By Aprille Janes
Special to The Toronto Sun
The first line of her opening song as Sophie in the hit musical Mamma Mia! is "I have a dream", and there's no doubt that Tina Maddigan's dreams are coming true. Currently starring in the Broadway version, Maddigan created the same magic at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre.
But before she brought Sophie to life, this St. John's, Nfld. native arrived in Toronto to attend Sheridan College. With the encouragement of family and Jacinta Mackey-Graham, her far-sighted teacher, Maddigan enrolled in the college's theatre program.
"They say 'if you reach for the moon you'll be among the stars.' I really live by that motto," says Tina Maddigan, who plays Sophie in the hit musical Mamma Mia!
"Jacinta really instilled the dream, but Robin Hutton from Newfoundland was at Sheridan at that time, and she said 'You need to come up and audition'. Before I knew it, my mom had come up with me for three weeks to help me get settled in Ontario. It was a lot of hard work but I got so much out of it.
"It's a triple thread program. You're doing ballet, you're doing Shakespeare, you're studying Shaw and Ibsen. It's a very difficult program and it's not to be taken lightly. It's harder when you actually move away from home and you don't have your family there."
After graduation, Maddigan looked for work to tide her over while attending auditions. She waitressed at a local restaurant but she also tried to get her foot in the door at the Royal Alex as an usher.
"They told me I didn't have the qualifications to be an usher; six weeks later I was going in to pick up my script for Mamma Mia.
"I remember sitting in the Royal Alex during my first week in Toronto. I said 'Mom, I'm going to treat us to tickets' because I'd just gotten my first credit card. I went in and it was something like $78 to go and see a show. But I bit the bullet and got us the tickets.
"It was Crazy for You and I sat there and cried my way through the show. My mother said, 'You're not crying?' and I asked, 'Do you ever think I'll be on the stage like that?'"
Maddigan graduated from Sheridan three years later -- and ended up on the same stage where she'd seen her first show.
"I opened the show in Toronto and I was there almost eight months. My family came up and supported me. So did Jacinta. Then we went on tour to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago."
While touring, she auditioned for the role of Sophie in the Broadway production, but at first it didn't look hopeful.
"They said, 'Well you know, Tina, we can't consider you.You're Canadian. We already have two Canadians.' Then when I was in Chicago, they called me and said 'We were crazy to think we could find another Tina. Would you join the Broadway company'? And my life turned upside down."
Despite that upside down feeling, her feet are still planted on solid ground, like the bedrock of her home province. "It's really amazing and incredibly overwhelming at times. But you know, I honestly don't dwell on it. I thank my lucky stars every day that I was raised in such a supportive family and that I was a day dreamer. But I'm also a hard worker. I'm really not looking for fame or glamour, I just want to be happy."
Her advice for anyone who dreams of being on stage is to "Dream big. They say 'if you reach for the moon you'll be among the stars.' I really live by that motto.
"It's also determination and working hard to get there. It's not giving up. Because it just might happen if you work hard enough and believe enough."
Her dreams for the future? "Right now, I'd love to do a film or some TV work. Or Saturday Night Live. I want to do that so bad. I love comedy. I think the Newfoundland culture has a lot to add to that type of thing. I'd also love to come back and do the Stratford Festival or Shaw Festival. I'm a Canadian. I love being in Canada. That's where my roots lie."
And anyone who spends any time with Tina Maddigan knows that her roots go deep. "Being close to my family is very, very important to me. That's why I feel fortunate. My family is still healthy. I'm able to fly home and see them. I just take it day by day and stop and think 'How fortunate you are.' It really is a fairy-tale story."
(Aprille Janes (email@example.com)
is a freelance writer based in Port Perry, Ont.)
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