Muskoka OnStage brings feel-good fun to Huntsville this month with Mamma Mia! production



Photos: Susan MacDonald

Mamma Mia!, here they go again. One of the world’s most beloved musicals is coming to Huntsville later this month courtesy of Muskoka OnStage following a successful run in Bracebridge in February.

The Broadway classic follows the journey of Sophie, a young woman who lives on a small Greek island with her mother Donna, former lead singer of the 70s girl-group Donna & the Dynamos. After discovering her mom’s diary, Sophie learns that there are three possible men who could be her father and decides to invite all of them to her upcoming wedding.

Mamma Mia! has played in more than 50 countries in six continents, captivating audiences all over the world. Two movies have been produced based on the show.

The community has already welcomed Mamma Mia!, which has a cast of over 50 from all over Muskoka/Parry Sound, with open arms. Nearly every show for its February run in Bracebridge was sold out.

“The actors were each so compelling and funny that your attention was always riveted,” said Kathleen May, who attended a Bracebridge show. “We especially appreciated the chorus—Greek vibes with a modern twist and so much energy!”

Director Tia Pearse, who is the principal at Tawingo College and has been heavily involved in theatre her entire life, is working alongside musical director, Neil Barlow, choral director, Fran Harvey, and co-choreographer Shannon Morrison.

“The audience can expect a party!” said Pearse. “Mamma Mia! is a ‘feel good’ show. The music is familiar—most of it makes us want to dance, all of it brings back memories for us older folks. The story is fun, and it is set in Greece, so the cast looks like they are on their way to the beach—something a lot of us are dreaming of these days. The end of the show gives the audience an opportunity to dance and sing with the cast. It’s just so much fun!”

Mamma Mia! chorus members (from left) Harper Smith, Jennifer MacMillan, Ryan Long, Julie Wallace and Jacob Hunter (supplied)

Mamma Mia! chorus members (from left) Harper Smith, Jennifer MacMillan, Ryan Long, Julie Wallace and Jacob Hunter (supplied)

Tracy Hoehner plays Donna Sheridan. “Mamma Mia! and the role of Donna is a lovely feather in my cap,” she said. “The sold out audiences in Bracebridge have been amazing! It also helps to have extremely talented people to work beside. Especially for those emotional moments. Emma Gibbs, playing my onstage daughter [Sophie], is a dream to work with, which makes my job that much easier.” Hoehner has a long history of both professional singing and community theatre all across Ontario.

(From left) Sherrie Pilger as xxx, Emma Gibbs as Sophie Sheridan, and Alberta Robinet as xxx

(From left) Sherrie Pilger as Lisa, Emma Gibbs as Sophie Sheridan, and Alberta Robinet as Ali (supplied)

Tim Lucier plays Sky, Sophie’s fiancé. “My role has deepened throughout the rehearsal process and I feel like I discover something new about Sky and Sophie every time we perform our scenes together, even during the current run,” he said. “That’s part of what I love about theatre—it’s always evolving and never static. In the past I was generally cast in older, more mature roles; so it’s been an incredible opportunity for me to finally play the ‘young lover’.”

Patrick Dempsey (foreground, left) and Tim Luthier play xxx and Sky in the Muskoka OnStage production of Mamma Mia! (supplied)

Patrick Dempsey as Eddie (foreground, left), Tim Lucier as Sky, and Shaman Johann (in the blue life jacket) as Pepper in the Muskoka OnStage production of Mamma Mia! (supplied)

Jean Polak, who is working alongside Karen Cassian to produce the show, has been involved in every Rotary show in Bracebridge since moving to Muskoka and is currently the chair of the Rotary Club of Bracebridge committee responsible for their annual musical productions. This year, the musical is being run by a partnership between the Rotary Clubs of Huntsville and Bracebridge and the Huntsville Festival of the Arts, called Muskoka OnStage.

“Every show [in Bracebridge]  has received a standing ovation and the audiences leave the theatre beaming with appreciation, and showering accolades towards our talented cast,” said Polak. “Of course the show and its songs are already well-known and well-loved, but our director Tia Pearse has brought those hummable ABBA songs to life with her wonderful choreography and clever staging.”

Emma Gibbs (left) as Sophie Sheridan and Parres Allen as xxx (supplied)

Emma Gibbs (left) as Sophie and Parres Allen as Bill, one of her possible fathers (supplied)

Something notably different about this year’s production is the partnership between Bracebridge and Huntsville. Usually, each town does their own production but by collaborating they were able to form new bonds between the communities and extend the number of shows performed.

“We are sharing the rich well of talent that Muskoka has to offer, and forging new friendships and sharing long traditions in doing so,” said Polak.

Mamma Mia! runs at the Algonquin Theatre in Huntsville from Friday, March 22 through Sunday, March 24, and again from Thursday, March 28 through Sunday, March 31, including both matinee and night shows.

Tickets are available for purchase at the theatre box office or online at These shows are likely to sell out—don’t wait to get your tickets.

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