Two weeks after moving to Aldergrove, 19-year-old Emily Talma spotted an audition notice for Gallery 7 Theatre's upcoming production of The Fantasticks.
Consumed by what she describes as a lifelong passion for acting and singing, the recent Calgary transplant decided to audition.
"I had heard from of my aunt's friends that Gallery 7 produced very high-quality shows and had a good reputation around town, so I decided to audition because I thought it would be a good way to expand my social network here and be with people who had the same interest in theatre as me," Talma told the Langley Advance.
She explained she's now living with her aunt and uncle while preparing to resume theatre studies this fall, this being a good distraction.
Auditions were held at the end of March. The day after call-backs, Talma was elated to learn she'd been cast in the role of Luisa Bellomy.
"I was so drawn to this role because Luisa is so different from any other role I have played," Talma said.
"She has such a big imagination and lives life like it is her fantasy. Also, she's kind of crazy, so it makes for a fun character to create."
Rehearsals started almost immediately, and ever since Talma has been getting together with the rest of the cast and crew every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday - with the occasional Saturday rehearsal thrown into the mix - to prepare for the show.
The curtain goes up next week on this timeless musical about young love, innocence, and self-discovery.
Set on a simple platform suggesting a timeless period and nameless location, The Fantasticks is a story of love that plays out as young sweethearts enjoy innocent bliss and romance, explained the theatre's executive artistic director Ken Hildebrandt.
When the characters discover their courtship is the result of the manipulations of their two fathers, the seeds of rebellion are sown and the temptations of the world threaten to pull them apart forever.
The Fantasticks is going to be one "Fantastick" show, Talma said, inviting people to attend.
The show runs June 8, 9, 14-16, and 21-23 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on June 9 and 16 at 2 p.m. at the MEI Auditorium, 4081 Clearbrook Rd. in Abbotsford. Tickets are available by calling toll-free 1-800-665-8828.
In the meantime, Talma said she's excited and nervous about this upcoming production. She's been on the stage since Grade 5, when she scored the lead in Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, but this is different. It's a whole new audience.
"But acting is definitely a career goal for me. It has always been a passion of mine, and I think I figured out at a young age that I wanted to act for the rest of my life. One of my main goals, my dream really, is to be acting in a big show on Broadway, or travelling around the country in an off-Broadway show," she said.
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"I am also very interested in singing. I have been singing longer than I have been acting, actually. My aunt used to sing to me all the time when I was young, and I think it was because of her that really got me so involved with singing," she recounted.
But in Grade 3, her choir teacher gave her a C in music, that nearly quashed her aspirations before they could even take hold.
"She told me I didn't have any rhythm and that she didn't think singing is 'my thing'," Talma said.
She started voice lessons at age 12 at the local college, focusing mainly on classical Royal Conservatory music, then entered many local Kiwanis festivals year after year - in both classical and musical theatre categories.
"One year, I ran into my old music teacher after the festival's performers showcase, where I was a featured performer doing some songs. The look on her face was priceless."
Of course, since then, she's been involved in many musicals, including Kiss Me Kate, Little Women, Fiddler on the Roof, and most recently, The Sound of Music.
And during high school, she travelled to Scotland to perform in the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
In addition to Aldergrove's own Talma, The Fantasticks will be led by Langley's own Charlene Crawford, who is taking on her first project in the director's chair for Gallery 7 Theatre.
Normally working behind the scenes as the company's resident stage manager, Crawford has also appeared on stage in productions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and in Chickens.
She is supported by musical director Nicola Davies, choreographer Andrea Loewen and fight choreographer Derek Ward-Hall. Set design is by Heather Robertson, costume design is by Jaclyn Singh and lighting design is by Ken Hildebrandt. The stage manager is Nathan Unger and production photographer is Dianna Lewis of Creative Memory Studio.
Gallery 7 Theatre's production will feature a plethora of musical theatre artists from across the Fraser Valley, Hildebrandt said.
Playing the role of the roguish narrator, El Gallo, is Arne Larsen. Larsen has appeared in numerous musicals including The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Annie, The Pirates of Penzance and Fiddler on the Roof.
Playing the roles of the young lovers are Morgan Cox (Matt) and Talma (Luisa), while their conniving yet loving fathers are being played by Michael McIntyre (Bellomy) and Eldon Letkeman (Hucklebee).
The travelling actor, Henry, whose star faded before it rose, is being played by Gallery 7 regular, Shelley Picard. Her trusting side-kick is being played by newcomer, Jonathan Matheson, and Mark Klausen takes on the role of the Mute. This is the last production of the season for Gallery 7
"I'm so thrilled to see that such an incredibly talented group of theatre artists, both on and off the stage, has been assembled to bring this production to life," Hildebrandt said.
"I think audiences will really delight in the charming music, the amazing singing and the humorous, if not slightly bizarre storyline. There's a reason this play has been running off-Broadway for over 50 years - it's a perfect pre-summer treat," he added.