Leisa Way’s ‘Across the Pond’ wows crowds at Opera House

February 22, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“It’s easy to have a good time in Orangeville. You just buy a ticket. Go to Theatre Orangeville and see Across the Pond, with Leisa Way and her Lonely Hearts Club Band. They raise the roof and bring down the house, they’re so good.” Something like that, from this critic, on a comment video, after the opening night of Across the Pond, running now until March 3 at Theatre Orangeville. 

What a show. It is – no kidding! – non-stop from beginning to end, except during intermission. Leisa Way could not have been more ambitious in the writing of it: fifty years of British influence rocking North America.  Ms. Way explains it all by telling the audience how, in the early 1960’s, Bill Haley was too old to be attractive to young adults; Elvis had gone conventional and signed up with the army to be shipped out to Germany; J.F. Kennedy was assassinated in November, 1963.

When Ed Sullivan brought the Beatles over to be on his show, they brought with them a new sound and style for an America that was suffering from the doldrums and changed the face of American popular music and more. Their records had already hit the charts in the States and the girls came to the show, ready to scream in the audience, with thrills and joy. 

(Between the Beatles’ songs in their first appearance, Ed Sullivan announced that they had just heard from Elvis, in Germany, congratulating the Beatles on their success and wishing them all the best for their future.)

It was a wonderful beginning and was quickly followed with the import to the USA of the Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, The Searchers, The Kinks and – the Rolling Stones. There were the solo artists, also adored, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones. Lots of others.

In order to bring this astonishing history of the British cultural invasion of America in merely two hours, Ms. Way has produced a show of a continuous flow of songs and surprising history notes.  Her “Lonely Hearts Club Band” keeps the music raging and the breaks are the stories they take turns with her to tell. There is so much you may very well not have known: the British invasion was not only about music; it was an all-embracing cultural wave that lasted for years. 

This is primarily a male-based story, with the large number of all-boy bands that came over. Ms. Way wrote Across the Pond to show off the talent in her band and their delivery, for example, of The House of the Rising Sun, with Fred Smith singing it, more than justifies her esteem of them all. So much fun.

In the midst of this band of talented musicians and singers, Leisa Way comes and goes, rapid-changing her costumes (12 of them in all), sparkling, dancing and lighting up the theatre with her singing. We have heard Ms. Way sing on the main stage many times and it seems to this writer that she is, more than ever, brilliant to listen to in this show. She covers all the female singers in the story, some with soul stirring beauty. 

Ms. Way has created ten successful concerts about singing stars: of jazz, blues and country music. She has toured them across Canada, playing to over 80 theatres of sold out shows.

Perhaps, Across the Pond is her most collaborative and, for sure, it is the busiest.  A masterpiece, really, and not like any other British music production. 

Mr. Prochaska commented later, “We’re not pretending to be any of the people in those bands. We are playing their music in a concert that’s about them all.”

The band members are Fred Smith, lead vocalist and wild man on guitar; welcome back to Bobby Prochaska, lead vocalist and bass; Nathan Smith, lead vocalist and great on violin, mandolin and acoustic guitar; one of Dufferin’s favourite sons, Bruce Ley, arranger, Music Director, piano, guitar, vocals and Don Reid, keeping them together on the drums and as lead vocals. Each of these gentlemen comes to us with impressive histories (see your programs), tremendous successes and grand encounters. 

While the concert is about the tidal wave of British cultural, including movies, fashion, literature, arriving to the States, it is also a showcase big enough to put these musicians and singers in their element, for there is no letting up and these gentlemen give us a thrilling evening of song and memories. 

Perhaps, the most impressive moment of the evening is their presentation of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. 

“I wanted to include three sections of it,” Ms. Way told us. “Bruce arranged it beautifully and it’s been wonderful to perform. 

“Audiences really love this show,” she said. “And we really love doing it.”

Tickets for this extravagant and marvellous concert, Across the Pond, as usual, at the Box Office at the Opera House, 87 Broadway or the Information Centre on Buena Vista at Hwy 10; by telephone on 519-942-3423 or online at

Please note: Theatre Orangeville would like us to tell you that you can still purchase three-show season subscriptions, which include Across the Pond, as well as the two upcoming comedies.

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