Weather-wise, it would appear July and summer are a long way off.
Luckily, though, nobody has to wait until July 1 to celebrate all things Canadian, as the Oh Canada Eh? Dinner Show is already running at Cornerstone Theatre and Restaurant.
This year marks the tenth season for the production, which is staged in both Canmore and Niagara Falls, ON. As well, sometime in mid-June, the 5,000th staging of an Oh Canada Eh? Dinner Show will take place.
The musical comedy embraces Canadiana, from the performers, to the more than 70 songs to family-style dinner service and Canadian food and drink.
This year’s show is directed by J.P. Thibodeau, with choreography by Jodi Harrison and features a half dozen performers who carry the show, carry the tunes – and carry your dinner and drinks to the table.
The cast is composed of Kathy Zaborsky (Anne of Green Gables), Stacey Long (Rosemarie), Ryan Nolin (Mountie), Andrea Bailey (Klondike Kitty), Duff MacDonald (Fisherman) and Cornerstone regular Joe Morris (Pierre).
The Oh Canada Eh? Dinner Show is a high energy production which sees each performer in several roles, features lightning fast costume changes and encourages audience participation as all regions of this country are explored.
Thus far, as usual, the show has attracted tours from the U.K., Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Japan. The dinner show runs every evening but Thursday, and runs to Oct. 19.
“We’ve had stags, stagettes, honeymooners and divorce parties, we’ve had everything going on here,” said Morris, a 28-year theatre veterans who has called Canmore home for years now.
Just a few short weeks ago, the cast was thrown together to work on the revamped show and new choreography. “It’s been a great experience interacting with audiences,” said Bailey, a Vernon native who has been performing in community and professional theatre for three years.
“It’s a hard to show to perform,” said MacDonald, a Saskatchewan native who now calls Toronto home and who is an actor, singer/songwriter (with an album on sale at Cornerstone) who performed in the original Les Miserables, the U.S. Broadway tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and a Princess Cruise gig.
“It’s a real challenge because we go through more than 70 songs in two hours.”
And among those songs, said Zaborsky, who lives in Vancouver, but has performed across the country and was nominated for a Dora Award for her scoring of Goblin Market, “there is a lot of variation, from rock to opera to musical theatre to folk music.”
“And the choreography is challenging,” said Long, a Niagara Falls-born performer who has performed in theatre and as a jazz singer of 1930s and ‘40s tunes, and in solo shows. “The show is different than the one in Niagara Falls and with a re-write, I think it’s more fun for myself and audiences. It’s high energy.”
For Nolin, the Mountie who sings the classic “When I’m Calling You”, a Calgarian with a music degree who is stepping on the musical stage for the first time, the songs included in the Oh Canada show, “are great. You get three words out and people know what you’re doing.
“But it’s a double-edged sword; it’s also high pressure because everybody knows the songs so well.”
The new choregraphy for the show is by Amber Bissonette, “who’s redone it top to bottom,” said Morris. Also new is fiddle playing by Sonya Frebold.
Each performer has several roles, which requires, “really, really fast costume changes,” said Long.
“But that impresses audiences,” said MacDonald. “You’re gone, then back in a flash at their table – ra ta da da da… And the good thing is, because Joe’s done every role, we can always ask him what to do if we’re stuck.”
“Canadians are enjoying the show too,” said Morris. “A lot of Canadians don’t know the songs we do are Canadian and a lot of people say we (Canadians) don’t flag wave enough. Several people have said, ‘you young people are wonderful to do this’.”