Cabaret Blues

Mad Monk Café

Friday April 27, 2018


Curious to find out more about a concert I read about on the Internet, I wandered into a church basement on the corner of MADison and MONKland.  (Thus the name) It was opening night of the season and performing would be Deacon George, no stranger to Montreal audiences at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, and jazz crooner Chris Thomas. The promotional material mentioned, as always, admission and refreshments are free. So I thought to myself well they will probably pass a hat and expect donations. Well my first surprise was the wide selection of refreshments offered which consisted of home baked cakes, coffee, tea, juice, and water. My second surprise was when they announced that this was something that they had been doing for 17 seasons. And my third surprise was when they said they did not expect any cash donations. That was something you could do at Sunday service if you chose to.


Cabaret Blues featured the songs of Bessie Smith, Nat King Cole, Josh White and many more. The two men alternated singing while Deacon George accompanied on guitar. One of my favourite tunes was sung by Chris. It was a Mills Brothers composition titled Till Then. Originally recorded by the Mills Brothers in 1944 it reached number 5 on the R&B charts and 41 on the Pop charts. It was re-recorded in 1954 by the Hilltoppers and made it to 80th spot on the Pop charts. Many of the Bessie Smith songs preceded the recording industry and were sold as sheet music.


The near capacity audience was treated to a concert rarely heard in this era of electronics, and it was only due to previous commitments that I had to leave after the first set. I look forward to the next time.

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From Monica’s Blog

Ready To Go with The Filthy Radicals!!Do not miss The Filthy Radicals at the Pouzza Punk Rock Fest in Montreal! The…

Posted by Veronica Monica's Music Blog on Saturday, April 14, 2018

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Fight On!

Infinitheatre presents

Fight On! Part One


An epic fictional historical recounting of the settlement of the Canadian West!

April 10 to 22 2018 Espace Knox 6215 Godfrey Ave. NDG


Another opening, another show. But not just an opening and not just a show. In the words of the Writer/Director, Guy Sprung, this is a workshop. They are exploring the text, the staging, and how to tell a huge story by integrating video, sound, music, masks, the audience itself, and Cree and Mohawk into the dialogue. In my opinion they have succeeded on all levels. Notably, the staging is sheer genius. Impossible to do at any other performance venue in Montreal, the action takes place on both ends of the theatre, as well as in between the two halves of the audience. Taped and live video as well as scrolled text not the least of which was authored by Drew Hayden Taylor in the form of counter blogs, make this two and a half hour play keep on giving. The use of masks makes this troupe of nine actors seem to be playing thirty parts. The story encompasses the invasion and occupation of the land belonging to the indigenous people by European settlers, the Indian Act 1876, residential schools, and right into the current headlines with the pipeline controversy. Each and every actor in this play deserves accolades, but I need to single out the performance by Daniel Brochu who plays the lead, Francis Jeffery Dickens. Dickens, third son of Charles Dickens, was in the North West Mounted Police from 1874 to 1885. This two and a half hour production will leave you wanting more, and more you shall get, next year when part two will be staged. Continues till April 22 not to be missed.

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The Daisy Theatre

The Daisy Theatre

Created and performed by Ronnie Burkett

Music and lyrics by John Alcorn

Centaur Theatre

February 20-March 24, 2018


Ronnie Burkett designs and makes all of his puppets. He first discovered puppets at the age of seven, by fourteen he was touring his own shows and today, he is an internationally renowned puppeteer.


Fortunately for Mr. Burkett he has so many different puppets and way too many routines to do in one show. This gives him the ability to perform night after night and change the show to suit his audience while keeping it fun for himself. One could probably see the show on more than one occasion and catch parts they hadn’t seen before.


He knows the pulse of the city in which he is performing and is up to date on local issues.

The material is definitely for adult audiences only and is a welcome throwback to the days when we took our children to see Punch and Judy. However, this is not your parents’ puppet show.


The laughter is non-stop and the audience is encouraged to participate. There are no sacred cows as The Daisy Theatre takes politics, religion, and lifestyles head on. For the best part of two hours we are entertained by little puppets and amazing dialogue. Opportunities like this to watch inanimate characters come to life in a setting as intimate as the Centaur Theatre don’t come along often. Enjoy.

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To those that elected the P.M. reflect on your decision. Aside from the fact that he turned his trip to India into a gaffe bungle
everywhere he went, he did it at tax payers expense and turned it into a vacation for his wife and three children. Just my never humble opinion.

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A world premiere

Infinithéâtre dishes up this brave new work offering a front seat at the table to witness a family on a collision course taut with dark humour


Infinithéâtre presents




Written by Alyson Grant, Directed by Guy Sprung

With: Diana Fajrajsl, Timothy Hine, Mike Payette and Denise Watt


Playing until Sunday, February 25 at Espace Knox in NDG



I had the pleasure of attending opening night and quite frankly, I was blown away. The total package is a real find. Credit the author, the directors, and the four talented actors who deliver full tilt every second of the 90 minute production. The topics covered during this darkly funny play include Islamophobia; Anti-Semitism; Racism, and Sexism. All this happening over several glasses of wine while dinner is in the oven.

Mary, played by Diana Fajrajsl, is already half in the bag when she and her husband, Joseph, played by Timothy Hine, arrive for this family dinner. Abi, played by Denise Watt, and her husband, Al played by Mike Payette are already in a precarious position in their marriage while not really looking forward to a visit from the never humble and always opinionated, Mary.

What follows is a script beautifully written by Alyson Grant that will test your emotions as you get into the psyche of each character. Kudos as well to Guy Sprung on directing this play, which I predict has a great future ahead of it.


How appropriate that a play titled Conversion would premier in a new, multidisciplinary professional artist-run space housed in the converted sanctuary of a former church.

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Royal Victoria Hospital at The Glen

I have just returned from The McGill University Health Centre at the Glen, aka Royal Victoria Hospital where I underwent a Cystolitholapaxy to remove a stone in the bladder. I have only words of praise for the staff and the doctors as well as the services provided at that centre. I arrived full of fear of the unknown but every step along the way was eased by professional and respectful staff whose first question was always, “English or French?” From the nurse in the Pre-operative area, to the anesthetist, to the orderly who takes you to the operating room every step is well organized


Koodos to Dr. Carriere and Dr. Barry and their highly efficient O.R. staff. The procedure was completed without complication and in short time.


Post Surgery was carefully monitored by the staff of the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, and I was kept under their watchful eye for five hours before they were satisfied that the anesthetic had worn off sufficiently to allow me to be transported to a private room, complete with telephone,TV, and Wi-Fi on the seventh floor where I spent the night. The nursing staff overnight as well as the new group that started in the morning were on top of things at all times from taking blood pressure and constantly checking vital signs. By seven A.M. Dr. Carriere appeared and gave me my get-out-of-jail card. I was released into the custody of my darling, Shirley at approximately 10:00 A.M. and went directly to Eggs-Fruitie on St. Jacques.

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Natasha Hall Show

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Who Am I ?





Sol Boxenbaum born ca. 1940, Radio Host CJAD, Gambling Critic

Sol Boxenbaum, Chief Executive Officer, President, and co-founder of Viva Consulting Family Life Inc., has an extensive background in addressing issues of problem gambling and its detrimental effect on society. As a crusader for harm-reduction policies and strategies concerning gambling, he is known and respected by experts throughout the world. He is considered one of the principal consumer advocates in Quebec and in Canada on issues concerning the dangers of rapid expansion of legalized gambling. Because of his recognized knowledge and expertise on the subject, coupled with his self-admitted dogged persistence in pursuing public interests, his advice and opinions are sought after by all levels of the government, professionals in the field, the media, and the general public.

Although he holds no academic degrees in this field, Sol Boxenbaum has been studying the cause and effect of problem gambling for more than a decade. In 1995, events in his own life lead him to develop an interest in tracing the origin of gambling addiction, and a desire to develop prevention strategies that might alert the public to the inherent dangers of legalized gambling. Having reached the age of 55 at that time, however, he was reluctant to commence University courses, such as Psychology 101, that might ultimately lead to him achieving accreditation.

Instead, in order to learn as much as possible within a limited time frame, he began to attend Gambling and Risk-Taking Conferences across Canada. At these conferences he met the most learned psychologists and researchers of the time, experts who were lecturing on the various aspects of gambling addiction and the prevention and treatment of gambling addiction. As a result of these efforts, he developed a network of contacts world-wide, meeting many highly qualified professionals who were willing to share their knowledge with him. In 1997, he himself was invited to the 10th International Conference as a presenter. By 1998, he was already receiving letters of reference from colleagues with PhDs in psychology and credentials in addiction counseling, attesting to his expertise in this field.

In 1995, while living in Saskatchewan, Sol established the Canadian Foundation on Compulsive Gambling (Sask.) Inc. His vision for the Foundation included educating the public by providing information on the dangers of excessive gambling, while at the same time facilitating the development of appropriate resources to identify and treat those affected by problem gambling or compulsive gambling.

As Executive Director of the Foundation, Sol worked closely with Saskatchewan Health, Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation, and Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority. He also sat on Regional Committees throughout the province, to discuss local issues and problems that were a result of the individual demographics of each area, to ensure that the needs of all of the population were being met. He also attended numerous workshops and symposiums across Canada, both as participant and presenter.

He was responsible for staff training courses to develop problem gambling awareness and knowledge of intervention techniques. During his tenure as Executive Director, Sol trained more than five hundred employees at Casino Regina. He also trained fifty executives and field employees of the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, the provincial body responsible for gambling in places where liquor is served.

Having returned to his home province of Quebec, Sol continued to maintain his contacts with the foremost experts on compulsive gambling in North America and abroad. Realizing that the problems associated with government-endorsed gambling were increasing across North America, in 1999 he welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with Brenda Thomas (psychotherapist) in the foundation of Viva Consulting, a Quebec-based company dedicated to issues of problem gambling. In 2002 the company was federally incorporated as a not-for-profit organization under the name Viva Consulting Family Life Inc.

As CEO of Viva Consulting, Sol was invited, along with experts from McGill University and Université de Laval, to appear before a commission at the Quebec National Assembly to discuss the effect of gambling on adolescents (December 1999). This Commission resulted in the passing of a new law (Bill 84) prohibiting the sale of lottery tickets to minors in Quebec.

As consumer advocate with Viva Consulting Family Life Inc., Sol is constantly called upon for his opinions on breaking news in the gambling field. He has been a guest on many radio and television shows, including not only the local stations but also CBC (radio and TV, both French and English stations), and BBC. He has been interviewed for articles in many magazines, including MacLean’s. In addition to the many daily news programs he is regularly called upon to participate in, Sol has also taken part in many radio talk shows, such as Don Hill’s “Wild Rose Forum” (Alberta), Mark Elliot’s “People Helping People” (Ontario), and “The John Rossy Show” (Montreal). As well, he has submitted articles to Toronto Globe and Mail and Ottawa Citizen as a freelance writer.

Sol continues to strive to bring to the attention of both the general public and the government the issues created when gambling is allowed to become a problem. His name and his voice have become an anticipated feature of almost every media article (broadcast or printed) when the issue is gambling.

One highlight of his career was when he was invited to speak at the International Problem Gambling Conference in Nova Scotia (Oct. 2004), where Ralph Nader and Maude Barlow were keynote speakers. A second highlight was being invited to be the keynote speaker Nova Scotia Provincial Volunteer Workshop (“Strength in Community” in Nova Scotia (Oct. 2005).

Each day Sol receives countless phone calls and e-mails from the media for direct and up-to-date responses on current issues. He receives requests for professional consultations from individuals and organizations throughout the world, both on immediate news items and discussions of theory. He is frequently sought after by those doing research for documentaries, tv programs, theatre presentations, and books, as well as post-secondary students whose projects address issues of problem gambling. He has also involved himself several times in helping individuals in need of legal assistance. In addition to all of this, he has given educational presentations to students both at the secondary and post-secondary levels.

Sol makes it a point to respond personally to calls from the problem gamblers who call when they are in crisis. Many of these are referred to Viva Consulting Family Life Inc. from the government sponsored Problem Gambling HelpLine. He listens, consoles, and advises them at the time. If they follow through on his offer of an immediate follow-up appointment, he conducts the initial intake interview, and spends time explaining and demonstrating how electronic gambling machines work. He then arranges to see them further to discuss direct gambling issues, or arranges an appointment for them to meet with a professional to deal with underlying issues.

Sol continues to strive actively to bring to the attention of the government and to the attention of the general public all of the problems created when the Government is the owner, operator and regulator of the gambling industry. To this end, he has been in contact with many different ministries, both at the Municipal, Provincial, and Federal levels.

Sol was invited to become a charter member of a Citizens’ Coalition called EMJEU, a group of individuals deeply concerned about the devastating effects of the government’s expansion and encouragement of gambling. In May, 2004, they announced their intention to “encourage the government and Loto-Quebec to adopt a more ethical and responsible position in the management of gambling”. Sol became the English spokesperson for this bilingual organization.

He was recently involved in a coalition that stopped the movement of the Montreal Casino from its present location to downtown Montreal. He continues to speak out actively, and articulately, on issues brought to the attention of the media. He is also currently involved in several projects dealing with other social injustices in Canada.

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The Greatest Showman

The Worlds Greatest Showman


From the moment before the film starts and the producers thank the audience for coming to the theatre, to the closing credits where we are told that 15,000 jobs were created and hundreds of thousands of hours of work went into the making of this film, my partner and I were mesmerized by the magic they call Hollywood. It is certainly the feel good movie of the season and sure to win awards at the various levels. The singing, the dancing, the circus performances, and the story take us from P.T. Barnum’s sad childhood to his success as a showman and a philanthropist.


The beautiful songs that come and go throughout the film were written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul the duo that composed original songs for the film La La Land for which they won both the Golden Globe and Academy Award.


One role in particular delivered a challenge: that of Jenny Lind, aka The Swedish Songbird, a famous opera singer who captures the attention of American showman P.T. Barnum. Lind is a real historical figure who did indeed work with the real-life Barnum in 1850. In the film, she’s played by Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson, who is perhaps best known to English-speaking audiences for her roles in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation and The Girl on the Train.  The musical highlight, in my estimation, was her performance of a gorgeous ballad “Never Enough”. Alas, the necessities of lip sync. Lind’s powerful vocals are provided by the singer Loren Allred. Allred, who is best known for getting to the final of the third season of The Voice in the USA, tweeted last week saying she was “so elated to announce my involvement in this incredible film as the voice of Jenny Lind, played by the incomparable Rebecca Ferguson.”

Koodos all around to anyone who had anything to do with the making of this film and the list of credits runs forever. Do not miss this film. Oh, and do yourself a favor. Ignore negative revues you will read elsewhere.

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