Skip to content

Women take lead for comedy guild’s history-making show this week

Led by an all-female production team, the Musical Comedy Guild of Sault Ste. Marie’s 60th anniversary gala will feature solo and group performances from 20 of its previous shows, including their very first one from 1963

60 years ago, it’d be difficult to imagine that an all-female production team for a local musical would ever be a possibility.

But in 2023, the Musical Comedy Guild of Sault Ste. Marie (MCG) has unintentionally but proudly made it a reality for their upcoming 60th anniversary gala.

Led by first-time musical director Lauren Kinney, the show includes an all-women’s leadership group of Candace Withers, Vicky Brienesse, Betty Currie, and producer Sarah Skagen – an incredibly rare behind the scenes assembly for local theatre.

“It wasn’t intentional – it just worked out that way,” Kinney says. “It’s come a long way for sure, and to have that little extra hint of comradery is nice.”

Making her musical directing debut with the comedy guild this week, Kinney, who has two decades of experience in dance instruction and choreography, is excited at the prospect of breaking that glass ceiling with her female colleagues.

“60 years ago, the directing team would have been mostly all males, and the women would be involved with costumes,” she says. “Usually there’s a guy kicking around like a producer or a director.”

Even Tim Murphy, who has been involved with the MCG since 1976, says he can’t remember the last time it happened.

“It is pretty rare,” he says. “I don’t know when it’s happened before. There’s usually a guy in there somewhere.”

The MCG is ready to take nostalgia to a whole new level as they prepare to celebrate 60 years of productions with a two-night gala at the Sault Community Theatre Centre this week.

Featuring a cast of more than 40 members, some of whom will be reviving memorable roles from previous years, the show will invite audiences to enjoy performances and highlights from 20 shows that were produced by the MCG over the past six decades.

No stranger to the musical scene is Jaime Miller, a long-time performer with the comedy guild who made her theatrical debut in a 1990 production of Hello Dolly.

Taking part in around 20 productions with the MCG since, Miller has played a number of diverse roles including Donna in Mamma Mia, Frastrada in Pippin, and Amalia in She Loves Me.

This week, Miller will join dozens of other familiar names on stage for several numbers, including a performance of “Getting to Know You” from The King and I.

“It’s very hard to believe,” she says. “Time just flies by. I have a friend that’s in the show with me and we did our very first show together when we were 16.”

“Her three children and my daughter are all in the show with us.”

Now at 44 years of age, Miller says the rehearsals have sparked lots of fond memories as she remembers sharing the stage with her own mom.

“It’s come full circle,” she says. “It’s really special to see my daughter light up. It’s especially nice to have my mom there in the audience. She already starts to tear up when she talks about it.”

Among the comedy guild’s past shows being represented this week includes Grease, Cabaret, Annie, Shrek, Beauty and the Beast, Rent, and Les Misérables.

The concert will also have a nostalgic twist as the guild will begin the evening with Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore – the same opening number from the MCG's first-ever show in 1963.

Understandably, this week's rehearsals have also brought up loads of memories for the gala’s emcee Tim Murphy, whose very first time on stage was with the comedy guild in a 1976 production of Oliver.

“I was 14 years old and sang ‘Where is Love?’ at Lakeway,” he says. “It was my first time in front of the audience, and I remember finishing the song and hearing people blowing their noses and sniffling. I thought, ‘wow I made them cry – that’s the coolest thing ever.’”

Performing in 18 shows as a teenager and directing more than 24 shows as an adult for the Sault’s comedy guild, Murphy credits the MCG for bringing out his musical side and helping him discover many lifelong friendships along the way.

“The comedy guild was my social life – this is where I made friends,” he says. “There are still people today who are friends of mine 46 years later. And that’s what community theatre is all about. That’s what it does for people. It gives you a place to fit in and a place to belong.”

Recognizing the MCG as a huge piece of the Sault’s history, Murphy notes the comedy guild is the city’s second-longest running local theatre group that has managed to bring countless Broadway musicals to a small northern community.

“It was the original musical theatre company,” he says. “Before that there was Sault Theatre Workshop, which is around 75 years old now, and they didn’t produce musicals. Nobody was producing musicals in Sault Ste. Marie until the comedy guild came along.”

For the show’s director, the 60th anniversary spectacular is an exciting opportunity for Kinney to take the helm and combine her leadership skills with an established dance background.

“I thought this was a really good opportunity and a good way to get my feet wet,” she says. “It has a lot of good opportunities for us just because you can showcase a whole bunch of different shows.”

Working alongside her mom Nancy, Kinney says it’s no secret that picking 20 numbers from 60 years’ worth of shows is a tall order. But she’s incredibly grateful for the help.

“The board did a really great job of giving me a bones list, and I got to pick different things depending on how the flow was going of the show,” she says. “It gave me a bit more leeway to pull some strings.”

“There’s something for everyone in this show.”

The Musical Comedy Guild’s 60th Anniversary Gala Concert runs on Friday Apr. 28 and Saturday Apr. 29 beginning at 8 p.m. inside the Sault Community Theatre Centre (White Pines).

Tickets can be purchased online and at the SCTC box office.

What's next?

If you would like to apply to become a Verified reader Verified Commenter, please fill out this form.


Alex Flood

About the Author: Alex Flood

Alex is a recent graduate from the College of Sports Media where he discovered his passion for reporting and broadcasting
Read more