Archive for the 'Canada' Category

Canada: Choir Boy “Sings” in Montreal Before It Hits Broadway

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

A half century ago, a creative actor/director and immigrant (from South Africa via England), Maurice Podbrey, together with his equal half, Elsa Bolam (and Herb Auerbach and Peter Duffield) managed to knit together a theater company, Centaur, which was and is no easy feat. If that wasn’t nerve wracking enough for a person, Bolam then went on to start another successful one, Geordie Productions.

In an unintentional but perfect nod to the past, Eda Holmes, Centaur’s new artistic director, brings us Choir Boy set in a boys’ prep school while Podbrey’s first production, The Prime of Miss Jean Brody, took place in a girl’s school. The play is written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, who comes with a pretty flashy CV: he’s the Chair of Yale’s School of Drama, where he is also the Playwright in Residence at the Repertory Theatre. and he was also Playwright in Residence for Stratford-Upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare Company – and happens to be a member of the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble. And let’s just throw in here that he wrote the story of Moonlight which won Oscars for best picture and for the writing.

The story is mostly about Pharus (played by Steven Charles), a gay student making his way through a very traditional private school. Charles commands the stage throughout, and we can’t wait to see where his star takes him (to the Broadway production?). His fellow students talk, yell, fight and sing a cappella as they share intimacies and rivalries when the old school values conflict with our modern world in rules, nepotism, faith, sexuality and school board traditions.  Tight direction by Mike Payette keeps you riveted throughout, while Lighting Designer Andrea Lundy’s magic creatively moves you around the set (loved the purple).

Floydd Ricketts, the musical director and arranger, was the right man in the right place to be able to create new arrangements of spirituals, gospel and jazz songs for a cappella harmonies.  Ricketts notes, “Even though this music comes from pain, there is also joy in it”. Dayane Ntibarikure, assistant director and choir movement facilitator, did a brilliant job of  having the actors move “slave slowly” around the scenes, adding foot stomping  to song and subtly evoking a chain gang in the shower scene.

Holmes has tweaked the play runs slightly this year by adding (less expensive) preview shows to get the performance just that more perfect for opening night. You know how much I like a deal, and Centaur offers much for FREE with behind-the-scenes info to enrich your  theater experience: Talk Back after the shows , Sunday Chat Up, Thursday Pre-Show Convo and the Saturday Salon.

How perfect that this golden Centaur season started by lifting our spirits with the power of music blended with this timely story. See Choir Boy in Montreal before you can’t get tickets on Broadway (Dec 2018)!

Location 453 St-Francois-Xavier
corner: Notre-Dame
Tel: 514-288-3161
Dates: til Oct 28
www.centaurtheatre.com
Metro: Place d’Armes

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Canada: Cavalia Dazzles – Combining Equines with Cirque du Soleil-like Acrobats

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Odysseo, the horse centric show, is awesome family entertainment which will WOW every member. If you can imagine taking Cirque du Soleil up a notch by marrying it with a team of gifted equestrians, this would be their offspring.

The show has acrobats, blade-running acrobats and horse acrobats – each team outdoing the other in their antics. There are raucous horses racing through jumps and quiet ballet-like riderless horses dancing to the whims of their female horse whisperer, Sylvia Zerbini.

Then why not throw in some African drumming, singing and dancing – for peace. When you combine 70 horses with 50 performers and all the high technology, multimedia and special effects, you create magic on stage.

The carousel pole acrobatics is  a charming setting for the melange of horse and rider/acrobats, but the white fabric/rope acrobatic act is the perfect “10” for each of the costume designer, set designer, lighting, artistic director and the acrobats themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to imagine it fitting into a tent setting, but horses appear on mountaintops, in an ice-scape, the woods, walking down hills, in rain storms, galloping as fast as the wind and even and splashing in a waterfront finale.

This time we attended with a youngster who had enjoyed horse camp this summer. She loved figuring out the equine trivia questions before the show started. In her child-like mind she imagined “horses dancing like people at a party”. We glanced occasionally at her face as she sat in awe, riveted to the stage watching instead a seamless ballet of people and horses.  And she was really hoping to get splashed by the playful horses.

Don’t wait – book tickets now as the run has been extended to Oct 21 and the price reduced to $60.  If you can afford it, the Rendez-vous VIP package, including dinner (roast beef and shrimp options) with an open bar, popcorn and drinks to take in to the show, a dessert buffet at intermissionoddysseo

(so Quebec-like with cheese there too), a stable visit, and a souvenir, really makes the evening special. This is a great idea for a do-ahead holiday gift for anyone – take the family, join co-workers or have fun with friends.

Location: Odysseo White Big Top at the corner of the boul. Rene-Levesque and De Lorimier
Tel: 866-999-8111
Dates: til Oct 21
www.cavalia.com

www.facebook.com/cavalia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Canada: Night Sky Odyssey is Futuristic Star Gazing at Glen Sutton, Quebec

Monday, August 6th, 2018

Entertainment has always been the stars – today it is the movie, TV and sports ones, but yesteryear it was the sky kind. For thousands of years, the night sky was everyone’s television or computer screen.

There were the stars, of course, and then the planets – if you were lucky enough to have a telescope. So it isn’t surprising that there were tales made up of the different formations of stars. Same stars but different tales for different countries.

In Quebec, at National Geographic ObservEtoiles (Night Sky Odyssey) you can enjoy a tiny bit of yesteryear by climbing a mountai

n by car and then walking through the trail to a dark sky summit in Glen Sutton. Then in total contrast, you get to experience

futuristic augmented reality through specially designed headsets. You gaze through them to see 3D digital renderings of the planets or the constellations. The show consists of the re-telling of the tales of the bears, a scorpion, a snake, a hunter, the scales of justice and always, a love affair, of course. Then you see and learn about the colorful planets, that Saturn’s rings are made of ice and Uranus is sitting on its side. Later on, a high powered laser pointer is used to pinpoint objects in the actual sky that night. Now we know that the North Star barely moves (so that’s why it was always used it for navigating!)  and that satellites move in orbital paths depending on their functions.

This was Jeremy Fontana’s idea. He found himself in Glen Sutton, one of the only ten places in Canada with a dark sky designation, meaning there is no light pollution – and then that Quebecois artistic Eureka moment  happened. He realized it was time to demystify the night sky to the generations who no longer knew it. So we are the lucky ones to see this first, as he has partnered with National Geographic to export this to national parks and cruise ships.

If you’re lucky, (we were!) you might get to see the space station toodle along. We learned that it circles the globe 16 times a day, giving the astronauts  sixteen sunrises and sunsets. We waved but couldn’t see if they waved back.

In Quebec:  National Geographic ObservEtoiles at Au Diable Vert
169, chemin Staines, Glen Sutton, (Québec) J0E 2K0 Canada
Telephone: 450-538-5639
Price: $45.99 which includes the headsets to take home along with the app
www.observetoiles.com   www.audiablevert.com

Note: Right now the shows in Quebec are predominantly in French

 

Canada: Hudson Village Theatre – Savannah Sipping Society is Light Summer Fun

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Many of us enjoy a light read to while away a lazy summer afternoon. At the Hudson Village Theatre, you don’t even have to read to have fun – you can just listen and watch as four women meet, mingle and moan – and become a family of friends.

The director, Ellen David, takes this (Jessie) Jones (Nicholas) Hope (Jamie) Wooten delightful script and gently guides the dynamic quattro of actors as they learn “what is holding you back from one’s past and self-imposed limitations towards a compelling future”.  This could be any one of us.

The performers David chose are as well cast and strong as the four sides of a square. Randa Covington (Jane Wheeler) has defined herself by her work, and doesn’t know how to re-define herself beyond that. She tries to hold on to her safe proper business countenance, but is weighed down by feeling second best in her family. Marlafaye (Lisa Bronwyn Moore) gets the classic “dumped for a younger woman” part, so feelings of anger and rejection are keeping her from moving forward. “I swear the older you get the harder it is to jump start a new life”, she says.

Dot (Kathleen Fee), the oldest of the bunch, has just lost her husband, the only man she has known, and with whom she had planned to retire. She has no idea how to figure out what comes next. Her subtle acting is deliciously wonderful as she delivers many funny zinger lines. Paula Costain as Jinx moves and talks with the right zippy attitude to convince them, as their new “life coach”, to go (as David says)” beyond their comfort zone to a brave new world where they eventually find themselves”. Jinx reminds us that her older sister (now incapacitated with dementia) taught her that “it’s the happy in life that counts”.

The set by Jean-Claude Olivier is a comfortable porch, so the women have an informal place to gently and liquidly reveal their sagas. As this is a “Sipping Society”, drinking props (by Lea Robertson) were a fun challenge due to the many iterations of serving different kinds of alcohol. Marlafaye once toasted, “Girls, here’s to living single and drinking doubles”.

There were more costume changes than you would expect (by Elisabeth De Medeiros), creating a fashion show which helped define the scenes and the forward movement of their lives.

Jamie Wooten, one of the playwrights, was a writer for The Golden Girls, so the quality of their patter and the giggly one-liners is in the same genre of that hysterical show.  When Marlafaye sees Randa’s house for the first time she opines, “Yeah, sure is a pretty place. Everything’s so neat and clean. I’m not like that. Instead of cleaning my house, I just turn off the lights”.  When Randa comments on drinking mead, “This really isn’t so horrible”, Marlafaye responds, “The very words I said on my wedding night”.  Marlafaye also says,  “Sex is like a brownie – when it’s good it’s really good. And when it’s bad….it’s still pretty good!”.

Andrea Romaldi, the artistic director writes, “friendships are our lifelines and support structures. Good friends cheer us, challenge us, bewilder us and irritate us, but ultimately they support and help us grow into our best selves”. Head out to Hudson and lift a glass to friendship.

Location: 28 Rue Wharf, Hudson, QC J0P 1H0
Phone: 450- 458-5361
Dates: til July 22
https://villagetheatre.ca/

 

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Canada: Montreal Centaur’s Theatre: Hosanna – Inside Out

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

Whoa, the stars were aligned at the Press opening of Hosanna. Not only was the the former artistic and executive director here, Roy Surette, who planned this production for Centaur, but the new artistic director, Eda Holmes, who was thrilled to be presenting it – but also – Maurice Podbrey (and wife Elsa), the founding artistic and executive director – AND – the author, Michel Tremblay. All were delighted with the show, as well they should be.
Hosanna_8_Eloi ArchamBaudoin photo Andrée Lanthier

Writing this in 1971, Michel Tremblay was far ahead of the general population’s knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community. In the play he speaks to the gender roles imposed by society at that time, and hope for eventual self-acceptance. Holmes refers to  this in her Director’s notes: “the narrow structures of gender and identity that were available at the time”. We have to applaud his bravery.

Eloi Archambeaudoin revisits his Table D’Hote Theatre role as Hosanna, hairdresser during the day to drag queen at night. The grander Centaur stage was a tabla rosa for lighting designer Audrey-Anne Bouchard to transform Claude Lemieux-rural boy into Hosanna-drag queen, using the uncomfortable giant flashing neon sign “BEAUBIEN” (tip of the hat to Montreal), to the David statue spotlight and the overall red light district red room.Hosanna_2_Eloi ArchamBaudoin and Davide Chiazzese photo Andrée Lanthier

The play reveals the painful sparring between the diva and her boyfriend, Cuirette playing hardass-leather- dude style by Davide Chiazzese. He fights back at her by putting the uncomfortable problems in her face, “You go to bed with makeup on because you don’t want to see who’s underneath”.  He knows Hosanna is stuck “between a woman’s face and a man’s body”. She knows how to spit back, referring to his job as washer woman by day and cowboy by night.

Who in this world doesn’t sometimes wish they could dress up and be someone else? Hosanna hits on this when she proclaims, “I know everyone who is gay in Montreal – even when they don’t know it themselves”.
Hosanna_14_Davide Chiazzese and Eloi ArchamBaudoin photo Andrée Lanthier

Tremblay shows us how we all work on our outsides but really need to be working on our insides. Director Mike Payette notes what a timeless story this really is, because all couples have to face “their notions of love, and how they can exist together”.

Location 453 St-Francois-Xavier
corner: Notre-Dame
Tel: 514-288-3161
Dates: til June 10
Prices: $38.50 – $51.75 (includes deals for students and seniors)
www.centaurtheatre.com
Metro: Place d’Armes

photos by  Andrée Lanthier

Canada – Ottawa, On -Ingenious Ingenium: Canada Science and Technology Museum Re-Opened

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

What can you say about a museum when the 7-year-old you are with stops in her tracks at the entrance because she’s in awe of what she sees? Imagine you are walking thru a video screen of Canadian nature: the aurora borealis, crystals, wheat fields or fire. The museum has been completely re-done, with only two of the all-time favorite exhibits remaining – the crazy kitchen (it’s still so fun watching the video monitor of “drunken” people trying to walk through) and those majestic steam locomotives.
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Visiting with a group of kids with an age range of 4-13, all of them were entranced for over 5 hours. Even though it was a busy weekend day, it rarely felt crowded, since there were so many corners to get lost in. One you may not find was a favorite – go past those hulking locomotives and around a corner to look for the soundproof Sounds of Silence room. Nearby, behind those trains, are movable touchable displays called Sound by Design.

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The 13-year old liked the wearable technology and how it made the great outdoors easier to enjoy. He got to test a hockey helmets ( you get to whack one with a hammer) and perused the development of beekeepers’ gloves.

At Into the Great Outdoors, I was entranced by the land-water car owned by a family who needed it to drive/float to their chalet on an island.  Though the Zoom room was noted for ages 0-8, all of the kids had fun there – especially on the climbing wall with its secret smells and in the wind tunnel. The 4 year-old was in there for hours. We even saw couples on dates walking around in there with silly grins on.IMG_0167

Medical sensations was scary to one of the young girls, but they enjoyed manipulating facial features and guessing what the colorful patterns were which were captured by microscopes and telescopes.

The Exploratek room is near the cafe. Here the kids can gets creative and build buildings, create tube tracks or work with a robot.  The museum helps you keep costs down by making sure there are tables and cozy couches if you want to bring your own lunch, We’d suggest you do this, sinces the line for hot food in the cafe  moved slowly. There was a good selection of healthy foods.

A few times a day there are live demonstrations – we got lucky and saw one on pyrotechnics, including a rocket firing. Three-Two-One blast-off to this interactive fun learning museum.fire

Location: Canada Science and Technology Museum, 1867 St Laurent Blvd, Ottawa, ON K1G 5A3
Telephone: 613-991-3044 or toll-free: 1-866-442-4416
Hours: May 1 to September 1: Open daily; September 2 to April 30: Closed Mondays

https://ingeniumcanada.org

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Canada – Montreal – Go to the Nasty Show while it’s here – Just for Laughs 2017

Monday, July 24th, 2017

I have not seen a nasty show since the days of Bobby Slayton, so I wondered how I would find it. I was actually very pleasantly surprised to find that the show was not so nasty,

Ari Shaffer

Ari Shaffer

but WAS so funny. Don’t get me wrong – there was plenty of swearing and 4-letter words, especially f___ heard incessantly, but we found ourselves laughing out loud more than we had at the galas recently.

Ari Shaffir as host was definitely qualified and funny, with some great lines about Orthodox Jews and their clothing, and about New York City.

Robert Kelly was the first performer, and his description of potty-training a toddler brought me all the way back in time, when my toddler(s) resisted sitting down and doing their thing, preferring to sit in a dirty diaper instead. He discussed how he was taken aback when he realized that he probably has only 30 summers left in his life.

Robert Kelly

Robert Kelly

Yamaneika Saunders, herself a large person, joked about being fat and black, and had the audience in tears, especially when discussing black-boy weed.

Jimmy Carr was next, and he came out with a list of one-liners in a notebook, roasting Montreal, Donald Trump (when Donald Trump took office, little did he know), a takeoff on the word “cunt”, and pedophiles.

Godfrey followed with his comparisons of Trump and Trudeau, a diatribe about vegetarians, and his amazement about vaginas (“people actually come out of there, whole groups of people”).

The show was closed by Big Jay Oakerson covering the topic of buttf__king in prison.

Yamaneika Saunders

Yamaneika Saunders

Jimmy Carr

Jimmy Carr

Godfrey

Godfrey

Big Jay Oakerson

Big Jay Oakerson

Happily, there was no serious heckling as happened the day before. If anything, the audience was standing up to urge the comedians on and to show their glee over the performances.

The show continues until Saturday night the 29th at the Metropolis, 59 Ste-Catherine St. E. Prices range from $45 to $60.

http://www.hahaha.com/en/show/nasty-show-0

 

 

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Discover Parks (etc) in Canada for FREE

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday by visiting the our home and native land. Parks Canada is offering all Canadians a FREE 2017 Discovery Pass so there will be no cost to visit any of their sites. You have the option of visiting 148 locations everywhere in the country. You probably think  they’re all about national parks but Parks Canada is way more than that – their mandate includes marine conservation areas and national historic sites.

You could visit the wreck of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror in Nunavut, view Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan in Kluane National park, ice fields in Jasper, our country’s birthplace within the fortifications of Quebec, Alexander Graham Bell’s inventions,  walk amongst the flower pot rocks on the ocean floor in the Bay of Fundy, Haida Heritage sites, or even Anne of Green Gables‘ writer, Lucy Maude Montgomery’s house.

Here’s a challenge: See how many of their iconic red Adironack chairs you can find and Instagram them. If you want to drool – and – plan ahead, get copies of the National Geographic books Guide to the National Parks of Canada and Guide to the National Historic Sites of Canada.

Yes, you can camp, but you can also reserve a yurt, a goutte d’Ô which resembles a water droplet, a micro cube, large modern houses called oTENTiks or be one of the first to sleep in a hanging Cocoon in Cape Breton.

SBCocoon

www.parkscanada.gc.ca
Tel: 888-773-8888

guides

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Canada – Winter Break Idea: See Wildlife Up Close in Canadian Safari at Parc Omega

Friday, February 10th, 2017

If  you’re in the Montreal or Ottawa area,  you are only 1 1/2 hours away from an exciting safari adventure. Parc Omega is the perfect day outing for kids (and folks) of all ages. It’s an 800 hectare park where the animals roam free and you are “caged” in your car. It’s such an easy drive to be able to come face to face with Canadian wildlife: reindeer, elk, arctic wolf and fox, bison, musk ox, turkey, boar, coyote, black bear, and many kinds of deer.IMG_0362

Along a 12-kilometere safari nature route which takes you past lakes, meadows, small valleys, forests and rocky hills, you meander at your own pace. You can pick up bag of carrots at the visitor center (or bring your own), and as you slowly make your way through, you are allowed to open the windows to feed the wildlife. Kids are thrilled that they do not have to be in their car seats here and can flit from side to side of the vehicle to say hello to the animals.

You tune your radio to a station which fills you in on all sorts of information about the species you will be seeing.

  • We learned which males are good daddies and stay around to raise the youngsters and which ones only show up for mating season.
  • I never knew that the musk oxen’s heads are strong as hammers and they butt and knock everything down. Their quarters are specially built to withstand their strength.IMG_5699
  •  You pass by low slung “condos” for boars designed to keep the big predators out.
  • Coming here in winter gives you the opportunity to see how the arctic fox blends into the snowscape.

About 2/3 through, there’s a place to stop,  get out to stretch legs and visit some wooden buildings for bathrooms, gifts, food and hot cocoa. Friendly deer are in the parking area to get a snack too – those carrots – buy lots.

This is one experience that all Canadian families should take advantage of. It’s not only educational and fun, but will bring lasting memories for the whole family.IMG_0369

Location: Parc Omega is a safari park in Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, Quebec, Canada
Address: 399 Route 323 North, Montebello, QC J0V 1L0 Click for map Google Map

Phone: (819) 423-5487
www.parcomega.ca

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Canada – Montreal – Bakerfield Mist: Artsy Fartsy Tryst at Centaur

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

It is really hard to take the boring authenticity-proving side of the modern art world and make it into a delightful audience loving (2 standing ovations on opening night) theatre piece.

Stephen Sachs, the playwright, took on the true story of Terry Horton, a former truck driver who scavenged a painting for $5 at a second-hand shop as a gift for a friend who needed cheering up. Maude Gutman, as she is called in this play, is a lover of kitsch – her trailer is overwhelmed by it (A congratulatory shout out here for the jam-packed shelves created by set and costume designer Pam Johnson, who really needed my Smart Shopping Montreal book to find all that stuff!). At a yard sale, the local art teacher noticed the painting and mentioned it might be a Jackson Pollock; and so begins the tale. Somehow Gutman managed to get a major art house in NYC to send an expert over to check out her claim.

And therein lies this sparring pied-a-deux. A foul-mouthed bourbon drinking trailer park madam vs. the snooty elitist artsy gentleman. Human authenticity versus art authenticity is set to be proven. Nicola Cavendish walks the walk and talks the talk. Her sneaker grounded stalking moves her around the trailer while her expert verbal comedic timing keeps the pace going. She even manages to give the garbage pail “a line”.

Jonathan Monro (Lionel Percy), himself a renaissance man (competitive swimmer, piano prodigy, singer, director, lyricist, actor), glides around her, expertly dodging her verbal and physical attacks. My take-away forever (as a former NYC art teacher) is the exuberant and sexually suggestive way in which Monro teaches us the how and why a Jackson Pollock painting is important – and not just a bunch of paint splashes on a canvas.
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Though Percy always trusts his “first blink”, it is Nicola Cavendish who summed it up brilliantly when she observed Pollock’s paintings, “You can see that what emerges is layers and layers and layers. I think it’s a lesson on how we can learn to look more closely, whether we are talking about a piece of art or whether we’re talking about the woman who lives across the street who’s offensive.” Modern art is beyond the understanding of the ordinary citizen, and this play opens the door a crack as to what it is all about, how it works and doesn’t work. The show makes it all fun and drives Maude’s trailer expertly to the end to find out if she goes from rags to riches.

Location: 453 St-Francois Xavier
corner: Notre-Dame
Tel: 514-288-3161
Dates: Jan 31-Feb 26, 2017
Prices $28- $51
www.centaurtheatre.com
Metro: Place d’Armes

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