"Matilda, the Musical" at Wasilla High School

Wasilla High School students perform during opening night for “Matilda, the Musical” at the school’s theater.

WASILLA — The theater scene appears to be alive and well in the Mat-Su Valley, with numerous productions of all levels happening throughout the year.

Longtime Valley Performing Arts director Grant Olson said that overall, the Valley’s theater community has a continuous ebb and flow to it. He said it “comes and goes” based on who’s around to make things happen, be it from a production or acting standpoint.

Olson noted that despite the natural attrition rate of people coming in and out of the Valley, the theater community perseveres with newfound interest springing up each year.

“It seems to be pretty vibrant,” Olson said.

A majority of the Valley’s plays come from local high school drama departments and community theater groups like VPA and Seims Theater Productions.

Colony Middle School recently became one of the more active middle school drama departments in the Valley and they’ve recently started collaborating with Teeland Middle School. Their joint production of “Frozen Jr.” wrapped up Nov. 9 at CMS.

“Frozen JR” actor and TMS student Reilly Mullenix has worked on other productions in the community like VPA’s production of “Mary Poppins” in 2018, which had a cast and crew over 50 people. That musical broke ticket sale records for VPA and the Glenn Massay Theater.

Olson recently directed a local production of “Mama Mia!” at the Glenn Massay Theater. He said that “Mama Mia” was one of most professionally made, quality show’s he’s worked on and seen done in the Valley.

He said the advent the Glenn Massay allows local theater groups put on higher caliber shows and its creation is indicative of the overall growth of arts and entertainment in the community.

“That’s a professional venue… I think it’s been hampered by the rental they want for that place but I think they’re trying to do work arounds in order to get more events in there,” Olson said.

Wasilla High School is currently showing a local adaption of “Matilda, the Musical” with Olson in the director’s chair. Like Olson, there are many people who cross into different theater groups around the Valley. Those who are really passionate about the craft tend to gravitate to projects when they spring up.

Olson said that WHS sophomore Evan Hample, one of the lead actors in “Matilda, the Musical” has acted with VPA in addition to his high school productions. Hample will also be performing in Seims Theater Productions’ “Beauty and the Beast” in February.

Olson said that stories like Hample’s are fairly common in the Valley and many young actors dabble in both worlds: high school and community theater. He noted that nearly half of the actors in “Mama Mia” were in high school.

He’s been involved in the Valley’s theater scene since the 80s and noticed plenty of professional performances from up and coming actors.

“There’s a lot of young talent,” Olson said.

Valley-based director AJ Seims runs Seims Theater Productions under Triumvirate North Theater in Kenai. He said that he typically puts on one to two plays a year and he’s been at it for about six years now.

He’s lived in the Valley longer than that and his take on the theater scene is one of continuous growth, with more quality, professional productions coming being done by locals.

“I think it’s growing and that’s a good thing,” Seims said. ‘There’s definitely a lot of talent out here.”

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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