In 1933, the first singing telegram was sung by an operator over a switchboard phone. Since then, the singing telegram has revolutionized the way people celebrate special occasions.
Edmonds-based The Great Surprisal has delivered hundreds of singing telegrams, with characters ranging from martial arts ninjas to Princess Leia of Star Wars.
Owner Amelia Wood said the inspiration for the company started when she considered pulling a prank on a horrible boss. While the prank never happened, the idea stuck.
“What drove me to start a singing telegram business were these quiet, yet potent fantasies of surprising people when they least expect it and bring them into a moment of pure joy and undivided attention,” she said.
She recalled the time that she surprised office worker Lina Rogers by delivering a telegram dressed as Princess Leia. “I’ve been looking all over the universe for you.” Wood sang to Rogers. With her headset still on, Rogers yelled, “I can’t believe this is happening! You don’t understand, I have always wanted a singing telegram my entire life.”
While Wood is no stranger to making dreams come true, she was touched by the response. “I had to hold back tears myself, as I knew how much this small but momentous moment meant,” she said.
Wood, who has operated the Great Surprisal for seven years, has more than 20 years’ experience in theatrical performance. “I’ve daydreamed of crashing executive meetings and dancing on tabletops – busting through the bland routine of daily life,” she said. “I can now say that I have actually done those things and so far, I haven’t been threatened with being arrested – well, once.”
She credits The Conciliation Project, a social justice non-profit theater company founded in Seattle, for teaching her the ropes of production management and giving her major skills to run her own business while actively being involved in the community.
A board member of Lift Every Voice Legacy, Wood has volunteered for the Edmonds Diversity Commission, assisted the Edmonds City Council campaign for Diana White and was a case manager at Cocoon House, a Snohomish County shelter for youth.
“It’s been exactly seven years of risk-taking, failure, improv, creativity and professional development in a career that I basically invented for myself, ” Woods said. During that time, she has played dozens of characters, from Mary Poppins to Charlie Chaplin, but her three favorites are Freddie Mercury, Prince and the Wicked Witch of the West.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wood has been taking groceries to those unable to get out, delivering socially distanced telegrams and serving as a host for charity fundraisers like the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (Sanca), produced by CircusWerks and SeattleLives. Dressed as the Easter Bunny, Woods volunteered at Black Coffee NW in Shoreline and drove through neighborhoods in Edmonds, waving to excited kids and adults.
Wood is totally committed to bringing happiness through touching lives in a positive way, “Now that my foundation is solid, I can continue to build and develop new ways of being, working and bringing joy to others,” she said. “This ripple effect has enriched my own life and purpose and I hope it has also enriched others’ lives.”
A consummate performer who speaks three languages in addition to English — Spanish, Italian and Indonesian –Wood is up for the challenge of new and unique experiences that may even include her dream telegram: To perform an underwater scuba diving delivery.
“My mission is to bring unforgettable memories to as many homes, offices and venues as possible, and add a touch of joy and laughter to everyday life.” Wood said with a smile.
For more information, visit www.thegreatsurprisal.com.
— By Misha Carter