FRAMINGHAM – One could say the music of ABBA has taught Chloe Kounadis persistence and endurance, but she has been a Dancin’ Queen looking for a starring role on the stage since back in her days at Walsh Middle School.
That persistence, and years of theatre shows in Framingham and beyond, paid off when she was cast in her first Broadway production last year.
Four times, the Framingham High Class of 2011 graduate tried out for the national tour of the award-winning Broadway musical Mamma Mia! And on her fourth try, she was cast as Ali, one of the best friends of the bride in the production.
Kounadis opened with the national tour in Houston on October 4, 2016, with her parents, and her sister in the audience.
Since then she has performed in more than 200 shows, sometimes performing 7 shows a week. The tour will stop in more than 3 dozen states before ending in St. Louis in July.
She said it has been challenging to do that many shows and keep it “fresh” every day. She said it is important to maintain eye contact, and be engaged with her fellow actors and dancers and to remember that while it may be her 200th show, it is the first time the audience is seeing it!
“We have to treat it like it is the very first time telling the story, every performance, every day,” said Kounadis.
And this week, 300-plus of Kounadis’ family and friends are seeing her perform in Boston.
This week, she makes her homecoming as the farewell tour is at the Boston Opera House through June 4, the same stage she watched A Chorus Line, My Fair Lady, and Legally Blonde, while growing up in Framingham.
And yesterday, she taught about two dozen Walsh Middle School students a dance from the finale of the show featuring the song Mamma Mia.
Teaching choreography is nothing new to Kounadis, who used to hold Camp Chloe, out of her basement, teaching teens and youths choreography, said Walsh Drama Director Sheron Doucette.
And this is not the first time Kounadis, an alumni of Walsh Middle School, has come back to help. She worked with theatre students when we staged Godspell, said Doucette.
“She is a natural leader. It was obvious back then, when she held Camp Chloe,” said Doucette. “She has the ability to teach and the students gravitate to her.”
Doucette Said Kounadis is a unique blend of talented and kind, a rare mix in the theatre industry.
“She is amazing,” said Doucette. “She is living her dream. And, she worked hard for it. This tour is going to open so many doors for her,” said Doucette, who attended last night’s performance with about 20 walsh students and two bus loads of students from Framingham High.
Kounadis said being on the Opera House stage for the first time was “overwhelming.”
She said during the sound check, she realized she was on the same stage where she had watched so many shows growing up.
For those who have never seen Mamma Mia!, the musical that debuted on Broadway in 2001, or the movie starring Meryl Streep, it is a tale about a daughter wanting to learn the identify of her father before her wedding on a Greek Island. Sophie after finding her mother’s diary, invites a trio of men from her mother’s past to her wedding without consulting her mother, to discover the truth.
Kounadis started her acting career with the Performing Arts Center of MetroWest in the musical Seussical.
And she would perform in Seussical productions at Walsh Middle and Framingham High before leaving Framingham for New York.
“Seussical music was banned from the house after the third time,” said Kounadis.
She performed in seven productions at Walsh Middle School, ending her career as Kim MacAfee in Bye Bye Birdie, a role made famous by Ann Margaret in the movie.
At Framingham High, she ended her four years with leading roles in Blood Wedding and Anita in West Side Story.
She had performed in more than 50 musical and worked at Hershey Park, before getting the call back for the national tour of Mamma Mia!
After teaching the dance number to the Walsh students, she answered their questions about theatre life and the show.
She talked about the audition process, the rehearsal schedule, and offered some tips on how to learn choreography.
Kounadis began the audition process in January 2016, when she went to an open call.
“A bunch of people show up with their headshot, resume, and the best 16-bars you have,” said Kounadis, who has a soprano voice.
Kounadis said she sang a Madonna song, as Mamma Mia! is a pop rock musical.
“They didn’t want to hear musical theatre,” she told the students.
About a month later, she received a call back and was asked to dance. She said she learned a dance combo.
Kounadis has been dancing since he was three. She has taken classes in tap, ballet and jazz, her favorite. She spent her final years in Framingham taking classes at Mass Ballet.
When learning tricky choreography, Kounadis said focus on one aspect of of the dance first and then move to another.
“Start with the feet and the legs, and then move to the arms and the hands, and then the head,” she suggested.
“I was in 10 times before I got the call,” said Kounadis, about being cast in the national tour.
“I signed on to the tour about a year ago today,” she told the students yesterday, May 31.
Kounadis said almost 2,000 individuals auditioned for the tour, and there are only 30 actors and actresses in the national production.
She said the tour rehearsed six days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at a studio in New York City, before heading to Texas for tech week for opening night.
She told the students tech week was fun, as she got to finally put on these “crazy, cool, Disco costumes.”
Tech is important as you learn to dance and act with the set, the props, and the costumes. “I caught my shoe in my bell-bottom pants,” she laughed.
In the show, Kounadis character wears blue glasses and white overalls, and a bright pink bell-bottom outfit, and purple flowered bell-bottom pants, among other costumes.
Kounadis, said the tour travels from city to city on a bus, and she has only missed one day since opening night.
Growing up, West Side Story, A Chorus Line and In the Heights were some of her favorite musicals.
Born after the ABBA music craze of the 1970s, she said of course she had heard their iconic songs, and appreciates that the music entertains multi-generations.
She said she found it ironic that a girl with Greek heritage from Framingham would make her debut in a musical set in the Greek islands. Her father was born on the Greek island of Corfu.
“I was lucky to have grown up in a community that values the arts,” said Kounadis. “Framingham cares so much about the arts.”
Kounadis said she thought all communities had great technical theatre at the middle school and high school like Framingham, but has learned that is not the case.
“I tell friends I want to go home to watch middle school theatre, and they are like really?” said Kounadis. “The productions here helped me get where I am today.”
She said she is grateful for all that she learned on the stage and in the classroom at Walsh and Framingham High.
She is not sure what she will do when the Mamma Mia national tour ends.
She is auditioning for various roles.
Her ideal role would be Natalie in the musical Next To Normal.
Watch some of the choreography workshop below from the first lesson to the final dance.
A couple of photos of Chloe when she starred in Framingham High’s Blood Wedding.