Twenty years ago, Michael Roberts McKee‘s parents took him to see “Phantom of the Opera,” his inaugural show at the Fox Theatre.
“I was so overwhelmed by it all because I was so young,” the former Decatur resident told Intel over coffee Wednesday. “But I remember setting a goal for myself: ‘One day I’m going to be up on that stage.'”
This week, the actor-singer-dancer’s dream comes true as the touring production of the Broadway hit musical “Mamma Mia!” plays at the Midtown institution through Sunday.
McKee plays Eddie, a pal of the groom in the show. This week, the performer is also celebrating his one-year anniversary in the show.
And he swears, even after 500 performances and eight shows a week chock-full of Abba‘s insidiously memorable tunes, including “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “SOS” and “Waterloo,” he and his fellow cast members have suffered no negative effects from the prolonged exposure.
“I still listen to the two-disc Abba ‘Gold’ album on my iPod,” said McKee.
After Intel arched a quizzical eyebrow in his direction, he added: “It’s true! It helps when I run.”
Still, when the 20-something performer first scored the show in 2009, he had to familiar himself with the Swedish super group’s songbook.
“I listened to the songs backwards and forwards,” he recalled. “The show really captures the singing style of the original recordings. So it was important to learn how Abba performed them.”
A strong work ethic is hardwired into McKee from his days as a student of the acclaimed theater program at Pebblebrook High School in South Cobb County.
McKee and many of his classmates routinely endured a long commute to the magnet school, 14-hour days, multiple competitions and up to five productions a year.
“It really helped us prepare for a career in this business,” said McKee.
Currently performing in the critic-proof, fan favorite show is like “being in a rock concert every night,” explained the actor. “The music is so universal. The audience is a big part of the show.”
Still, the singing, dancing fans who pop out of their seats during the finale this week at the Fox are a calm lot compared to the crowds the “Mamma Mia!’ cast encountered last week.
In New Orleans.
“That was just crazy!” McKee recalled. “We weren’t sure anyone would actually show up at the Sunday night show.”
Mercifully, for the cast, the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl during intermission.
“The stage manager pulled us aside and told us, ‘We may have to stop the show in places tonight, depending on how the crowd reacts to score updates they’re getting on their phones. I just remember thinking: ‘We might have to stop the show?’ I was pumped! People were jumping over seats. It was just great to be right there in New Orleans when that all was happening.”
Between performances this week, McKee, now a Los Angeles resident, will be satisfying his local craving for the jerk chicken and cornbread at Eats on Ponce de Leon Avenue.
Cracked the actor: “I might get the collards too if I’m feeling healthy!”