“Thank You For the Music” – Interview with MAMMA MIA! Cast Member, Niki Badua!

Today on the Camp Broadway Blog, I am elated to share with all of you, an exclusive interview with Niki Badua – who is currently playing Lisa in the Farewell Tour of MAMMA MIA!

Niki Badua (Lisa) is excited to be returning to MAMMA MIA! Previous theatre credits include: Kim in MISS SAIGON (Serenbe Playhouse), MAMMA MIA! National tour 2015-2016 (Ensemble u/s Ali, u/s Lisa), and IN THE HEIGHTS (Ensemble). She sends her thanks to her mom, dad, friends and family, JDCasting and the Work Light team.

Niki started singing at the mere age of eight and immediately knew that it was something she wanted to pursue. She had dreams of being a popstar, but when her vocal teacher told her she should get into musical theatre, she decided to give it a shot. In school, her first audition was for Les Miserables, but she didn’t make the cast. Her first high school show would be High School Musical, and although she had a “tiny role in the ensemble”, she soon fell in love with theatre. At the age of 18, Niki moved to New York to pursue a career in the theatre.

Fast forward to 2016, and Niki has already performed in the 2015-16 National Tour of MAMMA MIA!, playing in the ensemble and understudying two roles. Now, she returns to the show’s Farewell Tour as Lisa! One of her favorite things about performing in this tour is finding new ways to keep the show fresh, even after performing it hundreds of times.

On making the show her own…

CB: “What is it like being in such a well-known musical?”
Niki: “I grew up listening to ‘ABBA’, my mother would play the album when I was younger, so it was so exciting to be part of something that was so familiar to me. So, that in itself was really awesome. The pressure was there because it’s all songs that people know and are popular, and it doesn’t sound like the CD. Sometimes the pressure is there to make it really, really good, and to not disappoint the audience. We usually do a good job with that, and the audience loves when we start singing “Dancing Queen” during the end, but we can make it our own because we get the liberty to do a lot of our own style and that’s really fun. Normally you’re in a classical musical theatre show where you have to do certain steps, but with MAMMA MIA! it’s like a huge dance party onstage and we have basic steps that we have to hit on certain counts, but for the most part it’s us putting our own personality on it and doing our own type of thing and dancing to music that we know. That’s a really cool part of being part of something really popular, but also trying to make it our own as well.”

The Company of the MAMMA MIA! Farewell Tour MAMMA MIA! Farewell Tour, Kevin Thomas Garcia, 2016

The Company of the MAMMA MIA! Farewell Tour MAMMA MIA! Farewell Tour, Kevin Thomas Garcia, 2016

On the uniqueness of a touring show…

CB: “How is performing a touring production different than a production that stays in one place?”
Niki: “We don’t stay in one place for very long, so that alone makes it very fresh for us; we have a different backstage track, certain venues have different amounts of dressing rooms. Whereas when you’re doing a show where you’re sitting down for one month or a couple weeks, you get used to what’s going on, you kind of know what you’re getting into. Some of that can be really nice because you have a routine, but touring keeps on us on our toes and we’re not bored. That’s the coolest thing about touring, and we get to see all these cool places I never would’ve known existed. Specifically, one of my favorite places was getting to go to the middle of Arkansas, and I was like, ‘I would’ve never known about this place if I hadn’t been on tour’, you know?”

CB: “What is the rehearsal process like for a touring show versus a show that stays in one place?”
Niki: “For a touring show we rehearse in New York City in a studio, so we would do it in this small room which is very similar to Broadway. Then we go to tech, which we did in the middle of Texas, then onto a bigger venue. Sometimes it can be crazy and sometimes it can be really cool, like you don’t stay in one place. So not only are they still changing things during the rehearsal process but your environment is changing.”

On spending time with the cast…

CB: “Do you get much free time with members of the cast to ‘explore’?”
Niki: “Yeah, it depends on how long we’re in one place. For me, I make sure I see things, even if I’m somewhere for only one night. I always try and go out, you know, we’re stuck on a bus for a while… We go to these towns and see these local coffee shops instead of the ‘Starbucks’ that’s down the street. Sometimes, shopping is the best way for us to let off some steam, and most of our wardrobes are all local clothes that were made in that city.”

Chloe Kounadis, Lizzie Markson, Niki Badua, MAMMA MIA! Farewell Tour, Kevin Thomas Garcia, 2016

Chloe Kounadis, Lizzie Markson, Niki Badua, MAMMA MIA! Farewell Tour, Kevin Thomas Garcia, 2016

CB: “Do you all get to bond as a cast by traveling the country together?”
Niki: “Yes. Right now we are very new into the tour and there are so many of us. From here, I have to take my time getting to know people, I hang out with so many different groups and different personalities here. There are the people that like to go to the gym after shows, people who like to go shopping, and people who just like to stay in bed. There are so many different groups and we all realized early on that we’re all going through this together. You have to learn to really enjoy your time with them and your time alone so you’re not tired of hanging around the same people.”

On adjusting to the routine of actively traveling…

CB: “Do you have any routines to stay healthy for your shows?”

Cashelle Butler, Betsy Padamonsky, Sarah Smith MAMMA MIA! Farewell Tour, Kevin Thomas Garcia, 2016.

Cashelle Butler, Betsy Padamonsky, Sarah Smith MAMMA MIA! Farewell Tour, Kevin Thomas Garcia, 2016.

Niki: “The show is very cardio-heavy so I always make sure that my body is warmed up at least two hours before the show. Sometimes I’ll go to the gym, run, all to get my blood pumping. My typical routine is: I’ll go to the gym, get some food, listen to some music and put on my makeup. I also keep a journal. Depending on where I am I’ll steam my vocal cords so I’m not dry.”

CB: “Is flexibility a big part of being in a touring show?”
Niki: “Oh absolutely, if you are not flexible, it would be very difficult to tour. Sometimes you’ll do something at one venue that you can’t do at the next. We travel to different climates and different venues around the country, and that all plays a part in the overall show.”

To close the interview, Niki took a look back at her journey with MAMMA MIA!, and told me how much her experience with the show, specifically the Farewell Tour, has meant to her…

Niki: “It’s crazy to me that it’s the Farewell Tour because I saw it six years ago when it came to Hawaii, which is where I’m from. I can’t believe that I’m part of something so big, and I’m also part of the Farewell Tour of it…. You’re the last cast that people are going to remember and you’re making the last mark of MAMMA MIA! and so the pressure is more of giving it your all, because there isn’t really anything to lose at this point… It’s so cool to be part of something that’s the last, just like it’s exciting to be the first. It’s really exciting to be a part of something that’s the final time, especially something that’s so iconic as this… To be part of the generation that gets to hear it again and share that story, it’s really exciting and makes going to work every night so fun. To think that I’ll get to do this show so many times in the next nine months… I’m really excited because people are coming to see this… It’s so thrilling to be onstage at night, just knowing it’s the last one.”

A Special Thank You to Kari Amarosso, ASU Gammage Public Relations Manager, Kerry Dineen, Niki Badua, and the cast of MAMMA MIA! for making this interview possible!

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