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Theatre Orangeville presents Leisa Way’s Rock ‘n’ Roll is here to stay

April 18, 2022   ·   0 Comments

Roll up, roll up for this roof-raising show written and performed by Leisa Way and her Wayward Wind Band- Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Stay.

Said Ms. Way, “Our Lightfoot show (Early Morning Rain) was the last show we opened at Theatre Orangeville before the pandemic hit and we are so excited to come full circle and bring this new Rock show to my favourite stage – in Orangeville.”

This is Ms. Way’s 13th show and she began writing them some years ago to create work for herself. She created three one-woman shows celebrating Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Peggy Lee. An actor her entire life, she wanted to play these legendary women for each of them paved the way and inspired so many other women.

She told the Citizen that she has enjoyed the research, learning about the many artists of whom she has written, for and since those first three shows. To find out what inspired them to write the song, what else was going on in their lives has fascinated her.

“And audiences seem to agree that is what makes my concerts unique,” she said.

Once she began hiring the musicians for her band who could also sing, they inspired her to create concerts that would showcase their level of talent as well, rather than simply focusing herself. The first of these concerts was Country Jukeboxchoosing the best of country duets, along with the stories that went with them.

It was such a pleasure to be singing with members of her band that she went on to create Oh, Canada, We Sing For Thee! in celebration of Canada’s 150th Anniversary. All told, Ms. Way has written nine separate concerts featuring all the members of her band both singing and playing.

For a show that is so exciting, Leisa Way admitted, “The Rock show was never something I intended to create. If you’d asked me ten years ago if I would ever be producing a rock n’ roll show, I’d have thought you were crazy!”

She didn’t see herself a rock singer. Yet, when she was researching her concert, Across the Pond: The British Invasion, irresistibly the origins of American and Canadian rock n’ roll caught her attention and she was fascinated.

“I slipped down the rabbit hole reading about these incredible artists and realized that I couldn’t NOT do this show,” she related. “It was a great way to feature my band…members who sing rock n’ roll so phenomenally. I happen to have one of the greatest guitarists in Canada and what better way to feature him, than by doing a rock show where he can play all the most famous ‘guitar licks’ in rock history? And I mean, Bruce Ley was in a band 50 years ago that opened for The Rolling Stones.”

When we asked her who was on the list for songs and stories of the very many stars of Rock and Roll, she did not tell us but explained her method by saying that she made a list of the top rock songs in history and the top rock artists. From those lists, she chose the most interesting stories and the most workable songs for her band to play and sing. By the time she arrived to that point, the show was about four hours long.

“No joke,” she assured us.

The cuts she had to make came from the stories because “there were just too many good songs.”

So, she trimmed and kept “as much of the music as I could to make it the best two hour rock show possible.”

Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Stay opened in the fall of 2019 at Upper Canada Playhouse and was booked in 14 theatres for 2020 but was shut down, which means this is only the second time Leisa Way and her band have performed it. After such a long time, rehearsal feels like starting over, making it fresh again.

This writer wanted to know how Ms. Way viewed the influence of the Rock and Roll singers on present day music and her response was all wise.

“First of all,” she began, “don’t get me started on the Beatles. Just about every artist after them, has been influenced by them.

“If you want to get to know the pop culture of any generation or decade, all you have to do is listen to the music. Modern music (and each decade of our lives) is directly influenced by the music of the past…” connecting younger to older generations.

“And of course, it’s interesting to see vinyl come back into popularity. With all the success of technology, there is still nothing as satisfying as listening to music on an old stereo. Of course, it was Thomas Edison who invented the phonograph which produced sound using a strip of tinfoil wrapped around an expensive metal cylinder. When Berliner invented the gramophone, he made it affordable for anyone to buy a record, not just the rich… No matter what our age, race, religion or politics, music has the power to bring the world together as one and that is a beautiful thing. And I truly believe that – music is the universal language.”

It so important to her and the band that Theatre Orangeville is continuing to require proof of vaccination and masking for the audience, as it helps protect them on stage. The performers have no choice but to be unmasked to do their job which is why audiences caring to keep them safe matter so much. If the artists on stage become ill, the show has to shut down.

“We are so grateful to the audiences who care enough to continue masking for our safety and to help us put theatres back on their feet.”

She said, “It’s been a tough two years for our industry.”

Indeed all protocols are in place at Theatre Orangeville and Artistic Director, David Nairn is supported in this decision. He told the Citizen, “Ninety percent of people are wearing masks and would not come if things were otherwise.”

He reminded us, “Opening Night on April 29 is our Starlight Gala, back with dinner in a restaurant and gathering here in the atrium for dessert.”

This evening sees, standing on an annual chair now for the 23rd time, David Nairn will announce the upcoming season 22/23.

He did talk about StageTOScreen to the Citizen recently, commenting, “That’s our way of moving forward. Because we now have this infrastructure in place, we’ll be able to share our shows with anyone not wanting or able to come to the theatre, no matter where they live. It’s good to be able to push our capacity.”

As to why we should all come to see this show, Leisa Way was clear, “After the last two years we all deserve to enjoy a great night together and sing along to our favourite songs! I guarantee you’ll feel better when you leave the theatre than when you arrived!”

For information and tickets, go to www.theatreorangeville.ca or call the nice Box Office folk at 519-942-3423.



         


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