Sheryl Anne Wheaton misses the stage.
For years, the instructor at Coquitlam’s Lindbjerg Academy of the Performing Arts and the Tri-City Dance Centre put her passion aside for family and to teach and work (she is also an education assistant with the Richmond School District).
But now, with her children in their teens, Wheaton yearns to be to the spotlight more often. “It completes me — to coin a phrase” she told The Tri-City News last week.
Friday, Wheaton will open the Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) run of Mamma Mia!, taking a role she didn’t originally want but embraced after “clicking” with its other stars — Caitriona Murphy (Donna) and Lori Zondag (Tanya) — during a second audition.
Donna was the character Wheaton wanted to portray as she had been on her bucket list of dream roles and plays. She turned down the part of Rosie following her first tryout but director Shel Piercy convinced her she was suited for the feisty Rosie, one of three members in girl-band Donna and the Dynamos.
The character is a shift for Wheaton, who in the past has played what she calls are “caricatures”; last year, she was cast as Mrs. Brill in Mary Poppins and Mrs. Tottendale in The Drowsy Chaperone for TUTS and, in 2016, as Mrs. Potts for its Beauty and Beast production.
“They’re usually very over-the-top,” she said of her former roles, “so being able to play a human — without a wig or a physical prop — is truly a challenge.”
Wheaton is not the only Tri-City resident in Mamma Mia!; the production also features Arta Negahban, Erin Matchette and Brianna Kim in the ensembles.
As for TUTS’ other show this summer, Disney’s Newsies, Tri-City actors Kyra Leroux, Sebastian Issighos, Julia McLean and David Lees are in the ensemble while Nathan Piasecki plays Romeo and Heritage Woods secondary student Jordyn Bennett is Les Jacobs (Davey’s younger brother).
“It’s a decent part,” said the Grade 12 student, who will make her TUTS debut Saturday night.
A veteran dancer, the 17-year-old girl she was encouraged to audition by fellow triple threats Piasecki and McLean.
The musical, for which Gleneagle secondary grad Lyndsey Britten is the assistant choreographer, “has got so much energy and a great storyline,” Bennett said. “And the musical is spectacular.”
For tickets to TUTS’ Mamma Mia! and Disney’s Newsies, visit tuts.ca. Its official opening nights are July 9 (Mamma Mia!) and July 10 (Newsies).