An Interview with Actor, Richard Standing

Richard Standing MAMMA MIA

By Steve Crabtree

The musical MAMMA MIA! is a world renowned stage favourite, that entertains a wide demographic of theatre-goer.  It’s a fun, energetic show that gives audiences an excuse to dust off their sequins, warm up their best voices, and indulge in an evening of music and sunny delight.

Richard Standing has played the role of Sam for the best part of a decade. And ahead of the run of the show at Scarborough Open Air Theatre, he told us what it’s like to be part of such a wonderful show…

Hi Richard, thanks for giving On: Magazine a bit of time to talk to us today. It’s an absolute pleasure to speak to you. Now, I’ve seen MAMMA MIA! twice in the last few years – once in Bradford and a few weeks ago in Leeds.  But you’ve been part of the show, playing Sam, for about 10 years now?
Thanks, it’s a pleasure to speak to you. Well, yes – I have. My wife Sara has been doing it for a little longer, playing Donna for 11 years I think and it’s now more than 10 years for me.

And what was it that drew you to MAMMA MIA! – and what’s kept you there?
Well, I first came into the show about 10 years ago, but I’ve had a few breaks in between too. So, I haven’t been Sam for 10 years straight. But, I came into it as a theatre actor – my background is music and theatre, and I played my own instruments on stage. So, when I first got involved, I was perhaps a bit snobby about musicals. You know…people have big opinions on things they know nothing about…! When I looked into the role, and being Sara’s partner, the writers at the time wanted to see me, and understandably wondered “Will it work?”.  There’s good reasons why it could work, and other reasons why it might not. But they liked me, it seemed to work, and I got the part. I did have a break of about five years, two of which were enforced due to lockdown, but since coming back I’m probably enjoying it more than I did the first time around.  It feels like a unit and a family, and I really like that. The show has taken me all over the world, and when you get offered that, who’d turn it down?

MAMMA MIA! Richard Standing

“It’s great you can be together all the time”

Is working with your wife good or a bad thing?
I think it’s a good thing!

You’ve got to be careful here..!
Ha ha. No, I’m not just saying that, some people say “It’s great you can be together all the time” and others ask “How can you be together all the time?!”

You’re playing MAMMA MIA! in Scarborough in June. You met Sara in Scarborough I’m led to believe? Does that make it a bit more special for you?
Now, Sara is better with this sort of thing than I am, and sometimes I need a reminder of important dates! But yes, I think we met 20 years ago, and we were touring in a play.  At the beginning we got on, but we didn’t like each other in that way. The way the story goes is that when you’re touring you’re constantly moving in to new digs, checking out how comfy the bed is, finding out where you can get food and everything, and we were sharing this house with some of the other cast members in the town.  In the play, Sara and I sang a song together, and I remember that I really used to enjoy rehearsing that part and performing our song.  Anyway, one night where the rest of the cast had gone out, Sara and I were tired and we just stayed in. It was that moment when we realised what was happening was something that we didn’t realise was happening! So yes, and I love Scarborough – it’s a really nice town. I’ve worked there a few times at the Steven Joseph Theatre, it’s a really nice place.

You mentioned you’d toured the world with MAMMA MIA!. Obviously, ABBA and their songs are very famous, and known around the globe. But have you ever been in a country or a region where the audience just didn’t get it?
I have a story about this! We did the show for six weeks in South Korea, and it’s a country full of hills, lots of long walks. We passed two old ladies who owned a café, making baked potatoes.  They couldn’t speak a word of English, and we tried to say what we did. I got Sara to sing ‘Dancing Queen’, and they just didn’t have a clue what we were doing! They definitely didn’t know the song, and it just confused them even more! In the end they just gave us a baked potato and sent us on our way! But you’re right, everyone knows ABBA and in Australia there’s a huge thing for them and MAMMA MIA! out there! I haven’t toured the show there yet, but for some reason it’s absolutely massive!


“A big screen as well as the stage”

The show in Scarborough is in the Open Air Theatre.  You did the show in the grounds of Harewood House not so long ago. Apart from the obvious, what’s different about the outdoor show, and do us as the audience get anything different?
We did do Harewood House and that was really good. It was kind of forced upon us because of the lockdown. And I don’t know if you remember, but people had to stay within squares in a field. That’s how they watched the show, so that was a little bit different for them. And we also had to plot camera points as well because people are watching on it on a big screen as well as the stage. So, the difference there is where you might be 50 rows back in a theatre, you don’t get to see the close up and the emotions on faces. That means we’re doing the show as a stage version, also the kind of television version as well. I guess that’s kind of a good thing for the open-air gigs, and it worked at Harewood House. And I know that Scarborough Open Air Theatre is kind of a purpose-built theatre, even though I didn’t actually realise it was there! I know all the other theatres in Scarborough, so how it will work there I’m not sure, but I’m sure that it will.

You must have answered hundreds of questions about MAMMA MIA! over the years, many of the same questions time and time again. But is there anything you’ve not been asked about MAMMA MIA! that you wish you had been asked? If so, what is the question and what is the answer?
Oh, that is so good! [long pause] I think the question that I should be asked more often and I’m not asked is: “Why doesn’t Sam tell Donna that he loves her a lot earlier on?” You know, in the part where she sings to him, and he doesn’t say anything? I think that there’s a deeper thing behind that. It reflects the fact that men or males perhaps don’t say what they mean to say straight away. It takes in a lot of time a lot of courage to say things like that. So, he has the perfect chance to tell Donna that he loves her, but he doesn’t do it until much later.  I think that’s the question that I would have liked to be asked, or at least expected be asked a lot more.

MAMMA MIA! starring Richard Standing opens at Scarborough Open Air Theatre on Wednesday June 14th running until Sunday 18th.


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