Theatre Orangeville’s Leisa Way and her Early Morning Rain

January 31, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“This is a brand new show,” said Leisa Way, as we began to talk about her upcoming Early Morning Rain at Theatre Orangeville, opening February 13 and on until March 1. 

“Just to tell the stories, I’ve done meticulous research: every interview on TV and radio; every magazine article from the ’60s. It’s so much easier now. It feeds my soul, as someone who’s writing this show.

“One thing has never changed in all that time is Gordon Lightfoot’s commitment to be the best that he can, wanting everything to be perfect before he went on stage… It’s all about the work ethic, about being as good as you can be. That’s why he’s a legend. His writing is so great and he’s putting together a new album.”

She continued, “He’s so prolific – so many songs about Canada, and he belongs in Canada. His song for a Winter’s Night, he wrote it in Cleveland in July. It just came to him. He was commissioned to write the Canadian Railway Trilogy and he wrote it in a hurry.”

With so much to do, to make this show all she would wish, Ms. Way told the Citizen, “We [herself and her band] met the first week of September when we got back from our western tour, to spend two days bathed in the words and music. He – apparently, he loves everything I’ve written. 

“Over 500 different recordings have covered his songs. He has this wonderful knack for writing songs about history. He wrote the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He heard a clip on CBC about how 29 men went down and he said, ‘I should do better than the papers that were writing about it.’ So, he met the families and wrote a wonderful tribute.

“The story of his life is amazing,” as she shifted the subject a bit,“The songs reflect his life. We can tell the stories and sing the songs about what he has shared about his life. They’re very uplifting.” 

Of the show, Ms. Way was excited to say, “Hopefully, the audiences will hear stories they’ve never heard before.”

Her own introduction to Gordon Lightfoot’s songs was when “we used to go up to our cottage … and the music track was Gordon Lightfoot and I would sing his songs in the back of the car.

“Now I admire him even more. I love the fact that he owns up to every mistake that he’s made, … takes ownership and then he turns that pain into a song. 

“My gift, for whatever it’s worth, is to make all the songs different. When I was putting these songs together, we all knew he is a wonderful songwriter but now we’re seeing key changes and beautiful chords. We’re in rehearsals working out who plays what – how in-and-out-tro. In my opinion, Bruce will arrange and do the shows my way, looking at how many bars and tempo changes.”

As a youngster, Bruce was a choir boy and sang around town and at weddings, like kids that show up and sing for you.

“In high school, he formed a barbershop quartet, then, the Teen Timers, working with harmonies and other voices.” 

A little more about his history, “Gordon Lightfoot started to write. He wanted to learn jazz competition – that’s why he went to Westlake College {of Music in Las Angeles]. He got accepted for 14 months. They really taught him how to compose. Right from the beginning, he wanted to be the best; he always strove to be the best. My band, their jaws are dropping because of the excellence of the writing, The songs are number one because of his talent and the training. 

“Ian and Sylvia saw him in Yorkville and took his songs to Peter Paul and Mary. They took Albert Grossman to come and see him, he was Bob Dylan’s manager.

“All these people were recording his songs – Belafonte, Elvis – he went to meet Elvis but he had left the building . Elvis was a big deal, yet, Gordon Lightfoot was not yet front and centre with his own songs. By the time he had recorded four albums, he wasn’t famous. After his sixth album, he left United Artists. They had waited too long to release his albums. He re-released If You Could Read my Mind and that was when Gordon Lightfoot made it big.

“He did a lot of different things but he worked really really hard. I admired him in his interviews, he’s delightful.” 

She explained her approach to scripting the show, “I’m telling stories that are stories he’s told and said, showcasing songs and telling the stories. I’m going to stick with: Gordon Lightfoot is my favourite Canada songwriter. This is a labour of love.

“I’m been doing concerts that are for me [great female artists] and I thought, ‘Can I just be on a show that’s not about [my singing]?’ 

“No one is coming to see the show if they are not huge fans.”

She commented, “This is the show – the one my mom and my dad would just be so proud of this. My career has been on a path to doing this show because these songs have been part of my life. I wrote a musical with ABBA songs when I was in grade 9 but now … the most requested song between the seats [of her father’s car] was Second Cup of Coffee (my favourite GL song ), dissolving a sad story into something uplifting – that driving tempo really inspires you. As a songwriter, he makes all the songs different. He has the artist’s talent for observing the minutiae in life and making a thing of it.

“He was a wonderful story teller – the Canadian Railway Trilogy was the first song to be more than six minutes. They used to say songs won’t succeed that are more than three minutes.

“He appreciates young musicians’ skill and talent – again more reasons to love Gordon Lightfoot. He’s supportive of young musicians . He listens and says, ‘I appreciate that they’re number one and it’s because they’re good at what they do.’ And I love that about him.”

Leisa Way’s last praise for him, in the moment: “Reading about him, my admiration has quadrupled – that’s a wonderful thing when you’re already a fan.”

Early Morning Rain opens at Theatre Orangeville on February 13 and runs to March 1. Tickets as usual at the Box Office at 87 Broadway or the Information Centre on Buena Vista Drive at Highway 10; by telephone 519-942-3423 or online:

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.