Whether it be a Mountie getting into all kinds of trouble or a French-Canadian trapper with a strange sense of humour, the uniquely Canadian dinner show 'Oh Canada Eh' is set to open in Ottawa for the first time after a successful 25-year run in Niagara Falls.
Actor Jean-Francois Grenier and his wife Meaghan Chapin met while working on the original show for five years in Niagara Falls before a move to Ottawa and Chapin had the idea of bringing the show to another market.
Grenier said Chapin's entrepreneurial genes kicked in and they quickly realized there wasn't a lot of similar night time entertainment in Ottawa, so they started Totally Legit Productions.
"There's no family-friendly shows you can go and see day-in day-out," he said, particularly for those looking to entertain family and friends from out of town.
Grenier said they were looking to fill that void and given the show's contents: Canadian theme, Canadian characters, Canadian songs, "Ottawa just made a lot of sense."
The pair approached the owner of the production in Niagara Falls, Canadian Productions Inc., who decided to approve licensing because of Grenier and Chapin’s connection to the show.
"The only reason we got [the owner's] blessing is because of our relationship with JF and Meaghan," said Eric Hitchcock, General Manager with Canadian Productions Inc.
"Highly respected, highly loved by the Niagara family and we want to keep that growing."
Hitchcock would like to see Ottawa used as a test for other markets, including Halifax or Charlottetown, which he said are two great theatre communities.
"My dream is to see it elsewhere," Hitchcock said.
With Ottawa's professional theatre community not very large and a licensing agreement not yet in place, both Hitchcock and Grenier agreed one of the biggest challenges was finding talent at first, though it eventually all worked out.
Grenier hopes to focus on and help develop local talent, as he said "they export themselves elsewhere very quickly."
"They move to Toronto, they move to Montreal because there's a lot of quality community theatre here, there's not a lot of paid gigs, professional theatres," he said.
"Right off the bat, it was important to tap into this local talent, let's make sure they stick around and offer them something they may not have seen before."
While the challenges of a stage show, particularly leading up to opening night, can lead to stress, Grenier said he and his wife are able to help each other cope.
"We cry ourselves to sleep at night," he laughed.
From Justin Bieber to Anne Murray, the show's music features over 30 Canadian artists that look to appeal to a wide age-range, while characters include singing Mounties, lumberjacks, hockey players and others.
"It's Canadian humour," Grenier said. "I don't think Canadians take themselves very seriously and I think this show portrays that well," he added, noting a lot of self-deprecating humour.
"If you wanted a perfect Canadian night presented in a very Canadian way, this is the show for you."
The show runs through mid-September and debuts at the RA Centre's Clark Hall Friday, with tickets available online.