Playwright, composer join forces

 In News

Two local talents have joined forces to put a musical twist to a newly expanded holiday play, The Last Christmas Turkey.

Dan Needles initially wrote the play as a two-hander puppet show with a sweet storyline about two children who conspire to spare the life of a Christmas turkey.

“I always thought it would lend itself to a musical,” said Needles.

When he met musician Clive VanderBurgh, they decided they should do something together so Needles asked him to take a look at the script.

Needles is the award winning author of the Wingfield plays, among others, and True Confessions from the Ninth Concession, recently published as an anthology. As usual, he draws inspiration from his community. The Last Christmas Turkey, set in Glen Huron, has been adapted to a full production musical for an audience of all ages, with eight actors playing 15 or so characters, human and animal.

It is at once a story about family, love, community and finding purpose in life.

“There is a sadness but also and understanding of the great gift they were given,” said Needles.

In the story, two adult children are clearing out their parents’ farmhouse as they reminisce about their great adventure.

Nancy and her younger brother Braden take in an abandoned turkey, only to find that it was supposed to be the guest of honour at the local church Christmas supper. They set out to rescue it with the help of Spartacus the owl, Petunia the skunk and a cat named Cleopatra.

“The kids put themselves at risk in order to save what is important to them,” said VanderBurgh. “I loved the sensibility and the theme, what a gift it is to be able to work on something like that.

VanderBurgh worked for CBC and TVO writing, producing and directing for popular children’s shows like Today’s Special, Sesame Street and many others.

He has written 15 songs in a variety of styles for this latest incarnation of The Last Christmas Turkey.

The turkey’s big number is a sad, soul-searching song “What am I For?” in the style of Edith Piaf.

“A guy in a turkey suit singing an Edith Piaf song, now that’s funny,” said Needles.

The Last Christmas Turkey, the Musical runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 23 at Theatre Orangeville. For tickets and showtimes, visit

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