>> Erin Macklem
It’s the first day of rehearsal for the This Little Light, the Belfry Theatre’s brand new holiday family musical set right here in Fernwood Square. Brad L’Écuyer, the composer and music director, is teaching students from the Canadian College of Performing Arts their songs and harmonies, and the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up in excitement and wonder. The same thing happened yesterday when we visited George Jay Elementary School and listened to their choir sing one of the closing numbers from the show. When the students learned that this is a song of angels welcoming the Little Match Girl into their heavenly choir, they sang it again with their best angel voices and my knees nearly gave out it was so beautiful.
I can’t quite believe this is all really happening. Brad and I have been working on this play for over two years, and now our words and music are leaping off the page under the direction of Toronto’s Jane Johanson. It’s thrilling. It’s Christmas Eve and the Little Match Girl is teaching a newspaper delivery boy how to sing in harmony. Anthropomorphized salt and pepper shakers are leading a parade to a neighbourhood potluck – “It’s the foodie event of the year!” they exclaim as they kick up their heels and list off all the Fernwoodians who will be in attendance. The opening number is an explosion of Christmas shopping and decorating with neighbours egging each other on – “I love Christmas more than you, there’s thirty thousand LEDs outside as proof!” It’s a riot of singing and dancing and merry-making mayhem.
What’s that you say? This doesn’t sound like the Hans Christian Andersen story you know and love? Okay – so we haven’t started working on the end of the play yet, there’s more somber themes to come.
Last night, I sang one of the songs from the show to my four-year-old daughter at bedtime. As I tucked her in she asked me “Mommy, why didn’t anyone let the Little Match Girl into their house so she could warm up?”
“I don’t know sweetie,” I said to her, “It’s a really good question.”
It’s the same question I asked myself when my elementary school librarian read the story to my grade one class over thirty years ago. It’s the kind of question that inspired me to become a playwright.
Our play invites you to see this timeless tale with fresh eyes. We hope that you will join us in our cozy theatre as we celebrate music, community and light in these dark days of winter.
This Little Light runs December 10-23, 2016 at the Belfry Theatre.