Musicians Joe Nolan and Dana Wylie lead audiences through the love story of two Canadian icons. 

Leonard and Joni: The Untold Love Story, at the Jube

Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen are two of Canada’s most iconic and beloved singer songwriters, each of whom mined their own biographies for their songs. So it seems unbelievable that there is an untold story, let alone an untold love story to be told about the two of them. Together. And yet.

Combining the hits of both along with the untold story of their brief romance following their 1967 meeting at the Newport Folk Festival, Leonard and Joni: The Untold Love Story first opened to a sold out crowd at Festival Place in Sherwood Park last year. 

“That was our debut,” says Joe Nolan, one of the show’s leads. “It was sort of like a pilot and then it went really well so now we are doing more.” 

The show comes to the Southern Alberta Jubilee on April 5 and will also travel to Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Saskatoon and Regina.

Nolan is joined on stage by Dana Wylie. Together, the two sing and narrate the lifelong, complex relationship between Cohen and Mitchell in the production.

“We’re not trying to pretend to be Leonard and Joni; we are being Joe Nolan and Dana Wylie telling the story of the two. So, it’s not quite like theatre, it’s more like we narrate their stories and play their music. It feels a bit more authentic.”

The script incorporates crowd favourites like Suzanne and River, deep cuts, and even a couple of songs from Cohen’s final, dark album. The show seems all the more poignant with Mitchell having just made people weep with a time-scarred version of Both Sides Now at the Grammy Awards.

“It focuses on both the life of Leonard and Joni starting from their early careers up until now and how their love affair and artistic respect for each other was kind of woven throughout their careers,” Nolan says. “The story definitely focuses on their music but I think tells a story that a lot of people haven’t heard before. It’s a beautiful show.” 

With a dozen albums under his own belt and many songwriting awards, one might say that Nolan fits Cohen’s music like a bird fits on a wire. In having played in jug and bluegrass bands, cover bands in Taiwan, and having spent months touring in the UK, Wylie’s wanderlust and soaring vocals court the spark of Mitchell’s music. 

Both Edmonton musicians cite Cohen in particular as an influence. “He’s been a major influence on me since high school,” Nolan, known to be a hard-traveling troubadour, says from Golden the morning after playing there. “I remember a friend of mine burnt me a CD of him and I was obsessed with it.”

Wylie, too, wears her love for Cohen on her record sleeve — she released a song, A Cure for Madness (Addressed to Leonard Cohen) on her 2017 album The Earth That You’re Made Of.

The show was created by GNR Entertainment, which has also written and produced tributes to Merle Haggard, George Jones, Tom Petty and Stompin’ Tom Connors as well as others. GNR’s team, writer and comedian Graham Neil and musician Rob Shapiro, approached Nolan to be in the show. And while he knew for a long time the show would be happening, he got the script last summer and was onstage in under two months.

“It was a rewarding and challenging experience,” says Nolan. “It’s definitely new for me to do more of a musical theatre thing like this, but it wasn’t too out of my realm. It was really fun because I would just go on a walk every night and kind of memorize the script, listen to Leonard and read his book. I really tried to absorb everything he was all about.

“I think everyone will leave feeling like they know Leonard and Joni way more than they did coming in, and that will add to the richness of the icons that they are and their music. It’s a beautiful two hours of Canadian history really.”

Leonard and Joni: The Untold Love Story is at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium April 5. For information, visit