MORRISBURG – “The music never stopped. The beat never stopped. This is the music that defined an entire generation,” said Leisa Way, whose premiere production, Across the Pond, based on the British Invasion, just finished a sold out run, April 25-30, at Upper Canada Playhouse.
Way’s new show also heralded the start of the 2017 season at the Playhouse.
Most of the ‘beat generation’ showed up to pack the Playhouse for Across the Pond, clearly bent on reliving those heady times, groovin’ again to the sounds made famous in that great Invasion.
“In 1776 England lost her American colonies,” Way told the audience. “In the 1960s the Beatles took them back again. The world was never the same again after the Fab Four took to the stage.”
With Across the Pond, Leisa Way and the Lonely Hearts Club Band definitely delivered on their promise to showcase the music that “never really went away.”
In an earlier interview with The Leader, Leisa (star of Playhouse hits like Sweet Dreams, Rhinestone Cowgirl and Oh Canada, We Sing For Thee) laughed that it was a challenge to pick the songs that would ultimately be incorporated into her final show. “Of course it was impossible in a show like this to “do” every favourite song.”
Instead, Leisa and the Band delivered some knock-out medleys, hit songs segueing into other hits through the skillful and memorable musical arrangements created by Way and her musical director Bruce Ley. Think Bus Stop, Gimme Some Lovin’ and Wild Thing in one package. Or The Beatles’ I’ll Never Dance, Bells on the Hills, I Want to Hold Your Hand, She Loves You in another.
The 007 hit medley (“I love my Bond songs shaken, not stirred.”) featured, among other memorable songs, Leisa channeling Shirley Bassey in a stunning rendition of Goldfinger.
From the Beatles to the Kinks, from Herman’s Hermits to the Stones, the music of the 60’s and 70’s came alive on the Playhouse stage. Leisa Way possesses a powerhouse voice.
Whether she was soloing on Petula’s Downtown, Mary Hopkins’ Those Were the Days, or Lulu’s To Sir With Love, the audience was clearly enchanted with her spectacular sound – and those gorgeous costumes she wore.
Vibrant on stage, she just seemed to evoke the mystique of the whole era.
The talent backing Leisa in Across the Pond was, in a word, phenomenal. Each of the singer/instrumentalists in her Lonely Hearts Club Band was showcased, and deserved to be.
Drummer Sam Cino rocked the crowd with a delightfully demented Mick in Satisfaction. Nathan Smith blew the audience away on Roxanne, then cheekily wooed them with Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter. Fred Smith’s superb guitar work was a joy to hear, and his vocals on numbers like House of the Rising Sun had the audience roaring approval. And Bobby Prochaska, on his own, or in a duet with Leisa, like A Whiter Shade of Pale, was honey to the ears.
Celebrating the magic of the British Invasion from its earliest days, fresh out of Carnaby Street, through Glam Rock, Punk Rock and the advent of music videos, Across the Pond was a fun-filled musical cornucopia.
Kind of made me nostalgic for go-go boots, mini skirts, psychedelics and Twiggy…