As Yellow Door Theatre Project gets ready to present the world premier of yet another original
play by Lezlie Wade and Scott Christian this December, the Niagara-on-the-Lake youth theatre
group is celebrating the latest nomination for the playwriting team.
Wade and Christian’s original song, A Portrait Of Me, from their 2021 musical Dead Reckoning,
is one of 12 finalists for the Stiles and Drewe Best New Song Prize, to be awarded in London,
England on Monday, Nov. 21.
“To be short-listed to 12 from 175 song submissions is pretty incredible,” Wade told The Local.
“We had a Zoom meeting with Stiles and Drewe, and that was really kind of surreal.”
“They are kind of on the level of Webber and Rice or Cameron Mackintosh,” added Christian.
“That’s like British theatre royalty. To just be casually on a Zoom call with them was so weird.”
The acclaimed writing duo of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe award the prize each year for an
outstanding song from a new musical, written by a member of Mercury Musical Developments
(MMD). MMD is the UK’s membership organization for writers of musical theatre, dedicated to
developing the talents and careers of its members. A panel of industry judges will award the prize
and the winner will receive £1000 towards developing their work.
During that Zoom meeting, Stiles and Drewe explained to Wade and Christian that each of the 12
songs will be performed that night by a stellar line-up of West End talent, some of whom have
earned Olivier Awards (London theatre awards) in the past.
“It worked out for both of us that we can be there in person,” Christian said. “We’ll get a chance to
speak, and we’ll hear our song performed by some incredible talent.”
Wade calls A Portrait of Me an intricate, delicate and haunting song.
“It’s just a really good combination of music and lyrics,” the NOTL resident said. “It tells an
extremely good story, and it’s different from other things that people hear. In that regard, they were
probably looking for unusual songs.”
The musical it is from, Dead Reckoning, is the true story about a 15-year-old girl named Betty
Klenck, who, three days after Ameila Earhardt was declared lost at sea, heard the famous aviator
on a shortwave radio in her bedroom.
The play is “about female hero worship, explained Wade, “and girls having mentors, and looking
up to them in a time when there weren’t many. It was one of the first songs Scott and I wrote
together when we started our creative partnership.”
Though it revolved around a young girl, Dead Reckoning was not performed by Yellow Door
(YDTP), as Christian referred to it as one of their shows for grown-ups.
But Wade and Christian’s partnership with YDTP has borne much musical fruit in past years. In
2021, they worked with Yellow Door to produce a film of their original musical Red Letter Day, which
came out earlier this year. The film was named Best New Musical at the New York International Film
Awards in May. Other past production partnerships with YDTP include an updated take on Hansel
“Scott and I have been so fortunate to have such great people to write for,” Wade said.
The pair are working with YDTP on another original play that will premiere at the FirstOntario
Performing Arts Centre on Dec. 7. Called Nobody’s Children, it’s a musical set in Victorian London,
taking the audience on an exciting ride straddling two continents.
At a recent gathering at YDTP’s Line 2 facility, Wade explained her inspiration for the Christmas
“A few years ago, Andorlie (Hillstrom, YDTP founder and artistic producer) asked me to write a
musical about the Pied Piper,” Wade exclaimed. “It’s really not a comedic story that lends itself to
songs. I started deconstructing it, and I thought, ‘rats, rat-catcher, Victorian England, home children,
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Dickensian musical! That’s how it all came about.”
Wade explained that between 1860 and 1930, more than 100,000 children were taken from the
streets of London and moved to the colonies. Niagara-on-the-Lake actually had a home, located
originally on Rye Street, to which many of these children were moved.
“For some kids it was a better life, but for a lot it wasn’t,” Wade said. “There was a lot of neglect,
and there was no paperwork. This story is about a little girl named Mary who gets taken by accident
and brought to Niagara-on-the-Lake and gets lost in the system. Her father is a rat-catcher. He
comes to Canada, and ends up finding her. The characters are larger than life. It’s very Dickensian,
an Oliver Twist kind of world.”
At the recent event held to thank the sponsors who have kept YDTP going through the
pandemic, Wade invited the young cast, as well as their adult mentor, Chistoph Ibrahim, up front to
sing one of the Wade/Christian compositions from Nobody’s Children.
The musical is to be directed by Kerry Ann Doherty, a member of the Shaw Festival ensemble
and an actor and director with extensive credits across Canada and the UK. Born in Belfast, the
founder and artistic director of theatreSix in Toronto now lives in NOTL.
The event also gave YDTP an opportunity to recognize the support of the Ontario government
through a Trillium Foundation grant, and to thank its sponsors who kept things going during the
They also recognized their current sponsors who are supporting the non-profit organization for its
current season. Vaughn and Lauren Goettler, through their Goettler Family Foundation, were
thanked, along with the James A. Burton Family Foundation and Lezlie and Bob Murch.
Yellow Door Theatre Project’s production of Wade and Christian’s Nobody’s Children will be
performed at the FirstOntario PAC in St. Catharines from Dec. 7 to 10. Tickets are $17 and available