By Karen Stokes
Milwaukee native and recent Howard University graduate Camara Stampley stars as Sophie Sheridan in the Skylight Music Theatre production of Mamma Mia!
Receiving a B.FA. from Howard University puts Stampley in good company with notable actors, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Taraji P. Henson, Anthony Anderson and the late Chadwick Boseman.
Stampley vividly remembers seeing a lot of theater because of her family legacy of actors and artists, including Malkia Stampley and Nathaniel Stampley.
“The first time I saw a musical and I thought, this is amazing is when I saw Porgy and Bess, the revival with Audra McDonald. My uncle, Nathaniel was in the ensemble and we got to meet the cast after the show. This was my first Broadway show,” said Stampley.
Mamma Mia! opened on Broadway in 2001 and was nominated for five 2002 Tony Awards including Best New Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Orchestrations. It remained one of the most popular shows on Broadway throughout its almost 15-year run.
“Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical filled with a bunch of songs from the group ABBA that a lot of people know and love,” said Stampley. “The story follows a girl Sophie who is about to get married and right before the wedding she decides that she needs to know who her father is so he can walk her down the aisle. She finds her mother’s journal on the year she was born and finds out there are three possible men who could be her father.”
“The audience gets to come with us on this journey of discovering who we are and having a good time in the process,” she said.
This production embraces diversity. Not only do the leads feature BIPOC actors, but the production includes two South Asian cast members and a South Asian Director/Choreographer, Monica Kapoor. Kapoor performed in the Broadway production of Mamma Mia! for seven years.
“I think that the diversity is great because of a few different things. It reflects the reach ABBA has held to people who have fallen in love with their music,” Stampley said. “It’s a story about humanity and that looks differently than typically portrayed in this particular show. When we see it on different people it still has the same impact. There’s very much diversity on stage, it’s a big melting pot of ideas and sharing cultures.”
This is Stampley’s first musical production since graduating from Howard. Recent credits include Beneatha in Raisin at Skylight Music Theatre, Charlayne in the one woman show Pretty Fire at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre and vocal work with Deborah Cox and the National Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mamma Mia! runs September 23 – October 16, 2022. Performances take place in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway, in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward. Skylight is Milwaukee’s professional Equity music theatre company.