Oh Canada What a Feeling celebrates homegrown music icons

The music of The Beatles, The Four Seasons and even ABBA has fuelled hit stage shows, but a new production shines a spotlight on Canadian hitmakers from Paul Anka to Joni Mitchell.

Cross-Canada tour to follow Toronto premiere

"We're not really delving into the personalities here," says Oh Canada What a Feeling producer Jeff Parry. "It's more about the music and the time that it's captured." (Brent Clark/Annerin Productions/Mirvish Productions)

The music of The Beatles, The Four Seasons and even ABBA has fuelled hit stage shows, but a new production shines a spotlight on Canadian hitmakers from Paul Anka to Joni Mitchell.

Oh Canada What a Feeling, which premieres in Toronto on Tuesday, celebrates the legacy of Canadian singers, songwriters, rockers and recording artists in a multimedia musical showcase.

"It's not about the story of the artists, it's about their presence at certain times in [Canadian history]," according to the show's Calgary-based producer Jeff Parry, whose previous credits include the Beatles tribute stage show Let It Be.

"It's really a story of Canada."

Based on Martin Melhuish's book Oh What A Feeling: A Vital History of Canadian Music, the stage show begins with Paul Anka's Diana and charts a path through the following decades with performers backed by a live band onstage and surrounded by screens featuring archival footage of the relevant era.

"You come in and you're going to have screens that basically are pieces of the culture," noted music historian Melhuish. "You're going to bathe in Canadian music."

Singer Amy Bishop shares what it's like to portray musical icons in the new stage show Oh Canada What a Feeling 1:46

For singer Amy Bishop, who performs the music of kd lang and Anne Murray in the show, the key was to blend her own personal performance style with that of the Canadian icons to whom she's paying tribute.

"I hope that when I sing [Hallelujah], I transport you to that place where I go when I hear someone sing such a beautiful song," Bishop said. "That it feels like, for a moment, you're suspended in time."

Featuring the music of artists as wide-ranging as Gordon Lightfoot, Sylvia Tyson, Hank Snow, The Guess Who, Loverboy, Rush, Bryan Adams and Céline Dion, the show's creators admit Oh Canada What a Feeling is a patriotic endeavour – one that will hopefully spark pride and nostalgia in audiences.

"People are going to be surprised that this body of work came out of Canada," noted musician and actor Kit Johnson, who performs the music of Neil Young.

Watch Deana Sumanac-Johnson's full report on Oh Canada What a Feeling on The National Friday night.


Oh Canada What a Feeling plays at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre from Aug. 11-23. A cross-Canada tour gets underway in October and will make stops in:

  • Oshawa, Ont.
  • Kitchener, Ont.
  • Montreal
  • Ottawa
  • Saint John
  • Halifax
  • Fredericton
  • Charlottetown
  • Moncton, N.B.
  • Hamilton
  • London, Ont.
  • Thunder Bay, Ont.
  • Winnipeg
  • Regina
  • Medicine Hat, Alta.
  • Saskatoon
  • Edmonton
  • Calgary
  • Vancouver
Oh Canada What a Feeling celebrates the musical contributions of Canadian greats such as Neil Young, kd lang, Gordon Lightfoot and Paul Anka. (CBC)

With files from Deana Sumanac-Johnson and Alice Hopton

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