SURREY — Leisa Way’s latest musical production could be described as something of a CanCon-cert – an all-Canadian show full of hit songs that would probably make CRTC-type bureaucrats red with Canuck pride.
The Ontario-based singer/producer’s “Oh Canada: We Sing for Thee!” concert, touring to Surrey this week, celebrates a lengthy list of MAPL-approved artists – Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, The Guess Who, Neil Young, Bryan Adams, Michael Bublé, Shania Twain and others.
The show covers more than 50 years of Canadian musical milestones, with Way’s five-man Wayward Wind Band fueled up for the trip back in time.
On the phone from Orangeville, Way sounds excited to bring the show to audiences in Western Canada as part of a tour that includes a date this Friday night (Sept. 22) at Surrey Arts Centre’s main stage.
“We tell stories about the songs and the artists,” Way enthused. “We link the songs together, and add little things about famous Canadians and things that happened in history and how they relate to the next song, to tie it together. And there is humour in it, because Canadians like to make fun of themselves.… As I tell the audience, we’re the nicest people in the world, but we’re also the humblest, right?”
Way created the concert production in 2015, two years before “Canada 150” parties started to happen. Without question, the show has been a popular one in the year of the country’s 150th anniversary, with dozens of performances done from coast to coast, including a 15-night stand in Bobcaygeon (Hip fans, take note).
“It opened in a theatre near Ottawa (in 2015), and the audience was a very patriotic one, of course, in the capital of Canada,” Way recalled. “We always do a meet-and-greet after the show and the response to it was overwhelmingly positive, and I’ve been in this business for years, you know. People were saying how proud the show made them as Canadians, and said we should take it across the country. My co-producer looked at each other and said, ‘I guess we better get busy on that.’ And it’s actually pretty good timing because it takes about 18 months to plan a tour like this.”
Choosing songs, artists and stories for the production was a challenge, Way added.
“How do you choose one Gordon Lightfoot song, you know?” she related. “Or one Leonard Cohen song or a Celine Dion number, Shania Twain? It’s so hard, but then there are some artists, like Joni Mitchell, who never had a number-one hit but she’s certainly one of the most legendary songwriters and performers.”
She recalled one night when the show was performed in a theatre not far from the Canada-U.S. border.
“After the show, some Americans in the audience told us they weren’t sure about seeing a show about Canadian music, but that they were glad they came – and they knew all the songs but just didn’t know they were Canadian.”
Way’s “Oh Canada” show is among nine in the catalogue of Way-To-Go Productions, home to her tributes to Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, “British Invasion” bands, Peggy Lee, Glen Campbell and more.
On the current tour, the Sudbury-raised, yoga-practicing singer is backed by a band featuring Bruce Ley, Fred Smith, Nathan Smith, Bobby Prochaska and Sam Cino.
For the concert in Surrey, tickets range in price from $29 to 49, including all fees. Call 604-501-5566 or visit tickets.surrey.ca. The show marks the opening of Surrey Civic Theatres’ 50th-anniversary season.