Imagine a five-year-old boy taken by his grandmother to see his first live theatre performance. It’s a musical extravaganza at The Grand Theatre about the life of Barnum — of circus fame. The child sits in awe. His life in theatre has begun.
Imagine a four-year-old girl taken by her mother to see her first live theatre performance in 2019. It’s a musical extravaganza at The Grand Theatre with her uncle as Bert, in Mary Poppins this holiday season.
Her uncle was that five-year old boy. Mark Uhre’s theatre career comes full circle November 26 to December 29 when he steps onto the stage to perform for the next generation of theatregoers, including his niece.
“It’s a great feeling to return to the place where everything started. Growing up I always loved coming downtown during the holidays,” says Uhre in an interview with Eatdrink. “Mary Poppins will be my niece’s first show so we are all excited and pretty emotional, as it is a special story from our own childhood,” he adds.
Uhre’s first role was at the Grand in 1992. He was 12 years old when he played in A Christmas Carol, which starred the legendary Canadian actor William Hutt. While studying at Beal Secondary School in London in 1998, Uhre starred as Tony in a High School Production of West Side Story. “That was it. I started focusing on theatre and music as a career, rather than visual art. The Grand has been a huge part of my development as an artist.”
And what a career! Uhre made it to Broadway as Enjolras in Les Misérables in 2016. He says he has been very fortunate to play major stages here in Canada, including Stratford and Shaw, as well as in the U.K. “When Broadway came along it was an amazing surprise and was a really special time. It also put a great deal into perspective for me artistically. Great artistic growth and experience can happen anywhere. My time on Broadway is equally matched artistically by every theatre I have worked in. They have all been equal in providing artistic growth,” says Uhre.
Aside from acting, he is also an illustrator and a painter. He shared with us a photo of one of his paintings that hangs in Revel Coffee House in Stratford. Uhre says the words in the painting spell out “Use your Imagination” something he says we all need to do more of, no matter what age.
So, it’s apt that Uhre returns home to London for the holidays and Mary Poppins, a story he and his family love. He says, of all the great stages he’s been honoured to play upon, that if he had to choose one favourite it would be the Grand. “It really is where it all started for me as a little kid. So, to return to London and create theatre with fellow artists on the stage where I saw my first professional show at five and then performed as a little kid is a pretty amazing thing.”
Regional Theatre Holiday Round-up
A Christmas Carol
Theatre Sarnia, November 22–30
a really Retro CROONER Christmas
Created by Rick Kish
Port Stanley Festival Theatre, December 14,
2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Huron Country Playhouse II, November 30,
2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Wonderful World of Christmas: Comeback
Huron Country Playhouse, Saturday, December 14, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
A Huron County Christmas Carol
Adapted by Gil Garratt, songs by John Powers
Blyth Festival Theatre, November 28–December 22
A Country Supper is offered at the Blyth Legion on November 29, November 30, December 6, and December 13, hosted by a local church or Blyth Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary.