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The Last Christmas Turkey is back at Theatre Orangeville, with updated costumes, dialogue and new music.

A collaboration between Dan Needles and Clive VanderBurgh, the musical premiered in 2017 and returns to the stage for the first time since, under the direction of Theatre Orangeville’s artistic director David Nairn.

“The reason we wanted to revisit this story is because of the times that we have all been through together, as a community and as people on this planet,” said Nairn. “It’s a story about love, family, community, compassion and kindness. It’s about doing all we can to keep everyone we love safe and sound, which we feel is still a very important message at this time. It’s even more particularly impactful and poignant than when we first did it in 2017.”

Needles initially wrote the play as a puppet show with a sweet storyline about two children who conspire to spare the life of a Christmas turkey. He is the award winning author of the Wingfield plays, among others, and True Confessions from the Ninth Concession.

The Last Christmas Turkey is set in Glen Huron. In the story, two adult children are clearing out their parents’ farmhouse as they reminisce about the time they took 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 an owl, a skunk and a cat.

Needles – who told The Echo back in 2017 that he always thought the script would make a great musical – teamed up with VanderBurgh, a Creemore resident.

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 wrote 15 original songs in a variety of styles for the premier of The Last Christmas Turkey, and has written a new one for this new release.

The new song, Don’t Talk to Your Father That Way, has been substituted into the first act to better capture the complex feelings exchanged between a father and his son.

“Once you run a show and you have a chance to sit back and think about it then you can save the parts that really work well and enhance the parts that you think could use a little boost,” said VanderBurgh.

He said he is enjoying the experience, and loves working with the performers.

“There are moments in this show that are just magical,” said VanderBurgh. “Dan Needles is a spectacular playwright and I hope that the music enhances the beautiful values that he has put into a script.”

The full production musical is for audiences of all ages, with eight actors playing 15 or so characters, human and animal.

Orangeville’s Lucas Nguyen and Ruby Kalverda star as the young Nancy and Braden. Sarah Higgins and Tyler Check take on the adult roles of the siblings. Returning to their roles from the 2017 production, is Jill Agopsowicz as Cleo the Cat, Debbie Collins as Spartacus the Owl, and Trevor Patt as Tom the Turkey. Joining the cast this year and rounding out the barnyard characters is Cory O’Brien as Petunia the Skunk.

Opening night is Friday, Dec. 2 and the show runs Wednesdays through Sundays until Dec. 23, with evening and matinees performances. For tickets and information, visit www. theatreorangeville.ca.

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