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REVIEW: Last Christmas Turkey musical a welcome departure from usual holiday fare

Festive fowl fun - Leah Oster, middle, leads a cast of eight in The Last Christmas Turkey The Musical, which plays at Theatre Orangeville until Dec. 23.  Submitted photo

REVIEW: Last Christmas Turkey musical a welcome departure from usual holiday fare

by Chris Daponte

ORANGEVILLE - For many, this time of year brings with it the tradition of taking in a live performance of a familiar Christmas play.

Sure, some of them are classics, but wouldn’t it be nice to see something different for a change?

Look no further than the world premiere of The Last Christmas Turkey The Musical, on stage now at Theatre Orangeville.

Adapted from a Dan Needles play written 19 years ago and updated with 15 new songs by Clive VanderBurgh, the musical tells the story of Nancy and her younger brother Braden, who secretly take in a turkey they find abandoned at a nearby farm.

Immediately smitten with their new fowl friend, the children soon find out “Tom” the turkey was supposed to be the guest of honour at a local church supper.

Undaunted, the children, with the help of Spartacus the owl, Petunia the skunk and Cleopatra the cat, vow to save Tom from the zealous efforts of the search party tasked with returning the turkey to the table.

Leah Oster (as older Nancy/mother) and Justin Stadnyk (older Braden/father) elicit an unmistakable sense of nostalgia that’s rooted in a story from their characters’ childhood and fuelled by the adult realization that they must say goodbye to the family home where it all took place (as exemplified in one of the play’s first musical numbers, Here In This Home).

Jill Agopsowicz (Cleo), Debbie Collins (Spartacus/Milly) and Ken James Stewart (Petunia/Horace) are great in their respective roles. Petunia is the funniest “animal” by far and while the others are also comical, their material does become a bit tired.

Stewart shines in his portrayal of Horace, the grumpy leader of the party hunting for the poached poultry. Particularly impressive is Stewart’s performance of When I Grew Up, during which Horace, with the help of several other characters, angrily laments the poor behaviour and work ethic of a younger generation.

Youngsters Liam MacDonald and Kyla Johanis are impressive as young Braden and Nancy, notably during a few moments without adult actors from whom they could take cues.

The real star of the show, as well as its vocal anchor,  is Trevor Patt as Tom the turkey.  Tasked with delivering serious musical performances in one scene (including an impressive solo in What Am I For?) and nothing but “gobbles” in the next, Patt delivers both with unwavering expertise.

Guided by director David Nairn, the book and music by Needles and VanderBurgh respectively are first-rate entertainment.

John Hughes deftly leads the production from start to finish on the piano, aided by great musical arrangements from Michael Mulrooney.

Choreographer Jenee Gowing should be commended for incorporating many dance genres that few choreographers would dare intertwine.

It’s not often one sees the running man, robot, worm and a tap routine in the same production, but somehow it works great here.

Overall, The Last Christmas Turkey The Musical is a fine production that appeals to children and adults alike.

It’s pleasantly devoid of many of the holiday motifs one might expect, yet it still reinforces two timely and welcome messages about the value of family/friends and the importance of believing.

The Last Christmas Turkey The Musical plays five shows a week until Dec. 23. For tickets call 1-800-424-1295 or visit theatreorangeville.ca.

December 8, 2017

 
 

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