A Hartlepool actress is proving to be a dancing queen on the West End stage.
Kate Graham, 43, from Seaton Carew, has taken over the role of Tanya in Mamma Mia!, the hit musical featuring the music of Abba, which spawned the Hollywood film of the same name.
The mum of one is no stranger to the role, having played one of the three main friends in the show during its international tour, which included a stint at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena seven years ago.
Kate, who is mum to Herbie, two, said: “It’s completely different playing Tanya this time around because I’m completely different, I’ve had a baby since then.
“The theatre in the West End is a lot more intimate too, which makes the show different.”
Speaking of the enduring appeal of the musical, which is now in its 18th year in London’s West End, the former Dyke House School pupil said: “I think the characters are very appealing to people as it features these really strong women.
“It’s also got great music with the songs of Abba and is really funny. It also has great costumes, it’s great fun to be in. Of all the shows I’ve worked on it’s a very happy cast and crew. I think that’s a lot to do with being around Abba music all the time.”
Although Mamma Mia! was one of the first jukebox musicals, Kate says it still stands apart from the others that have followed.
“It was one of the first in that jukebox musical style,” she said. “But what makes it stand apart is that it has a really strong storyline.”
The role of Tanya, which she’s expected to play for about a year, is the latest credit on Kate’s lengthy CV, which includes a number of West End roles in musicals such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Billy Elliot, The Producers and Beauty and the Beast.
Her love of the theatre was sparked by trips to Darlington Civic Theatre and Sunderland Empire as a child and by her dad, Duncan Graham, who would organise shows in his role as vice principal of Hartlepool Sixth Form College.
Kate, a former Durham University student who went on study at the Royal Academy of Music, makes trips back home to see her dad when she can and earlier this month appeared at Gala Theatre Durham to perform a West End-inspired show as part of the annual Brass Festival.
She said: “It was great to be back home and performing in the North East. Herbie loved it too, especially being able to run along the beach.”