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MAT celebrating 50th anniversary with 'over-the-top' retrospective

'It will be two hours of absolutely top-quality music and theatre, covering MAT’s storied 50-plus-year history,' says MAT official of not-to-be-missed show at Opera House

Mariposa Arts Theatre (MAT) is celebrating more than 50 years of dedication to excellence from Nov. 9 to 12, at the Orillia Opera House. And you are going to want to be there.

“The November show is a retrospective of an incredible 50-plus year history of award-winning community theatre,” said MAT veteran Blair Bailey, who also serves as the music director of the show. 

“I got involved with MAT first as a geeky 14-year-old who was obsessed with musical theatre, in 1972, just two years after MAT was formed. Director Jackson Spear was all about getting youth involved, so he cast me as one of the crap shooters in Guys and Dolls," recalled Bailey of the show that was performed first at The Pav, and then at the Gravenhurst Opera House. 

“Jackson was such a driving force for MAT in those early years. He really began that tradition of excellence, and sort of overcoming the bounds of a traditional ‘community’ theatre group. He really believed in his vision, and the talent and hard work of all of the performers at MAT,” said Bailey.

Bailey has continued his participation in MAT shows throughout his life, including the 1976 production of Fiddler on the Roof.

“This was another Jackson Spear-directed show,” reminisced Bailey. “That year was the first year that ACTCO (Association of Community Theatres-Central Ontario) decided to include musicals in their award categories. And MAT picked up six out of nine awards for that production of Fiddler, including best musical, best director, and best supporting actor, me. What an amazing honour that was.”

MAT has continued its tradition of excellence and award-winning productions, most recently picking up an award for its 2019 production of Urinetown

Bailey has had quite a say in what scenes and musical pieces were to be included in this special show.

Cast members of Mariposa Arts Theatre’s production of “Try To Remember’, a retrospective show of 50 plus years of excellence in community theatre, rehearse at the MAT space on Brammer Drive in Orillia. The show will run Nov. 9-12 at the Orillia Opera House. Anna Proctor Photo

“I did have a lot I wanted to include, and really, got what I wanted,” he mused. “Including Marilyn Gregory singing her piece from Man of La Mancha, the 'sit down you’re rockin’ the boat' scene from Guys and Dolls, Colleen Greidanus is coming to sing several of her acclaimed solos from different productions, the 'If I loved you' scene from Carousel and we have David Jefferies singing that…it’s going to be an incredible show.”

The show includes 38 musical pieces, including several medleys.

“We have also included a scene from Much Ado About Nothing," said Stevie Baker, who is the stage manager. “And some moments from Oh Really, Orillia, which will be memorable for a lot of people. And Chris Newton will be weaving in some history and stories from our past which people will enjoy.”

Baker is a relative newbie to MAT, having joined and directed her first play, Steel Magnolias, in 2021.

“I moved back to Orillia in 2020, during the pandemic, for all kinds of pandemic-related reasons,” Baker explained. “I didn’t ever expect to come back, I had a fulfilling career in theatre in Toronto, and really thought there wasn’t much for me here. I was wrong.”

Baker said she was amazed by the talent locally. 

“After my first rehearsal for Steel Magnolias, I was blown away by the talent and dedication of these volunteers, these so-called amateurs, giving their time and talent just for the joy of it. And I was like, I can be fulfilled here," said Baker, adding: "This is going to work.”

Baker joined the board and is now the board president as well as participating in a big way on many MAT productions. 

“This 50-plus anniversary show is going to be absolutely over-the-top,” Baker said.

“It will be two hours of absolutely top-quality music and theatre, covering MAT’s storied 50-plus-year history. There literally will not be another show like this," Baker promised.

"With the talent and dedication of over 30 performers, plus everyone helping behind the scenes ... it’s a once-in-a-lifetime show. The community really needs to not miss this one," said Baker.

Also to commemorate this auspicious golden anniversary, MAT veteran Chris Newton was the speaker for Orillia Museum of Art and History’s (OMAH) online History Speaker series in September, talking about the history of MAT. The show can be viewed here. OMAH is also hosting an exhibit celebrating MAT’s first 50 years, until Jan. 6, at the museum. 

Tickets for Mariposa Arts Theatre’s Try To Remember…Celebrating 50-Plus Years show, running Nov. 9 to 12, are available through the Orillia Opera House box office here or you can call 705-326-8011.


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