 12, 2015