Age & Hometown: 27; Grand Rapids, MI
Current Role: Sophie, the free-spirited young bride-to-be on the hunt for her biological father in Mamma Mia!
S.O.S. When Laurie Veldheer was growing up, she dreamed of saving lives as a paramedic. If she wasn’t glued to the TV watching Rescue 911, she was trying to convince her mother to track down ambulances and follow them. “It was kind of horrible,” Veldheer says with a laugh. “I didn’t want anyone to get hurt, but I loved the excitement.” Everything changed at age nine, when she saw a newspaper ad announcing auditions for the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre production of The King and I. Scoring a role in the children's ensemble, “I was hooked immediately,” she recalls. “I loved being onstage, but I also loved the theater family that’s created in each show.” From then on, searching for auditions became her hobby, and Veldheer knew she definitely wanted to be an actress—not a paramedic.
Papes at Paper Mill: Veldheer got her first break in the national tour of Hairspray, putting college at Point Park University on hold for a spot in the ensemble. “For me, leaving was the right decision, and it ended up being incredible,” says the actress, who eventually finished her degree at Penn State. The production paved the way for Hairspray at the Paper Mill Playhouse, and in 2011, Veldheer returned to the New Jersey regional theater to play Mr. Pulitzer’s secretary Hannah in Newsies. “Transferring to Broadway was a surreal experience,” she says, stressing that the young cast never expected the show to have a life beyond Paper Mill. Making her Broadway debut alongside 11 of her castmates, Veldheer still remembers the feeling of stepping on stage on opening night. “It was amazing and magical,” she says. “I had the time of my life doing that show.”
Take a Chance on Me: The newest Mamma Mia! star has been auditioning for the role of Sophie on and off for three years. “During my last semester of college, I went in as a non-Equity performer, but it just wasn’t the right time,” she says. “Then, I moved to New York and Mamma Mia! was my first big audition—I had five callbacks in two weeks, but again, it didn’t end up working.” Persistence pays off, however, and now Veldheer is overjoyed to kick the show off with "Honey, Honey" and belting six other ABBA tunes. “Mamma Mia! is everything I could have hoped and dreamed of,” she says. “I love Sophie, I love this cast, and I love getting to sing and dance onstage while the audience has a ball. We have a party every night!”