Leisa Way can remember dancing along to British hit songs with her older sister but she didn’t know any of the stories of how the music came to be. Finding out much later in life turned out to be an eye-opening experience.

“I fell in love with the British Invasion when I was researching it,” said the singer and actor who was asked to create a show about one of the most significant periods in musical history and pop culture. “I had difficulty cutting it down a two-hour show.”

Across the Pond marks Way’s 10th show. It celebrates 50 years of British pop and rock music and features some of the biggest hits by artists such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five to Adele, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Sting, Annie Lennox, Led Zeppelin, Joe Cocker, Lulu, The Hollies – and more.

Way wrote the show during a time away from home, where she had the opportunity to ask vacationing Brits to about their teenage experiences and memories of the era. She incorporated what they said, about their favourite songs, the fashion craze (mini-skirts, Twiggy, psychedelic colours), the impact on Hollywood films and more into the show.

Way’s Wayward Wind Band becomes the Lonely Hearts Club Band for the show. The  professional musicians, multi-instrumentalists and singers include: Bobby Prochaska of Toronto, bass and lead vocals; Fred Smith of Kitchener, guitars and lead vocals; Nathan Smith of North Bay, fiddle, guitars, mandolin and lead vocals; Bruce Ley of Mulmur (near Shelburne), piano, guitars and lead vocals; and Sam Cino of Guelph, drums and lead vocals.

Born in Kitchener, Way grew up in Sudbury where she began singing at events at age nine. By age 12, she sang for Queen Elizabeth at the opening of Science North. Since then, she has performed all over the world – singing and as an actress in a variety of different shows from Norm Foster to Anne of Green Gables, which was one of her longest-running roles. She played the lead, Anne, for six years at the Charlottetown Festival and did six tours to Japan, Canada and the U.S.

Earlier in her career, Way worked as a marketing/publicity person for various theatres in Canada. The skills she acquired came in handy when she began producing and creating her own shows.

Way’s interest in theatre came from her sister, who is 12 years older and very involved as a stage manager, makeup artist, and executive producer. In fact, she set Way up with her first makeup kit when she landed her first professional role at age 14.

“In The King and I, I had to make skin darker and use mustache glue,” said Way. “My sister stuff has come in handy. Years ago you had to create your own (makeup).”

Across the Pond: The British Invasion unfolds at Theatre Collingwood July 10-14. Visit theatrecollingwood.ca or call 1-866-382-2200 for tickets.

Photo: Nathan Smith and Leisa Way in Across the Pond

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