Eric Presnall wasn’t an Abba fan before joining the cast of “Mamma Mia!”
That’s somewhat understandable. The Swedish supergroup had disbanded by the time the 25-year-old was born.
But fresh off “Green Day’s American Idiot” national tour, Presnall was invited to join “Mamma Mia!” in the role of Sky. He’s the fiancé of Sophie, the daughter of a former pop diva-turned-tavern owner Donna Sheridan.
Sophie wants her father to walk her down the aisle. Trouble is, she doesn’t know who he is. She invites three men from her mom’s past – Harry Bright, a stiff-upper-lip Brit banker; Bill Austin, a macho travel writer and adventurer; and Sam Carmichael, a divorced architect who broke Donna’s heart 21 years ago when he married another woman – to the ceremony. Also on hand are Donna’s former backup singers.
The backdrop of dance tunes, glittery spandex costumes and platform shoes are a throwback to the 1970s and a delight for audiences, Presnall said.
“This music absolutely grows on you,” he said. “And audiences love it; are totally devoted to it. It’s like their hidden pleasure is under attack.”
Presnall admits to having been completely won over. “At the start of the second act, I’m backstage singing my heart out. I love it.”
The Folsom, California, resident came by his theatrical roots honestly. He began attending musical theatre shows at a very young age with his musician father.
“I still remember sitting dead row center at ‘Phantom of the Opera’ when I was 8 or 9,” Presnall said.
After high school, Presnall landed a role in the European tour of “High School Musical” for a year. Roles in film (“Capital Gains”) and TV soon followed.
“I did different kinds of performing,” he explained. “I didn’t seclude myself to one specific part.”
TV included a spot hosting “Who Let the Dogs Out” on Animal Planet.
“It was like ‘American Idol’ for dogs,” he said, laughing. Presnall is still friends with Tilman, the skateboarding dog, and his owners.
A world traveler at heart, Presnall’s interests extend beyond the stage. At the end of the “Mamma Mia!” tour, he will attend the University of Melbourne where he will major in music and stage therapy for children.
“Child psychology has always been my main interest, and Australia has the world’s number two university in the subject,” he said. “I was thrilled when I learned I had been accepted.”
For now, Presnall’s focus is on his theatrical job.
“This is actually my mother’s favorite show,” he explained. “I auditioned on her birthday.”
“Mamma Mia!” travels to Folsom in February where Presnall’s family will see it onstage for the first time.
“We’ve been playing to sold out crowds across the country,” he said. “And the audiences are so diverse: People from age 89 to young children.
“You look out and see people with their Abba attire and ‘Mamma Mia!’ bears. It is so awesome.”
Much like his own love for theatre, Presnall surmises Abba’s music is a family affair.
“I think it is passed down from generation to generation,” he said. “The older generation thrived on this music in the Seventies. It was their Justin Bieber. That’s so contagious.”
“Mamma Mia!” runs Jan. 13-18 at the Saenger Theater, 1111 Canal St., in New Orleans. Tickets are $25 to $80, and are available via Ticketmaster or the Saenger Box Office.
For more information, visit neworleans.broadway.com.