MORRISBURG – One of Upper Canada Playhouse’s favourite performing artists is coming to town October 15-24, to debut a fantastic new show.
Singer/writer/musician Leisa Way is bringing her exciting production, Leisa Way’s Rock’n’Roll is Here to Stay, to the Morrisburg stage. In this brand new show, she will be accompanied by her phenomenal Wayward Wind Band featuring Bruce Ley, Bobby Prochaska, Don Reid, Fred Smith and newest member, Liam Collins.
I caught up with Leisa, who is deep into rehearsals for the show, to talk to her about Leisa Way’s Rock’n’Roll is Here to Stay.
“It’s really been an exciting time putting this new show together,” Leisa laughed. “Even in the rehearsals, everyone is dancing in their seats. All the music is great. Frankly it was a challenge to get our choices down to the 26 songs we have included: and some of those are medleys.”
The music Leisa’s show draws from is among the best and most iconic in rock history. In creating Rock’n’Roll, she ranges from Buddy Holly to the Beach Boys, from the Stones to Led Zeppelin.
“We start off in the early 50s and 60s,” Leisa explained, “including some great Canadian artists. We move through Jerry Lee Lewis and Jefferson Airplane, into what I call our psychedelic section. And then we’re into Blondie, Pat Benatar, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix. I even get to perform ‘Proud Mary’ although I am going to use a great Winona Judd version.”
Leisa laughs that this show is demanding a lot of her band.
“Bruce has constantly had to come up with background arrangements: I ask big things of him all the time. But he’s great at working up the vocals and arrangements. And the thing about rock’n’roll is that it demands a huge amount of guitar work. We’re actually starting to call this the Fred Show! Bobby is incredible on a Jimi Hendrix set and a Buddy Holly number, Don has stepped in with great drumming. These artists are just so versatile.”
Newest band recruit Liam Collins, is already earning his musical chops with the show.
While he has stage credits to his name, some from Upper Canada Playhouse productions, this is his first all music venture.
“He’s amazing,” Leisa said. “He’s got a great voice, and he’s a musician too. Liam has lots of energy, and no fear of trying out new things. He’s fit in really well with the other musicians because he’s talented and a quick learner. And since this is a show with some serious choreography, we’re giving him some great moves – including Elvis.”
Leisa feels this show will have a strong appeal for audiences. For many it will renew cherished memories of special times and places.
“We are not hard rock singers,” Leisa explained. “Rather we mingle solid rock with a gentler ballad style. The truth is that many of the greatest rock musicians have been classically trained, and they create beautiful melodies. We’re telling the story of rock’n’roll from the 50s to the changes of the 70s and 80s. We have lots of anecdotes, and stories and there is a lot of humour in this production. And,” she added with a laugh, “every time I got fearful that we were getting too “rocky”, David my husband just said, ‘Leisa, these are our songs’.”
Leisa is particularly thrilled to be debuting Leisa Way’s Rock’n’Roll is Here to Stay at Upper Canada Playhouse.
This is the tenth production of Leisa’s that has seen its first opening night right here on the Playhouse stage.
“Donnie (Bowes, artistic director) and his staff are family as far as we are concerned,” Leisa explained. “I first came here in 2008 with my Patsy Cline show, and my band. That show proved to be a hit, and Donnie just looked at me and said, “What next?” He had faith in me and encouraged me. Now, here I am, 10 shows later, with Rock’n’Roll. It’s great.”
Leisa Way’s Rock’n’Roll is Here to Stay opens October 15.