Five years from the day the popular Oh Canada Eh? Dinner Show opened its doors at Pyramid Place near the Skylon Tower, Canadiana Productions Inc. moved its award-winning musical to a custom-built majestic “Log Cabin Theatre” on Lundy’s Lane.
The inviting rustic-themed theatre was built in 1999 by Jim and Elizabeth Williams, the then owners of the adjacent KOA campground, who saw the show as an enhancement to their business and a fun family attraction for their customers.
“It’s been a win-win partnership for almost 20 years,” according to Canadiana Productions partner, Anne Robinson. “I think they were happy to build the theatre for us and felt it added to the KOA experience.”
Now in her 80’s, Elizabeth Williams decided to simplify, so Robinson, along with Canadiana Productions’ GM, Eric Hitchcock, took the opportunity to purchase the property.
“We wanted to control our destiny” says Hitchcock, “and this way we ensure the future of our business. We have a vested interest in making the business continue and succeed. We really felt strongly about protecting the business and the 45-50 jobs that we provide.” He adds, “In terms of arts and culture, we have given a lot of artists a paid outlet to perform as well as stimulated the local arts community.”
Currently, the theatre runs various shows about 224 days of the year and Hitchcock wants to examine the possible uses for the theatre during their production down times. “Somewhere down the road, we need to contribute to the development of the arts and culture community, in Niagara,” he says, and hopes to pursue hosting theatre camps for all ages.
“We will continue generating revenue with our shows but there’s also a new motivation to fill the gaps.” Some of the company’s regular performers will host their own shows at the theatre, including a musical cabaret on Aug 28 and an unplugged solo act offering insight into one’s battle with anxiety and depression on Oct 12.
Aside from Canadiana Productions’ annual “Rocky Horror Show” fundraiser event for Positive Living, Robinson says, “Every one of our shows is written, produced and created in-house by our talented staff. Hitchcock refers to their Artistic Director, Lee Siegel as “A godsend!”
Proud to be listed within the Trip Advisor Top 20 Things To Do in Niagara Falls, “We definitely have a great formula but need to continue to adjust with current trends, he points out. “The shift in the way people travel and buy our tickets has changed over the years and it’s getting more competitive. Now more than one-third of our tickets are purchased online and fewer people are coming on bus tours.”
Having coined the phrase “Dinner-tainment,” Hitchcock feels, “Our shows are well worth the value. From the feedback we get on various social media pages, it’s so nice to hear people recognize that we consistently do a pretty good job, eh!”
Consistently offering a delicious family-style meal in an intimate, interactive format –coupled with a commitment to ensure all guests leave with a sense of Canadian patriotism, has made the Oh Canada, Eh? Dinner Show a mainstay in the local tourism market.
“We’d like to invite all the new Canadians to come see us,” says Robinson “We’re really ambassadors for Canada. We just happen to be in Niagara Falls. That sets us apart. Sometimes I think Niagara Falls gets insular and doesn’t realize we’re competing on an international level.” She adds, “Iconic sounds like a big word, but after 25 years, we’re getting there.”
And while the shows and market trends keep changing, Canadiana Productions’ formula for success continues to engage different audiences. The theatre offers a variety of new shows each year as they continue to target new demographics.
For years, corporate groups and tours have come to celebrate the Christmas season with an annual holiday show which is “re-imagined” every year, states Robinson. “This year, we are bringing back a popular show originally produced in 2006.” Jump, Jive & Jingle will delight holiday parties and Festival of Lights visitors from Nov 9 – Dec 22.
Following that, a re-launch of last winter’s smash success musical “The Show Must Go On” will be back on stage from Dec. 28 – Jan. 29, 2019, capturing music and icons from the 60s & 70s.
In early 2019, Canadiana Productions will present a new Broadway production, “Broadway Showstoppers,” says Hitchcock. “With so many musical theatre artists in our company, they are all chomping at the bit to perform in this one.”
Indeed, Arts & Culture are alive and well in Niagara Falls and it seems that the Log Cabin Theatre on Lundy’s Lane will be home to great “Dinner-tainment” for many more years to come, EH!?