Summer at the Bigfork Playhouse

By DILLON TABISH for the Flathead Beacon

Not just any theater company earns the opportunity to perform the global smash hit, “Mamma Mia!”

Like auditioning for a major role, theaters must tout their best abilities and prove they’re deserving of such a blockbuster production.

That’s exactly what Brach Thomson at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse pulled off.

One of the finest repertory theaters in the West is launching its 58th season with another colorful lineup of productions, including the beloved jukebox musical making its debut at the “Theatre by the Bay.” In fact, Bigfork’s local theater is one of the only smaller companies in the country to receive the rights to perform “Mamma Mia!”


“It was something that I know the audience wants to see,” said Thomson, longtime company manager and music director at the Playhouse. “I’m always trying to find something that audiences will go away and talk about and want to come back and see again.”

The season officially kicked off last weekend with the debut of “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” a musical comedy that travels back to the 1950s and ‘60s.

Thomson and the talented crew in Bigfork have organized another standout lineup of actors, actresses and directors who will perform a variety of productions over the next few months. For example, Leah Zepel, a former Playhouse cast member, performed on Broadway in “Mamma Mia!” for several years and is now returning to Bigfork to direct the local production.

This summer’s cast will feature 20 talented rising stars and tried-and-true veteran professionals who were recruited in major auditions over the last year. A total of 55 people, including musicians, costumers and more, will make summer at the Playhouse another memorable one.

The multi-talented cast worked feverishly for seven weeks leading up to last week’s debut. Once the season starts, a lineup of productions rotates throughout the summer weeks and months, one of the many reasons the Playhouse is a renowned source of entertainment.

This summer’s productions include an all-time favorite, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” as well as a few unfamiliar but equally entertaining hits, “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”

As Thomson describes it, this season will be similar to the others, “but better.” It’s a tradition that persists in Bigfork, and it’s why Broadway hits such as “Mamma Mia” are coming to Montana.

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2017 Season

The Marvelous Wonderettes

Debuts May 19

This G-rated musical comedy features a stroll down memory lane, recalling the hit of the 1950s at the senior prom.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Debuts June 10

This PG-rated musical travels back to 1850 and is set in the backwoods of Oregon where you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.

Mamma Mia!

Debuts June 13

This global smash hit is coming to Montana. A jukebox muical, this beloved production follows Sophie, who is dreaming of a perfect wedding in which her father gives her away. Except she doesn’t know her father, and she embarks on a journey to find him.

Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Debuts June 27

One of the most enduring productions of all time, this beloved musical follows Joseph, who is blessed with vivid dreams that foretell the future. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph endures a series of adventures that challenge him to his core.

The Drowsy Chaperone

Debuts July 11

When wealthy widow Mrs. Tottenham hosts the wedding of the year, she attracts a colorful cast that includes a glittering starlet, gangsters disguised as pastry chefs, a Latin lover, a drunken diva chaperone, and a couple mistaken identities.

Benefit Revue

July 30

This one-night affair features a colorful collection of song and dance, including old hits and surprise hits.

Hits from the 50s, 60s & 70s

Debuts Aug. 31

Every season ends with a showcase of beloved hits from the past.