Here we go again! Zoe Ball is back on our TV screens with another sunny prime-time show that will have us all singing along on the sofa. Mamma Mia! I Have A Dream follows stage-show wannabes as they jet off to the idyllic Greek islands to compete for the lead roles of Sophie and Sky in the hit ABBA West End musical.
As a lifelong ABBA fan, Zoe, 52, was determined to get the gig – even though it meant taking time off from her phenomenally successful Radio 2 Breakfast Show and leaving behind her 13-year-old daughter Nelly and her grown-up son, Woody, 22.
“I am Mamma Mia! obsessed and absolutely love ABBA, so when I got a call asking if I would be interested I was like, ‘Yes please!’” Zoe grins.
The star has hosted everything from Live & Kicking to Strictly Come Dancing spin-off show It Takes Two, but winning this job was
a dream come true.
“There was a bit of a nervous wait and then obviously I had to very nicely ask my boss if I could have a bit of time off from the Breakfast Show, but luckily Radio 2 are huge ABBA fans, so we made it all work.”
To get in the mood before hot-footing it to the airport with her passport, Zoe and her teenage daughter Nelly had a home movie night to watch both Mamma Mia! and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Zoe also visited the West End to watch the show live.
“I’ve seen it many times before, so I’ve been living and breathing it,” says superfan Zoe. “Nelly, my daughter who’s 13, and I watched back-to-back movies and then I went to see the cast in the show.”
When it was time for Zoe to leave, Nelly had a thoughtful gift for her mum in case she got lonely.
“My daughter did this lovely little thing,” Zoe says. “She gave me a picture of us because I’m going to be away for so long and on the back of it it’s got a scan code and it goes straight to Slipping Through My Fingers on Spotify. She’s like, ‘If you miss me…’”
However, Zoe didn’t have to miss Nelly too much – the teenager managed to fly out for a few days to see her mum working
on set and meet the contestants of the show.
Zoe still missed her son Woody though, and found the youngsters competing to play Sky made her think of Woody all the time.
“They are all around Woody’s age,” said Zoe, who ended up spending time counselling the contestants and being a shoulder to cry on. “They
are away from home, it’s an emotional process, they’re really nervous – there are moments when they’re losing their minds over
what they’ve got to do.”
With enormous admiration for the contestants taking part, Zoe admits she is envious of their talents.
“I said to all of them, the Sophies and Skys, ‘You’re doing what I wanted to do.’ But I cannot act, I cannot sing. I can live my life vicariously through them though, which is wonderful. To have that talent is a little bit of magic and if you have it you’re very lucky.
It’s so wonderful to see them fly with that.”
Singing and dancing on stage might have been Zoe’s dream, but she’s more than happy with her current showbiz career. “Don’t
worry, you won’t be seeing me on the West End stage any time soon,” she laughs. “Don’t panic!”
As well as lending an ear and offering support to stressed-out contestants, Zoe also found herself playing
the role of matchmaker when she spotted sparks flying between some of them.
“There will be that chemistry at some point. I was asking the girls, ‘Who do you think you’d like your Sky to be?’ Obviously I’m slightly stirring for romance! I’m like Cilla Black and they’re like, ‘It’s not Blind Date Zoe!’ It’s interesting because you’re obviously seeing they’re looking at each other, thinking, ‘Yes, you bring this to the character.’ You need that chemistry.”
Zoe’s more often found on the radio than TV these days so being on camera, on location, did throw up some wardrobe challenges, and she was further confounded when she was banned from wearing her trademark black.
“This show is a different kind of glam to radio. I was told quite early on, ‘Zoe, no black.’ And I completely freaked out because that’s
all I do. But I’ve embraced the colour.”
However, the colour of the season happens to be pink and Zoe’s not sure about it. She laughs, “I might look a bit like Peppa Pig!”
Mamma Mia! I Have A Dream is coming soon to ITV1
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