Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ruined by Community Theatre

It was actually the Intrepid Junior Blogger's idea to go see the musical Chicago on board our cruise ship. Days at sea can become long and dull, so the cruise companies spice it up with more food than you should ever eat, designer handbag sales and live entertainment.

The theatre venue on the Allure of the Seas is bloody impressive, better by far than many land based theatres I've been to. Seat service of cocktails and coffees enhance the experience, and on the stage in front of you unrolls a musical performed by an undoubtedly talented cast, bringing years of theatre and stage experience to their respective roles. And while I enjoyed it I couldn't help but compare it to the performance of the same musical presented by Keyano Theatre. I sat there in the darkened theatre, clapping, but in my heart of hearts I knew a simple truth. Community theatre has ruined me.

You see the performance of Chicago on the cruise was flawless, every line delivered with perfection, every song hitting just the right note and every dance step nailing the choreography - but something was terribly, terribly missing. It felt cold to me, devoid of the personality and warmth of our little cast of community players. It felt perfunctory, perfectly presented, but perfectly without the little thrill of emotion I get from seeing someone I know, either well or only slightly, on stage.

As a writer one of the things I love most is knowing the backstory. With community theatre I often know if this is a performer's first time on stage - or perhaps their last before they leave our community. I might know their mom or their spouse. I might even know them, have watched them as they went to rehearsals and poured more and more of their heart, soul and energy into their performance. The backstory is what gives me that lift, that generates that shiver of excitement when the curtain goes up, the music begins and the first words are spoken or sung.

Community theatre is not always flawless. On occasion lines are missed, props are dropped and scenes go better some nights than others. But the flaws, the backstory, the friends and neighbours and community members, are what fill me with joy, what make me stand up at the end clapping and hooting. And, often, the community cast and crew nail the performance just as perfectly as a collection of polished professionals, adding a new level of delight to the experience. They are what I have come to love about live theatre, and while other performances can be excellent in quality and delivery they will never reach the level of perfection I've found right in our own community. 

At the end of the performance of Chicago on the ship the IJB turned to me and said: "That was pretty good." I smiled, and nodded, and then I said: "Yes, but Keyano Theatre did it better" - and I meant it, too, because our little Keyano Theatre and all the community players in it have captured my heart. Nothing will ever come close to what I feel when those curtains close and the final notes of another heartfelt community performance fade away.

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