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An Interview With Leslie Arden

Date Posted: 19/11/2015

What was the inspiration behind creating a musical surrounding the story of The Gift Of The Magi?
A couple of years ago, Jim Betts, the A.D. of The Smile Theatre Company, asked me to write a one-act musical adaptation of the O. Henry short story to be toured through Ontario Seniors facilities.  It was a wonderful experience, and I decided to extend the show to make it a full length musical.  I looked through O. Henry’s other short stories and found A Retrieved Reformation, which I thought could act as a sort of prequel to The Gift of the Magi.  Then I pitched it to David Nairn, because I so enjoy working with him and Theatre Orangeville, and we were off to the races!

What sort of person is going to love this show?
Anyone who loves theatre, musical, love stories with a twist, O. Henry, Christmas, and Theatre Orangeville.

What will the audience be thinking in the car as they drive home after this show?
They’ll be marveling at the talent of our cast!  We have seven of the most wonderful singer/actors in the biz!  And they’ll be humming catchy tunes from the show.

Keeping with the holiday spirit, what do you believe is the greatest Christmas gift of all?
Time.  Time with friends, with family, with anyone who is important in your life, anyone you love.  Time to reflect on what’s really important. 

If you could only have one of your plays/musicals produced for the rest of time, which would you choose and why?
I suppose it would be The House of Martin Guerre, but we’re only in our first week of rehearsal for The Gift of the Magi, so who knows?  Ask me again after the show opens!

What play or musical do you wish you had written and why?
Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd.  I think it’s perfectly constructed in every way, and I love musicals with high stakes. 

 “I am a closet…
But if I told you that, it wouldn’t be in the closet.

What is your least favorite question about your work?
It’s not a question, exactly, but I don’t like it when people compare my work to other people’s work.  For instance, I wrote a musical that was set in 16th century France, so people tried to compare it to Les Miserables.  When I write a song that contains clever rhymes, people compare it to Sondheim’s lyrics.  If I write a musical adaptation of a fairy tale, people compare it to Into the Woods.  People seem to be uncomfortable when they can’t put something in a familiar box.

The Gift Of The Magi Director, David Nairn mentioned that you have won various ribbons for dog agility competitions. What brought forth your interest in that and can you tell us a bit more about these competitions?
My two dogs and I compete in both canine agility and disc.  I love it because it gets me up and outside!  As a writer/composer, I spend a lot of time working alone, sitting at a desk or a piano, so I need a hobby that’ll get me out running around in the fresh air.  And, frankly, I’m better with dogs than I am with people, so…

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