From Mountain Man to Leading Man

July 31, 2018

Best of Broadway will feature Mark Sanders, a great friend of Gulf Coast Symphony. He has appeared in numerous years of Deck the Halls, as well as our musicals Carousel, South Pacific, and Oklahoma! He has spent the past few months in Alaska at the Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theatre, and is traveling the whole continent to perform for us in Fort Myers! We asked Mark a few questions about his career and time in Alaska

What are some of your favorite roles you’ve ever performed? 

Perchik in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF – being part of the Broadway National Tour of this iconic show taught me so much acting opposite the great Theodore Bikel and Tony winner Rachel Bay Jones.

Archibald Craven in THE SECRECT GARDEN – this has some of the most beautiful music and a timeless story.

Michael in MURDER BALLAD – this rock musical has such powerful music and twists and turns that take the immersive theatre experience to great depths for the audience.

Dan in NEXT TO NORMAL – a Pulitzer Prize winning show about family and how they deal with the effects of mental illness. It’s a truly remarkable show with music that expresses every idea and emotion perfectly and profoundly.

Any other exotic theatre locations besides Denali?

I sang with the Continental Singers in the town square in Belfast, Ireland when I was in college. I also played Charley in MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG and Rev. Dimmesdale in THE SCARLET LETTER at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, which is probably one of the most unique experiences I have had.

What show are you currently working on in Alaska?

I spent the past 4 summers working at the ALASKA CABIN NITE DINNER THEATRE located at the Denali Park Village just outside the entrance to the National Park. I was contacted by my dear friend, Nova Cunningham, and I jumped at the opportunity to spend time in Alaska…and get paid for it! We celebrated the shows 30th Anniversary last year making it Alaska’s longest running dinner theatre.  The audience is met with all-you-can-eat pork ribs, wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, and mixed berry cobbler and then entertained by an interactive show about the gold rush pioneers of Kantishna (the old gold mining town at the end of the only road into the park). We tell stories about Joe and Fanny Quigley, as well as the first expeditions to climb the North and South peaks of Denali (Mt. McKinley). It features heartfelt original songs with some based on the poetry of Robert W. Service.

I wasn’t prepared for the life changing experience that Alaska would bring. The most amazing times are to have a moose walk by your cabin window with her babies, hike to a glacier or hammock by the Nenana River. To have the opportunity to give concerts in Kantishna and have a grizzly stroll by your car and a bull moose on the roadside is absolutely exhilarating.  And, of course, to experience the mountain, Denali, on a clear day is just breathtaking and unexplainable. I’m able to hike and meditate in the quiet wilderness or sit and listen to the raging Nenana River.  These moments allow me to prepare to return with a renewed strength.  It’s a place where I can find myself again.

What are some of the pros and cons of working in Alaska?

Well, it sure beats the heat of a Florida summer, that’s for sure.  Most people think Alaska is cold all the time, but the summers bring temps in the 70’s and 80’s with no humidity.  It’s a joy to get to know the people of Alaska and to hear about their lives and how they make it through a brutal winter.  I have made lifelong friends who have helped me become a better person.  The most difficult part is being so far away for so long.

What do you love about SWFL?

I’m originally from Marion, IL and moved to Ft. Myers 9 years ago after living in New York City for 15 years.  It was originally just going to be for a year or two, but I have found a home here. Success takes someone to believe in you and give you a chance. I have met some of the nicest, most giving people who continue to support me and I now call my ‘family’. I have been given the opportunity to expand my talents through solo concerts, symphony concerts, theatrical performances and even recording my first CD.  My life would be so different had I not decided to make a change and take a chance to come to SWFL.  I am truly blessed and don’t take my successes for granted.  I still pursue acting in NYC, but Ft. Myers is my home base.

What was the best show you ever saw live?

LES MISERABLES will always be at the top of the list for me.  It was theatre at its finest when I saw the Broadway National Tour starring J. Mark McVey.  It left an impression on me that made me want to have a career in theatre.

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