With a few short days left before OH CANADA What A Feeling! opens its theatrical run at the Princess of Wales in Toronto, we caught up with producer Jeff Parry en route between somewhere and somewhere (the man appears to live in airports and airline seats) to ask six questions about the show. At any given time he is juggling as many as six and as few as three casts on as many continents. How he keeps his life together is another story, but somehow Jeff came through for us and filled in the blanks about the back story to this unique production...and gives us a hint of what's in store for theatre patrons across the land (yes, the show is rolling out nationally, but the venues and dates are still having the wrinkles ironed out).
The idea for the show came out of a discussion with Deane Cameron that led to meeting Martin Melhuish?
No, actually it started with Frank Davies giving me Marty’s book. Later I met with Deane who told me he was accessing archival footage from the CBC. Having just had success with our two Beatles shows, first Rain, then Let it Be, I thought that we could utilize the same format in creating a tribute to Canadian Music.
Someone somewhere along the way — perhaps yourself included — must have said, 'Man, this is one crazy idea?'
Always. I learned long ago when labels told a certain band from Liverpool that guitar bands were out, that the initial reviews for Les Miserables described it as a disaster, to not pay much heed to negativity in creating a new project. My wife might argue that maybe I should have listened a few times in the past as we would probably be living in a bigger house. I was concerned when I was told that you could not mix the genres of Paul Anka with Loverboy and Neil Young. We proved that to be wrong in Windsor (where the show previewed last week) when I saw the same people singing the words to most of our songs no matter that they were recorded 30 years apart, proving that great songs are universal no matter the genre.
Picking the songs: The list is long, how did you decide what to include?
We wanted the initial show to appeal to a wide demographic with the core audience aged from 40-70 and to ensure that women would like it as well as men. As I have learned—from Let it Be and Rain—that audience can stretch from 5-90, which will be our ultimate goal. Nothing makes me more than satisfied to see three generations of families at our shows. It is a really bonding experience.
Were clearances difficult?
I was expecting that to be the case but since I know quite a few of the managers of these artists and I think they trusted us to do what we did for Canadian music as we had for our other shows ,which have taken tribute musicals to Broadway and the West End. I think we have created a new genre in the tribute world, much the same as Cirque de Soliel has done for the acrobat type show.
You did a preview in Windsor last week, how did that go?
I don’t like to hype unless it is warranted but the show exceeded my expectations, not so much from what was put on stage as from the reaction of the audience. I have never had more people come up to me unsolicited saying it was the best show that they have ever seen. According to the staff at the casino, we were the talk of the building in the two days we performed. The real proof will be playing to a Toronto crowd in a major theatrical building. I am not resting easy as of yet.
How large is the cast, and give us a sneak idea of what we can expect?
We have five musicians and five singers. All of the musicians also sing background vocals and our bass player does the Neil Young songs. You will see how well the cast is used. One minute one of them will be singing lead, the next as part of the background singers. It seems like we have a cast of 20.