1.2 million people have passed through its doors since Oh Canada Eh? launched its musical dinner show in Pyramid Place a quarter of a century ago.
The brainstorm of Ross Robinson, the show moved to the oversized log cabin on Lundy’s Lane in 1999.
Owners attribute that same winning formula from its premiere show 25 years ago—of consistently “squeaky clean” entertainment, paired with audience participation, and a five-course family style dinner—served by the same talented performers—to making OCE Canada’s longest running dinner show.
And of course, there’s the generous sprinkling of patriotic spirit that makes every heart swell with pride at being Canadian.
Performers and staff past and present celebrated and launched All things Canadian, OCE’s new 25th Anniversary production, featuring 30 minutes of brand new material, new choreography, new costumes, a new set, and some new and old familiar faces, at the log cabin last Friday.
“It’s rare that marriages last as long as this show,” said Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, presenting staff with a certificate “for 25 successful years on behalf of all of Niagara Falls.”
“This is true Canadiana, and I love bringing my friends here. This is the place we celebrate all that there is about being Canadian,” the mayor added. “After recovering from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, I realize it’s the little things you appreciate: having a great meal with friends and family.”
OCE co-owner Eric Hitchcock “started out as a banquet server in 1994, and is now managing our business and pushing us to new heights as our G.M.” said co-owner Ann Robinson.
Hitchcock told the packed house they were viewing the 4,809th show Friday night. “We have really taken our business to the next level,” he said, adding that the show is expanding to Ottawa, premiering June 28. “It’s going to be a replica of the (Niagara Falls) show, with a little bit more French.”
In addition to racking up countless awards for Attraction of the Year, OCE has supported various charitable causes through the years, noted Hitchcock.
“We have helped raise funds for Project Share, and Twonies for Toys," he said. "The (annual) Rocky Horror Show has raised $100,000 for Positive Living.”
He added that the ultra-popular Halloween show will move to the Seneca Queen Theatre in downtown Niagara Falls this fall.
“This year, we have embarked on a major project with Habitat for Humanity. On June 7, 12 OCE staff will build a duplex house for 15 children.”
Violinist extraordinaire Beth Hartley burst into a rousing rendition of This Land of Ours to kick off the new “re-imagined” show.
OCE makes a point of paying tribute to Canadian musicians of all stripes, from Steppenwolf to Shania Twain; from Paul Anka to K. D. Lang, and dozens more, enticing audience members to join singalongs to popular favourite songs.
Brandon Stafford said he's celebrating his sixth season as the friendly, tongue-in-cheek coureur de bois, Pierre.
“I’ve had the absolute pleasure of performing here more than 1,000 times and meeting people from all over the world,” he stated, adding that many are repeat customers, “and it’s made OCE a wonderful hodgepodge of cultures and backgrounds. One of the things I find really special is that we get to humourously poke fun at ourselves.”
Following the show, Ann Robinson and co-founder Jim Cooper announced OCE’s first hall of fame induction awards, and handed out hardware to Ross Robinson, Jim and Lindsay Cooper, “who worked tirelessly to keep the dream alive,” and to Martin and Beth Williams, who “built this beautiful log cabin theatre and were our landlords for 18 years.”
Several more awards went to long-time staff, servers and performers, as well as behind-the-scenes operation manager—and performer—Craig Maguire.
Robinson called director Lee Siegel, “our very own Broadway show-stopper,” and awarded Louisa O’Keane “for her beautiful soprano voice, her choreography and her grace.”
The crowd gave a standing ovation to another fan favourite, Melissa Penner, described by Robinson as “The heart and soul, and quite frankly, the most beautiful shining star in the OCE family.”
Oh Canada Eh? is located at 8585 Lundy’s Lane, and its new theatre is at the RA Centre (Clark Hall) at 2451 Riverside Drive in Ottawa.
Visit OhCanadaEh.com or call 1-800-467-2071 for more information.