Meg Hateley on following her mother's musical footsteps in 'Mamma Mia!'

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

Meg Hateley, the new Sophie in the West End cast of Mamma Mia!, is making musical theatre history. She follows in the hallowed footsteps of her mum Linzi Hateley – who previously played Donna Sheridan, Sophie’s mother in the show, first from 2007-9 and most recently in 2017.

Meg has even shared an adorable video on Twitter of her aged eight in her mum’s dressing room, lip-syncing along to “Money, Money, Money,” which can be heard over the theatre tannoy. Now, she’s on that fantasy Greek island herself, performing those ABBA songs professionally to ecstatic London audiences as Sophie, the bride-to-be so desperate to figure out who her biological father is that she invites three candidates to her wedding.

However, it’s actually a surprise turn in Hateley’s career: Although she comes from musical theatre stock, she did the straight acting course at Mountview and started out doing more TV and film, including the BBC series Doctors. But getting to join Mamma Mia! has been an incredible opportunity, she tells me, and a very special moment for mum and daughter too.

We chatted about the new Mamma Mia! cast coming in, her favourite moment in the show, and what it was like growing up with an actress mother – plus getting to see Linzi reprise her famous role as the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

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Congratulations on becoming the new Sophie! How are you finding it?

Honestly, I’m loving it. The audience’s reaction is infectious – you can’t help having an amazing time. Making other people feel happy with these great songs, I feel happy too.

And you’re now a West End leading lady as well!

That’s pretty mad. I just feel so lucky that I’ve got this opportunity, and with this incredible cast. Mazz [Murray, who plays Donna], leads the company like an absolute legend, and that work ethic trickles down so everyone else works just as hard. I’ve got two gorgeous girls who play [Sophie’s friends] Ali and Lisa, Natasha Heyward and Olivia Lallo – we share a dressing room, and we’ve forged such strong relationships. I love all the female bonds in this show.

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What’s it like coming into an established cast?

Well, it’s been a huge cast change recently – it’s more new people than remaining. It felt like a big old refresh. The cast before, who carried it through Covid, I take my hat off to them; I don’t know how they did it. But coming in with a big group of people has been nice: You’re not stepping on any toes. And the people remaining have been so welcoming – they’ve allowed us to bring a new energy and they go with it.

When did you audition to play Sophie?

So I initially auditioned for the tour last year, and then they asked me to audition for the London production in the New Year. I’ve grown up with my mum playing Donna, so I’ve grown up with the music — this show has been part of my childhood. It feels like a home away from home. Some of it I learned so quickly because it was already in me!

What’s your take on Sophie?

I love Sophie: She’s feisty, she’s brave, she’s passionate. They call her a chip off the old block, and with Mazz leading the show, I try to soak up everything she offers and use a bit of that in Sophie. I hope it’s a relationship that will continue growing. I have so much respect for Mazz.

Do you have a favourite song or scene?

I adore the finale. When we get to those three songs, the audience can get a bit more involved – there’s not a feeling like it. I thought after the opening night “Wow, that’s amazing; it can’t be topped.” But the audiences are insane, in the best way: after every show there’s such a buzz. Mamma Mia! is going on 23 years, but it still creates this joyous energy.

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ABBA songs are a big sing, though – how are you finding that?

I actually didn’t think I’d be going into musical theatre: I went to Mountview on the straight acting course. So I’ve had to learn a lot of technique to be able to do these songs – it’s much harder work than I ever realised. The brilliant people who sing them make them sound easy, which they’re not! It’s something I’ll keep developing over the next year.

We have to talk about that video of you lip-syncing backstage…

I don’t know where I got that confidence from – I wasn’t like that as a kid! I found that video on a laptop and I was like “Well, that has to go on social media.”

What was it like growing up with your mum performing? Did it just seem normal to you?

Yeah, it never felt strange at all. I was so lucky to grow up in and around theatres, and meet these amazing people from a young age. I can look back now and see how brilliantly she handled being a mum as well as being in the business. It’s hard: It’s not sociable hours, but I never felt like I didn’t get to see her.

I’m completely in awe of what she achieved — in particular, going back and doing Joseph again [Linzi Hateley played the Narrator in the West End in 2021 and also on tour]. I keep saying I’m so lucky to have had the opportunity to see her do that part — I could understand why other people had these huge emotional reactions to her as the Narrator. It was really nice to see her have that moment; she completely deserved it.

How did she react when you said you wanted to act?

While anyone who’s in the industry wouldn’t be pushing their child towards what can be such an unstable business at times, she’s been nothing but supportive. It was probably inevitable — but it was completely off my own bat that I ended up here. Whether I’m acting or not, wherever I am, she supports me wholly. Currently it’s on a Greek island!

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Do you think you unconsciously wanted to find your own path, not pursuing musical theatre immediately?

Maybe slightly that. Also, I really do enjoy straight acting, doing Shakespeare, TV, and film. It feels more of a life choice doing musical theatre — it’s six days a week, unsociable hours, whereas you might get more work/life balance with TV. But I want to keep all doors open. There’s nothing I wouldn’t want to try. I just want to keep learning.

You can definitely learn from the Mamma Mia! cast – that’s a proper triple-threat company, right?

Oh my god, our ensemble are just fantastic. They are stupidly talented. Those dance routines are no joke – you can see the sweat flying by the end! It’s taxing but it’s fantastic. There’s a whole mix of ages in the company, lovely people who’ve had loads of experiences, and there’s so many questions I can ask them, plus fresh new graduates. There are so many West End debuts being made, so there’s this amazing energy.

I was a 2020 graduate. It was a funny way to end my studies, with Covid – understandably no one knew how long it would go on for. It makes you appreciate this all the more. It’s just lovely that theatres are back open and we all get to have a great time with audiences again.

Was it emotional when your mum came to see you in the show?

Too right! In rehearsals, me and Mazz were talking about her coming on opening night, saying “When we get to 'Slipping Through My Fingers,’ we’ll make her crack.” Obviously that was an easy task! That’s inevitable with Mum: We’re so close that anything we do, we’re so happy and proud of the other person.

I think that’s what people love about Mamma Mia! too. It’s an injection of pure happiness, it’s ABBA songs, it’s dancing, it’s fun – and then it’s also really touching about the people in your life who love and support you.

Might we see a professional collaboration between you and your mum in the future?

Who knows! Never say never…

Photo credit: Mamma Mia! (Photos by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg)

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