MORRISBURG – “Opry Gold is probably Leisa Way’s best concert yet,” said Upper Canada Playhouse artistic director Donnie Bowes. “The list of country artists and hits is amazing.”
The artists who will be featured in Opry Gold, running at the Playhouse from April 24-May 4, range from the classic stylings of Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash to the “new breed” of country stars, Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift. Audiences are going to be thrilled with this line-up of country’s best.
“The original Opry Gold run at the Playhouse was virtually sold out,” Bowes said. “We we have added an extra five performances. People should grab their seats while they can.”
Creator and star of Opry Gold is the diminutive musical powerhouse, Leisa Way. Already a Playhouse favourite, starring in such productions as Across the Pond and Country Jukebox, Way will be accompanied by the phenomenal Wayward Wind Band, Bruce Ley, Fred Smith, Nathan Smith, Bobby Prochaska and Sam Cino.
I talked to Leisa about Opry Gold.
“I’m a huge fan of country music,” she said. Born into a family of music lovers in Northern Ontario, Leisa grew up listening to a wide variety of artists. With Opry Gold “we take the audience on a journey from the beginning of country in 1925…then go through Opry’s history with songs like “Wildwood Flower” and “Wabash Cannonball.”” She pointed out that Kitty Wells was the first female singer to have a #1 hit and paved the way for Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette.
Opry Gold highlights all the amazing artists that have played on the country stage over the years. “We have an acoustic section where the band comes to sit downstage closer to the audience and plays fiddle, banjo and mandolin. There is also lots of humour in this show,” Leisa added.
Because the Opry has often been called the ‘Church of Country Music’, Leisa’s show also explores the deep gospel roots in country.
“The Grand Ole Opry is regarded as a place that has supported, created and built up artists and musicians for almost a century. There is no greater honour for a country musician than to perform on that stage.”
With so many brilliant country artists to choose from, Leisa found it a challenge to “whittle” her selections down to a two hour format… “especially as I love every song.”
As she does with all her productions, Leisa intensely researched the history of country for Opry Gold. She traces the music back to Nashville’s radio station WSM in 1925. That station launched the careers of hundreds of the greatest country artists: from Dolly Parton to Garth Brooks, “they talk of Opry with reverence.”
Blessed with a voice of extraordinary range and clarity, Leisa is right at home with the song stylings of the artists featured in this new production.
She has returned to her country roots in previous shows like Patsy Cline and her Rhinestone Cowgirl tribute to Dolly Parton. Leisa loves both the joy and the tears that so often characterize country songs. She will perform Martina McBride’s ‘Independence Day’, “a song for anyone who has lived through adversity and an anthem for women to speak up.”
Leisa firmly feels, “Music, good music, is powerful.”
In Opry Gold she will also sing the hits of Faith Hill, Bonnie Owen and Gretchen Wilson. She will even re-introduce the audience to one of her favourite Opry stars, “the one and only Minnie Pearl.”
Backed by the talents of the Wayward Wind Band, Leisa Way’s Opry Gold will be a huge crowd pleaser.
Leisa spoke of her band, “these fellas never cease to amaze me, not only with their incredible talent but with how much of themselves they give on stage.”
The lovers of classic country will find the artists they recall fondly: others will enjoy Leisa’s exploration of ‘new country’: Darius Rucker’s ‘Wagon Wheel’ and Kenny Chesney’s ‘She Thinks my Tractor’s Sexy.”
Opry Gold, coming to Upper Canada Playhouse April 24th, is going to be a musically stunning start to the brand new theatre season. Contact the Playhouse box office for tickets.