Rockin’ ‘Round the Christmas Tree – everything you could wish for in a Christmas show

December 23, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Leisa Way and her band, the Wayward Wind Band do it again: they bring the best 90 minutes to the stage you could wish for. This year, of course, the stage comes to your home, as a link or virtual ticket, easily obtained through Running from December 18 to January 3, 2021, this is a treat not to be missed.

Let go whatever tatters Christmas, 2020 may have dragged in, and enjoy this dazzling concert of songs, favourite poems and fun. Performed on the main stage of Theatre Orangeville, to accommodate all the lighting, sound and the ten cameras involved in recording the show, the whole event is delicious, with a new look at how such a concert might be presented, when it is brought by video into homes rather than on the stage before an audience.

There is much more required of the delivery because, first and foremost, what is missing is us – the audience. So, the rush of adrenalin passing between the performers and the people in the seats – the exchange of our applause, our laughter and our very tangible enthusiasm for what they are doing is not there.

It is a lot to make up for but they do so by the intricate and very clever way in which those ten cameras took shots: of Bruce Ley’s hands on the piano and the over-the-shoulder look at the drums as Don Reid plays them. The close up of the singers, the long shots to show the whole stage, each angle and pictures add to the experience.

It “snows” for most of the show and the movement of the camera shots – where they are interesting and where they matter most in the moment – really give the concert perspectives and focus a live show could not have. Like a gift to viewers longing to be there, this production gives other visual virtues to enjoy.

There was a great deal of effort to achieve this work, to adhere to all the cautions COVID-19 imposes.

Ms. Way told the Citizen in an email: “[We] rehearsed at the Theatre Orangeville rehearsal hall with full PPE, masked, with 12 feet between each one of us, and with plastic shields separating us, and around us. We … even ate our lunches …in our own individual ‘bubbles.’

“When it came time to film, [we] made a pact … that we would not do anything to jeopardize the health of the group… two weeks prior to filming, we would … only go out for essentials, and not go unmasked indoors with anyone but our immediate family.

“Bob Hewus wore a mask for the performance, because he was a last minute replacement for Bobby Prochaska, [who]… couldn’t be a part of our bubble.”

Ms. Way wanted people to know this – to know they took their responsibilities seriously.

In the midst of the entertainment is Leisa Way, sporting one after another of her many gorgeous dresses, famous as she is for her costume changes, sparkling – her wonderful energy level quite infectious for the onlooker.

She sings as the star; she harmonizes with a band member singing; she dances and jives with the band playing an instrumental.

Like all of the shows Ms. Way has written and produced, this one brings stories about the music they sing and the traditions of Christmas – always tid-bits to learn.

Those songs cover a broad range of music, including a rendition, by Liam Collins, of Elvis’ Blue Christmas, mixed as a melody with a couple other of the King’s hits. The moves, the mic, even the curled lip – great fun and well done.

David Nairn comes in, a special guest appearance, to read The Night Before Christmas, that sweet, silly poem about the chap who saw Santa come into his house, delivered as only our grand raconteur can, top hat and all.

As a side note, the author of the poem is most likely Clement Clarke Moore, who published it anonymously in 1823 and, later, in 1837, laid claim to it in an anthology of his own poetry, at the insistence of his children, for whom he originally penned it.

There is plenty of talk and singing about Santa Claus: even the response to eight-year-old Virginia’s question to the New York Sun: “Is there a Santa Claus?” written “anonymously” by the editor of the paper, in 1897, which became a Christmas traditional reading of its own. Plus the basis for a movie, stage plays and a cartoon. Bobby Prochaske reads this for us, in black and white, as he was not able to join the band and knowing how we would miss him, he was included by this pre-recorded reading.

Actually, there are some songs about Santa and his leader of the team, Rudolf, which some of you might not know but they are here to discover.

The moment when the true author of the festivities, the child, who was born in a manger becomes the centre of attention and, once more, Leisa’s writing and Bruce Ley’s arrangements of the music strike just the right chords: respectful and joyous. With several guitars, fiddle, drums, bass, and keyboard, there are plenty of ways to make the music and change a little how we listen to those well known, well loved songs. Those that are piped into the stores over and over have a fresh spin to them.

A stirring version of Silent Night starts with the picture Ms. Way paints of the tiny Austrian village from which the carol originates, snug deep in the Alpine mountains. Then, she and the band give their take on the ancient song and make us so glad we included ourselves in watching this concert.

A Little Drummer Boy comes alive as Don Reid gives his offering to the new born king.

The rest of the concert is given over to the rock and roll of musical Christmas and your computer or television may very well dance with the pleasure of it. There is everything to love about this show and it should be remembered there is no other way to see it. It will never appear on YouTube or other site but exclusively by Theatre Orangeville or the 11 theatres with which Ms. Way has shared it, on the same limited basis.

For information and to purchase you virtual ticket, go to www.theatreorangeville.caor call the Box Office at 519-942-3423.


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