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Hard-driving heroes, truckstop women, and chicken guts

Posted: August 1, 2014

ORANGEVILLE, Ont. — In the eyes of some unimaginative and downright lost souls, the people who drive your rigs are just truckers.

But anyone in this industry with half a heart knows that the truck driver is — according to Canadian writer John Gray — “the cowboy, the Don Quixote wanderer, the runaway and the blue-collar hero."

The trucker driver, Gray knows, is worth celebrating in song and story. That’s why, for two and a half weeks in mid-April, the stage at the Orangeville, Ont., Town Hall Opera House will become the scene of 18 Wheels, a musical production premised on the trucking life.

Written by Gray (he created Billy Bishop Goes to War), 18 Wheels also stars one Leisa Way as Sadie, a much-admired New Brunswick truckstop waitress.

Way — who has starred in more than 100 professional productions across North America since she got her start in Sudbury, Ont., — is a natural for the role in 18 Wheels.

Her brother is real life trucker Rick Way, the boss of Guelph, Ont.-based Wayfreight Services.

Brother Rick, who’s been quoted a time or two in Today’s Trucking, can always be counted on for a no-BS perspective of small fleet life in the cutthroat southern Ontario freight sector.

Leisa also does a killer Patsy Cline tribute show that sells out wherever she goes.

18 Wheels, meantime, is a musical revue, opening with an up-tempo anthem in CB-radio-ese; followed by a cross-Canada tour that takes the audience from the prairies to the Maritimes.

The songs run from rock to C&W, and include “Night Driving” the woeful tale of one trucker’s collision with the Grim Reaper that leads him to become an Evangelical Christian. That song is based on a tragedy that took place on highway 400, south of Barrie, Ont., a few decades ago.

Other songs on the 18 Wheel playlist? “That CB Radio,” “Do You Wanna Know the Country,” “Star of the Hollywood Grille,” “That’s When Her Heart Broke Down,” and — our favorite — “Haulin’ Chicken Guts.”

The play opens Thursday April 8 and runs to Sunday April 25 at the Town Hall Opera House in Orangeville, Ont.

In case you want to bring your whole crew, group rates are available.

For more information, visit www.theatreorangeville.ca or call 519-942-3423 or 1-800-424-1295. 

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