The Ontario Government has pulled out all the stops to create a remarkable television special that bands together a wide pool of creative talents from across the province that airs on TVO and streams simultaneously on the network's Facebook and YouTube channels at 10:30 pm EST this Thursday, December 31 (but you can watch a preview of the intro here).
The 90-minute show delivers a vaccine of inspirational brightness following a year pockmarked by nine months of adversity, darkness and fear.
Funded through the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture Industries, headed by Minister Lisa McLeod (through the Reconnect Program), as well as Destination Ontario, the City of Toronto and Destination Toronto, the program delivers a sparkling story of hope that also shines a light on how politicians can guide us through in times of darkness and fear. It is also a strong affirmation that arts and culture have capital in the corridors of power, which is reassuring in these troubling times.
Pulled together in just over a month, From Ontario with Love: A Celebration of Hope opens on with gaiety as a parade of entertainers’ troops down the Canadian National Exhibition’s Princes’ Boulevard toward the Princess Gate on Toronto’s lakefront. It’s colourful, spectacular, exhilarating, full of funk and very much all-inclusive.
As the entourage reaches its destination point, the camera pans to the colourful assemblage of rising stars in which race, creed, colour, gender and sexual orientation mix as one in a spectacular show-stopping song-opener that culminates in a dramatic spectacle with divas’ Divine Brown, Jully Black and Measha Brueggergosman letting go with their voices free to take this musical pageant into Cloud Nine.
And this is just the beginning.
For the remaining hour and some, the antithesis of a Time’s Square spectacle travels down several different paths to tell stories that offer hope and burrow down to the nitty-gritty of what the pandemic has wrought, and how adversity can bring the best out in us Canadians.
Working with the Labours’ International Union of North America (LiUNA), the special offers vignettes about life for various front-line workers in the province that are interspersed with stories and songs provided by musicians and performers in Ontario. The Barenaked Ladies offer sometimes humorous insights into the workaday life of being a travelling band in a province that is larger than France and Spain combined; Avril Lavigne reminisces about her early life in Napanee and contributes a song she recorded for this special in an LA studio with two of her closest sidemen, and The Tenors debut a new song written by the trio that unarguably sets up the tenor of the show, entitled The Best of Our Lives.
Remarkably, From Ontario with Love: A Celebration of Hope was pulled together with a relatively small team in under six weeks with frontline worker stories assembled from six Ontario locations including Windsor where Kim’s Convenience star Andre Phung, TV and radio personality Arisa Cox and DJ duo Loud Luxury host from the border city’s Capitol Theatre, which just happens to be celebrating its 100th anniversary on this date.
Also showcased in the 90-minute special are The Halluci Nation (formerly known as A Tribe called Red), AllyDice, Broadways’ Chilina Kennedy, CZN, LOONY, Loud Luxury, NOTIFI, America’s Got Talent finalist Roberta Battaglia (performing with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra), Roy Woods, Ryhan Douglas, Sean Jones, Shawn Steele, and Wali Shah.
TVO anchor Steve Paikin will provide a set-up introduction to the special at 10:20 pm, with the show immediately following at 10:30 pm.
JL Entertainment's Jeffrey Latimer is ecstatic about the production and has high hopes to see this landmark launch become an annual event that will "rival any other news show on earth." He cautiously shares that "the beauty of it is we want to do this (in future) with our artists from all over, wherever they may be." As he sees it, in future the show can cut to similar types of New Year's Eve shows in London, New York, Las Vegas, invite the hosts to share in our own celebration and bring joy to the world through Canadians' songs and artistry.
It's a bold bid to go international and at the dawn of a new era that closes out a year few will forget. In fact, this sounds like just the tonic to bring some joy into a world that at times has seemed joyless and unending. Here's to 2021 and the dawn of a new era of hope and love.