“Mamma Mia!” hits home a little harder for the mother-daughter acting duo Laura and Kate Klimist because the production mimics their life in many aspects.
The three lead roles are played by Laura, Kate and Kate’s boyfriend, Clayton Mattingly, who plays the part of her onstage fiancé.
Kate and Clayton were both settled into their lives in Los Angeles taking acting classes and working when Kate’s mother, Laura, called to tell her the theater group was putting on a production of “Mamma Mia!” a longtime favorite of the two.
Kate did not think coming home at the time was possible because of her acting classes, but her mind was soon changed.
“I make it halfway home from acting class on my hour and a half drive and ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ came on the radio,” Kate said. “And I’m in traffic, bawling, and I can’t stop crying.”
Kate went home to Clayton, who was blindsided by his crying girlfriend, so he went out to his car to sit and think.
Two days before auditions were set to begin in Victoria, the California couple decided they wanted to go home to play the parts of Sophie and her fiancé, Sky, while her mother played Sophie’s mother, Donna.
The next day, Kate and Clayton began producing their audition tapes. “We worked from 9 a.m. to probably 6 p.m. Our neighbors were so tired of us singing the same songs over and over again at that point,” Kate said.
Being onstage is nothing new to the Klimist family.
Laura knew from a very young age she wanted to be a dancer. So, it is no surprise that when she had her daughter, Kate was also drawn to a life in the spotlight.
Kate dreamt of being a doctor when she was young, but when she was about 5 years old, her mom encouraged her to audition for the local production of “Annie.”
She might not have known it then, but this first performance sparked something inside.
The next summer, Kate was cast in “Bye Bye Birdie”; then, her mother convinced her to go for something bigger.
“I remember one night I went and sat down with her on her bed and I said, ‘You know, Kate, I know you’re happy being in the ensemble and in the back, but just once, why don’t you try and audition for a lead?” Laura said.
Shortly after that, Kate landed her first lead role playing the part of Sharpay Evans in a production of “High School Musical.”
Kate continued to land roles in various productions, and soon it became time for the family to begin talking about where she would attend college.
“Mom walked into my room one night and she goes, ‘What would you be happy doing for the rest of your life, what could you do every day and be happy?’ and I was like, ‘Easy, theater,’” Kate said.
Kate attended Pepperdine University on a theater scholarship, where she participated in many productions such as “South Pacific” and her favorite, “Big Fish,” where she met her boyfriend, Clayton.
Clayton, an East Texas native, was no stranger to acting, having been in television productions as a child such as “Big Time Rush” and “iCarly.”
After about nine years, Clayton took a break from acting and returned home to focus on school.
After participating in theater in high school, Clayton applied to Pepperdine University after being persuaded by his mother and other people from the university.
Kate and Clayton met during audition callbacks for the play “Big Fish,” and the chemistry between them was almost instant. Clayton quickly became part of the family.
When the three got the news that they were cast in “Mamma Mia!,” they were nervous and excited about what was to come.
“My dad flies out to help me drive, and we pack up everything in such a rush that I forget my dance shoes,” Kate said.
This was a new adventure for Laura, who was used to being behind the scenes and had never acted or sung in a production.
“Because I’m an amateur and I’ve never done this before, here I am singing over ten songs in this show and acting,” she said. “So I have two coaches outside of the director and everybody else, and they’re all trying to lift me up but at times it just gets overwhelming.”
But Kate and Clayton never let her lose focus, motivation or confidence in herself.
“She’s done really, really well,” Kate said. “Mom’s being a mom, choreographing the show, she’s basically being superwoman when it comes to these types of things because if there’s any problem, she fixes it.”
The three have a strong dynamic, keeping each other on track and uplifted throughout this journey.
“The dynamic between us is they’ve been my backbone throughout this whole thing and trying to lift me up to where I needed to be,” Laura said.
A scene in the play that shows Donna (Laura) helping Sophie (Kate) get ready for her wedding includes the song “Slipping Through My Fingers.”
“We don’t make eye contact during ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ because if we look at each other in the eyes, we will start sobbing uncontrollably,” Kate said.
“That song is us,” Laura said. “Kate was the most cherished and protected child because we went through nine years of infertility to finally have this beautiful child. And so for us, she was everything, and then I let her go off to this school across the country.”
The ending scene, which includes the song “I Have a Dream,” also hits home for the two because it reminds them of every time Kate leaves to go back to California.
“‘I Have a Dream’ at the end is like me at the airport, and I never make it without crying,” Kate said.