To the Barricades, Epilogue

The "To the Barricades" blog series chronicled the making of Les Misérables by Keyano Theatre Company at Keyano College in Fort McMurray. The production ran from February 13 to 23, 2014 and was enjoyed by over 4,000 patrons.  What you will read are the reflections about the impact this experience had on some of the participants. In some cases, it was life-changing.  In all cases, it was deeply moving, incredibly valuable and absolutely unforgettable.

Terri Mort – Madame Thénadier

The rehearsal process has magically flown matter what happens now I can honestly say that it has been a blessing working with: cast, crew, stage management and artistic team and in the process -making friends who I will cherish.

From day one back on December 9th it has been wonderful watching the cast, a range of stellar performers bring characters to life and finding those expressive vocal edges required of their roles, the newbies finding their way in awe, along with the excitement of all the kids and of course the veterans with their professional approach on and off stage. This has been the largest family I have had the pleasure of being a part of.

My hat goes off to the designers, Tiff and Jason, who have created a dusty hazy moment from France's history. I can smell the limestone from the houses of Rue Plumet. Having spent many years travelling through France as a child, hopping from village to village in our old British Rover car, I never thought a stage set could bring back precious memories.

Claude: a director fun to work with but firm in his vision. Claude managed to help the actors express character traits that bring a cast of 49 from actors to becoming poor people from the past. Those barricade scenes also need a mention. To block, create and build a scene that shows an authentic battle can only be successfully accomplished by a seasoned director.

Susan: musical director-such precision and a joy to work with. I have worked with many musical directors over the years but I love how she nails us all as an ensemble, steering us into those notes along with helping the soloist make that discovery of how to get there, whether via character or just hitting a note.

Steph Link: stage manager-so young and yet so old. A professional who knows her job inside and out and communicates so well with everyone.

There are many others: Jennifer and Alison, Dianne and of course Russell, blogging every minute so that we can all recapture what we already live and breathe-doing so because we love what we do.

Emma Zundel – children’s ensemble

The thing I loved about being in this play is that it’s like having a second family. You work with them and get to know them and when that all ends, I’m going to be pretty bored! It is also really enjoyable seeing it come from sitting on chairs just learning the music to blocking to adding props and makeup on the big stage! I really hope I cam get a role in the next show with kid’s parts.

Diane Zundel – mother to Emma

I wish to thank all the cast and crew of Les Mis. You not only put on a moving and wonderful show but it has been a pleasure to hear about all the behind the scenes activities that go on while putting on such a production. My daughter has enjoyed every minute of the process and we have seen her grow and mature as a result. This was her first experience with this type of performance and one of this calibre. She is totally hooked! I think what has impressed me the most though, is how close the cast and production team have become. This has become her family away from home. It was wonderful to hear, not only about her new friends amongst the younger members of the cast, but also amongst the adults. The “warm and fuzzy” letter she received reduced me to tears. They were words that every parent loves to hear about their child but also words that build up people and make them feel valued and special. All of you are very special people indeed. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for making this such an amazing experience.

Krista Balsom – ensemble

I write this as I sit backstage during act one of our Saturday performance listening to program sound of the amazing voices that fill the stage and theatre, and in some ways - our entire community. After Hometown, I wasn't sure if I had the time to do another show and I'm so thrilled I did. Never a regret. Les Misérables has been such a rewarding and fulfilling journey and I've been so incredibly proud to be a part of this show. The talent on and off stage never ceases to astound me! The audience has loved the gift that we're all giving to them, and so did we!

The team that works the magic behind the scenes has been phenomenal and has made us feel like pros! Our own little Broadway theatre right here on King Street, Fort McMurray.

There are few thank-yous. I cannot thank Claude Giroux enough for this opportunity and casting me not just as a stage sweeper, but as a lovely lady! Russell Thomas for documenting and keeping the world informed as to what we were up to and doing everything you he does to promote the arts in our region. Susan and Diane for the awesome vocal instruction. Steph and her team for their mad organization skills and supreme patience. Tiffany and Melissa for making us look great really poor and dirty. Leslie for being our dressing room angel and Kimerica for being a joy to share our few square feet with. Alan for believing in a show this big and epic (and making my little teenage heart's wish come true). To the cast - my friends and now stage family - you have been such an inspiration and because of all of you our days were bright, hilarious and passion-filled. To my at home family and colleagues - thanks for your understanding of the long hours and picking up the slack!

The memories from this show will live on through the generations and I have no doubt - will be talked about as one of those iconic shows at KTC! We'll be able to say - WE were there!

Karla Power – ensemble

Being part of Les Misérables has made me appreciate so many things! When I auditioned in August, I had ambitions to be a character such as Fantine or Eponine. When I was asked to be a part of the Ensemble, I said yes, knowing that every role was important. Over the last three months, I have really come to appreciate how important every person involved in the show is and now I never say “I’m just in the chorus”. Claude has a unique way of using each actor in as many scenes as possible and makes us all feel valued. I have also learned to appreciate how hard the lead actors have had to work and how much strain they put on their voice every day, yet it still remains beautiful and powerful!

Other things I have appreciated during my experience are how our time has been valued (Steph Link is an awesome scheduler!) and to really cherish the time we have had together and make the most of it. Some of the harmonies we learned back in December seemed daunting, but with lots of practice (thanks Dianne and Susan) and listening to each other (shout out to all my alto girls!) and recordings, we managed to nail them!

I have also learned to appreciate the time we have had away from each other and with our families. My husband has been a great support for me during these long days of rehearsals and shows. When I have time off with him, we always try to have a date night or I at least try to cook him a meal. My friends outside of the cast have also been wonderful at supporting me. They have come to the shows, babysat/walked my dog and even made supper/lunch for me!

The thing that I appreciate the most about my Les Misérables experience is how much we have all bonded as a cast/crew throughout this process! I really wanted to emphasize how much everyone meant to me through “warm fuzzies” and it turned out to be a huge success! It is so nice to hear what others think and feel about you. I am humbled to know so many talented people with such big, beautiful hearts, who are willing to give so much of themselves!

My husband and I are in the process of saving to buy for a house here in Fort McMurray and become “lifers” as they say. Both of our families live at least 5000 km away and through my 2 experiences with the Keyano Theatre Company thus far I have met so many people who I would consider family and life-long friends!

Reese Stanley, Gavroche

My greatest memories were learning about all the effort that it takes to be an actress, figuring out costumes, doing makeup, late night practices, and late night shows. But it is all worth it, because the show is amazing and I met so many awesome people. I leaned so much, and remember Claude talking about grace and that really stuck with me! I loved being in Les Mis, love all the people I met, and cannot wait to do it again!!!

Christopher Bowers, Combeferre

"Oh cool! Have fun...."

This was my response when my wife, Diana Moser, told me that she was interested in auditioning for a role in Keyano Theatre's production of Les Misérables. I thought nothing of it and showed little interest myself. She had her heart set on giving it a go ever since the announcement during the run of Hometown...The Musical! last year.

Before we knew it, it was time for auditions and she had gone off on her own to show her talents. Later that evening, she had convinced my brother, Jon Bowers, to go for an audition. I couldn't miss this. I went along. Suddenly I was filling out a form and singing in front of two strangers. I never sing. At the time I thought nothing would come of it. I am glad I was wrong.

When they told me they were offering me a few minor roles and a spot in the ensemble, I was ecstatic. Days before our wedding, it was one of the few things constantly on my mind. I was excited. I realized I hadn't been in a stage production in 14 years. I couldn't wait for rehearsals to start. When the day came and we were packed into a room full of strangers, I was tired, having come directly from work. Little did I know that this would become the norm for me. Wake up at 4:20 am, catch the bus to work at 5:00 am, work from 6:00 am to 4:20 pm, back on the bus home, Diana would pick me up at the bus stop and head directly to rehearsal for 6:00 pm and then we would be done shortly before 10:00 pm.

It was exhausting. It was challenging. It was totally worth it.

This has truly been an experience of a lifetime. These strangers I had been crammed into a room with months ago for the first day of rehearsals were no longer strangers. They were family. I was doubly blessed in that both Diana and Jon also got to share in this adventure with me. We have all shared a number of laughs together, as well as the occasional tears. There were trying times and long days that required incredible amounts of patience. We were all there to pick each other up and ensure the success of this production. I even got to grow mutton chops!

Now, as I write this, I realize we are faced with our greatest challenge yet - our last show together. In a way, I am looking forward to the end. I will be able to sleep again, go to work and have a normal evening. Truthfully though, I dread the end more so. This has been such a huge part of my life that I will be left feeling a bit lost. Not only will this be the last time we perform this musical we have all come to love, but it will also, most likely, be the last time we will all be together as a group. I am saddened as the reality hits home.

I never thought that I would be sitting here writing about my experience in a musical stage production with Keyano. I am glad I've been given the opportunity. Not everyone is cut out for this. I, myself, thought this very thing once upon a time. Now I find myself looking to possibilities for the next season. Regardless, even though we have come to journey's end, at the end of the day we will always be the cast of Les Mis.

Dylan Thomas-Bouchier, Claquesous

Going from the tech team to onstage was a big leap and I'm very proud I did it.
I have been able to continue my relationship with the tech team from Hometown... The Musical! and I got to become very close friends with everyone in the cast. I think we have all become one big family and after the show is down we will continue to spend time together and look out for each other.

As many. of you may have heard, on my birthday I cried and received two big group hugs from the entire cast. To me that moment is what makes me want to continue theatre and acting. Before I considered coming back to Keyano Theatre but after that day I know that I have to come back. Because every show that I do there will be moments like that. That could be something one person says to the cast or just a great party after opening night. (What happened at the party, stays at the party.)

I would like to thank everyone on the artistic crew. Without you this monster truck of a show would never have left the shop.

One more thing, the time I have spent with Keyano Theatre Company has made me realize that no matter how small a role you play in a production, cast or crew. You always will feel welcomed and loved. Thank you so much EVERYONE for this life changing experience. Love you all!

Ben Thomas, children’s ensemble

This experience has been absolutely awesome! I'm soooooooooo happy I did it, even though the long days in the rehearsal hall were boring. But when we got on stage, I was amazed by the set and everything surrounding me. I loved this experience because it made me do something for once! No more computer or video games, (of course there was my iPad when I got bored) and it gave me a chance to get away from stressful things like homework, and schoolwork. And yes, I know that school work at home IS still homework but, whatever.

Anyways, I loved this experience and I would love to do the SAME musical again.
Why? Because Les Misérables is a story that I didn't get at first but then, evolved into something I thought was real. Even though I haven't done another musical than this, this one stands out then all of them. Another reason that this musical is boss, is that someone took this ENORMOUS book and put it into a international theatre production!

No matter if your part of the cast, crew, tech, or band... THANK YOU!!!

Kelli Northrup, ensemble

It's an hour before we all join together for the last time in the rehearsal hall, preparing for many laughs, tears and stories of our journeys from the beginning of this chapter till now. Slowly our story unfolded, not only from our libretto but from our personal lives as well. Learning about, not only the character we play on stage, but the character we display everyday in our ordinary yet extraordinary lives that brought us altogether. Today it may seem like this chapter has come to an end bringing new developments and journeys. What we take from this continual story is new lasting friendships, new mindsets from our time together and joy. This has been such an incredible experience to see how beautiful friendship is, feeling the sense that when someone is having a difficult day we are all there supporting. We all respect one another: a pat on the back, words of encouragement or even a smile in the busy bustle of the hallway can make an exhausting day all the better! I'll take away many experiences being the somewhat quiet girl who drinks in all that is around her. Thankful for Keyano Theatre and everyone who has put many exhausting hours into this musical not by what it has given me, but who I was able to share this experience with.

Diana Moser, ensemble

"A heart full of love
No fear, no regret"

These words sum up my Les Mis experience exactly. Well, perhaps I felt some fear, but only because I hadn't participated in theatre in a long time and this was such a big show to undertake. I just wanted to do the best I could!

From start to finish, everyone has been incredibly supportive, generous, caring, and understanding. Everyone in the cast, the crew, the artistic team, my coworkers, my family (some of whom even travelled to see it), my husband (who I am so happy that I got to do this with), and even my dog (mostly). I expected this to be an awesome experience but I never could've predicted how much it has touched me.

I've learned so much from all of you, thank you for embracing me and taking me into this wonderful world of theatre. Thank you for showing me this part of Fort McMurray. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to party like I've never partied before (so many last calls). Thank you for letting me push myself and see what I can do. Thank you for creating this beautiful show with me, I'll never forget it.

I hope I get to be in a production at Keyano with you again, and know that no matter where I see you from now on - the grocery store, in line at Starbucks, the airport waiting room, on the trails - a huge smile will always light up my face.

I'm so proud to call you my friends - Les Misérables, Keyano Theatre Company 2014!!!

Dave Martin, ensemble

Last night (Feb 14th Opening night #LesMisKTC) I got wonderfully lost in the in Les Misérables
Keyano Theatre production with fellow cast and crew. This vehicle of imagination and human spirit whisked me away to a place of collective courage, angst, exhilaration and second chances.

When I stepped out into the Theatre foyer, seeing every crew and cast members’ family and friends waiting for them, it was surreal. It took me a moment to remember that I was still in Fort McMurray. To travel and never physically leave is cool.

Thanks for the amazing journey Claude Giroux and thanks to your professional team! I am so glad I was on the journey with the cast and crew!

Thank you to all the theatre goers that took a chance on Les Misérables. As Misty Oakes reminds us, you could be anywhere and you chose to spend your time with us.

Sheldon Dahl, Javert

I was pleasantly surprised with how nice everyone in the cast has been, but I probably shouldn't have been. I suspect that the type of person drawn to participate in community theatre is going to be awesome more often than not.

All of the actors are volunteers. We are all giving of ourselves to make this work. We are giving our time, our effort, and our very heart and soul to this project. We are sharing this gift with each other and with the audience every night. Selfish people would probably not be drawn to community theatre. We are all brave for stepping out of our comfort zone. We are all dedicated for putting the time and effort in to make this show what it is. I have seen kindness from Chuck, silliness from Tim, thoughtfulness from Russell, attention to detail from Melba, emotion from Misty, understanding from Jenny, acceptance from Greg, friendship from Kim, and so much more from everyone else.

I am so touched at how gracious everyone was after my various mistakes in this show.

I have made some good friends during this run.

I am honoured to have worked with all of you.

I will do this again.

April Bolen, ensemble

Where to start.. I feel so blessed and honoured to have been apart of this show. With closing night approaching in a few short hours, all I can do is wish that it could start all over again. I can honestly say that I have never partaken in anything so rewarding and magical in my short eighteen years. Being with all sixty(ish) of you over the last few months has resulted in many lessons learned, many relationships formed and many memories that will never be forgotten. I wish I could say more but I really can't find the words to express how beautiful this experience has been. All I know is that I will be leaving the stage tonight with tears in my eyes and a heart full of love for my Les Mis KTC family. I love all of you.

Jamie Manship, Bamatabois/Jean Prouvaire

A Positive Experience from Beginning to End.

When we first thought of moving to Fort McMurray it was only to get out of debt and we didn't come. The second time we thought about coming it was to make a difference in this community and we made the leap. It's amazing how the desire and actions to make a difference in your community will actually make a difference in you. For instance, I have taken more things off my bucket list in the glorious three years of being in Fort McMurray than the previous 36 years on this earth. Anyone who has a problem with Fort McMurray hasn't honestly engaged with the great people or been involved in any of the fantastic organizations like Keyano Theatre that exist in the Best Place to Live in Canada.

When I auditioned for Les Misérables it was to fulfill a dream of being in a large production. In the process I have watched us grow closer as a production and as group to the level of family. I am truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to share these moments and memories with a fantastic group of people on this adventure.

After tonight we will go our separate ways, but we will always cherish our memories because they define us.

Alexandra Bouliane, children’s ensemble

This has been a great experience and I loved sharing it with you all! I'm really gonna miss you all, and I hope everybody who watched the show enjoyed it.

Kevin Hansen, Brujon, Joly

I just want to say that playing with all of you has been the most amazing experience of my life. It's gonna take a few years to top this. It's all the little things that happen that make this so worth it: fist bumping Sheldon in the wings, sharing the most kick ass death ever on stage with the most amazing people, all the pre-show shenanigans that go on. Being able to perform this amazing show and gaining all these beautiful memories is so completely priceless. You guys are such a cool group of people and I will never forget you. I remember seeing Chicago with my mom and at the end thinking "wow those people are so cool doing a professional show on a professional theatre" and I was so envious because I wanted to be with those cool people, and this show has given me that feeling. I got to be awesome in a room full of awesome people. I got home tonight from the tavern and balled my eyes out for an hour, thinking about all the amazing memories we shared as a cast over the last two months. All of you guys are so beautiful and to be with you in this show has given me so much self-esteem and courage. I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for this experience. I will never forget any of you.

Jonathan Bowers, Lesgles


It's a word that I've seen thrown around a lot in the last few days, and it's the only word I can think of that truly expresses how I feel at the end of this incredible journey we've all undertaken.

To think that just a scant couple months ago we were all getting geared up for our first rehearsal for Les Mis is kind of mind boggling. So much has happened in such a short period of time that it seems like it's come and gone in the blink of an eye, and yet the memories we've all made together will last a lifetime. I've been involved in theatrical productions before, but nothing ever on the scale and the scope of Les Mis, and I don't think that anything will ever truly compare to this.

Being a relative newcomer to Fort McMurray, having only moved up here at the beginning of May, I was a bit shocked and surprised when I learned that the local theatre company was undertaking such a large-scale production. I'd never seen Les Mis, or even read the book, but I knew that it was Big. Capital B Big. And it was a perfect opportunity to get involved in the community, to give back to a city that had already given me so much in the way of a new lease on life and a fresh start, so I figured why not? It definitely beat sitting at home in front of the TV every night.

I never would have thought that I would be in for such a wild ride, but I can only say I'm both grateful and humbled to have been a part of it.

Meeting new people has been one of the driving forces in my life lately, and I haven't been disappointed with being a part of Les Mis. Over the course of the show I feel as though the members of the cast and crew have become one big extended family, complete with its own internal dynamics, groups, cliques, and hiccups. Having to leave it all behind now that the show is over is going to leave a void in my life that I hadn't realized was slowly being filled up, and it's heartbreaking to think that I won't see everyone all in one spot again. I have no doubt that I'll continue the friendships I've made over the course of the show, but still...

To be completely honest I've never really thought of myself as a very social person. I keep my thoughts to myself most of the time, being more comfortable living in my head and observing the world around me. That being said there was a moment, before the final show when the entire cast and crew had gathered for a pizza party, that I stood off to one side looking on, just observing, taking it all in. And it hit me.

This was the last time I'd see you all together.

It was chaos, in its own unique way; small groups of people sitting, eating, talking, laughing, children running everywhere screaming and laughing and just being kids, parents trying to coral them, others looking on, smiling, trying to help, enjoying the moment. It was perfect, and it was beautiful, and it was sad, all at the same time.

Because this moment, these people, in this place...

It would never happen again.

It would be truly impossible to describe or to put into words the bond we've all shared through an experience like this. The only way to truly understand would be to experience it for yourself. That final moment before we went our separate ways to prepare for the final show is one I will never forget.

For my part, I'll take away fond memories, unforgettable acquaintances and new friendships. Sharing in all of your struggles, challenges, triumphs and failures, has been one of the greatest pleasures and honors I could ever ask for. There are so many tales to tell from this journey that I wouldn't even know where to begin telling them all.

But every beginning has an end.

The inn won't open today.

The barricades will no longer be built.

The guns have fallen silent for the last time.

My friends, my friends, don't ask me what it all was for.

We already know.

Elizabeth Wells, ensemble

What can I say but "Thank you". Thank you again and again. The warm fuzzies have all been passed out, so all that's left is thank you.

Thank you to Claude for your vision and for taking a chance on me again. Thank you to Tiffany for all your hard work and to Melissa and her team for making us look so incredible (and for putting up with our occasional costume misdemeanors). Thank you to Steph for your limitless energy through all the stress and anxiety. Thank you to Jen Townsend and Allison for keeping us ready and organized and smiling. Thank you to Sam, Scott, and Michelle for making us all be heard and getting the balance just right so we could know what notes to sing. (Best of luck this fall Michelle!) Thank you to Susan and Dianne for coaching us though this mammoth of a show even when no one could tell where the alto-baritone harmony was supposed to be. Thank you to the band for jumping in to create a richness that I hadn't realized the music was lacking. Thank you to the entire production team for building and running such an amazing set! It was so much fun to play on and gave the show an added layer of authenticity. The amount of work going on backstage was staggering, especially considering how much got done without anyone noticing. The stage crew is that good.

To my fellow actors: thank you for an amazing experience! Thank you for all the laughs, tears (high five to anyone else who didn't cry on closing night!) and craziness. For the impromptu dance numbers (or zumba sessions), the geeky jokes, the stories and tall tales. The jokes that went on a little too long but were more funny as a result, the schemes that may or may not have actually been carried out, and the ones that definitely were. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Music and theatre are not my life's work as they are/were for so many of you, but they are two things that I don't think I can live without. To be included in a group of such talented and experienced people just blows me away. I won't single anyone out for specific reasons, but sharing the stage with each an every one of you is a treat. The amount of talent in this group should make me feel inadequate, but you have also been so welcoming, friendly, and forgiving that I just feel glad to be along for the ride.

I wish you all the best. I brag that I know you.

Jenny Price, Fantine

I knew this journey would be a special one when KTC announced Les Mis a year ago. Knowing that and then actually living it are two totally separate things. For me, this journey began and ended with tears. I cried when Claude offered me the part of Fantine and I cried last night (along with about 50 others) after our final curtain call. Every show I have had the privilege of being in holds a special place in my heart and this one is no exception. I know that I will carry wonderful memories from my time with my Les Mis family for the rest of my life - and we are now a family. We won't see each other every day anymore, we probably won't get together on a regular basis (despite our best intentions), in some cases we may never get to do another show together again. Despite all of this, I know that when I do see a member of my new family in the grocery store or at the theatre we will smile and give each other a hug and say how much we miss each other. To my Les Mis family - I love you all. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with me, with each other and with everyone who came to see the show.

Misty Oakes, Eponine

The Les Misérables journey for me was an ultimate path to healing. Right after auditions and finding out that I had landed the role of Eponine, I faced a serious physical and mental health block. I was going to quit the show and take time to figure it all out and focus on myself, but deep down I knew that in the face of adversity the goal must be to strive ahead. So I remained steadfast to my acceptance of the role and prepared myself for what I thought would be a grueling 11-week journey.

The task of preparing to play one of the most tragic characters in theatre filled me with fear and heartache. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to physically keep up as my energy was depleted, I was anxious that the emotional depth required for the role would bring up too much past hurt and regret. I had many truths to face, including not being able to read a single note of music. I found myself seriously questioning why I had chosen this path. But I kept the value of striving ahead in the forefront of my thoughts.

I knew instantly when I walked into the rehearsal hall on the first day of music rehearsal in December that I was going to get through this. But I was wrong in my approach; I thought I was going to persevere to get through my issues alone. Was I ever mistaken and now am I forever changed.

Though I was always “On My Own” I was never alone. I had a support team of well over 100 people striving towards a larger goal, whether it was the cast, the artistic team, the theatre staff, my loved ones or the friends, family, colleagues and neighbors of everyone involved. It was a huge net to fall safely into, the net of an incredible community that shared an ultimate human experience.

I opened my heart and my mind completely and surrendered to the process, and I am so thankful and blessed for doing so. The result was that my heart exploded, with love and inspiration, with passion and courage and with honesty and forgiveness. There is no way on Earth that I could have made it through this without my community I want to thank each and every person involved in KTC’s production of Les Misérables – including the audience, your individual energy and dedication to the celebration of the arts has helped me transcend my personal pain and healed my heart and soul. I am forever grateful for your grace. Thank you.

Dianne Pare, assistant musical director

The Universe Provided

I had been out of the “industry” since 2007. With encouragement from friends I decided to put my toe in the water by answering an ad Keyano College had for a Piano Instructor in March of 2013. What the hell.

I was looking to supplement my income, and maybe a few part-time hours teaching wouldn’t hurt. At least I could apply – I was thinking I would not get hired anyways. I was inactive. Possibly redundant. Too old school. Not enough credentials.

To my surprise I got hired. I met some folks around the college. (Including Russell Thomas who worked in the office of the conservatory – I even forgot my key one day and he let me in my studio.) Little did I know how my perspective of him would change. Little did I know how my perspective of myself would change.

It all started when I was simply asked to play the piano for the “Search for Cosette” at interPLAY. Was I available for the audition dates too??? Could I also play at the rehearsals in December?? I was loving the fact that one thing was leading into the other. I had no problem playing the piano – I could do that!

I was sent the tracks, the music, the scores for Les Misérables. It was a beast! I remember thinking that there was no way in the world they could pull this off – WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? I showed people the music and it looked no different than hieroglyphics on an Egyptian Mummy’s tomb. I had my doubts.

My part was small, just play the piano. But then in November, for me, that all changed. (And thank goodness it did!) I got to work on my new role, and I remembered my Girl Guide motto: “Be Prepared”

I could not sleep the night before our first rehearsal. Did I have all of the tracks memorized? Did I have the timings correct? Had I reviewed faces and matched them to their parts correctly? I kept saying to myself – “remember the key signature, remember the key signature, remember the key signature.” I said a little prayer before walking in on 40 plus people I didn’t really know, sitting there, all looking at me in the rehearsal hall. That’s when I realized that fear and confidence really had nothing to do with each other. I had no doubt I could teach the material. It’s what I love to do, but I was still scared. I was the most scared I had been in years.

These 35 people took me in. Immediately I felt their willingness to learn. There was laughter. There was camaraderie among them. They were forgiving. I relaxed and suddenly the Universe provided. There it was - after a couple of hours in the rehearsal hall – to the delight of my ears - the first small piece of the beast had been chewed, gnawed, swallowed and was starting to digest. And it sounded good. Wow, only a couple of hours… maybe this can be done.

From that moment on, the doubt slipped away, replaced with an excitement and anticipation that I can only compare to being an expectant mother. I have never been a mother, but I think this is the closest I will ever come to having and raising a child. What a gift of love!

The journey with the cast, crew and entire team of Les Mis has given me so much more confidence in myself. I am so proud. My practice of students has been inspired by all of us. They see now that it’s not just a piano or vocal lesson, but a skill that will serve them later and many have taken to their studies with fervor!

Most of all, THIS student has taken to her studies with renewed energy. A new leaf has turned. I don’t teach what I know – I reproduce what I demonstrate! I have been given a gift and it is my responsibility to share that. Thank you for allowing me to realize the gift within myself and giving me permission to express it.

I just wanted to say this to everybody. With great love and admiration.

Jennifer Murphy, ensemble

It is so hard to put into words what being a part of Les Misérables has meant to me. When I auditioned my life had been turned upside down and I was looking for something new that would keep me busy. What I got was an incredible experience. I have left this process with 50+ new friends and wonderful memories.

When I walked into the first rehearsal I didn't know anyone in the room besides my 7-year-old daughter, Rhiannon, who shared this experience with me. Throughout the last two months of rehearsals and shows I have watched her self-confidence grow by leaps and bounds. She has enjoyed this process so much that there was only one time that she didn't want to go to rehearsal, and that was because she would miss a birthday party. For anyone who doesn't know how much time goes into doing a show like this, we have put in about 220 hours beginning with the first rehearsal in December until the final curtain came down last night - a lot of time for an adult, let alone an child. In January, I watched as the cast and crew sang her “Happy Birthday” as she turned eight. I will never be able to top that moment; she smiled so big. We would go to rehearsals and she would play Minecraft with the other kids or make Rainbow Loom bracelets, I would do what was needed of me and never worry that she wasn't having fun or being taken care of. It makes me think of the saying: "It takes a village". The cast and crew of Les Mis became our village.

As for me, I love to sing and have been singing since I can remember but I am so nervous singing in front of people. If you have followed Russell's blog series, I am the girl who tried out for Canadian Idol oh so long ago. It makes me sound like I am confident in my ability to sing but, the truth is, the only reason that I auditioned was because my husband told me he would never let me sing in peace again if I didn't. This past year I have faced challenges I never could have imagined for myself or my children. Pushing myself to take the leap of faith to audition for Les Mis was so hard, but I just kept telling myself that the worst that could happen was I didn't make it. I am so glad that I did! I met such great people, some you saw on stage and some worked just as hard behind the scenes. I have met people who have raised my self-esteem to levels I never thought imaginable. I was so nervous to sing my couple of solo lines in front of everyone in case I made a mistake; I made a lot of mistakes and every time all I heard were the things I had improved since the last time I had messed them up. In all of those hours I have never heard anything negative said to someone who had made a mistake. There were no egos, just the collective desire to put on a great show and have fun doing it. By the time we did our preview show I wasn't even nervous, which shocked me! I know now that it was because we had all worked so hard and we were ready to take it to an audience; there was nothing to be nervous about. This experience has changed me so much. I will audition for Cabaret next season and hope to have both Rhiannon and my 16-year-old son Josh join me.

I want everyone who was a part of this journey with me to know how much you have touched me and what a difference you have made. I will miss each and every one of you. Rhiannon started to cry last night as we left the theatre and said that she was going to miss it so much. I told her that she had a choice to make: she could be sad that it was over or she could be happy that it happened. We both choose to be happy!

Rhiannon Murphy, children's ensemble

It has been an honour to be in a big production like this and to have a part. All of the hard work we've done paid off. It was amazing! I met a lot of new friends and I hope I can be in another show and meet even more friends. Everyone who I've met is amazing and it was a great experience to be there. If I was watching from the audience I would have been wishing I was on stage. Everyone was sweet and very helpful and I had a lot of fun. The costume designer, Tiffany, always let me help her and she was super nice. The set was spectacular and backstage is so much fun. There were lots of quick changes going on and we always helped each other. There was a secret gift giver who left gifts for all of the cast. And there were other people who just gave gifts. Les Mis was a great production. I hope I can be in another big production again. I am sad because I am going to miss everyone but I'm happy I met them. I am so happy that I tried out for Les Mis. I hope everybody who reads this saw the show and that you really loved it.

Kimerica Parr, Cosette

This experience has been fantastic for me. What an amazing group of people; I am so blessed to have spent this time with them. The new friendships, the laughter, and the joy of creating such a wonderful work of art together ... it is indescribable. And to have our work enjoyed by so many people ... I am overflowing with joy and love. I have always had a deep love of singing, and I have not had the opportunity to share this love for several years. It has been rekindled by this cast of 49 and crew of ... well, more. All of us got along so beautifully; it couldn't have been a better experience. Driving home with Janelle after rehearsals, conversing with Karla in the dressing room, getting dressed with Krista and Leslie, laughing with Kyle, Greg and the boys before each performance, pulling pranks on Tim (and having him create pranks for me, and everyone else) and chatting with Misty, Jenny and Teri during Act 2, eating junk food in the green room with the kids... all of it so enjoyable... on top of the love of performing. And Melissa and Tiffany for designing and creating such gorgeous costumes ... I especially loved my bonnet! And the sexy crew doing such a great job of lighting us, and giving us sound, and managing the backstage movement, and the incredible pit band lead by our fearless leader, Susan Lexa - what amazing musicianship! And of course, I am grateful for those who made it all possible - Director, Claude Giroux and Theatre Director, Alan Roberts. Thank you to everyone who made this possible, and a big thank you to the community for coming out and supporting us by seeing the show. The blessings continue! Looking forward to the rest of this season's offerings ... and what is to come next year! Another journey must begin ...

I forgot to mention all the hugs from everyone! Especially my newest best friend, Sheldon Dahl. He was always smiles, and made me feel good about my contribution to the show. I know that we will be close friends for years to come. And a big thank you to Russell for chronicling our adventure. Of course, all the ladies fell in love with Chuck (although the young ladies fell for Jack) and we all shared so much laughter! Thank you so much! I will treasure our time together, forever!

Norm Sutton, ensemble

We who have joined together these few days will look back in pride forever at what we have done.
Look back at those who have guided us, chided us and taught us to sing as one, or as stars, or as angels. With Joy.

You will remember the unseen touch of a hand on yours in the dark of the wings, or the embrace backstage before an entrance, the frantic quick changes, the tears, frustration. The Joy.

We will smile when we look back on the days of patience, kindness and understanding because we all trusted to the certainty that at the end of our journey we would arrive somewhere magnificent.

Most of all we will look back on the smiles, the laughter and fellowship that we have felt as we grew together into a family. This extended family that you will carry in your hearts for the rest of your time on this earth with love and pride. And Joy.

I embrace you my friends. I honour you my friends. I love you my friends.

Lindsay Ingersoll, ensemble

Les Misérables. What an awesome experience. I am so happy that I got the nerve to try out for this production. I have met so many wonderfully, talented people who have now become friends. I feel so blessed that God has given me musical talents that I may take part in such endeavors. I was thinking on how I can comment on what my experience has been and I have come to the decision that the only way to do such a thing is to share memories of each of these precious individuals.

When I first came into contact with Claude Giroux was during Hometown...The Musical! as he welcomed the choir into the production. His creative character displayed itself and his funny sense of humor when he mentioned in try-outs that if we were women and over 18, we were probably going to be prostitutes. I laughed and found out later that I was going to be an old woman….lol...even better. Thanks for the memories.

When I think of Susan, I think of a beautiful, talented woman who conducts with ease and grace. I love her contagious laugh and her great sense of boot fashion! Thanks for your musical advice.

I didn’t really get to know Jason Bolen, but his imagination with designing and building the set really helped all the actors get into the story of Les Misérables. What a beautiful masterpiece.

I can’t believe the amount of work Tiffany Bishop and Melissa, who’s last name escapes me, put into the inspiration and construction of all the various costumes. They were so beautifully put together and fit the time period of the show to the T. I’m super glad I don’t have to continue wearing that corset, even though it did improve my assets.

Thank you to all the backstage helpers of whom I don’t know your names in total. Without you guys we all would have been scurrying around a lot more and we may have missed our entrances. Thanks for your help.

I knew little of Alan Roberts, but what I do know is that he made some wonderful scenes come to life with his lighting designs. I love how the Photomagic pictures came out.

To the mic guys and lady: you guys are a great source of patience. Thanks for helping fit our mics and changing mics during the show. Thanks for being nice and pleasant to communicate with.

Steph’s knowledge of the stage is outstanding. She is an excellent leader, demonstrating confidence, determination and pizazz. I found out she has strong vocals as she displayed during our karaoke events.

I enjoyed getting to know Allison and watching as she scurried around backstage during tech nights and during the show. She is a force to be reckoned with.

Jennifer’s laid back spirit was comforting on stage left as there was little room on that side to move. Thanks for all your help girl.

Dianne was fun to get to know. She was very helpful in teaching us all the songs of the production. She is so personable and I loved how she opened up and sang the roof off of Bailey’s!

To the musicians of the pit: thanks so much for bringing the track to life! The music wouldn’t have been the same without Heather, Bill, Gwendy, Dianne and anyone else that I missed. Cheers to you all.

What can I say about Tammie. I love you!!!!!!!! You are hilarious and I can’t get over your witty nature. I’m so glad I got to know you. When ever I hear that period cramp song I"ll think of you.

Krista you’re such a kind spirit and welcoming to all. Thanks for the memories created at your house party and for hooking us up at the Podollan when my reservation flopped. You rock!

To all the kiddos of the play; Jack, Emily, Alexandra, Natalie, Noah, Grace, Amrita, Rhiannon, Timothy, Reese, Dylan, Ben, Holly, and Emma. I’m so happy to have got to work with you during this time. You guys added such a sense of playfulness and energy to the production. Thanks for all your hugs and small gifts. You’re all sweeties.

Kyle, or shall I call you Marius; seeing as this is the name I really came to know you as. It’s really a good thing that you decided to try out for this musical because you rocked it! Perfect voice for your part. I loved listening to you sing your solo bits.

April you have such a kind, sweet, spirit! Plus you get along with everyone. I can’t wait to see you on some stage or in some movie. Your voice is beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed acting up on that box during the “Lovely Ladies” scene. Great sense of hair fashion too.

To the Bowers brothers and to the misses, Diana. You guys are a friendly bunch that I have enjoyed getting to know. Chris your mutton chops are one for the books. John, I enjoyed chatting with you about your idea’s for the future and Diana, I love your hugs and our chats about playing the flute.

Tanner, you’re nuts! lol. I am glad to have gotten to know you a little. Thanks for the energy that you brought to the warm-ups, even when you were messing up the zigga-mamas with your mama-ziggas.

Sheldon, it was fun getting to talk with you in the ladies changing room -where you liked to frequent during the show. Lots of funny things happened during those times. I like your look with and without the beard although I think you look super tough with it.

Matthew, Kevin, Samson and Conor I enjoyed listening for and watching you in the various scenes. Matthew hanging upside down during the "Barricades", Kevin yelling “He’s back”, hearing Conor laugh hysterically over the speaker during the "ABC Cafe", and listening to Samson play guitar during the intermission. All great memories.

Tim, I still can’t get over how you memorized all those words and were able to act and fight without forgetting them. You did such a wonderful job! One memory I have of you is when I was acting as though I was asleep just after singing the “Night”. Your solo required such attention and focus as it was a difficult one to hear the pitch and was at the higher octave of your voice. Each night, I would have you in my thoughts and was rooting for you to hit those pitches right and of course you nailed it every night. Way to go!

To Janelle, Kelli M., Kelli N., Crystal, Jennifer, Karla, Melba, and Elizabeth, I have enjoyed getting to know you all. I loved waiting to hear Janelle’s newest story, chatting with Kelli M. in the changing room, harassing Kelli N….and pretending to cry. Crystal (my long wig sister) you’re a sweetheart, and Jennifer, I learned so much about birth over the past 2 months lol. Karla you livened up the room with your zumba and dancing, and Melba I enjoyed hearing your life stories. Elizabeth your laugh brightens up the entire room and even though you squashed my finger I enjoyed working with you and fake laughing during the “Inkeeper’s Song”.

Greg, you did such a great job on your many parts. I still laugh about the “Lupal lunge” and your coat that you had to wear. Even though you stepped on my foot numerous times, and mowed me over during "The People's Song", I thoroughly enjoyed acting along side of you and yelling “kazaaaaaaaaa!on stage.

To Dave, Jamie, Jeremy, Chuck, Norm and Adam these are a snid-bit of memories I have of you. Dave, I enjoyed spinning you around and playing with your hair on stage. Got some giggles with that. Jamie- too many memories but the one I love is watching you walk across the entryway in your brown leg warmers, capris, and that hilarious pointy hat! lol. Jeremy, you and your impressions, flirting with you Norm on stage during the “Innkeeper's Song” and listening to your melodious singing Chuck and the fast paced “Amazing Grace” at Baileys and laughing at all your antics Adam.

Finally to Terri, Misty, Kim, Jenny and Russell, thanks for bringing such life to your characters. Terri and Russell both of you are wonderful people that I enjoyed getting to know. You guys brought such energy to the stage which made acting beside you both so much fun. Jenny, thank you for being so kind and easy to work with. I’d be happy to get the chance to pull your hair once again lol. Kim and Misty you both are wonderful ladies! Kim I enjoyed talking with you in the girl’s changing room and listening for “papa!” to come over the intercom and Misty thanks for being welcoming to me and other newbies to the stage. You were the perfect person for your dream role. I’ll never forget seeing a blood packet fall out of your pocket and smear blood all over the floor during your death scene. It brought it more to life I would say.

Again, thanks all for your kindness, encouragement and fun times! This experience will go down in the books for me. On to the next adventure …..”Here’s something new, I think I’ll give it a try….”. Much love.

Grace Lima, Little Cosette

This experience has been so amazing. The people there were so kind and just made me feel right at home. It was just like a second family. I was thrilled to be a part of this unbelievable show. I had so much fun working with everyone. This show gave me the strength and courage to believe in myself. Thank you all for your help and support for Les Misérables.

Chuck Smith, Bishop of Digne

On closing night, with each scene, with each set change, or with each song, I felt a twinge. Like the last time I sang "You forgot I gave these also" and struggled with Crystal Milburn to take the candle sticks. The look in her face each time we struggled with those candle sticks was precious. Or the last time I placed my hand on Tim Heggie's chest as I sang "I have bought your soul for God." Or the last time I told April Bolen the word of the day. I think it was "casual". Or there last time Jannelle Leask and I waltzed in the hall back stage. Or the last time I fell into the arms of Krista Balsom at the end of the "Inn Keepers" song. Or the last time Adam Zacharias gave me all his money at the Docks. Or the last time Elizabeth Wells and I marched to down stage centre to lead the dance in "One Day More". Thank you Elizabeth for helping me, a non dancer, look good. Or when I walked up behind Misty Oakes before she went on stage, touched her shoulder and said "Go get em like you can". Or behind the scene when I watched Greg Lupul, Sheldon Dahl and the amazing Reese Stanley, fall off the top of the platform into the protective arms of Allison Barry and Jennifer Townsend. I especially loved the victory dance Reese did after each fall. Or the scene change Norm Sutton and I did moving Kyle Beeson (what a voice) into position, handing Kyle his cane for the scene. Or the laugh's Russell Thomas and Terri Mort got as they ham'd it up for the audience. Or the sweet sound of heaven that came from Diana Moser as she played the flute. Or the proud honouring look in Noah Heggie's eyes as his father Tim Heggie was appreciated for his dedication and commitment. Or the extraordinary patience Claude Giroux, Susan Lexa and and Dianne Pare graced me with for all my shortcomings. Or the awesome, sensitive leadership Steph Link showered us with. Or the second and final bow we all took on closing night. I realized, the twinge I felt was like a page being torn from my life.

Our lives are a book. As we experience at the last performance, it's like a page is torn from us and set adrift into our memories. The current pages are being filled. For me, it's falling asleep with my new grandson on my chest. Or putting to bed another grandson, "Ben", tickling his face and singing to him my all time favourite Irish Lulaby "Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra." Or going out for a quiet romantic dinner with my wife. In the last few days we have all set adrift the memories from our time together in Les Misérables.  We are also filling new pages in our lives. And many more blank pages have yet to be discovered and written upon. My friends, my wish is, as you periodically recall the memories set adrift from our experience together, that they will be fond, encouraging, forgiving and bring a smile to your day. Never forget… "See in this a higher plan."

Claude Giroux, Director

When Tiffany and I were married we spoke vows to each other on the beach at sunset…I told Tiffany then that she was the greatest gift I could bestow on the world because she had made me a better person and perhaps more importantly she continued to make me "want" to be a better person.

A community is an organism. It's a constantly processing and adapting thing that responds to new information as it goes. One of the ways a community self regulates is through its stories. Stories air issues that need to be raised, discussed and explored. Community is constantly in conversation with itself through stories, some are its own and others it embargoes. Our story has been a sequence of fun activities related to executing this play but in the process we have collected many stories, made many stories and learned each others' stories. In the process we have become friends and by so doing we have improved the place we share. When it all works the way it should, a thing like this tips over into a whole new paradigm and brings people into relationships beyond roles and agendas and even beyond words. Solutions replace problems and service and caring become a privilege. Maybe I'm waxing a little too eloquently here but simply put we all made each other better and as a consequence an ordinary every day experience became routinely extraordinary. My friends you have all made me better!

Thank you.

Tammie Austin, ensemble

I love to sing and Les Misérables is my all-time favourite musical play, thanks to my daughter, Alison, who discovered it in her teens. What a great opportunity for Fort McMurray thespians, and it turned out to be so professionally done! I was very proud to be on that stage. But more than that, for me it was about making connections and belonging to a theatre family for a while. My friend, Crystal Milburn, whom I met while we were in Calendar Girls last year, literally took me by the hand every night and led me through the darkness behind the bridge on the set and after we had helped to rotate the bridge, walked me back offstage again. She didn’t ask me if I needed help, but saw that I did and was there for me. That’s family. The First Act was kind of a whirlwind of activity – the Prologue being a lead-up to the moment when the music changed and I marched out carrying a table and the Factory Scene was launched. Then a quick run to microphone area, whipping off my dress along the way, to have Sam take off my mic and give it to Karla. Quickly onstage with Crystal to turn the bridge, back to the dressing room to change into my nurse costume, wipe Fantine’s brow and watch her die, offstage again to get into costume for the Innkeeper’s song, off again to change into my beggar costume with the help of a dresser, move a house with Krista Balsom, do the Beggar scene, then off again to relax and listen to Sheldon Dahl with his beautiful rendering of Stars. A bit of down time to laugh and chat with others backstage, then One Day More, all of us singing proudly together. Family, yes. A few moments to reconnect and have some laughs and snacks during Intermission, and back on stage for Act Two. I loved waiting in the darkness behind the set (with my family, of course) while the murmur of the house grew and we listened to some horrible groaning music which I dubbed “The Menstrual Cramp Song”. Sorry, Edith Piaf, I am sure you had better songs to share. Then the intricate dance of Act Two, on and off the stage, passing people hurrying by in the hall for costume changes, moving set pieces and acting and singing. All done together without any ego or meanness. How can 60-some people get along so well night after night? Because we were a family with a monumental task to do, requiring cooperation and patience. And we shared the joy of learning, rehearsing and performing. Thank you so much to the family I already knew, and the family I have met and will keep in my heart.

Jack Bartlett, ensemble

As I sit here writing this I think upon the beautiful times I had with each and every single one of you. The memories made here are ones to cherish and remember forever. I remember the chaos, the late nights, complaining, but when it was all said and done the finished product was truly fantastic. I would like to thank everyone for making this experience one to never forget. The conversations backstage with Tanner, Samson and Matthew. Practicing steps before "One Day More". My end show hug with Tammie just before the Epilogue. All are memories that will never leave my mind

This experience is what makes me come back again for more. The professionalism of the stage management crew is unbeatable. Plus there energy kept everyone centered and calm. I remember saying to Melissa as I was balling my eyes out I've made some of my best friends here. All of you are people who have unbeatable talent that needs to be shown to the world.


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