Arts and Entertainment

Theatre Orangeville reprises The Last Christmas Turkey

December 8, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

As Dan Needles tells us in his author’s notes, The Last Christmas Turkey has had quite a journey from a theatrical adventure for his church’s congregation 20 years ago, to a full-blown musical, produced and performed by a world-class cast and crew at Theatre Orangeville. It is on now to Dec. 23 at Theatre Orangeville.

The show’s evolution was worth that journey, for this highly entertaining musical makes us laugh, rocks us in our seats and pulls on our heartstrings. Every moment is filled with the tremendous energy this cast displays. 

The Last Christmas Turkey premiered at Theatre Orangeville in 2017 and, with that fine sense of timing we see so often in Artistic Director David Nairn’s choice of programming, reprising Last Christmas Turkey could not have been a better decision. Dan Needles did some rewriting and composer/lyricist, Clive VanderBurgh added a new song and rewrote a couple of the others, both to excellent effect.

To offer a brief outline of the story, siblings, Nancy and Braden are cleaning out the attic of their childhood home and happen upon things that tender reminiscences. Of these, the one that calls to them is about a turkey they wanted to rescue from becoming Christmas dinner.

The tale is delivered by their younger selves taking us back to that snowy Christmas week when their father was let go from his job and denied young Braden his dream of having a dog. Times, it seemed, were going to be tough, with their mother picking up a couple of jobs to bring in a little money, their father increasingly glum and into all this came the moment of meeting the turkey they called Tom.

Tom the Turkey with Trevor Patt happily returning to us in the role, was discovered by the two children in a local farmer’s turkey barn. He was alone and afraid from the day before when a truck arrived and then departed, taking away the whole huge flock of turkeys in it and leaving him solo behind. The youngsters decided to bring Tom to the stables nearby, where they could take care of him. Who knew that turkeys like marshmallows?

Tom is not the only animal in this production. Indeed, we are enthralled to make the acquaintance of Petunia the Skunk, Spartacus the Owl and Cleo, the enchanting [my word] Cat. They are the other inhabitants of the stables, who take Tom the Turkey into their hearts and join in with the plot to save him.

Throughout, what the music provides is entirely a good time. Whether pensive, funny – hilarious – or sweet choral music, this is non-stop, a real treat. From the opening thoughtful duet between the adult brother and sister about what it took each of them to be there so close to Christmas, to complete this task of cleaning up, to the riotous songs with everyone, to the tap-dancing routines, and all the pitfalls into which some of them stumble, this is a grand party not to be missed.

The plot is constructed of present-day and flashbacks with two of the actors doubling as adult Braden and Nancy and the father and mother of their earlier selves. Tyler Check does the honours as the adult Braden and young Nancy’s and Braden’s father, forbidding his son a dog, learning life’s lessons no matter what else life is dishing out.

Sarah Higgins fills the two roles of the adult Nancy worrying in a song about her own children and as a mother to young Nancy and Braden, forever having to spread the peace and compromises – sharing in the same lessons with her family, as the story spins.

Those young versions of the turkey-rescuing siblings are Ruby Kalverda and Lucas Nguyen, young thespians each doing a fine job of carrying their roles. Delivery, singing, and dancing, all spot on and beautiful.

Jill Agopsowicz brings Cleo the Cat into our lives, with an unlikely foreign accent and the loveliest poses a cat ever made. Funny all the time, Ms. Agopsowicz playing the role is simply delightful. She is also the Dance Captain, responsible for the fine-tuning in rehearsals of several dance routines.

Welcome back to Debbie Collins as Spartacus the Owl, which role she played in the 2017 premier of the show. This year, as she and Mr. Patt described in an earlier interview, they are festooned in glorious real feathers.

“I’m magnificent,” said she at the time and it is all true. In addition, she is comical and, as it happens, Tom the Turkey’s best friend.

Cory O’Brien lets us have Petunia the Skunk as Petunia nearly lets the other animals “have it.” Restraint is all and the threats are fun. This is another amazing costume, full fur and a resplendent tail. 

All the costumes are created by Costume Designer, Wendi Speck, who dazzles with not only gorgeous animal costumes but also that have to “allow the actors to move, dance and jolt about the stage,” as she remarks in her program notes.

Director David Nairn has performed his magic again, making the characters real, whether a skunk or a person, drawing each of them into the mix, assuring it is a whole pleasure of silly here and touching there, leaving nothing out. A wonderful couple of hours of valuable entertainment.

There is Christmas in it, yes, but many snow drifts of its own too.

Ever the perfect balance, Beckie Morris designed a set that hugs the performance without taking attention away from the considerable action.

Jory McLean carried the load as stage manager, with Grace Batten as assistant stage manager.

Chris Malkowski designed the lighting, accentuating the ebb and flow of the action, keeping things clear.

For people not able or willing yet to attend Theatre Orangeville in person, David Nairn is very happy to announce that this show is now available as a video as part of Theatre Orangeville’s StageTOscreen program. This provides access to any and all of the theatre’s production over the last several months, including The Last Christmas Turkey.

Whatever way you opt to see it, don’t miss this show. The grand finale had us, the Opening Night audience, on our feet before the very last note was done.

For more details and to purchase tickets, go to or call the lovely people at the Box Office on 519-942-3423.

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.