“This is a live holiday concert celebration that is destined to become a favourite Christmas tradition,” said Donnie Bowes, artistic director of Upper Canada Playhouse.
Beginning on November 26, and running until December 13, the Playhouse is welcoming Leisa Way and her Wayward Wind Band to the stage with a brand new Christmas show, Have Yourself a Swinging Little Country Christmas.
Created by Way, the Country Christmas is a celebration of everything Christmas. The traditional songs of Bing Crosby, Elvis and Frank Sinatra will be part of the show, but so will contemporary Yule music from Michael Buble, the Eagles and Reba McIntyre.
Star Leisa Way, who dazzled Playhouse fans this April with her show, Oh Canada We Sing for Thee, is returning to Morrisburg with an outstanding band of musicians and singers, to help bring the joy of Christmas to South Dundas.
Bobby Prochaska, Fred Smith, Bruce Ley, Nathan Smith and Sam Cino all have long and illustrious musical pedigrees on stage, radio and television and will be joining Way for Have Yourself a Swinging Little Country Christmas.
Leisa Way, herself, is a long time Playhouse favourite.
A renowned and accomplished singer/arranger/writer/actor, Way gained popular and critical celebrity for her work in such productions as Sweet Dreams, Rhinestone Cowgirl and Country Jukebox.
She is looking forward to debuting this new Christmas show in Morrisburg.
“Over the years,” Way told me, “people have often asked me to create a Christmas show. Donnie and I were talking and he said he’d never done a full musical for Christmas, and he suggested I might want to take on the job. It all just seemed to fit together. It was a great creative opportunity for me as well.”
This is the fifth production Way has debuted at the Playhouse out of the last seven shows she has produced. Coming to Upper Canada Playhouse for this new musical was an easy decision.
“Donnie has given me the gift of collaboration over the years,” Way said, “and the gift of his faith in a show. He lets you know that he believes in you.”
I asked her to describe her approach in creating a new Christmas musical.
“The show takes the audience through holiday traditions from all around the world, the tree, Christmas eve, Santa legends, reindeer. The musical is made up of vignettes and stories,” she explained. “And of course we do Twas the Night Before and Yes, Virginia, because I feel you just can’t do Christmas without those two stories. We have step dancers in the show, the guys are doing great music, and I am going to be dressed once or twice as a reindeer and Frosty.”
“Kind of a real shift from my usual costumes,” Way laughed.
Way had the additional challenge of creating a musical that would delight and thrill children as well, since the Playhouse is hosting some performances specifically for schools.
“We have incorporated giant Snowballs, bright costumes, lots of singing and sing-alongs. The music ranges from calypso, traditional, country to classics.” Rumour is afoot that Santa and the Grinch might actually make an appearance in the shows for schools.
Christmas has always been a very important time for Leisa Way. It seemed rather fitting to ask her to share a favourite Christmas memory.
“My dad was a man larger than life, a giant of a man. Every Christmas he made a point of organizing a family sleigh ride for us all. My brother and sister were several years older than me, so I was almost an only child until the holidays when they would come home again and we’d all pile in and go on Dad’s sleigh ride,” Leisa remembered. “We’d come back from those cold, wintery rides and Mom would have hot chocolate and food all ready for us. It was a joyous time.
As the children and grandchildren came along, that ride got fuller and fuller, but Dad kept it all organized.
Dad is gone now. We don’t live up north these days. My family doesn’t do that sleigh ride any more. But it will always be a memory of Christmas that I cherish.”
Family and fun and beloved traditions of Christmas are very much a part of Have Yourself a Swinging Little Country Christmas, opening on November 26 at the Playhouse. Tickets are going very fast. Contact UCP at 1-613-543-3713.