Lizzie Markson '16's story of success is not without connection to her mentors, focused work ethic and an early pursued passion. This spring, just a week after graduation, Markson landed the role of Sophie in the farewell tour of "MAMMA MIA!" — a role that would take her career to new heights.

Markson had her first experience with theatre at eight years old at Stage Door day camp in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where she had roles in four shows.

“I was hooked,” she said. “For the rest of my time in high school, I took advantage of everything the theater department had to offer, from musicals to classes to just working one-on-one with my theater teacher.”

From there, Markson went on to the college audition process, landing herself at Elon University, where she earned her BFA in music theatre.

“I spent four years committing almost all of my time and energy to dance and acting classes, voice lessons, rehearsals for class, rehearsals for shows, going through frustrations, putting together musical numbers for cabarets, auditions, rejections, celebrations, and learning how to work as a team,” she said.

A week after graduation last spring, Markson received a call from Joy Dewing, the casting director for "MAMMA MIA!", that she had landed the lead role of Sophie in the farewell tour. 

“I think my jaw stayed dropped for about five minutes after I hung up. It didn't feel real,” she said. “That was hands down one of the happiest, coolest moments of my life — to realize that after four years of hard work, growth and my fair share of rejection, I was getting the job of my dreams.”

Markson’s voice professor, Dan Callaway, believes every Elon student has something special to give. For Markson, it was her work ethic. 

“I was working with a young artist who had incorporated the skills she had gained from all her classes: acting, singing, dance, musical theater performance, all of it,” Callaway said. “Any of her teachers and peers would tell you what a hard worker she is and how she never stops in the face of obstacles. They stoke her fire.”

One of the obstacles Markson faced was handling the weight of the role of Sophie — especially on the farewell tour.

“Instead, I focus on truthfully telling the story, staying grateful and having as much as fun as possible,” Markson said. “I have to get lost in Sophie's childlike optimism. I have to have fun, or the audience won't.”

The tour opened in a 2,650 seat theatre in Houston. Until opening night, Markson had never performed in front of such a large crowd.

“When the curtain comes up, it is just me on stage, which is a vulnerable feeling,” Markson said.

It’s the audience that helps Markson calm her jitters. Since “MAMMA MIA!” holds so much recognition, the audience can’t stay in their seats.

“Every night, we get to live a rock concert in the finale. The audience is on their feet, dancing in the aislesand singing along,” Markson said. “Feeling that energy and love surrounding us every night on stage is surreal.”

Though performing on the tour is Markson’s dream, traveling to the tour destinations is a unique experience, unlike anything she has ever done.

“We're all going through it together as a cast, it bonds us in a really special way. It makes us family,” Markson said. “Through everything that constantly changes with life on the road, from our hotel beds to the climate outside — our source of stability is each other.”

Callaway, who worked with Markson on callback material for “MAMMA MIA!,” knows she can handle anything the tour will throw her way.

“She was game for anything and would try anything,” Callaway said.

Markson took a unique route on making the character of Sophie her own, with the help of what she learned at Elon.

“I don't try to get rid of my quirks. Instead, I let them filter into Sophie's circumstances and life experiences,” Markson said. “And that is something I definitely learned from Elon — not to filter the exciting, weird stuff that makes us human, because that's the good stuff.”

Markson hasn’t forgotten where she started and who helped her get to where she is today. Not long ago, she and Callaway caught up over Skype.

“It was great to see how much she is enjoying her time on the road and to see how grateful she is for the opportunities that are coming her way,” Callaway said.


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