Oh, Canada

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - PETER LOZINSKI

To­gether, they’ve per­formed for the Queen, for the Kennedys, along­side Chuck Berry and the Supremes and as open­ers for the Rolling Stones.

Now, this ac­com­plished group of mu­si­cians is tour­ing the coun­try and play­ing clas­sics span­ning sev­eral gen­res from Cana­dian mu­si­cians through­out the years.

The show is called Oh, Canada, We Sing for Thee, and it’s hit­ting the Rawl­in­son Cen­tre stage Mon­day.

“We’re do­ing a 28-city tour right across Canada from Van­cou­ver Is­land all the way to Glace Bay,” said ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and per­former Leisa Way.

“It’s a show that cel­e­brates all the best of Cana­dian mu­sic and song­writ­ers. It’s re­ally amaz­ing be­cause the au­di­ence knows just about ev­ery song in the show, and they sing along from pop and rock and folk and coun­try. It’s a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing. Ev­ery­body’s favourite artists.”

Way is no stranger to the stage her­self.

She got her start as a teen when she crashed an au­di­tion for Anne of Green Gables. She landed the lead role in the mu­si­cal — the long­est run­ning in Canada. She played that role for six years. From there, Way launched a ca­reer that saw her per­form in 60 coun­tries, and sing for the Queen many times, Terry Fox, Wayne Gret­zky and the Kennedy Fam­ily.

“I had all th­ese won­der­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties come my way,” she said.

As Way’s ca­reer pro­gressed, it be­came less about just ac­cept­ing what­ever show came her way, and more about bal­anc­ing her pro­fes­sional life with her per­sonal life.

“I started writ­ing my own shows,” Way said. “I wish I’d done it years ago, but I didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Way also en­joys choos­ing her ma­te­rial. She likes putting smiles on peo­ple’s faces with pos­i­tive, up­beat per­for­mances. Be­fore she was writ­ing and pro­duc­ing, some of her roles were in sad sto­ries.

“I’m writ­ing th­ese shows that make my au­di­ences happy,” Way said.

“At this point in my ca­reer it’s a gift to me. Ev­ery time I’m on­stage and feel from an au­di­ence that they’re en­joy­ing and hav­ing so much fun. That’s my gift.”

The Canada-themed show came to­gether a few years ago. The prospect of Canada 150 wasn’t even on Way’s mind.

She had as­sem­bled this tal­ented group of mu­si­cians when it was sug­gested they should take a look at some Cana­dian clas­sics.

“I have in­cred­i­ble mu­si­cians with me that I hand­picked,” Way said. “Not only are they fan­tas­tic mu­si­cians, they are solo artists and singers on their own, so they can carry the show singing and play­ing.”

The gui­tarist has played backup for Vince Gill, the Supremes and Chuck Berry. The ar­ranger and pian­ist has opened for the Rolling Stones, and was a pian­ist on the Tommy Hunter Show.

“He was a stu­dio player for many, many years,” Way said. “This is his first time tour­ing the coun­try. He’s al­most 70 years old and he’s amaz­ing. He’s hav­ing more fun than any­body else on the tour.”

About two years ago a di­rec­tor Way had worked with on pre­vi­ous shows sug­gested the Cana­dian con­cert.

“I wrote it and it de­buted near Ot­tawa, which was kind of cool,” Way said. “It was the au­di­ence re­ac­tion that was so over­whelm­ing. They all said ‘Canada 150 is com­ing up, I hope you’re tak­ing this across the coun­try.’”

Au­di­ence feed­back in hand, Way went to work plan­ning the tour. It took 18 months of plan­ning, con­tact­ing venues and get­ting the word out. Even­tu­ally, Way had more in­ter­ested venues than she could ac­com­mo­date. But she wanted to make sure she didn’t just hit the big cities.

“I come from a small town, and I know that a lot of smaller com­mu­ni­ties don’t get to see some of the big shows that come through,” she said.

“I wanted this show to go ev­ery­where, so that peo­ple would have a chance to see it. It’s the kind of show that makes ev­ery­one proud.”

While the show fea­tures the mu­sic of some big Cana­dian names, such as Gor­don Light­food, Paul Anka, Ce­line Dion, Michael Bublé, the Guess Who and Step­pen­wolf, it’s not just a col­lec­tion of mu­sic. Way wanted to in­clude sto­ries about each of the artists to tie the show to­gether.

“Our shows are very the­atri­cal,” Way said. “I come from a the­atri­cal back­ground. I re­searched ev­ery artist, things about their life, and found sto­ries of what hap­pened in their lives when they were writ­ing that song. My shows are not thrown to­gether. There was about six months of re­search be­fore I wrote the show.”

So far, it has been a hit with au­di­ences.

“Peo­ple walk away with th­ese lit­tle tid­bits, think­ing ‘oh my gosh, I had no idea,’ or ‘I’d forgotten that,’” Way said.

“Cana­di­ans have a lot to be proud of, be­sides mu­sic. It’s a real party and cel­e­bra­tion of Canada.”

The show starts Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tick­ets are $25, and avail­able through the Rawl­in­son Cen­tre box of­fice, on­line, or by call­ing 306765-1270.


The cast of Oh Canada, We Sing for Thee, a show com­ing to the Rawl­in­son Cen­tre Mon­day.

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