It may not sound overly excessive to have seen Mamma Mia! 30 times – then again, it might – but Jason Tuazon-McCheyne has flown around the globe and spent a small fortune to feed his ABBA habit.
“It sounds sad,” the super (trouper) fan admits early on in our conversation, aware that not everyone understands the urge to watch the same show repeated more times than the Vicar Of Dibley Christmas special, “but it has been over 15 years.”
Tuazon-McCheyne has watched Mamma Mia! a lot. Maybe not as much as some fans within Lycra-stretching distance of the Novello Theatre, but his 30 Mamma Mia! viewings have taken him across the world, in London (10 or 11 times), New York, Shanghai, Paris, Toronto and in his home town of Melbourne. He has travelled so much, in fact, that his latest flight to London, to mark the show’s 15th anniversary, was bought with frequent flyer points.
A huge theatre fan – he will also take in five or six more productions during his trip, but rarely sees any other shows more than once – the Australian marriage celebrant first saw the ABBA musical in 2000. “I flew to London just to see Mamma Mia!. That was the first time and I just loved it. Every time I’ve been in London since, I’ve seen it.
“It’s the music, and I think it’s a well constructed story,” he says, explaining his love of the show. “It really is a fine piece of writing. People think it’s light and fluffy but it’s actually really deep. It’s a very feminist and progressive piece of theatre.”
Written by Catherine Johnson, Mamma Mia! is the story of Sophie, a young girl living with her mother on a beautiful Greek island, who is due to get married. Unfortunately for her, as she doesn’t know who her Dad is, she has no-one to give her away… so she invites three possible papas to the wedding.
Of course, the pop hits of the Swedish super group were Tuazon-McCheyne’s first love. Dancing Queen was the first record he ever bought. But his love of Mamma Mia! has even had an effect there. ABBA tracks he previously disliked – he admits that Voulez-Vous and Lay All Your Love On Me are among his least favourite – were given a new lease of life by the show.
But how do you see one musical so many times without getting bored of it?
“Every show has a slightly different bent to it,” he says. “Even this time, they had things I hadn’t seen before, bits that were said and done that were just a little different. I never get tired of seeing it.
“The French production,” he continues, “was one of the best I saw… and I didn’t understand a word. The emotional level on it was amazing. Hearing Dancing Queen in Mandarin was surprisingly extraordinary too. The current London cast is very strong. There’s not a weak person in the whole cast.”
It’s hard not to ask the question that’s been lingering at the back of my mind the whole time we’ve been discussing a globe-trotting Mamma Mia! obsession. How much money has he seen slipping through his fingers to feed his habit? “I don’t know… £15,000?”
Basic maths tells me that’s £1,000 a year. When all is said and done, that’ll make a significant hole in your bank balance. But, as Tuazon-McCheyne says, “it’s inspiring, it’s something I enjoy, it’s relaxing and it’s engaging.” Others wouldn’t shy away from spending a large wodge of cash on a football season ticket or golf club membership; his hobby is Mamma Mia!.
There must be something he’d criticise, though. Something that wrangles about the show? “They’ve never had what I would call a really great looking Sky,” he smiles. “I’ve never seen a Sky where I’ve thought ‘Gee, aren’t you lovely?’”
There it is Mamma Mia!, your super fan has a dream. He’s sending out an SOS for a Honey, Honey to justify his Money, Money, Money.