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This "Mamma Mia!" Re-Creation From One Of The Original Lead Actors Is A Perfect Use Of Coronavirus Lockdown Time

"We spent some time in rehearsals wondering if the show was just terrible or absolute genius — we honestly didn’t know."

Meet 23-year-old stand-up comedian and performer Abi Clarke. In addition to being incredibly funny, she happens to come from a talented family. Her parents are both actors with some impressive credits to their names.

Her mum, Julia Hills, is best known for playing Rona in the BBC sitcom 2point4 Children, and her dad, Paul Clarke (his stage name is Paul Clarkson), was the first actor to portray Harry Bright in the West End theatre production of Mamma Mia! two decades ago.

If for whatever reason you haven't had a chance to catch the theatre production, and your only Mamma Mia! knowledge is the catchy ABBA tune and the big-screen adaptation starring Meryl Streep, Harry Bright was portrayed by Colin Firth.

Giphy / Via giphy.com

Paul is also the head of acting courses at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which is a pretty big deal.

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School / Via oldvic.ac.uk

He told BuzzFeed News in an email: "I am currently very busy attempting to rewrite all of the acting courses so that they can be taught online for the summer term.

"I’m also keeping in touch with the acting students who are about to graduate, reassuring them that all will be well in the long run. Other than that I am lucky to be with family and have the distraction of playing various roles in Abi’s videos and Instagram stories."

Like the rest of us, the family have been spending time indoors at their home in Bristol and have been finding creative ways to ensure their skills are refined. Their latest starring roles? Cast members in Abi's TikTok videos.

25th March 2020, Lockdown Day 2 - The Clarke’s officially join TikTok @paul_clarkson1 @julia_hills

Abi told BuzzFeed News: "I'm very lucky to get on well with my family and that they support my online silliness! I had finally managed to convince them to try a dance that had been trending on TikTok last week and when we put it up, it received such a joyful and positive response that we thought we should repeat it."

After the great reception to their TikTok debut, Abi recruited her parents for another video, this time looking closer to home for inspiration.

Dad was the original Harry in Mamma Mia - here’s him lip syncing to himself 21 years ago!... plus a few extras 😂 do we make this weekly? 🤷🏻‍♀️ @paul_clarkson1 @julia_hills #werkwednesday #mammamia

"We didn't know what song we should do next, and I suggested that we do something from Mamma Mia!," explained Abi. "I started playing the 1999 original soundtrack on my phone, and I don't think my dad realised how readily available it was, and we all enjoyed being able to sit around the table and listen to him from 21 years ago.

"I put 'Voulez-Vous' on as I was trying to find an especially upbeat song to dance to, and we forgot that Harry had dialogue during it. When dad came on I said we should get him to lip-synch to himself and then go into the dance! They took a little convincing as surprisingly they don't like bringing attention to themselves all that much, but we were all in hysterics once we started."

Reprising his role as Harry Bright 21 years later, Paul lip-synched over himself before executing some choreography. It's all very meta and very enjoyable.


Paul told BuzzFeed News: "It felt strange revisiting a performance from 21 years ago (I had a lot of notes for myself) but it was such a laugh trying to lip-synch to a much younger, energetic, faster-speaking version of me! Also attempting choreography that most of the time passed us by as the Dads was a hoot. Apparently my ‘double time bevels’ are a thing to die for."

His short performance has also impressed his peers and been the talk of the original cast's WhatsApp chat. Yes, they have a group chat — and I absolutely want to know what they talk about.

Paul said: "The response has been amazing. The ‘Mamma Mia Originals’ have our own WhatsApp group chat and we still talk regularly, their response has been brilliant. Also my colleagues and the students at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School have seen quite another side of their Head of Acting Courses. I think it’s been so well received because Mamma Mia! is such an iconic, fun show with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek and I think the vid does the same. We are also having a ball performing it!"

The clip of Abi and her parents has been viewed more than 125,000 times and is the perfect use of this lockdown time.

Twitter / GIF Brewery

Mamma Mia! opened in the West End in April 1999 and is the seventh-longest-running show in West End history. The musical opened on Broadway two years later and is the longest-running "jukebox musical" ever.

We ❤️ it! What #SuperTroupers😆 Check out this fabulous photo of @paul_clarkson1 and our other original Dads! #MammaMiaMusical #MammaMiaLondon https://t.co/J5oL3uDHTi

Commenting on the legacy of the production and how it has managed to survive the test of time, Paul said: "It was a game-changer, being the first jukebox musical. However the beauty of it is that it’s not just a story with a selection of hits woven around it. Catherine Johnson’s book is a work of art, and I will never forget the reaction of those first audiences when we moved from text to song."

"'Chiquitita tell me what’s wrong' stopped the show every night! It was like a physical wave of joy, recognition and appreciation of both the amazing complexity of the beautiful songs and also of the craft of the production as a whole. We spent some time in rehearsals wondering if the show was just terrible or absolute genius — we honestly didn’t know. The moment we put it in front of an audience and all doubt was erased was pure magic."

People are very impressed with their lockdown performance.

@Abigai1Clarke @paul_clarkson1 @julia_hills This deserves at least 7 Tonys

Because it really is fantastic.

@Abigai1Clarke @paul_clarkson1 @julia_hills I’ve just died! This is fantastic 🤣👏🏻

And talk about a talented family?

@Abigai1Clarke @paul_clarkson1 @julia_hills Amazing vid but I’m more totally obsessed that your mum is Rona from 2 point 4 🤩🤩

@Abigai1Clarke @paul_clarkson1 @julia_hills You all three nail this. We laughed a lot. Big love to you in these odd times!

Everything you didn't know you needed, and you don't even have to leave your house.

@Abigai1Clarke @paul_clarkson1 @julia_hills This is EVERYTHING I didn’t even know I needed.

@Abigai1Clarke @paul_clarkson1 @julia_hills Abi these are actual quarantine gold 😂👏🏻

Thank you, guys. Wonderfully executed.

Giphy / Via giphy.com

Ade Onibada is a junior reporter at BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Contact Ade Onibada at ade.onibada@buzzfeed.com.

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