I have no words.

Attending amateur live theatre comes with a certain set of expectations:  You will see a show.  You will be entertained.  There will be mistakes.

There will be missed cues, a line or two flubbed, obvious nervousness, perhaps stilted or self-conscious acting.  The backdrop might fall over, a prop be misplaced, or perhaps, it’s the script itself that is less than perfect.  These things happen in amateur theatre.  These are the things you expect.  They happen rarely, but when they do, you cringe in empathy for the person on stage, but it’s not a big deal.  It’s part of the show.  I am a fan of amateur theatre because of these things.

Last night, my husband and I attended the local production of “Les Miserables,” a story of forgiveness, redemption, and love.  I neglected to tell my husband that it was a musical.  I also neglected to mention it was a solid three hours long.  I went expecting to see a show.  I expected to be entertained.  I expected mistakes.

Perhaps it was because I was seated in the centre, five rows back from the stage at the Cardinal Theatre that made me feel as if the performance was for me alone.  Perhaps it was the hidden orchestral music that so lovingly  enveloped me, and transported me to a different time and place.  Perhaps it was the simple set.  Or the lighting.  Perhaps, it was the costumes.  It was certainly the soulful voices of the actors who caused me to close my eyes and let their music fill me, and lift me, and long for it never to end.

In the decades I’ve been going to theatre, here and in other cities, I had never experienced anything like this.   As I watched and listened and absorbed “Les Miserables” last night, I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Grande Prairie.  This was Grande Prairie?  Impossible.

It was the kind of performance you’d expect in Edmonton or Calgary, Vancouver or Toronto.  The calibre of the singing, the playing, the acting, was unparalleled.  It was three hours of spell-bound perfection.

I knew it had a cast of 120.  Huge, by any standards, then, the perspective again.  We’re a city of what, 55,000?  65,000?  And of that, something like 25 per cent are too young for school.  And they found 120 people to sing and act on stage?  To commit to six months of practice?  They found people, not with singing-in-the-shower voices that lose the melody or scratch the high notes, but rich, clear, full voices?  They found enough musicians to build an orchestra?  And behind-the-scenes people – for costumes, make-up, set design, props, choreography, direction.  It’s mind boggling.  The odds were clearly against it.

And I thought, then, of an anecdote a friend shared last week, how he mentioned that someone at his wife’s workplace was in the show, how that place of work resonated with the beauty of his voice as he practiced throughout the day.  I thought of these gifts as we drove home last night, how it wasn’t a single performance or a few weeks of performances, but how the work, the dream of a little theatre company has transcended our small city and brought art and inspiration in the least expected places.  How many others sang at work?  Or while they did chores at home? Or as they walked along the street? How many others will were touched?

I have no words Grande Prairie Live Theatre.  “Amazing!  Stunning!  Fantastic! Wow!”  They are not enough.  They cannot describe how I felt last night, how I still feel today.  They cannot describe how the music resonates now within me, and how I will forever keep that memory of joyful fulfillment.

I stand in ovation to you. Bravo!  Thank you.