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The story behind the new CDE Musical "The Last Light"
Posted 07/21/2015 12:00PM

"How far that little candle throws his beams, so shines a good deed in a naughty world."

- Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

Inspired by the quote above, writer and composer Andrew Leonard created a musical for our CDE students entitled Throw Your Light. By bringing Andrew's words and music to life, our CDE students experienced the power of connection and hard work, as well as the message of Andrew's original musical.

Interview with writer and composer Andrew Leonard
What is The Last Light about?

It is about a magical land that has been overcome by darkness. The King of Darkness stormed the entire kingdom and stole the light from the world, making everyone go to bed by dusk because there is no other light than from the sun. However, The Tale of the Last Light tells that there is one Last Light left in the world and whoever finds it is the Chosen One. In the tale, it says that the Chosen One must take the Last Light to the castle in order to restore light to the entire world. Jack, our hero, miraculously finds the Last Light and becomes our Chosen One. But he is reluctant and says he doesn’t believe in this story. He ends up being persuaded by his family and starts on his quest to the castle. Every time he does a good deed he gets closer and closer to finding the inner light within himself and thus restoring the light to the entire world. The message is that every child has the ability to do good and right by the world; all they have to do is throw their light far and wide and watch their good deeds shine. 

“These lines symbolize my most fervent dream - that every child carries with them a sense of beauty, of magic, of wonder to share with others and a desire to throw their light like the beam of that little candle far and wide in this naughty world.”
What inspired it?

During the school year I teach musical theater in New York City. One day, after a particularly frustrating teaching experience, I sat down and read The Wit and Wisdom of Mary Crist Fleming. I was immediately transfixed by her words. Mrs. Fleming had a quote from The Merchant of Venice that she loved: “How far that little candle throws his beams, so shines a good deed in a naughty world.” She went on to say, “These lines symbolize my most fervent dream - that every child carries with them a sense of beauty, of magic, of wonder to share with others and a desire to throw their light like the beam of that little candle far and wide in this naughty world.”

After I read this, I quickly wrote down this quote in my notebook and then continued on with my everyday life. However, I couldn’t get the image of children ‘throwing their light’ out of my head. I knew I had to do something with this quote. I began to create a musical based on this quote where children must find their inner light and learn that it is only through our good deeds that it will shine.

How are the children responding to it?

It’s always a scary experience writing a brand-new musical and then presenting it to a group of 30 children to perform. Will they like it? Is it funny enough? It is fun enough to perform? Do they like singing the music? All of these thoughts come rushing to the forefront of my brain, and it is a little nerve-wracking. That being said, I am happy to report that the kids are really connecting with this material! They love singing this music and they also are having so much fun playing exciting and magical characters.

Have you done anything like this before?

Yes, I have in fact! I wrote the CDE Musical last year (Petey Peach Tree) based on a story that my dad created when I was a young boy. I have also written a few other musicals for adult performers. My favorite part about writing a musical is finding where the inspiration will come from; last year it was my father, one of the most amazing men I’ve ever met. This year it was Mrs. Fleming, because I truly am in awe every time I hear her story and learn more about the creation of TASIS. I think it is important to use inspiring people to influence my children’s musicals because it creates a sense of purpose and meaning that can be used to teach the children how different people can influence our lives for the better.

Anything in particular we should watch out for?

I think the most important thing to watch out for is the quote from The Merchant of Venice that Mrs. Fleming spoke of - “How far that little candle throws his beams, so shines a good deed in a naughty world.” I created a fun character to present this quote and I think it will be a shining moment of the musical. The other thing I would suggest to watch out for is the closing song, “Throw Your Light.” The opening lyrics to this song are taken directly from Mrs. Fleming’s words and the kids are doing an absolutely amazing job making them come to life.

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