How They Met: Broadway star Louise Pitre on finding her leading man

Louise Pitre has a career so long and illustrious that it’s difficult to pick just one standout role — but perhaps her most iconic moment is that of originating the role of Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia!, which also happened to be her Broadway debut. Dubbed Canada’s first lady of musical theatre, the vocal powerhouse has been in everything from Les Misérables to Company, and now she’s bringing her talents back to Toronto for the Tony Award–winning play The Inheritance, running until April 14. But she has one love even bigger than theatre — her husband of 25 years, fellow theatre actor and playwright, Joe Matheson. Here, she shares the story of their onstage meet-cute and the secret to relationship success.

How they met

We met doing a workshop of a new musical at the long since closed Limelight Dinner Theatre. We rehearsed for three weeks and put on a few presentations for potential investors. The show never got done. It was called Capone. I played Capone’s main “moll,” and my now husband played Bugs Malone. We had a couple of scenes together, and I remember the director telling us that sparks were flying — we had not gone out yet at that point!

The first date

Our first date was at his place to watch a movie while we were still rehearsing Capone. I don’t remember the movie, but I know I stayed much much longer than I had planned. 

The relationship

We not only fell in love, but became really, really good friends. One of the most memorable  things during that time was seeing how Joe was with his father when he came to visit from Saskatoon. Joe told me all about the difficult time he and his dad had had some years back and how they overcame it. To see how they had not only repaired, but deepened their relationship was one of the most beautiful things to see. 

The proposal

The proposal was more of a mutual realization! We had been talking, and I said: “I’d marry you.” He then got on his knees and asked the question. I said yes. 

The wedding

Louise Pitre and Joe Matheson on their wedding day

We got married in Saskatoon! Joe has a rather large family, and mine is small, so it made sense to do it there. We did an outdoor ceremony and dinner and dance at the Faculty Club at the University of Saskatchewan. It was the last time every single member of Joe’s family was all together (brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, nephews, nieces). My family was there too along with a few friends. Our honeymoon was a month in England, Scotland, Ireland! We drove around mostly in the  countryside — it was magical.

The secret to success

I would say that what has worked for us as a couple for these last 25 years is simply this: we talk about everything. It makes us stay up later at night having more drinks than we should, but we never seem to run out of things to talk about. We just don’t want the night to end. And in this business we have  found a way to support each other. That is key. We take turns taking care of the other. If one of us gets a job, the other one tries to do the stuff that needs to be done: walking the dog, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning. When I landed the role of Donna in Mamma Mia! in New York, Joe put his life on hold to come with me and our dog and take care of everything while I worked my butt off. I will never forget that. I could not have done it without him.  

Balancing careers and a relationship  

Joe Matheson and Louise Pitre in The Times They Are A Changin at Harold Green Jewish Theatre

I think Joe and I are pretty clear about what truly matters. We always quote from City Slickers: “You are my one thing.” In other words, no job is more important than our marriage. No contest.  

The future together

I know Joe would agree with me on our perfect future: a few trips here and there, jobs that we really want to do, continuing to write and compose — we wrote a children’s musical during the pandemic with our friend Diane Leah. The cherry on top would be to see this musical getting done and sitting in an audience to see it and say: ‘’We wrote that!”

For more stories of how iconic Toronto couples met, click here.