I have been a big fan of Daniel Cooney since I saw him play Edgar Allan Poe and The Baker in Signature Theatre’s productions of Nevermore and Into the Woods. Recently, I was happy to learn that Daniel was in the cast of Mamma Mia! on Broadway, and I leaped at the chance to see Daniel in the show and to catch up with him.
Joel: When were you first contacted about appearing in Mamma Mia! Why did you want to play Bill Austin?
Daniel: I was first contacted in April about appearing in Mamma Mia!
After two rather quick runs on Broadway with 9to5 and Bonnie and Clyde I was very grateful for a job which promised some security, as we (myself and my wife Jessica Grové) now have a beautiful baby boy by the name of Gavin Charles Cooney. Secondly, I was thrilled to be offered a principle role on Broadway, and though I had no way of knowing this at the time, playing Bill has quickly become one of my all-time favorite theater experiences.
When did you audition, what did you sing, and how long did it take from that first contact to when you were offered the role of Bill Austin?
I auditioned in March. I sang “I’ll Be.” They contacted me in April.
How would you describe Bill Austin and how do you relate to him? How is he Daniel Cooney-like?
In this current production, Bill is a big ol’ country boy from Texas who loves to adventure travel and has made a career out of writing about his experiences. I can certainly relate to the love of adventure and exploring new and exciting places, also being an artist (Bill seems to take great pride in being a writer as he mentions often) but the big ol’ country boy and I aren’t much alike – he’s just the kind of character that is an absolute blast to play.
Mamma Mia! is an ensemble show. Have you worked with any of your co-stars before? And why do you enjoy working with them in this show?
Judy and I played opposite each other in Evita both at the Paper Mill Playhouse and at the Muny. She is a perfect example of how to be a leading lady; she’s kind, encouraging, about as much fun as you can stand and of course her talent speaks for itself. Graham Rowat and I did the The Thing About Men together Off-Broadway and he too is a lot of fun and a super talent. We share a dressing room so I’m also grateful to have found a good friend in Graham!
When did you first hear ABBA’s music and do you remember what song it was? How would you describe an ABBA song?
I listened from a distance as a kid and would of course love dancing to all the greatest hits at school events. It wasn’t until I joined Mamma Mia! that I started to truly grow an appreciation for this fantastic group. Simply put, I would describe an ABBA song as “feel good.”
There are some outrageous costumes in the show. Which costume is your favorite? Tell me about your finale costume and what you like most about it.
Mine are fairly calm and realistic until the finale costume. I like the 5 inch platforms best.
I first met you when you played Edgar Allan Poe in Nevermore at Signature Theatre. Now the show is being produced all over the country. What fond memories do you have of that production and why do you think more theatres should consider mounting a production of it?
Nevermore was one the the greatest experiences of my life as an actor – I have nothing but fond memories of that production – production team, cast, and creators. It’s a fantastic piece of theater.
You fall for Rosie played by Lauren Cohn in the show. How would you describe Coco and her performance and why do you enjoy working with her? Why do you think Bill Austin falls for Rosie?
Coco too is a huge talent. She is also very kind, extremely professiona,l and makes you a better actor with her level of commitment and enthusiasm for the work. I think Bill falls for Rosie because they both have a love of life, adventure, and agree that marriage is simply not for them.
Tell us about The Encore Musical Theatre Company where you are The Producing Artistic Director. How are you juggling appearing in Mamma Mia! and overseeing what’s happening there?
The Encore is in its 5th year, it’s a little gem of a spot in Dexter, Michigan that produces 6 musicals a year. It is modeled after the Signature theatre at which I first performed Nevermore. The Encore is a 122-seat theater made by converting an old warehouse/garage into an intimate theatre venue.
The juggling is for the most part successful because of a fantastic team of local staff, artists, board members, and volunteers.
Kathie Lee Gifford’s Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson recently opened on Broadway. It was known as Saving Aimee when it played at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. Have you seen the new Broadway version? You have worked with Kathie Lee Gifford before. Tell us about your working relationship with her and why you enjoy working with her?
Kathie and I have worked together on a few different projects. She’s always a pleasure to work with and I have learned much from her. She has great passion for the theatre and it’s infectious. (I haven’t seen Scandalous but hope to).
What do you want theatregoers to take with them after seeing Mamma Mia!
I think that the theatergoers have actually taught me what Mamma Mia! is all about by taking with them and leaving with us this awesome sense of fun. Of course the show starts with us; the performers, band and crew, but the audience quickly completes the rest of the experience by buying into the fun and always driving it home into the mega-mix by standing, dancing, and singing along all the way through to the show’s end – and oftentimes right out into the streets of NYC!
Mamma Mia! Broadway (North America) website.