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081619-port-news-mamma-mia

Mitchell Gray from Portage, front right, performs as Sky in the Palace Theater's production of "Mamma Mia!"

WISCONSIN DELLS — The summer run of “Mamma Mia!” at the Palace Theater brings a Portage actor to the stage with a traveling troupe.

Mitchell Gray plays Sky, the fiancé of lead character Sophie. Growing up, he had no plans to take on an acting career. Gray said his focus was sports, until the 2013 Portage High School graduate became involved with a production of “Guys and Dolls” his senior year.

“I was really interested, and I had some friends doing it,” Gray said. “I had an awesome experience. It was one of my best experiences in high school.”

Gray did not pursue acting any further, or as a potential career path, until later in his time at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he changed his major from biology and pre-optometry to theater, and planned to pursue acting as a full-time career.

“It was wild. Everyone was shocked. It was a lot, but I love it and I’m glad that I made the choice,” Gray said. “I’ve been working professionally since I graduated, and I’m loving it.”

Landing the role of Sky for the “Mamma Mia!” production happened pretty suddenly for Gray, as he got the call for the role two weeks before rehearsals started at the beginning of May.

Gray said a different actor from “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,” the production at the theater before “Mamma Mia!,” withdrew from the show, and Gray received a call from the choreographer to take roles in both productions.

“I didn’t have anything booked at the time, so I was like, ‘That sounds awesome,’” Gray said. “That’s just the small world of theater. You see that stuff happen all the time. It’s about who you know and it worked out for me.”

Kourtnee Carroll, director of sales and marketing for the Palace Theater, said the theater was impressed with Gray’s audition tapes and believed he was right for the role. She said the producers also liked the idea of having a local actor involved.

“We were really just blown away,” Carroll said. “Having him be a local is a huge fun bonus for us, because it’s almost like he’s a celebrity, because people coming in are like, ‘We know him.’”

Gray has learned to be proud of his small-city roots.

“At first it was a little intimidating, but through my training, I feel confident that I’m going to bring my best and be able to hang with these people from bigger cities,” Gray said. “Everybody has different stories and different paths in how they get there. Don’t ever try to be somebody else.”

Gray has acted locally at the Palace Theater and around Wisconsin, and also performed professionally in Minneapolis and Massachusetts. Although he does not have a set date, he plans to move to New York to continue his professional acting career.

“I have friends out there who are in professional acting,” he said. “I’ve visited plenty. I love New York, so I’m really excited about making my move and the next step in my career.”

“Mamma Mia!” will have performances Tuesday through Sunday with two shows on Saturday until Sept. 1.

Follow Nicole on Twitter @Nicole_Aimone

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