Cooper Inducted into The Arts & Culture Hall of Fame

Posted Nov 3rd, 2018 in Arts & Crafts, niagara falls

Cooper Inducted into The Arts & Culture Hall of Fame

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Jim Cooper Honoured by City of Niagara Falls


Oh Canada Eh? co-creater inducted into The Arts & Culture Hall of Fame

Jim Cooper (with portfolio) was inducted into the Arts & Culture Hall of Fame with help from (l-r) City Councillor Wayne Campbell, MP Rob Nicholson, MPP Wayne Gates and Dino Fazio and Laura Moffat, co-chairs Arts, Culture & Museum Committee. 

Oh Canada Eh! founder Jim Cooper has joined the ranks of honoured contributors to art and culture in the city of Niagara Falls.

The actor, singer and comedian was inducted onto the Arts & Culture Hall of Fame on Oct. 27.

Beginning in 2006, The Wall has served as a “Visual memory of artistic and cultural contributions,” made to the city. 

Cooper co-created and starred in the Oh Canada Eh? dinner theatre between 1994 and 2015 before retiring.

In making his acceptance speech at the induction ceremony, he said, “I’m proud, happy and excited to be standing here as the recipient of such a prestigious award.”

He joked that, when it opened, some had predicted the theatre wouldn’t last six months.

“But, life is great,” he added. “We subsequently won many attractions of the year and other awards; it become quite embarrassing,” he laughed.

“I firmly believe that any success I’ve had is due to the many wonderful and talented people who have worked for me and with me to make Oh Canada Eh? such a successful dinner theatre; I might add, a 25-year-old and unique dinner theatre, funded solely by ticket revenues and not a penny of subsidy from any level of government for over 4,000 performances to date. I was happy to appear in 2000 of those performances.”

Taking the time to thank his former partner, he said, “I owe a big thank you to Ross Robinson.” 

He credited Robinson with the idea and business plan to make the theatre the success it became.

Cooper also thanked the Williams family, who built the current theatre, a 250-seat venue located on Lundy’s Lane.

“Finally, I’d like to thank our amazing staff and performers,” he concluded.

Quietly reflecting before the induction ceremony, Cooper discussed the story behind the theatre.

“What we presented was a Canadian musical. Apart from Anne of Green Gables in the Maritimes, I didn’t know anyone else who did it, and particularly for tourists.”

Cooper had the added benefit of being both performer and businessman, providing him with insight that few others have garnered.

“We can feel people’s hearts pumping in the theatre at the end of the show. Our visitors are proud we’re trumpeting Canada. We’re known for not being loud about that. I’ve had a lot of locals say that it wasn’t going to work. We were determined it was going to work. Theatres come and go. It’s a tough, tough business,” he shared. “It’s still a tough business to be in.”

There is no doubt, that he has learned what works and what doesn’t and he knows how to present the works in a successful format and venue.

“We have a wonderful variety, with five shows a year and I think we have the right selection of shows. We think first of the audience, rather than ourselves. We are not pushing art. We’re pushing entertainment. Everybody wants to be entertained and enjoy themselves. It makes my heart pump when people say, ‘I never knew that about Canada’,” he explained.

From a business perspective he credits Robinson, his partner of 25 years. 

“My duties were the show’s creation and production, and Ross was the brilliant marketer.”

Realizing the work was not merely a job but living his passion, he offered, “For 25 years, we are making a living out of it. We are not millionaires. I have had a comfortable life and so much enjoyment out of working on that stage. I learned a long time ago, if you’re in a job you hate, why would you stay in it all your life? I worked on a trans-Atlantic ship long before cruises became a reality. No one is up there with dollar signs in their eyes.”

The Wall of Fame photo and plaque contain this inscription:

Oh Canada Eh! founder Jim Cooper has joined the ranks of honoured contributors to art and culture in the city of Niagara Falls.

The actor, singer and comedian was inducted onto the Arts & Culture Hall of Fame on Oct. 27.

Beginning in 2006, The Wall has served as a “Visual memory of artistic and cultural contributions,” made to the city. 

Cooper co-created and starred in the Oh Canada Eh? dinner theatre between 1994 and 2015 before retiring.

In making his acceptance speech at the induction ceremony, he said, “I’m proud, happy and excited to be standing here as the recipient of such a prestigious award.”

He joked that, when it opened, some had predicted the theatre wouldn’t last six months.

“But, life is great,” he added. “We subsequently won many attractions of the year and other awards; it become quite embarrassing,” he laughed.

“I firmly believe that any success I’ve had is due to the many wonderful and talented people who have worked for me and with me to make Oh Canada Eh? such a successful dinner theatre; I might add, a 25-year-old and unique dinner theatre, funded solely by ticket revenues and not a penny of subsidy from any level of government for over 4,000 performances to date. I was happy to appear in 2000 of those performances.”

Taking the time to thank his former partner, he said, “I owe a big thank you to Ross Robinson.” 

He credited Robinson with the idea and business plan to make the theatre the success it became.

Cooper also thanked the Williams family, who built the current theatre, a 250-seat venue located on Lundy’s Lane.

“Finally, I’d like to thank our amazing staff and performers,” he concluded.

Quietly reflecting before the induction ceremony, Cooper discussed the story behind the theatre.

“What we presented was a Canadian musical. Apart from Anne of Green Gables in the Maritimes, I didn’t know anyone else who did it, and particularly for tourists.”

Cooper had the added benefit of being both performer and businessman, providing him with insight that few others have garnered.

“We can feel people’s hearts pumping in the theatre at the end of the show. Our visitors are proud we’re trumpeting Canada. We’re known for not being loud about that. I’ve had a lot of locals say that it wasn’t going to work. We were determined it was going to work. Theatres come and go. It’s a tough, tough business,” he shared. “It’s still a tough business to be in.”

There is no doubt, that he has learned what works and what doesn’t and he knows how to present the works in a successful format and venue.

“We have a wonderful variety, with five shows a year and I think we have the right selection of shows. We think first of the audience, rather than ourselves. We are not pushing art. We’re pushing entertainment. Everybody wants to be entertained and enjoy themselves. It makes my heart pump when people say, ‘I never knew that about Canada’,” he explained.

From a business perspective he credits Robinson, his partner of 25 years. 

“My duties were the show’s creation and production, and Ross was the brilliant marketer.”

Realizing the work was not merely a job but living his passion, he offered, “For 25 years, we are making a living out of it. We are not millionaires. I have had a comfortable life and so much enjoyment out of working on that stage. I learned a long time ago, if you’re in a job you hate, why would you stay in it all your life? I worked on a trans-Atlantic ship long before cruises became a reality. No one is up there with dollar signs in their eyes.”

Jim Cooper Oh Canada EhThe Wall of Fame photo and plaque contain this inscription:

James “Jim” Cooper was born in Aberdeen Scotland in 1940 and emigrated to Canada in 1952. He came to Niagara Falls in 1993.

With his thrilling lyrical tenor voice, he performed in musical theatre to great acclaim. He appeared regularly with Garden City Productions and sang the national anthem at many conventions. 

His voice, on-stage theatre skills, and business acumen propelled him to success when, in 1973, he opened an extremely successful dinner show in Montreal, Le Festin du Gouverneur.

In 1994, Jim Cooper created Oh Canada Eh? a high-energy family dinner theatre show of entirely Canadian music mixed with a generous dash of comedy. 

Jim played the part of Pierre, the courier du bois, for twenty years and his performance as a vocalist, actor and comedian would be the lynchpin of the show. In 1999 the show moved to its own custom-built log cabin style theatre on Lundy’s Lane with seating for 250 guests. Oh Canada Eh? won the Niagara Falls Visitor and Convention Bureau’s “Misty” Award for Attraction of the Year seven times.

Jim Cooper’s contribution to charitable causes has never faltered and his company has donated substantial sums to Positive Living Niagara and Project Share.

Jim retired from appearing in Oh Canada Eh? in 2015 but his lengthy contribution to the performing arts in Niagara Falls has been quite exemplary. Several hundred thousand tourists and locals alike will always be able to recall a happy evening spent in his company, and he has employed and encouraged hundreds of young performers, many of whom have successfully ascended the difficult ladder of “show business.”

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