Bohemian Rhapsody

Wide release

24th October United Kingdom

2nd November United States

 

Rami Malek is mesmerizing as Freddy Mercury in this biographical film about the rock band Queen. The film opens with Mercury making his way on to the stage for the Live Aids performance at Wembley Stadium in 1985 then fades to recount the early years and culminates with the concert scene at Wembley that he was walking towards at the start. The film is never boring and the music is, as expected, unbelievable. Principal photography began in London in 2017 with Brian Singer directing. In December 2017 Singer was fired for clashing with the cast and crew and Dexter Fletcher was hired to complete the film. The film, on a production budget of approximately fifty million dollars, has grossed over $285 million world wide becoming the highest-grossing musical biographical film of all time. This film does not disappoint and is certain to take a few awards come Oscar time.

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The Children

The Children

Centaur Theatre

November 6, 2018

Truly a fantastic production of a topic that concerns all of us in our every day lives as we deal with how we are progressing and with what we are going to leave the next generation. The story, written by Lucy Kirkwood, Directed by Eda Holmes, and starring an ensemble cast featuring Fiona Reid as Rose, Laurie Paton as Hazel, and Geordie Johnson as  Hazel’s husband Robin, is right out of today’s headlines. It takes place at a time following an explosion at a nuclear science station and the people living near the perimeter.

The play which runs approximately 90 minutes with no intermission is almost typical British comedy, the two women exchanging banter in the kitchen of the cottage with some very funny lines. In due course Robin comes back into the house, surprised to see that they are having a visit from Rose who had long ago moved to America. The play then takes on a different mood as the glasses of wine are refilled and we deal with Robin making advances towards an uninterested Rose.

Bravo to all concerned. The script, the directing, and the acting take our emotions on a rollercoaster ride.

Continuing thru November 25 The Children should not be missed.

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Dawn Tyler Watson

Dawn Tyler Watson-Blues

November 3, 2018

Maison de la culture Maisonneuve

4200 Ontario Street East

 

What happens when you back up a tremendous vocalist/composer/producer with an award winning band and put them in front of an intimate setting with adoring fans? Tonight was a gift. Dawn Tyler Watson backed up by Ben Racine and his band, a four piece rhythm section plus a three piece horn section, and everyone at the top of their game. I have been a fan of Dawn Tyler Watson from the first time I saw her perform at a music festival on the West Island sometime in the 1990’s. I have watched her perform on more than one occasion with Paul Deslauriers in a similar venue in St. Henri and on the main stage at the Montreal Jazz Festival in front of 100 000 fans. I have seen her in a small intimate bar on St. Denis accompanied only by a pianist and she constantly delivers. Tonight she owned the stage. Her vocals were superb and her stage presence, as always, commands attention. She did two sets of approximately fifty minutes each with a short intermission. She started the second half with a song titled This and That from an early album and in the musical interlude she played the “air trumpet” as only Dawn can. I am not aware of the titles of some of the songs she sang tonight, one was a song that Adele has recorded, and a couple of heavy duty  “ love gone bad “ type songs. A great time was had by all and even after an encore the crowd would have gladly stayed for more. Dawn has established herself as a blues diva and deserves to be catapulted into the world of Grammies.

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Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Transforming the Voices of Montreal

Infinititheatre at Moyse Hall

McGill University 853 Sherbrooke St. West

Arts Bldg.

One-week limited engagement, until Saturday October 27

With: Charles Bender, Shawn Campbell, Ellen David, Manouchka Elinor, Holly Gauthier-Frankel, Carmen Grant, Mariah Inger and Amir Sám Nakhjavani

This production is superbly directed by Guy Sprung who is no stranger to audiences in Montreal and Toronto. Nor is he a stranger to the works of William Shakespeare having directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Russian at the Pushkin Theatre in Moscow. He is also the Founder of the outdoor Shakespeare in High Park in 1983.

 

Guy has collaborated once more with Brian Smith with whom he worked on projects at the Stratford Festival, Manitoba Theatre Centre, Toronto Free Theatre and Infinitheatre, including Romeo and Juliet and Richard lll. In 2014 at the Stratford Festival Brian served as Mask Master for Guy Sprung’s theatrical reimagining of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, which played to enthusiastic audiences.

 

The cast consisting of five female and three male actors all perform admirably and on cue while a video plays behind them showing interesting scenery and also a hint at the sonnet being reinterpreted. There is dialogue at times directed at the audience, and even an impromptu sing-along. All in all it makes for a very pleasurable outing and the 75 minutes without intermission will hold your interest throughout. If you like the works of Shakespeare you must see this play. If you don’t like the works of Shakespeare you still must see this play.

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Au Vieux Duluth Revisited

 

Au Vieux Duluth

1997 boul. Marcel-Laurin

Ville St. Laurent, PQ.

 

Once again we returned to the place where there is never a parking problem and the greeting is always cheerful. Of course it helps that the menu is always appealing and the preparation is consistently good. Tonight Shirley and I both enjoyed Filet of Dore with garlic butter and accompanied by rice, roast potatoes, and salad. Our friend Gloria left an empty plate that formerly held chicken brochette, rice, roast potatoes, and salad. Our other friend, Ken managed to do the same with a hamburger steak smothered in onions and gravy and the usual trimmings. We didn’t bring wine, but it is permitted and in fact encouraged. We were ably served by Elias who did all the right things at the right time.

I look forward to our next visit.

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Christina Sings

Corina Sings Burt Bacharach

October 13, 2018

Harold Greenspon Auditorium

5801 Cavendish Blvd.

 

Corina Vincelli performed accompanied admirably on the piano by Daniel Witkowski in front of an almost full auditorium. Her voice was in great form and so was her personality as she glided through the Burt Bacharach songbook supplying anecdotes much to the enjoyment of her audience, many of them peers from Broadway Café. She was right at home in this milieu and the approximately 90 minute performances went by way too quickly. Corina invited three special guests to join her on stage to perform What the World Needs Now and later to sing That’s What Friends Are For. I didn’t get their names but they were extremely talented and not strangers to a majority of the audience. I predict a big future for this very talented diva. Having heard her play piano at Broadway Café, and having recently learned that she teaches piano both privately and at a local school, it would not surprise me to see Corina in concert accompanying herself on piano in the style of Dianna Krall. Probably in a much larger venue and a much more expensive price of admission. If you missed the show tonight you get a chance to see and hear her tomorrow night at 8:00 P.M. same location.

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Choir Boy

Centaur Theatre

October 10, 2018

Till October 28, 2018

 

The Centaur Theatre opened its 50th season last night with Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, Choir Boy directed by Mike Payette. The bar has been set high for what will follow in the months to come. The play which runs slightly over 90 minutes without intermission runs smoothly and never leaves you restless. The set is spacious and allows for many scene changes and creative lighting.

 

Choir Boy is a coming-of-age story buoyed by the joyous harmonies of Gospel music and R&B under the direction of Musical Director and Arranger, Floydd Ricketts.

 

Principle actor Steven Charles plays the role of Pharus Jonathan Young.  Pharus was born to sing and wants nothing more than to take his rightful place as leader of the school’s legendary choir. Will the school have the courage to accept a gay choirmaster, or will it muzzle this angelic voice determined to be heard?

This is the first stage appearance in Montreal for Steven Charles, but I predict we will be seeing a lot more of him in the future. He has spent most of his career touring United States, Europe and Japan doing musicals.

 

Rounding out this beautifully blended cast is veteran actor Paul Rainville, no stranger to the Centaur stage, as Mr. Pendleton. Koodos to the entire cast for a job well done. In particular the a cappella harmonies.

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Broadway Cafe Once

Broadway Café

 

Once Edition

Segal Centre

Le Studio

Oct. 6, 2018

 

Broadway Café is the biggest entertainment value and one that never disappoints. The level of talent is amazing and as a reviewer I always feel guilty about paying so little to see and hear so many great artists. Whether singing songs from current Broadway productions or from classics, performers choose songs from the dozens of books of sheet music provided by the venue, and then put their name on a list to be called on to sing.

In keeping with the theme of the musical Once, based on the 2007 movie, tonight’s edition invited performers to bring their own instrument but for those that don’t have one an accompanist was provided in the in the form of Chad Linsley, who with limited prep time played the Grand piano like a master. The evening was hosted by Mikey Samra and Justin Johnson who were personable and kept things running smoothly through the three hours that I stayed for. I left during the second intermission so that I would be able to write this column before bed time. Highlights of the evening for me were as follows: Drag Queen Abby Long who did two songs from her upcoming show, “Drag Yourself to the Bain” on October 18. Read more about it on a future blog. Corina Vincelli once again blew me away with a song from the Burt Bacharach songbook. She too is doing a live concert on the 13 and 14 of October and I will write more in the next day or two about that show. There were at least two performers who accompanied themselves on piano but whose names I didn’t get. Also one amazing performance by a McGill student who only heard about Broadway Café four hours before she walked through the doors armed with a violin and a voice that never quits. I didn’t get her name either, but I suspect there will be other Broadway Café nights. Another highlight of the evening for me was a performance from some of the cast of an upcoming production of Mama Mia. More details to follow on future blog. If you have never attended a Broadway Café evening, watch for the next one.

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Memories

Memories

 

Who remembers taking the 17 streetcar through Snowdon Junction, past Garland Terminus, up over the train tracks and down the other side at Jean Talon before the Decarie Expressway was built? We then bypassed the entrance to Blue Bonnets, FDR, the Bonfire,  The Orange Julep, Miss Montreal, and Piazza Tomasso. Continuing North alongside what was then known as Laurentian Blvd, past Canadair and the Astor Swimming Pool. Eventually we arrived at our destination. End of the line. Cartierville. About a five minute walk later we found ourselves at the gates of the place they named Parc Belmont. Long before the construction of Disney Land and Disney World we had our own Magic Kingdom. Admission to the park was thirty-five cents. Strips of tickets could be purchased for the rides. The strips would provide forty tickets with five cent value for $2.00. Most rides would cost between four to 10 tickets so the total cost of the day would not be excessive. I believe the most expensive ride in the park was the Cyclone, a wooden Roller Coaster that even I, was brave enough to ride. On a smaller scale there was the Wild Mouse. Then there were the Salt and Pepper Shakers, the Bumping Cars, The Whip, Laugh in the Dark, and the Magic Carpet which at the end rolled you out on what else, a carpet. All this happening while a big dummy of a woman laughed continuously. There was a penny arcade, where there were actually things to do for a penny including watching hand activated films. There were tents housing shows featuring the strangest freaks of nature, some real some phony. There was a dock where you could board a motor boat and be taken out about a mile and back for about 50 cents. There were also lots of things to do on the grounds for free. There were High Wire performers twice a day; there was Club 800 on Saturday afternoons with Mike Stevens and there was live music for dancing nightly. Sadly, the park which had opened on June 9, 1923, closed permanently on October 13 1983.

Some say that developers found the land had a greater value as residential housing than as an entertainment venue thus today what was once our magic kingdom gave way to condominiums. Others believe that the park closed following a police raid that may have been motivated by City Hall’s displeasure at the park, a private venture taking away business from the then city-owned La Ronde. Unfortunately, the current generation will never have the opportunity to spend a day in what was our magic kingdom. Please feel free to talk about your memories at Belmont Park on www.lastcallwithsol.com

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Broadway Cafe

 

Broadway Café: Curtains Up edition

Saturday Sept. 8, 2018

The Studio

Segal Centre

 

If you weren’t part of the capacity crowd you missed out on a terrific evening of music. Hosted by Tranna Wintour and the pride of Halifax Nova Scotia, Ellie MacDonald the entertainment was continuous with one artist performing while another waited in the “on deck” circle and the hosts exchanged banter in between.

 

With the accompaniment  of Chris Barillaro on the grand piano, one by one the vocalists belted out songs from Broadway musicals. The opening number, Bring Him Home, from Les Miserables set the bar pretty high for the rest of the evening, but undaunted each consecutive artist delivered their finest. Taking a break of 15 minutes after about an hour of continuous entertainment the audience agreed that breaks were not necessary and the music never stopped. There were songs from musicals that were classics and some that were from lesser known productions. One of the highlight performances of the evening for me, was from a non Broadway show. The song was beautifully performed by a lady who was a first time visitor to the Broadway Café and who had recently mourned the loss of her Mother. It was from the 1936 movie, Modern Times with Charlie Chaplain. Chaplain had written the music inspired by Puccini’s Tosca. In 1954 John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics and gave the song a title; Smile. It was recorded that year by Nat King Cole.

 

At 11:30, three and a half hours after it started, it did not appear as if the end was coming soon and sadly we had to leave. I look forward to the next Broadway Café October 6.  I hope to see you there.

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