At the Orangevill, Ontario home of Leisa Way and David Nairn, for the first time in years their home is fully decorated for the holiday season with all of the best Christmas décor. “Our house is completely Christmasfied right now,” Leisa tells me during an afternoon phone interview. “It’s funny because we haven’t put out all of our decorations in years because we’re never home. I usually get home on December 22nd, after doing a four day run at a theatre somewhere, and then wee pack up and go visit my family for the holidays. So by the time we get back there is no sense putting up everything. So this year we went crazy. Every single decoration we have that Is decent is up. It’s sad that only two of us will see it, but whatever. It’s fun.”
One of Canada’s busiest performers, Leisa Way has become a summertime tradition for thousands of people each year. Along with her group The Wayward Wind Band, Leisa has been bringing her fast and fun musical tribute shows cross Canada for over a decade and seeing repeat audiences who anxiously await her return every year. Packing in a constant busy schedule, Leisa has created a reputation for her friendly and high energy musical showcases filled with stories, songs and lots of laughter. But, like everywhere else, Leisa’s appearances at eighteen theatres were cancelled in 2020.
However, while most theatres continue to be closed this season, COVID-19 can’t stop the holiday music. Leisa Way and the Wayward Wind Band are coming back this holiday season in their own pay-per-view holiday concert special, and for people living in the Kaearthas, Leisa is bringing a live stripped-down version of the show, title Cocktails and Candy Canes, to Globus Theatre in Bobcaygeon, Ontario.
Doing initial filming this past fall, Leisa’s show Rockin’ Round the Christmas Tree will be available to watch on-line between December 18th to January 3rd with tickets being sold for the price of $25 via Theatre Orangeville and Theatre Collingwood. “When mid-summer came, I knew that all the theaters that had booked me had cancelled their Christmas shows,” Leisa tells. “So I wondered if the band and I could put together a show for Christmas and film it, so that’s what I’ve done. In September and October we met nine times. I rented a big rehearsal hall and we had thirteen hanging wardrobe racks with plexi-glass in front of us, and each one of us had one in front of us and beside us. We were all ten to fifteen feet away from each other and it was so cool. You forgot that we were behind plexi and we could take off our masks to sing and it was great. So we rehearsed this Christmas show. All of us isolated for two weeks before filming, and I rented Theatre Orangeville and we filmed this beautiful Christmas show. For the past three weeks I’ve been picking footage and editing. We had eleven cameras so its really high quality.”
“I want to reach out to audiences this holiday season that won’t be able to see us,” Leisa continues. “I want to lift holiday spirits. For audiences that know us, I hope this will be special for them. Everybody is sock of video and being on-line, but I think when you have a following, which we do, they’ll say ‘At least we get to see Leisa and the band this year. That’s so much fun.’ For me it was a no brainer to get the band together to work on a project that made us feel so good and to work together. The first day of rehearsals, just to hear these guys, I knew it was worth it. I can’t wait to see if I achieve my goal on putting smiles on people’s faces this holiday season where we are all a little sad for various reasons, whether it’s because we can’t see our families or because we can’t get out to see a show. It’s a real honor to be in people’s homes and be maybe one more thing to put a smile on their face.”
But for lucky audiences in the Kawarthas, Leisa’s three-night run at the Lakeview Arts barn is a true treat. Due to Globus’ excellent ability to keep audiences safe via social distancing, limited audience members and conducting strict safety protocols, Leisa is able to have the rare opportunity to perform a live show at the beautiful and festive arts barn. For this show, Leisa developed a special “unplugged” version of the on-line concert show featuring herself with band members Fred Smith and Nathan Smith. With a limited audience of fifty people per evening, the Globus show includes a decadent meal prior to the show and will prove to be a memorable and intimate night of song and stories presented with the same fun that we’ve come to expect from Leisa. Cocktails and Candy Canes runs from Thursday November 10th to Saturday November 12th.
“When Globus Theater’s Sarah Quick and James Barrette called it was perfect because we had rehearsed all this material, but for this show will be only three of us, myself with Fred Smith my guitarist, and Nathan Smith my fiddler,” Leisa tells. “It’s great because they both sing beautifully, so there are three singers and two instrumentalists. It’s going to be fun. I zoomed with the guys yesterday and sent them a mockup of what the show is going to be and pulling the songs from the show that we taped.”
For the Globus Theatre show, Leisa is doing something a little different. Inspired by her husband, prolific actor and director David Nairn’s upcoming cocktail book, which stemmed out of a video project he did during the pandemic.
“David is publishing his first book,” Leisa reveals proudly. “As soon as the pandemic hit, he wanted to know what he could do which was fun, so we set up our kitchen to do filming and each week we made a cocktail as part of the Theatre Orangeville newsletter. As he was making the cocktail, he’d tell a story about it. Well, his cocktails became so popular people asked him when he’d be doing a book. It’s a beautiful book, and it has all the recipes for the drinks and the stories he told. All the proceeds to the book go to Theatre Orangeville. Well James has one of the nicest bars at the Lakeview Arts Barn that I’ve ever seen in a theatre, so I thought I’d call the show Cocktails and Candy Canes and every third or fourth song we could talk about a different cocktail to go with the song that we are about to sing. It was so much fun to put together.”
Christmas concerts, plays and pantomimes are such an important part of every holiday season, but for the most part, it’s something that is lacking in 2020. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that creative people are innovative and resilient, and they find ways to tear down the walls and make their art continue. Leisa has found the perfect way to bring her special brand of musical entertainment and bring Christmas cheer to families across Canada. Whether you watch her from the comfort of your own home or are one of the lucky to see her at Globus Théâtre spending the holidays with Leisa Way and the Wayward Wind Band is a much-needed gift of Christmas joy.
To purchase tickets for the on-line concert film Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree contact Theatre Collingwood at 705.445.2200 or Theatre Orangeville via their website at https://www.theatreorangeville.ca/.
To purchase tickets for Globus Theatre’s presentation of Candy Canes and Cocktails contact their box office at 705-738-2037 OR 1-800-304-7897.