Meet Sam of Mamma Mia!: Shad Olsen

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  1. You studied in New York for acting but started at The Playhouse. What production was it, and how old were you?
  • My first Duluth Playhouse production was in 1998 with the musical Emerald Green. I was 17 years old playing an 80-year-old man in a nursing home as well as a 20-something version of that same character in flashbacks. A clip of that performance is online at


  1. What brought you back to Duluth?
  • In 2000, I moved to NYC to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. While living in New York, I auditioned for the Duluth Playhouse production of Les Miserables (2014) and after performing in that production, I came back for White Christmas and Mary Poppins. At that point, I realized my most rewarding experiences were on stage in Duluth where I could be close to my family and lakes and trees. So I made the move in the spring of 2016 to be a part of the Playhouse community and to grow as an actor with so many great experiences on and off stage.


  1. What’s your favorite song that you have to dance to?
  • In the grand finale of the show, I get some pretty great shoes to dance in and a sequin jumpsuit. So until I break my ankles in my 5-inch heels, that’s my favorite number to dance.


  1. What’s exciting about the NorShor?
  • What’s NOT exciting about the NorShor? What a thrill to be making history in a historic theatre! What an exciting challenge to fill that space with energy! More than anything, I’m proud to be able to say that the people of Duluth appreciate the arts and culture to such a degree that we support a venue like this.


  1. What’s something no one else knows about your character in Mamma Mia?
  • I based Sam Carmichael on a lion.


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Shad at rehearsal for Mamma Mia.