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Meet The Writers: Stephen Leung


In our "Meet The Writers" series, we're learning more about the participants of the CMTWC Writers Workshop. The Toronto Writers Workshop meets every two weeks where, under the guidance of Leslie Arden, writers learn and practice the craft of composition and lyric-writing.

What was your introduction to the theatre?

Growing up in Calgary, I wasn't exposed to a lot of actual theater. When I was a kid, my dad used to imitate Tevye and do all the "Ya ba dibba dibba"s around the house. My mom loved The Sound of Music so that movie would play on the TV often. When I was in Grade 7, we had an assignment to bring in your favorite song and play it for the class. Someone else brought in "Music of the Night" from Phantom and a new world was suddenly opened to me. I finally got to see my first show (Phantom!) when a Canadian tour made its way to Calgary.

When was the moment you decided to write for the theatre?

I fantasized about being a musical theatre composer when I was a kid. But I thought it was impossible as I didn't know how to play the piano. Over the years I picked it up - but I did not attempt to write musical theatre until fairly recently. I'm trying to make up for the childhood fantasy I had earlier dismissed.

Whose work do you admire and why?

My favorite composer would likely be Alan Menken. Not just for his Disney stuff (which is all fantastic!), but his non-Disney stuff is so great as well. So many well crafted melodies. He's probably the single reason why I wanted to compose music in the first place. I was also a big Lloyd Webber fan as a kid.

How do you like to write? What is your process? Where do you find inspiration?

I'm usually noodling at the piano, trying out different chord progressions and rhythms. I'll see if anything sounds remotely interesting and if there is, I record it into my phone before it disappears into the ether. But more often than not nothing good will come about and I'll slack off and play some Billy Joel song or some other show tune instead. Yay procrastination!

What do you want to see more of on stage?

I want to see a Canadian creative team win the Tony for best new musical! Why has this not happened yet?! We were so close with Come From Away! I also want to see all the Tony nominated musicals make their way to Toronto stages faster. We have to wait till 2019-20 for Hamilton?!

If you had to pick one musical cast recording to be your "desert island record" which would it be?

Everyone is going to say "There's too many! I can't possibly pick!". And it's true. Is Les Miz too cliché? I'm going with Les Miz.

Complete this sentence: "I write because...”

I write because I want to move people emotionally like the way my favorite composers and lyricists moved me.