To the Barricades, Vol. 1

A group of performers, young and old(er), gathered in the rehearsal hall at Keyano College for the first singing rehearsal for Les Mis, Keyano Theatre Company's third production in its TELUS 4-Play Drama Series that will open on Valentines Day 2014.  Many faces were familiar, though it will take some time to get a grasp of all the names - the group when fully assembled will be over 50 in number; several were brand new.

For Dylan, Ben and I, it is the beginning of an amazing adventure: our first time performing together, and their first time performing in a musical. Ben, 10, has been on stage a couple of different times, during theatre camps and the like, but for Dylan, 14, outside of his singing at Mindcamp and during the recent Let's Get Sketchy event, this will be his very first time in the lights.

I said to Heather last night how remarkable it was to watch and hear them sing full voice, with excitement in their faces and joy in their hearts.  Truly, it's not something I could have imagined, even one year ago.  I'm enormously proud of both of them for taking this incredible leap of faith.

They, and several others - Dustin, Jenny, Jeremy and Misty come to mind - have been anxiously awaiting the start of rehearsals.  Susan Lexa, musical director, and Diane Pare, assistant musical director were equally pumped to get going.

"Is anyone as nervous as I am?" asked Diane, as the ensemble began diving into some of the more tricky bits from "At the End of the Day" - Susan had gone off to work some solo pieces with several of the principles. Within minutes, vocal chaos turned into a sonorous sustain that filled the room.  Wow!

I wish I had taken a picture, but at one point in the song, as we were going through for the final time with our musical director near the end of the night, I paused, just listened, and watched the ladies sing.  The enthusiasm, energy and beauty of what I was seeing and hearing made my heart sing.

"You ladies sounded amazing," I said to Misty as we were heading out for the night.

"You guys sounded incredible," she offered, as we had just gone through the opening piece in the show, a powerful chain gang dirge, also the introduction of both Jean Valjean (Tim Heggie) and Inspector Javert (Sheldon Dahl).

Steph Link, our amazing stage manager, has been under the weather in recent weeks.  I won't copy and paste from her Facebook post, as it is way too early to wake her up and get her permission.  But, I will say that starting rehearsals for Les Mis was exactly what the doctor ordered.  I get the sense that many others in the room were feeling the exact same way.

If Hometown...The Musical! was a beast, Les Misérables is a leviathan, a production of epic size, complexity and impact.  If last night's first singing rehearsal was any indication, it's a theatrical monster that is going to pack a helluva wallop.  I'm honoured to be a part of it.

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