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LE NEWSLETTER

May 17, 2007

Well, the May long weekend is just around the corner and hopefully this great weather will hold up!  I'm so sorry for not mentioning Mother's Day last week - hope that you all showed that special woman in your life how much you care.

Victoria Day weekend offers something special for those that love old skool, Official Toronto WBLK Reunion Party featuring all of your favourite WBLK hosts from back in the day!  Get those tickets now as these events sell out - don't miss out!

Mark your calendars for June 6th for the CD release of
Kayte Burgess' sophomore album, Checked Baggage!  Details below so check it out!

I would be remiss as a Canadian not to mention the potential for the Ottawa Senators to move towards winning the Stanley Cup!  Guess we'll find out next week!

 
::HOT EVENTS::

The Official Toronto WBLK Reunion Party- Sunday, May 20

Source:  Consepshun Entertainment

For all of the true old school guru's … remember a radio station out of Buffalo NY that we all used to listen to during the 80's and 90's?  Do the names DJ Huk-her, Terri Davis, Al Wood, Debbie Simms and The Magic Man ring a bell?  What about a little segment from 10 pm 'til 2 am called the QUIET STORM? 

Join us on Victoria Day Long Weekend Sunday featuring all of your favourite WBLK hosts from back in the day: DJ Huk-her, Terri Davis, The Magic Man & Al Wood - (R.I.P. Break-a-Dawn) as well as a fashion show by Jane Pascale showcasing her designer swimwear line Adjua.  Music will be provided by DJ Quincy (Ebony Soundcrew), Carl Allen, DJ Wayne (Old School Request Party), The "Mailman" George Fynn and Reddy Fox.  The evening will be hosted by comedian Jay Martin.

SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2007
THE OFFICIAL TORONTO WBLK (93.7FM, BUFFALO) REUNION PARTY
and GQ Henderson of MOVE aphrodisiac birthday bash
6 Degrees Night Club (formerly Berlin)

2335 Yonge Street (north of Eglinton)
Dress to impress
Doors open at 9:30 pm
Tickets: $20 in advance
Contact :  info@consepshun.com, eddie@gotoaparty.com or call 416-781-1695 ext. 3 to purchase tickets or see ticket outlet location on the flyer
www.consepshun.com

Kayte Burgess CD Release Party – June 6, 2007

After lots of hard work, Kayte Burgess has finished her sophomore album Checked Baggage.  Working with various great producers like Nu Vintage, Adrian Eccleston, 2 Rude, Buddah Brothers and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, this album is a variety of sounds and textures to provide a little something for everybody.   Kayte Burgess is one of the hardest working independent artists here in Toronto, and it shows in the new album, so don’t miss the unveiling of this new album, a great live show and a chance to catch Kayte before she heads south.  Also be sure to catch the opening act of Voices Of The Underground featuring Wade O. Brown, Ammoye, Henrii, Thomas Reynolds and Dane Hartsell performing their original material as only they can, don’t miss it!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6, 2007
KAYTE BURGESS CD RELEASE PARTY
Revival Bar
783 College St. (College and Shaw)
10:00 pm opening act - The voices of the underground
11:00 pm Kayte Burgess
$5 @ Door
$15 for admission and CD
Tel: 416-535-7888
www.revivalbar.com

::RECAP::

World Comedy Clash Recap

Funny!!  That’s one word to describe the
World Comedy Clash held at Panasonic Theatre last Sunday night.  I hadn’t been to a comedy night since Russell Peters was in town in October 2005!   

Hosted and masterly conducted by the comedic antics of
Jay Martin, the show, despite a late start and late finish, was a success.  It's fitting that Russell Peters was one of the successful comics that encouraged Jay to enter into the ring of comedy.  On this particular night, the host of international comics representing Jamaica, India, England, Ghana, Uganda, Trinidad, Barbados and the USA were veterans of the stage, except for Trix from Ghana who was recognized as the rookie but had no problem getting a huge response from the audience.  He was one of my favourites. 

Honourable mention also goes to
Jay Martin for his exhaustive performances between each set, not to mention costume and wig changes!  Jay's comedy, it should be noted, is family friendly, meaning that he stays away from raunchy humour with easy expletives.  I believe that my overall favourite was probably Paul Chowdhry of India (via England) but that may be partially based on the fact that I, too, have English heritage and do not have an island heritage so the humour was more of a fit for me.  Also a special mention goes to my girl, trey anthony, who brought to life her character out of ‘da kink’, Miss Collette – absolutely hilarious!  The audiences just love that woman.  Drew Thomas of the USA was also very funny, understanding his Canadian audience more than most have in the past.  Every comic brought a unique blend of talent and it all added up to one side-splitting evening. 

I love evenings of entertainment that embrace our city's multicultural texture and this one was no exception with each comic bringing their own brand of humour.  The comics brought it, the audience received it and gave the love right back.  Stay tuned for details on the next Comedy Clash! 

::TOP STORIES::

Sandra Oh's Doing Just Fine

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(May 12, 2007) LOS ANGELES — Your moment has come. The producer and director have looked at 3,000 actors. They've been everywhere - New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto - seeking a young Asian who can play a teenage drug addict and prostitute on Vancouver's skid row. Now it's your turn: an audition for what may be your first feature film. You're a complete unknown, barely 21, green as Kentucky bluegrass, still enrolled in theatre school, not even a professional. You've taken a late-night bus to Toronto from Montreal, slept in the bus station, done vocal warm-ups in a public park. Excuse me, says
Sandra Oh. I need a minute to get focused. Of course, they say. Please, go ahead. You lie down on the floor, on your back, a very strange thing to do. The room is silent. A long minute passes, then a second one, then five. The producer, Maryke McEwen, and the director Sturla Gunnarsson, exchange glances. What exactly is going on here? Five more minutes pass. You have not moved, but other toes are tapping. Important people are being kept waiting. You are either crazy or courageous - perhaps both. Never mind. This is your process and you will honour it.

Sandra Oh continues to lie on the floor. Finally, she gets up, does the reading, nails it. She lands the part, the lead role in a CBC movie, The Diary of Evelyn Lau. The production later suspends shooting so that she can graduate. Later, her performance is nominated for a Gemini at home, and wins a FIPA d'or for best actress at Cannes. Not half bad for first time out of the box. "You put her on the map," I said to Gunnarsson. Not at all, he demurs, 14 years later. "She put herself on the map. She stood out from the beginning. She had then what she has now, a tremendous emotional accessibility and a steely inner core. And the theatre training: mime, masque, improv, method. She could do it all." A balmy April afternoon in Los Angeles. Sandra Oh slides her grey Prius into a spot right in front of the Edendale Grill, an under-the-radar bistro, once a fire station, not far from her L.A. home. An elfin slip of a thing, 5 foot 5, she's wearing a knee-length, linen, cream-coloured jacket, a cream blouse and grey slacks, minimal makeup, and carries a tiny black Marc Jacobs bag. In many ways, these are the best of times for Oh. Grey's Anatomy, the ABC medical series in which she co-stars as Cristina Yang, a talented, nakedly ambitious surgical intern, is America's seventh most popular show, with an estimated 19.2 million viewers a week. In drama, it's second only to CSI.

In two seasons, her performances have won her a Golden Globe, two Screen Actor's Guild awards and two Emmy nominations. Before Grey's, Oh had logged seven seasons on HBO's Arli$$ as Rita Wu, the feisty assistant to Robert Wuhl's sports superagent. She also played major parts in the smash indie hit Sideways - directed by her (now former) husband, Alexander Payne - and in Under the Tuscan Sun, directed by Audrey Wells. And she has appeared in some 30 other films, including a recent cameo in Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration, a voiceover in Mulan II, and leading roles in Mina Shum's Double Happiness and Don McKellar's Last Night. You'll have to look hard to find a bad review. At 35, Oh is now believed to be earning in the vicinity of $250,000 (U.S.) an episode for Grey's Anatomy -- a prime-time star in the very prime of life. Remarkable, by any measure. It's all the more so because Sandra Miju Oh -- her middle name means "pretty pearl" -- is of Korean descent. Unfair though it is, the rules have always been different for non-Caucasian actors. Call it racial profiling. Call it stupidity. The fact is, members of racial and ethnic minorities don't win as many parts. They can't win them because they don't get invited to the auditions. Or if they do, they're not serious candidates, unless the part expressly calls for an Asian, Hispanic, aboriginal or African-American.

"When it comes to getting acting roles," Oh once said, "I cannot compare myself to a white girl. If I did, I'd probably die." Even now, she says, "I rarely get work by auditioning. It's very difficult to get into the rooms. I went through a really depressed period, where I had no access. The things that have come up for me have been as a result of being seen in Canadian films or short films or onstage. I've been here almost 12 years. Not much has changed." So for Oh, daughter of middle-class Korean immigrants to Canada, to have become one of the biggest stars on American network TV is simply extraordinary. But be careful what you wish for. Yes, she concedes, nursing a Manhattan on the Edendale's back terrace: "I'm very happy. My life is fantastic. I'm so grateful for this job, and I've never worked harder. But life is so much more complicated." With A-list status comes the whirlwind. The noisome swirl of publicists, stylists and show groupies. The sweat-stained swarms of paparazzi and gossipmongers. The wholesale, careless invasion of your private space. Unmarked black SUVs park outside your house. In the gossip sheets, there's rampant speculation about your love life. You attend a play and find people outside the theatre holding your photo and asking for autographs. Your divorce papers turn up on the Internet. This is not what you bargained for. Success, in short, is not an unalloyed blessing. "You yourself can get lost" in it, she says, becoming a product for sale. "It's interesting. You get to a place where you, as an artist, can do the kind of work you want and reach a wide audience, but it brings a whole different set of challenges." It would be dead simple for Oh to become completely immersed in the Hollywood hustle. She has all the right credentials. Nod your head and the train of panderers arrives, serving whatever your heart desires.

Oh refuses to nod. Apart from mandatory red-carpet appearances, she avoids the limelight. She often carries an umbrella to thwart paparazzi cameras. One of her favourite restaurants is not The Ivy in chic West Hollywood, but a hole-in-the-wall called Nozawa, in a nondescript strip mall on Ventura Boulevard, run by what she playfully calls a sushi Nazi, a tall Japanese chef with a droopy eye. Her home is in L.A.'s eastern 'burbs, near Glendale, not in Santa Monica or Venice Beach, which she calls "a little bit skanky." In interviews with the press, she politely declines to talk about any therapy she might have undergone ("No"), her current relationship with Andrew Featherston, drummer with the indie band the Hereafter ("No, no, no"), or her three-year marriage to director Payne, which ended in 2006 ("No, no, no, no, no") or the recent controversy that erupted on Grey's Anatomy after co-star Isaiah Washington (Oh's love interest on the show) referred to another cast member, T.R. Knight, as a "faggot." "I've learned my lesson over and over again," she says. "You just can't talk about it. I choose not to." But she does acknowledge that the incident had an impact on the show, the cast, the crew, the network. Oh's social life in Los Angeles is not spent in the fast lane. Her closest pals are other low-key Canadians. There's writer Doug Barber, a long-time friend, who is renting her coach house. There's Patrick Gallagher, a National Theatre School classmate, whom she helped land a role in Sideways and who recently scored in Night at the Museum. There's Vancouver's Kristin Lehman, now starring in Fox's new series, Drive; Lehman's fiancé, actor Adam Reed, whom Oh grew up with in Ottawa; Edmonton's Nathan Fillion (also in Drive); Toronto's Waneta Storms, another NTS alumna, who recently stayed two months with Oh and who plans to return next month.

On free evenings, the group often assembles to play The Settlers of Catan, a board game about taking over the world. "We brutalize each other," says Oh. "It's no holds barred." Canadians taking over the world? Only in board games. The woman who runs Oh's website, Margo Purcell, is her oldest friend; they grew up two doors from each other. Purcell lives in Calgary now, but they still talk at least twice a week. During her 12-week hiatus from Grey's this summer, instead of doing another film or off-Broadway play, Oh is taking it relatively easy. "I did a play last year in New York [Satellites, at the Public Theatre] and I think it almost killed me." This year, laden with gifts for her nieces, she'll fly to Vancouver to see older sister Grace; to Toronto to see her younger brother, Ray (she keeps an apartment there); and to Ottawa to visit her parents and old friends. Sandra Oh is still doing it her way - lying on the floor, grounded. Oh grew up on Camwood Crescent, a quiet street in Nepean, a suburb of Ottawa. Her parents, Joon-Soo (John) and Young-Nan, had come to Canada in the late 1960s, via graduate school in Detroit, having fled the political turmoil of South Korea. They worked hard - her father was a businessman, her mother a biochemist - went faithfully to church, motivated their children to achieve, and held regular family council meetings to discuss issues that involved them all. Grace is now a crown attorney and mother of two in Vancouver; Ray is completing a PhD in medical genetics in Toronto. But even today, about once a year the Ohs hold family meetings with their adult children. A pivotal one occurred in the spring of 1990. Over the sometimes vehement objections of her parents, Sandra had determined to pursue a career in theatre. An A student through high school, president of her class, she'd been offered a four-year journalism scholarship to Carleton University. He parents urged her to accept. The acting profession was difficult enough, they argued, without the additional burden of her race. Get the degree first, they said, then you can act all you want. And the Ohs, high achievers, viewed theatre as somehow déclassé, not a profession that would serve humanity. Sandra resisted that argument vociferously. "They just didn't understand," she says. "Most parents, especially immigrant parents, would not want their child to go into something as intensely insecure as acting. I know they did it with my best interests at heart. And I am eternally grateful for the struggle." Compared to that seminal domestic challenge, she adds, the obstacles encountered in stage, film and television have been child's play.

The family debate had been gestating for years, of course. Oh's appetite for the stage began early, at age four, when she started ballet classes. She was very good, but not good enough: In her early teens, she recognized that her talent was not likely to vault her into the elite corps, and she hung up her toes. But long before then, she had seen and been mesmerized by a production of the musical Annie, watching it from "the nosebleed seats" at the National Arts Centre. "I basically freaked out," she recalls. "Like, I had to do what they were doing." Oh started appearing in class plays, including The Canada Goose, at 10 - she can still recite her part. "I was the emcee," recalls Purcell, "and she was the Wizard of Woe." Purcell remembers Oh as a top student. "Once, she got an eight out of 10 in dictée, French spelling, and she would not accept that. A nine was acceptable, but not an eight. The teacher had to console her." Her sister Grace says she and Sandy, as they called her, regularly put on plays for their parents and anyone else who wanted to attend. "My sister is a big personality," she says. "She's very funny, very loving and generous, direct and to the point. She does not put up with a lot of nonsense. And she's very driven. She always knew what she wanted to do, and she worked very hard to make it happen. I envied her for knowing." By high school at Sir Robert Borden, Oh was already working with community drama groups, the Ottawa Improv Games and Skit Row High, a comedy troupe. "That improv work and training was hugely formative," she says. "I've used it in my life and my work constantly. I did it all the time on Arli$$, and when I did a cameo [as vice-principal Gupta] in Garry Marshall's The Princess Diaries, his entire direction to me was 'Go make funny.' " Marshall liked what he saw: Originally scripted for one scene, Oh ended up in several. And then, after high school, the elephant in the room: the looming rhubarb at home. Oh applied to a drama school in New York, but was rejected, then auditioned for Concordia University's theatre program. That path would have yielded a degree, and might have been an acceptable compromise, but she failed that audition, too - bombed, in fact. Some of her friends think it might have been by unconscious design. She was accepted, however, at the National Theatre School, doing a scene from Macbeth as part of her audition.

Oh's pitch to her parents was that she would give acting a try for a few years and, if that failed, return to school. "We did not say 'You should do this or that,' " says John Oh, recalling the pivotal family meeting. "We tried to persuade her to do the academic first, but we left it to Sandy to make the final decision." "She had so much passion," says her mother. "She said to us, 'If I don't take this, I'll never forgive myself.' " "I saw her passion," recalls Purcell. "And she could not turn it off. It was what called to her, and she was going to do it. Even in high school, she had started socking her money away in bonds. Who did that in high school? But she knew she would need it one day." And she did. Her parents declined to pay her NTS tuition. Perry Schneiderman, artistic director at NTS during Oh's years there, calls her "a force of nature. She had no tools, but she had the instincts." Some performers, he says, just have "a watchability and you just know: an energy, an inner light, like a magnet. I remember seeing Sandra at a social function once, just sitting off by herself, and all she did was light a cigarette and blow out the smoke and you knew immediately - this is a star." Waneta Storms recalls Oh as "energetic, electric. Her emotions were always at the ready, [enough] to blow your mind. What's happening now is she knows when it's wankery. She knows it has to be harnessed and how to harness it." The Evelyn Lau film catapulted Oh out of obscurity. But watching her play a heroin-addicted prostitute cannot have been easy for her parents. "I could not talk to them about it. I made my sister do it. I think there was a small screening in Toronto, and Grace had to sit them down and prepare them for what they were about to see. They had a hard time at church after it aired. But that was the first time my mother said to me, 'That must have been really hard.' And maybe it was the first time they saw that there was a true sense of worth in what I was doing. That was very meaningful to me."

On the set of Evelyn Lau, which she considers one of the two best films she has made (the other is Sideways), Oh met actor, writer and director Mina Shum. "I have a script that I want you to read," Shum told her. Eventually, Shum scraped together enough money to make Double Happiness -- a film, ironically, about a young Asian woman who must overcome the opposition of her parents to start a career in theatre. Four years later came McKellar's Last Night, about several people facing the end of civilization. After that, Oh decided to try her luck in Hollywood. She starved for a while, but within a year had landed Arli$$, a solid base on which to build. The show was cancelled twice, but then renewed, largely, she thinks, because HBO desperately needed half-hour original programming, to fill a slot between Sex and the City and The Sopranos. Her career gained further momentum with Sideways, the result, no doubt, of her relationship with Payne, who cast her as the flirty wine maven. It was, she says, "the consummate filmmaking experience, a great cast [Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen], a great crew, a budget of $15-million, and 50 days to shoot it. Producers should know this: Put the money in. You will get it back." Sideways's world-wide box office to date: $109-million and counting. She credits Under the Tuscan Sun, which was running on flights between New York and to L.A. during pilot season four years ago, with earning her the part on Grey's Anatomy. Network producers saw the film and called her in.

The future remains uncertain. In addition to professional issues - How long should she stay on the show? Will success compromise her ability to get other roles? - there are personal considerations, such as motherhood. "It's a question I'm constantly and actively navigating," she says. "I wish I had more time. I love my nieces, but that's not the same as having your own children. On the other hand, Chandra Wilson [another Grey's cast member] has three children and had one during the show. Seeing that is inspiring. It makes me think I could do it." Oh has also thought seriously about heading back to Canada to act, to help fill what she sees as a gaping hole in television. "I don't know what it would take. No one has given me a script, but I would not mind going home and acting with some of my friends." She hasn't fully come to terms with how big a star the show has helped make her. Even to acknowledge it, she fears, is problematic. "This is one of my challenges," she says, draining the last of her cocktail. "You're in the system, and the system will never let your forget that you're in the system. So you just have to try to continue to be who you are, and not be stupid."

Sandra, before Cristina

Long before Sandra Oh attained mainstream fame as Cristina Yang on Grey's Anatomy, she was already one of those faces instantly recognizable from earlier TV and film endeavours. Here are six of her most memorable character turns:

The Diary of Evelyn Lau (1993)

Based on Lau's book, Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, the low-budget Canadian feature garnered rave reviews for Oh's portrayal of the teen who fled her strict parents, and fell into drug addiction and prostitution on the streets of Vancouver.

Double Happiness (1994)

The breezy indie placed Oh into one of her first lead roles, as Jade Li - a spirited young Chinese-Canadian torn between the temptation of modern romance (with a white fellow student) and her parents' traditional values.

Arli$$ (HBO, 1996 - 2002)

Oh appeared in all six seasons of the HBO comedy as Rita Wu, the well-organized, inscrutable personal assistant of scheming sports agent Arliss Michaels (Robert Wuhl).

Bean (1997)

As one Bernice Schimmel, Oh played a member of an art-museum staff that unwisely entrusts Rowan Atkinson's dotty TV character with the care of Whistler's Mother.

Last Night (1998)

Oh is a standout in the acclaimed Canadian feature. When circumstances prevent her pragmatic character, Sandra, from spending the last night on Earth with her husband, she enters into a suicide pact with a stranger (Don McKellar, who wrote and directed).

Six Feet Under (2001)

Oh makes a brief but indelible appearance in a first-season episode of the HBO drama. Billed simply as "porn starlet," she delivers a startling and heartfelt eulogy at a friend's funeral.

The 18th-Annual MuchMusic Video Awards Live on MuchMusic Sunday, June 17th

Source:  MuchMusic

(May 14, 2007) Let the party begin!  The nominees for the People’s Choice Awards are out, so music fans nationwide can now choose the winners.  The artists with the most votes will be crowned live at the 18th-annual MuchMusic Video Awards on June 17th.  Voting begins NOW, via both online and text.  For even more access, muchmusic.com delivers a killer interactive nominee experience that includes all nominated videos with downloads and ringtones.   To view all the nominated videos, hit the People’s Choice Playlist on MuchAXS, muchmusic.com’s viewer-controlled broadband community.  To max out the multi-platform experience, the People’s Choice Playlist also links to downloads and ringtones for all 20 nominated artists.  To vote for all four categories, either go online to muchmusic.com or text “MMVA” to 299299.  There is no limit on the number of times music lovers can vote, and there is no charge for voting (with the exception of carrier delivery fees).     The MMVAs have always been bringing fans and artists together, and since the first MMVAs fans have selected winners.  The list of previous winners is a who’s who of Canadian and International talent, including Simple Plan (record four-time winners!), Fall Out Boy, Avril Lavigne, Green Day, and many, many more. The 2007 People’s Choice Nominees are: 

Favourite Canadian Artist:
Avril Lavigne / “Girlfriend”
City and Colour / “Comin’ Home”
George / “Talk To Me”
k-os / “Sunday Morning”
Nelly Furtado / “Say It Right”
 
Favourite International Artist:
Akon / “Smack That”
Fergie / “Fergalicious”
Gwen Stefani / “The Sweet Escape”
Hilary Duff / “With Love”
Justin Timberlake / “SexyBack”
 
Favourite Canadian Group:
Alexisonfire / “This Could Be Anywhere In The World”
Billy Talent / “Devil In A Midnight Mass”
Hedley / “Gunnin’”
Nickelback / “Far Away”
Three Days Grace / “Pain”
 
Favourite International Group:
Evanescence / “Call Me When You’re Sober”
The Killers / “When You Were Young”
My Chemical Romance / “Welcome To The Black Parade”
Pussycat Dolls / “Buttons”
Red Hot Chili Peppers / “Dani California”

About the MuchMusic Video Awards:  MuchMusic delivers today’s hottest chart-toppers and celebrities on Sunday June 17th with The 18th Annual MuchMusic Video Awards, airing live at 9pm ET MuchMusic and on broadband at MuchAXS.  Christina Aguilera, Pamela Anderson, Beastie Boys, The Black Eyed Peas, Destiny's Child, Evanescence, Fall Out Boy, Nelly Furtado, Paris Hilton, The Killers, Lenny Kravitz, Avril Lavigne, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shakira, Britney Spears and Timbaland are just a slice of the international superstars who have fired up the fans at past MMVAs.  Last year’s show reached 3.5 million viewers in Canada and 100 million around the globe, with broadcasts in 65 countries.

The ultimate in red-carpet cool kicks things off at 7:30pm ET with the Red Carpet Arrivals Special airing live on MuchMusic. The MMVAs are all about audience access, and this year’s show is delivered on broadband at MuchAXS, on mobile phones, and in High Definition and 5.1 surround sound. Fans can stay tuned to MuchMusic and
muchmusic.com for more information.  Additional coverage on Star!, 104.5 CHUM FM, CitytvHD and Citytv.

Obituary: Yolanda King, 51

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(May 16, 2007) ATLANTA —
Yolanda Denise King, daughter and eldest child of civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has died, said Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center. Ms. King died late Tuesday in Santa Monica, Calif., at age 51. Mr. Klein said the family did not know the cause of death but that relatives think it might have been a heart problem. The actor, speaker and producer was the founder and head of Higher Ground Productions, billed as a “gateway for inner peace, unity and global transformation.” On her company's website, Ms. King described her mission as encouraging personal growth and positive social change. Ms. King was also an author and advocate for peace and non-violence, and held memberships in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — which her father co-founded in 1957 — and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Her death comes more than a year after the death of her mother, Coretta Scott King. She appeared in numerous films and played Rosa Parks in the 1978 miniseries King. She also appeared in Ghosts of Mississippi. Born in 1955 in Montgomery, Ala., Ms. King was just an infant when her home was bombed during the turbulent civil rights era.

She was the most visible and outspoken among the Kings' four children during activities honouring this year's Martin Luther King Day in January, the first since Coretta Scott King's death. At her father's former Atlanta church, Ebenezer Baptist, she performed a series of one-actor skits on King Day this year that told stories including a girl's first ride on a desegregated bus and a college student's recollection of the 1963 desegregation of Birmingham, Ala. She also urged the audience at Ebenezer to be a force for peace and love, and to use the King holiday each year to ask tough questions about their own beliefs on prejudice. “We must keep reaching across the table and, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, feed each other,” Ms. King said. When asked then by The Associated Press how she was dealing with the loss of her mother, Ms. King responded: “I connected with her spirit so strongly. I am in direct contact with her spirit, and that has given me so much peace and so much strength.” A flag at the King Center, which Ms. King's mother founded in 1968 and where she was a board member, was lowered to half-staff on Wednesday. Ms. King is survived by her sister, the Rev. Bernice A. King; two brothers, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King; and an extended family.

Chrisette Michele: Look Out Now

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(May 11, 2007) Beyonce and Rihanna better make way. There's a new R&B chanteuse on the block. And she has the power of Jay-Z behind her
. Chrisette Michelle is Def Jam's newest signing and will release her soulful, jazz-influenced debut album, 'I Am,' on June 19. According to a label rep, the set features collaborations with 10-time Grammy Award winner Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, as well as hit-makers, will. i. am, John Legend and Salaam Remi. The 24-year-old Long Island native, who has recently appeared on albums by Nas and Jay-Z, knocked label brass off their feet during a personal audition. Even Antonio "L.A." Reid has taken notice. "When Chrisette Michele enters a room, the room becomes a better place," he said. And the buzz is building. Four of her tracks are available on her MySpace page, with one, titled 'Your Joy' -- a touching ode to her father -- has been heralded as the "Single of the Week" on itunes on May 15.  Though she doesn't want to be stereotyped as a Neo-Soul artists, comparisons to some of the biggest names in the genre still occur. She's not fazed by it.

"I'm excited about finding my place amongst young composers like Alicia Keys and Jill Scott," she said. "My goal from the moment I was signed, was to create a seamless album that mixes soul and pop in a way that will have people coming back again and again." National audiences will get a chance to experience Michelle's flow when she heads out on a month-long tour with platinum-selling Neo-Soul crooner Musiq Soulchild, beginning July 6 in Baltimore. Tour dates below.

July
6 Baltimore, MD Afram
11 Chicago, IL House of Blues
12 Toronto, Ont. Phoenix Theatre
13 Detroit, MI Chene Park
15 Nashville, TN Ryman Theatre
19 Newark, NJ NJ PAC
20 Philadelphia, PA Penn's Landing
21 Atlantic City, NJ Tropicana
24-25 New Orleans, LA House Of Blues
27 Omaha, NE Holland PAC
29 Kansas City, MO Beaumont

Aug
3 San Diego, CA Humphrey's
4 Los Angeles, CA The Wilshire
6 San Francisco, CA Fillmore

Robin Thicke To Support Beyonce Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 10, 2007) *It was announced Wednesday that
Robin Thicke will serve as the opening act for Beyonce during the North American leg of her world tour, which kicks off July 6th at the Superdome in New Orleans.  The son of actor Alan Thicke and actress Gloria Loring will be supporting his current album, “The Evolution of Robin Thicke,” which features the No. 1 R&B hit, “Lost Without U.”  After two weeks of tour information being leaked in bits and pieces, the full official schedule of dates for Beyonce’s tour was finally announced Wednesday. [See itinerary below.]  Officially titled "The Beyonce Experience brought to you by Samsung and L'Oreal Paris," the stage show will feature Beyonce’s all-female band and several “surprises in a newly-created high-tech state-of-the-art concert environment,” according to a press release.        VIP Concert Tour Packages are available exclusively at http://welovebeyonce.com. Further details on presales and public on-sales for other cities on Beyonce's 2007 world tour itinerary will be available on her official fan site.  "The Beyonce Experience brought to you by Samsung and L'Oreal Paris"

::MUSIC NEWS::

Amy Winehouse - Fine Wine

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop Music Critic

(May 12, 2007)
Amy Winehouse can't have any great liking for the press, given the Britney-esque mania for chronicling her every bad habit and indiscretion observed by the U.K. tabloids. At home, the London native can't even shop for booze in the early morning without some idiot snapping a photo and unleashing waves of horrified column inches. And if anyone's earned the right to indulge before noon, it's probably Winehouse, since the 23-year-old soul songstress has been forced to suffer through myriad journalists wondering aloud about such private topics as alcoholism, eating disorders and manic depression on pretty much a daily basis since her fine second album, Back to Black, blew up late last year. A "bad girl" persona – nurtured in her signature single, "Rehab," and borne out by such amusing antics as turning up loaded on the Charlotte Church show, vomiting during gigs and heckling Bono with a "Shut up, I don't give a f--k!" at the Q Awards (wonderful, that) – has no doubt contributed to the diminutive pop star's rapid rise (which includes a performance at June 3's MTV Movie Awards).  But that persona often seems to overwhelm actual discussion of her music – which, incidentally, is mighty good.

The beehived, heavily tattooed Winehouse might be a wee Jewish girl from North London, but she can snarl and wail like Etta James or Eartha Kitt, and her raunchy, soul-baring lyrics speak to a major songwriting talent who's just getting started. Nevertheless, despite her inquisitor's diligent attempt to steer conversation away from tabloid topics and to focus on how she hit upon such an outwardly unlikely musical career, Winehouse proves a rather trying interview.  Her label can't find her for half an hour, then when she's reached via cellphone on the streets of Boston ("Are you Amy Winehouse? Omigod, I love you so much!" squeals a passing fan at one point), most questions meet with sighs and shrugged responses of the "I don't know" variety. One can often sense eyes being rolled on the other end. A couple of times she launches into non-sequitur chatter that draws a baffled "Pardon me?" from this writer, only to respond curtly: "I wasn't talking to you."  The plug is pulled about eight minutes in. Not much light, then, is shed upon how a nice, British girl born to a cabbie father and a pharmacist mother wound up belting out old-school soul and R&B with such authentic gusto on the world stage.

"I always sang. I never thought it was anything special," she says. "I listen to a lot of soul music, I guess, and what I listen to is what I write. And that's about it, I guess. It's the music I grew up on. "I never thought it was special. I never thought I was particularly talented. I just thought that everyone could sing. I didn't think it was a big thing. I still don't think it's a big deal. I just love to sing and I think if you love something, you can do anything if you put your mind to it – if you love it, if you have enthusiasm." Winehouse, discovered by Island Records at 17 while singing with Britain's National Youth Orchestra, has at least been lucky enough to have her talents nurtured by people who didn't want to turn her into Christina Aguilera or Beyoncé or one of the other comely songbirds treading the nondescript, hyper-polished line of most contemporary R&B. Her first record, 2003's Frank – for which Winehouse has since expressed some lingering distaste – was a bit slicker than Back to Black, but its jazz and hip hop-influenced tunes were far more eccentric than the cookie-cutter R&B dross one typically finds on MuchVibe. Hooking up with New York producer Mark Ronson (Lily Allen, Aguilera) for Back to Black, though, enabled Winehouse to find the ideal format for her warts-and-all break-up confessionals.

Not least because Ronson brought in ace soul swingers the Dap Kings, renowned for their work with Sharon Jones, to act as her backing band on most of the album, lending the songs the proper, retro-fitted Stax/Motown swagger they deserve. Winehouse and the Dap Kings absolutely slayed the South by Southwest hordes in Austin this past March, and she's been lucky enough to land the lads as her touring band for her current jaunt through North America.  They'll play with her tonight at Mod Club. "They played on my record, so it just makes sense. I get along well with them and they're lovely boys and they're just so talented that it makes me step up my game," she says, actually raising some enthusiasm at the mention of her SXSW gig.  "I love them. I like playing with them a lot. The cool thing about South by Southwest was being able to see them with Sharon (Jones). I think that was the first time I'd seen them with Sharon. Someone like that is so amazing. She's a real artist. You feel like you should be taking notes. That's how good she is." A minor chink in Winehouse's nasty-girl armour then appears when she lets slip her father will be flying in to catch her Toronto gig.  This uncharacteristic display of familial devotion prompts the polite observation that, perhaps, the pugilistic Amy Winehouse stage persona has been confused in the press with Amy Winehouse, the person.  Are we guilty of blurring the line between the two? "There is no `two,'" she says. "I'm not a very premeditated person. I've made some stupid mistakes in my life and that's it. That's just me, okay? It's just me on stage. I don't build it up. I don't come home and take my hair off and take my eyeliner off and stop being me.  "I'm just me."

Young Pianist Has Enviable Dilemma

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(May 15, 2007) Doctor or concert pianist? That's not a common life choice for an 18-year-old. But that's where Vancouver resident
Rozalyn Chok is right now. On Sunday, she won first prize at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's Bösendorfer National Piano Competition. Part of the prize includes playing with the TSO for two nights in November at Roy Thomson Hall. But in September, she begins a Bachelor of Science program at the University of British Columbia with the aim of eventually studying medicine. Chok is clearly leading a double life. One doesn't enter piano competitions without serious artistic ambitions. "My plan was always to get an ARCT (the top diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music) and then stop," said the articulate teen, high on adrenaline after her live radio debut on Classical96 FM yesterday. "But I really started enjoying performing." Chok won the piano championship at the Canadian Music Competition last year. And she has already performed with both the Vancouver and Seattle symphony orchestras. "It's been a shock to my parents," said Chok of her career crossroads. "I've always said medicine, medicine, medicine, and now I'm playing the piano." But she adds that they support either choice. She started piano lessons at age 5, following her older brother. He stopped playing classical piano once he achieved his ARCT, but still keeps a side gig with an R&B singer.

Her younger sister also plays piano, "as well as the violin," says Chok, who doesn't play another instrument. Clearly, Chok has much planning ahead, including trying to figure out how to reconcile residence life at UBC with a brand-new grand piano. The competition's first prize also includes a recital in Vienna, $4,000 and the use of a new Bösendorfer for a year. The second-prize winner on Sunday was Toronto-born Philip Chiu, who is currently studying in Montreal. He will perform with Mooredale Concerts in the fall. Third-prize winner was Thornhill resident Daniel Lin. The competition handed out a number of additional prizes for individual performances.

Mary J. Blige: Men, Marriage, Motherhood And 'Mahogany'

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(May 14, 2007) What is there not to love about Mary J. Blige? For the past 15 years, we've watched her blossom from a hard-edged, street-savvy new-jill songstress to a critically-acclaimed, polished, much emulated cultural icon. And 'Essence' magazine has been there every step of the way -- to help chronicle her remarkable journey.  Talk about transformation. The Yonkers, New York-bred Queen of Hip-Hop Soul is gracing the June edition of the best-selling black women's magazine. For her record ninth cover, the recently-married Grammy Award winner gets double exposure -- with two different magazine covers; one very beauty-oriented, the other with her new husband/manager Kendu Isaacs. In a remarkable photo spread shot by Mark Liddell, the 36-year old Chevy spokeswoman channels the 1976 urban romantic classic 'Mahogany,' which starred Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams. (Pick up the actual magazine(s) to see the Asian-inspired centerfold. Very fashion forward!!!)

Together with Isaacs, a former business associate of Queen Latifah who now is a partner of Mary Jane Productions, Blige looks the happiest she's ever been.  They were married Dec. 7, 2003. And for the first time the royal couple sits down together and talk about their courtship and marriage and how breaking through Mary's pain brought them to love. "I came from hatred," Blige shared with writer Kierna Mayo. "All my life I've been in a bunch of junk where men were jealous of me. They wanted my career, they wanted money from me-something." Though Isaacs was married (with three children) at the time of their initial meeting, he turned out to be her knight in shining armour. "I said, Damn, he's cute, and then I left it alone because I thought he and Latifah were a couple," she recollected. "I didn't know for sure what was going on, so I went to work. We all hung out later that night, and we got to know each other better." Blige's doubts of a relationship with Isaacs caused her to question her role in the ending of his marriage. "I thought, 'I can't do this. I'm not a home wrecker,'" she revealed. "I was like, give me a gun and I'll just blow my brains out, because I'm at the point of...like I said...my spirit is dead. There was a lot of pain, so I ran straight into more self-destruction. I was thinking about the wife, I was thinking about the kids, and I was thinking, I just don't want to be responsible for that."

Isaacs clarified to 'Essence' that his first marriage was already dissolving before Blige was "fully on the scene;" He said that today he and his ex-wife have a good relationship.  The six-time Grammy Award winning singer/songwriter has had her fair share of romantic ups and downs throughout her life. She has mastered the art of connectivity with her massive fan base due to the fact that her music has been an emotional canvas. Future-wise, Blige contemplates motherhood -- as Isaacs' three children are very much present in their lives. "God's got to be done with me, the low moments and all the insecurities of the past," she confided about the possibilities. "Your kid is around you 24/7. When you have stepchildren, they come around and then they go home. My child is going to be watching me go up and down on the days that I go down. I don't want my child to feel what I felt when I was coming up, what it was like for my mother to hurt all the time. So I have a fear-it's probably one of my biggest fears-a fear of my child suffering, you know, with that energy." On the professional front, Blige, who recently starred in the CBS series 'Ghost Whisperer'-- has been attached to a Nina Simone biopic project. According to Bridget Bland of 'MTV Radio Networks,' Blige will star in an upcoming episode of HBO's red-hot Hollywood series 'Entourage.' The June issue of 'Essence' -- with that scandalous Andrea Kelly story in it -- arrived on newsstands, nationally, May 14.

Guinea Musician Is The Top African Act Booked To Play Toronto This Spring

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Goddard, Staff Reporter

(May 10, 2007) Born into a caste of West African praise musicians, Ba Cissoko took up his role reluctantly. He lived for soccer and hated instrument practice. But his family pressured him. Both his father and uncle achieved renown in their native Guinea for mastering the 21-string kora, premier instrument of Manding-style hereditary players in parts of Guinea, Mali and Senegal. The young Cissoko was expected to follow. At 14, he was sent to study with his uncle. At 15, he was sent to continue at kora school in Basse Casamance, southern Senegal. He learned slowly but at some point he must have accepted his destiny on condition he remain himself, because now he is touring hard through Europe, Africa and North America to spread his revolutionary kora style. "When they first heard it, the elders were not pleased," Cissoko recalled by phone last week at a tour stop in Madison, Wisc.  "I told them, `If you want people in the world to listen to our music, we have to show them something they will understand. To modernize this instrument is a good thing. Now everybody can appreciate the kora in another way."

In 1999, at the age of 32, and after years of studying the traditions and experimenting with other styles, Cissoko formed his current band and named it after himself. It includes percussionist Ibrahim Bah and two younger cousins. One is bassist Kourou Kouyaté.  The other is second kora player Sékou Kouyaté – a virtuoso so gifted and so audacious with a wah-wah pedal that people hearing him for the first time tend to recall Jimi Hendrix. Electric Griot Land, the title of the band's second CD, released last year, is a play on the name Electric Ladyland, the groundbreaking 1968 album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The comparisons end quickly but Ba Cissoko, the band, is known for its driving rhythms, cascading melodies, and a talent for finding a groove and sticking to it until the playing becomes almost trance-inducing. Ba Cissoko is the top African band booked in Toronto this spring. Stylistically the group's repertoire is mixed. Two tracks on Electric Griot Land feature reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly, from Côte d'Ivoire.

Another features Somali-born Toronto rapper K'Naan, recently named best newcomer in the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards. He is currently touring with Stephen Marley and plays the Phoenix Concert Theatre next Tuesday. Cissoko says there is no chance K'Naan will appear with him at tomorrow's show. Since early February, Ba Cissoko has been touring almost non-stop through France, to 14 African countries ranging from Djibouti to Botswana, and now to a dozen or so North American cities. To further spread their music, the band has established a kora learning centre in their hometown of Conakry and an annual International Festival of Kora and Strings in the Guinean capital. This year's edition begins Dec. 5. Opening tomorrow night is Sudanese-born Toronto hip-hop artist Kikijiko, with the release of his debut CD, The Rebirth.

Just the facts

Who: Ba Cissoko, with Kikijiko
When: Tomorrow, 10 p.m.
Where: Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W., west of Dufferin
Tickets: $20 advance, $25 door, 416-588-0307

Kitt Still Pulls Off The Sultry, Even At 80

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Matthew Hays

(May 11, 2007) OTTAWA — Jeff Tyzik did a fine job on Thursday night, when he arrived at the National Arts Centre stage in Ottawa to conduct their orchestra. He conducted several swing favourites by the likes of Ellington and Basie, talked through his arrangement for the numbers, and cracked a few jokes. But he was in a tough spot, without a doubt: really, how does one warm up for Eartha Kitt? Kitt arrived for act two, with the audience left a bit bewildered. Wearing a form fitting, dark green, crushed velvet dress, Kitt moved about the stage for over an hour, belting out a series of her most famous songs, including I Want to be Evil, Old Fashioned Girl and C'est Si Bon. The bewilderment came with the knowledge that Kitt turned 80 this past January. Standing and slinking in sheer defiance of age, the seasoned performer delivered a perfectly controlled, spirited and occasionally hilarious performance, one enhanced by the talents of pianist Daryl Waters and the NAC Orchestra. Kitt doesn't so much sing her songs as she does emotionally channel them. A wildly self-conscious performer, her intense, deep voice indicates an exaggerated tone that is charming and funny. She can still pull off the sultry; when she sings, "I wanna shoot pool" (a line in I Want to be Evil), you believe her. She made sure to punctuate various songs with her famous purr, part singing trademark, part reference to her stint as Catwoman on the '60s Batman series. Her voice intact, Kitt also let it be known that her physical prowess was also in order. At times she would lean back while singing, holding herself in an arc, revealing a leg from under her dress. And then, at about half point, she began performing the Charleston, seemingly without effort.

An exquisite performer, there were also glimpses of Kitt's famous contradictions: here is a woman who can be sophisticated and randy simultaneously. She flirted aggressively with a man in the front row. In a bit of shtick perhaps only Kitt could pull off, a young man walked out onto stage with a glass and a bottle of champagne on a tray. Kitt sized him up, then asked his age. When he replied 21, she paused, and then asked: "Where's your father?" The audience was on board. Then came what threatened to be the only misfire of the evening. Kitt performed the '70s pop song All By Myself, in part as a tribute to the love of her daughter. It was, without a doubt, one of the strangest covers ever witnessed, but somehow, Kitt managed to pull it off. Despite Kitt's considerable political baggage — she was blacklisted after criticizing American involvement in Vietnam at a White House function in 1968 — there was no mention of the current Iraq War (unlike both Madonna and Streisand, who denounced it in their recent tours). A 10-minute standing ovation led to one welcome encore, in which Kitt sang one of her most famous songs, Santa Baby. The audience at the NAC was overwhelmingly golden-age, with an estimated demographic breakdown going something like this: 89 per cent senior citizen; 10 per cent gay male; 1 per cent gay senior citizen. And while there's nothing wrong with that, one couldn't help but wish that more young people were tuned in to this remarkable and legendary performer. For a generation that hangs on every rehab stint of Paris, Britney and Lindsay, a few would do well to witness what was exhibited on the NAC stage: pure, audacious, mind-bending talent. Eartha Kitt will perform at Edmonton's Winspear Centre on June 9

Howard Hewett Back With New Album

Source: Rick Scott, Great Scott P.R.oductions, greatscottproductions@earthlink.net

(May 11, 2007) Playing like the perfect soundtrack for an intimate evening of romance, crooner Howard Hewett will release his first album of new R&B music in over a decade on May 15 when If Only arrives via The Groove Records, a subsidiary of entertainment conglomerate The Machine Productions, which is distributed by the Navarre Corporation.   Hewett had a hand in co-writing and co-producing five songs for the collection, his ninth solo release, and served as executive producer along with Earth, Wind & Fire's Ralph Johnson, who is credited with discovering Hewett.   The sensual, cuddle-up close "Can U Feel Me" was recently serviced to Urban Adult Contemporary radio.  It's the follow-up to the Top 20 single, "Enough."     Hewett's enduring career has always been centered upon the full body of his recordings as an "album artist" as opposed to just being about singles.  His songs have depth and meaning.  With the tastes of listeners again craving real music from true artists with something to say, the timing is perfect for Hewett's re-emergence.   If Only was recorded last year with a variety of producers and co-producers, including Hewett's frequent collaborator Monty Seward.  Hewett called upon the talents of friends to contribute to the album such as George Duke, Gerald Albright, Marc Nelson, Nils, Nathan East, Ricky Lawson and Paulinho Da Costa, in addition to one of the final recordings by the legendary Billy Preston, who is part of the all-star cast on Hewett's soul-kissed version of John Lennon's "Imagine." 

The other eleven songs that comprise the disc are originals that strike a chord by exploring amorous relationships.   "The songs on the album mean something.  The reason I didn't put out a record sooner is because I didn't have much to say.  Things are different now," explained Hewett.  "I can honestly say that I've stayed true to myself over the years and I take pride in that.  I've spent the last bunch of years enjoying my family, being home during my daughter's formative years, and connecting with fans over 125 times each year via performances and personal appearances.  People are always asking me when I will put out a new record.  The timing feels right now and I'm excited about performing the new music."   To launch If Only, Hewett will perform a short set of new material and meet fans at B.B. King's in Los Angeles on May 11th.  Concert dates are being added to his itinerary and will soon be announced.     The Los Angles-based, Akron, Ohio native rose to fame as a member of the chart-topping trio Shalamar (with Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniels) that had a string of R&B-pop hits from 1978 through the mid-1980s, including "Second Time Around," "A Night To Remember," "Dead Giveaway" and "This Is For The Lover In You."  In 1985, Hewett pacted with Elektra Records as a solo artist and instantly scored R&B chart success with songs from his debut album, I Commit To Love.  He solidified his place as one of the premiere soul balladeers with hits such as "I'm For Real," "Stay," "Once, Twice, Three Times," "Show Me," and "Say Amen."  Hewett shared the spotlight on duets with Anita Baker, Dionne Warwick, Brenda Russell and Stacy Lattisaw and his silky smooth voice graced tracks by Duke and Stanley Clarke.  In 2001, Hewett released his first inspirational album, The Journey, followed by a live version of the album the following year.  His last release, 2005's Intimate, was a live concert recording that chronicles Hewett's solo and group hits.  Additional information is available at www.howardhewett.com and www.themachineproductions.com.

Hewett's If Only contains the following songs:

"Be Here For You"   "Enough"
"If Only"    "I Wanna Know"
"Please You"   "How Do I Know I Love You"
"Can U Feel Me"   "Don't You Wonder Too"
"Make Me Say Ooooh"  "Our Father"
"Is This True Love"  "Imagine" (bonus track)

Hear song samples at Howard's MySpace page: www.myspace.com/howardhewett

Sean Paul Wins Big At International Reggae And World Music Awards

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 10, 2007) Dancehall sensation Sean Paul picked up a record six awards during the 26th International Reggae & World Music Awards (IRAWMA), held at the world famous Apollo Theater located at 253 West 125 Street on Saturday, May 5th. Paul’s awards include: Bob Marley Award for Entertainer of the Year; Recording Artist of the Year; Best Song for “Temperature”; Most Popular Hip Hop Entertainer and Songwriter of the Year. Reggae superstar Luciano won Best Male Vocalist and Most Cultural Entertainer awards. The Marley brothers Damian won the Selassie I Award for Spiritual Service through Music and the Outstanding Contribution to World Music award went to Ziggy Marley.  Hip Hop legend Doug E. Fresh and Soca sensation Machel Montano HD hosted the 26th International Reggae & World Music Awards (IRAWMA), while GT Taylor and Richie B hosted the VIP pre-awards reception. The Nab Tri International African Dancers entertained the crowd with vibrant movements and colourful traditional attire.   Top nominees walking the red carpet included Sean Paul, Doug E. Fresh, Machel Montano, Luciano, Macka Diamond, Ce’Cile, Lady G, Gregory Isaacs, Tarrus Riley, Leon & The Peoples, Half Pint, B.B. Seaton & the Gaylads, Tony Matterhorn, Alaine, Dean Fraser, Gyptian, Da’Ville, Ruff Stuff, Katalys Crew, Mutabaruka, Ed Robinson, Winsome Benjamin, among others.   More than 150 entertainers and music industry professionals were nominated for the coveted IRAWMA, while others have been selected for special awards by music industry experts across the globe. Oprah Winfrey and International Pop/Rock Star Bono were given the Marcus Garvey Humanitarian Award. Boris Gardner and B.B. Seaton & the Gaylads were inducted into the IRAWMA Hall of Fame.
 
Special Martin’s International and Associates Award of Honor was given t Edmond “Bunny” Lee (King Jammy’s), Ed Robinson (E2 Recordings) and Don One Records. Special Producer’s Respect Award was given t Doug E. Fresh, Gregory Isaacs and Half Pint. Special Award of Appreciation was awarded t Winston “Niney” Holiness, Jerome Hamilton, Dahved Levy (WBLS 107.5 FM), Lorna Wainwright (Tuff Gong), Bobby (Culture Jam WVIP 93.5FM), and Dave Clark (Friends of Reggae).    Martin’s International and Associates welcomed American Airlines on board as the official travel carrier to the 26th IRAWMA and  the Marriott Hotel(La Guardia) as the official hotel.  For this year’s event Martin’s Inter-Culture joined forces with individual partners: Austin McBean, Clifton Edwards and Carlton Muldrew as Martin’s International & Associates, LLC to produce the IRAWMA Awards.

The 26th IRAWMA was made possible through generous contributions from the following sponsors: American Airlines (AA), Strength of Nature PROFECTIV, Uptown Juice Bar, Café Veg, Gleaner/Star Newspaper, DJ Steve’s Tax Services, Linkup Media for Linkup Radio (WVIP-93.5), Jam Rock Magazine, Plush TV and Caribbean Link Newspaper; Dahved Levy’s Rockin’ You and Caribbean Fever (WBLS 107.5), Irie Jam Media; Trans Continental Express Shippers, The Eye Collection Clothing Co., Jamroppo, Atlas Vacation, Bennett/World Class Limo, A D. Wilshire Tuxedo Rental & Limo Service, C. Sea Perkins and Cyberwize Powered by Tunguska Blast; Sam Ash Music Company, Dennis Shipping, Caribbean Food Delights; CVM TV, Sams24-7.com, tlas Vacation, Ruff Stuff Studio, Liberty Star Newspaper, Keeling Records, Spencer Financial Services, Golden Krust, Moodie’s Records and Liberty Star Newspaper.

Kim Barlow Makes Rare Escape From Whitehorse To Tour

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(May 10, 2007) There's still snow in the woods around Whitehorse, and occasionally a nip in the air that reminds her of the bitter November she spent in a tiny studio in her adopted hometown putting the finishing touches on her fifth album, Champ, but for idiosyncratic songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kim Barlow, the worst is over. "It's alternately dusty and muddy and just brown all over," Barlow said in a phone interview late last week from the offices of Music Yukon, the arts organization that nurtures the hundreds of musicians who've gathered in and around Whitehorse in recent years, drawn by the solitude, peace and camaraderie for which the town is known. "But I just got back from a three-week tour of B.C. and Alberta, and I saw the spring on the other side of the Rockies, so I know the tourists are on their way." Like so many other musicians in Whitehorse, Barlow has a love-hate relationship with the place. She moved there in 1992, after studying classical guitar in Florida for a couple of years and enduring a summer of constant rain in Vancouver.

"I missed winter, so I went north, and I found something up here that I couldn't live without," she said. "It's a long way from my family in Nova Scotia, and the food is ... well, it's sustenance. And the longer you stay, the more eccentric you become ... the less likely you are to fit anywhere else." That's one reason the diminutive musician makes an effort to get out and away as often as she can, even as far as Australia in the past year. Barlow played several major bills there, including the Port Fairy and Brunswick festivals in Victoria and the Cockatoo Island Festival in Sydney Harbour, on a former convict prison surrounded by a naval fortress. "It was a crazy adventure," Barlow said. "Australia is a really exotic place ... lots of white people who know their music and like to drink. They're friendly and warm, and the food, particularly the seafood, is so fresh. Everything they eat is grown there. And I was really surprised to find so many Canadian musicians working there regularly – Ember Swift, Serena Ryder, Harry Manx. I guess to Australians we must seem exotic." Comfortable for years at the centre of Whitehorse-based Caribou Records' small and eclectic roster of north-centric singer-songwriters and folk bands, Barlow took what might be considered a controversial leap with Champ, by bringing in an outside collaborator, Winnipeg multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Jordy Walker, and assigning the new album to the larger, B.C.-based Jericho Beach label. Some songs – Barlow says they're about "love, death and horses" – are oblique and almost impressionistic compared to the ingenuous, bucolic, homespun confessions found on previous recordings Humminah, Gingerbread, Wilderness Tips and luckyburden. Others are richly humorous and playfully sexual – Barlow trademarks as well – and imbued with a musical worldliness that pushes her simple and elegant acoustic instrumental efforts into jazz and world music territory. Barlow attributes that shift largely to Walker, whom she met a couple of years ago at a guitar camp in B.C.

"He's new blood," she explained. "He brought a new sensibility, coming from a rock and pop background, and a whole bunch of new sounds – electric guitars, drums, glockenspiel, instrumental and vocal harmonies, counter melodies. I also collaborated on a couple of songs with (Toronto guitarist) Justin Haynes, who's a freeform, improvisational player. It was inspiring work for me." The Champ sessions began in June and wound up in November, in Hamilton's Old Crow Studio, during a record-breaking cold snap, Barlow said. "I was wearing two or three sets of clothing and drinking lots of hot tea." Though her eyes are on a wider horizon, Barlow is still ambiguous about moving away with her young son. "The distances up here are vast and emancipating," she said. "I don't feel as if I have to fit into a particular style or school of music. The isolation gives me courage and perspective. "If I do leave, I'll always have one foot in Yukon."

Just the facts

Who: Kim Barlow
When: Wednesday May 16, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Hugh's Room, 2261 Dundas St. W.
Tickets: $14 at 416-531-6604, $16 at the door

Ahluwalia Sings `The Blues Of India'

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Staff Reporter

(
May 12, 2007) During a photo session in a downtown park, a fan walking by catches sight of Kiran Ahluwalia, posing with her tampura. "Is that Kiran?" Madonna Hamel asks excitedly. "I'm totally a fan. She sings the blues of India." By blues, she means ghazals – typically Urdu songs of love, longing and lament based on poetry – which, along with Punjabi folk songs, are Ahluwalia's forté. Born in India, raised in Toronto and now living in New York, the Juno Award-winning Ahluwalia is in town for the release of her fourth CD, Wanderlust, and for a performance today at Harbourfront Centre as part of the Small World Music Festival. Her latest soundtrack mixes influences such as melancholy Portuguese fado music, jazz and Saharan African blues with ghazals. But don't use the f-word when describing the collaborations. "I don't think any artist loves the word `fusion.' I like calling it my music. It reflects what my culture is: Indian and Canadian and all my influences," says Ahluwalia, 40, adding that the instrumentation in her band – tabla and harmonium, as well as acoustic guitar – also reflects her "dual culture." Her husband, Rez Abbasi, plays acoustic guitar in her band, and she is a vocalist in his jazz group.

She fell in love with fado music last year. "I had it on my dream machine and would go to bed to it and wake up to it, although I don't understand Portuguese." During a tour of Europe last year, she tracked down fado musicians in Portugal to collaborate with her on three songs on her new CD – "Jo Dil," "Hath Apne" and "Haal-e Dil." She describes the experience of working with guitarist Jose Manuel Neto, bassist Ricardo Cruz and accordion player Enzo d'Aversa as "magical and effortless." "Tere Darsan," another song on the CD, is based on one of the first ghazals written in Urdu in the 15th century by Quli Qutub Shah, a sultan who ruled over the southern city of Hyderabad where Ahluwalia studied music. She incorporates slow, bluesy Saharan African music with Shah's words and her voice to create a "trance-like groove." Ahluwalia is just back from performing in Marseilles, France, where she was a big hit – though people didn't understand her songs. "It's such a global world now that many tastes are similar," she says, adding that typically 80 per cent of her audience, even South Asians, can't understand the lyrics. "My own friends don't understand the language because so many young South Asians never learned the language. English is their mother tongue. They don't understand the poetry. But the melody communicates the poetry to them. So they can enjoy the essence of the song and get the same emotional release from hearing (it) even if they don't understand the words."

The genesis of "Mere Mathay," a catchy folk tune, came out of a concert Ahluwalia performed at North Albion Collegiate Institute last year. "You could not hear a word of what I was singing because the kids were screaming at the top of their lungs. They were so excited to see someone the same colour as them, wearing traditional clothes and singing. It was like a rock concert," says Ahluwalia, a former bond trader. There, she met a young boy whose father is a Punjabi poet. The lyrics of "Mere Mathay" are based on his dad's poetry. In India, people read the lines on your forehead to predict your future, explains Ahluwalia. The song is about a young man telling a young woman he has just met that the lines on her forehead foretell they can never be together. "It sounds tragic, but it isn't at all. It's just one of those highly literate pickup lines. It's just an excuse to talk to this girl," Ahluwalia says with a chuckle. Many of her songs are based on the lyrics of local poets. "I'm always looking for poets and Toronto has a dearth of them. It's so exciting to compose something that was written right here in Mississauga or Brampton. The Toronto scene for Indian/Pakistani poets is pretty active." Next up for Ahluwalia is a cross-country concert tour of Canada this summer and a collaboration performance with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra set for February 2008. Despite her international success, her biggest fan base remains in Canada, she says.  "I perform in Canada so much still, I'm pretty much here every month. Toronto will always feel like home."

Just the facts
WHO: Kiran Ahluwalia
WHERE: Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W.
WHEN: Tonight, 8 p.m.
TICKETS: $30, 416-973-4000, habourfrontcentre.com

Master P Has Vowed To Go Profanity Free

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 11, 2007) *Master P says he will no longer use profanity and negative lyrics in his music and is co-launching a record label with his son, rapper Romeo, that will sign only artists with profanity-free lyrics.  "Personally, I have profited millions of dollars through explicit rap lyrics," Miller told AllHipHop.com in a statement. "I can honestly say that I was once part of the problem and now it's time to be part of the solution. I am ready to take a stand by cleaning up my music and follow my son's footsteps and make a clean rap album."   P’s decision comes as hip hop is under attack for its violent and misogynistic lyrics. The subject, sparked by the racist and sexist remarks of fired radio host Don Imus, has been championed of late by Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the NAACP, as well as discussed in two back-to-back town hall episodes of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

"Al Sharpton and Oprah Winfrey are absolutely right. It's time for us to take a stand and be responsible for our own actions," P said. "I am willing to accept my responsibility. Hip-Hop is about our neighbourhoods, the reality of what is going on within them, and dreaming big." The entrepreneur and his son Romeo have launched Take A Stand Records and are currently searching for "hip-hop artists with street music without offensive lyrics," according to Master P. A nationwide talent search will be held through his new reality television show, America's Next Hip-Hop Stars.com.  "I am setting up clean hip-hop concerts for the kids," Master P said. "We are no longer making typical record distribution deals. We're planning to team up with companies such as Wal-Mart, Target, and other companies that have direct contact with our communities."

Mya Celebrates Her 'Liberation'

Source: Amina Elshahawi, amina@thinktankmktg.com, www.thinktankmktg.com

(May 10, 2007) Change is good. Just ask Mya. The Grammy-winning multi-platinum artist is at a new place in her life and is rocking a groove that's deliciously grown, sexy and secure.  Playful and passionate, tough but open, the changes Mya's gone through allow her to be the woman she is, right now.  Mya's fourth CD and her Universal Motown Record's debut is Liberation and it's the sound of a singer expressing herself with no limits. From aching ballads like "Life's Too Short" to the insistent, aggressive "Still A Woman" or the bumpin' no nonsense, "I Got That" featuring the Game, Liberation is Mya, unencumbered.  "Liberation is a clean slate; my most expressive, vulnerable album," Mya says. "I'm putting my real experiences out there. On my first album I didn't know about love; I didn't even have a boy friend! Now what I'm bringing is definitely more realistic."  That funky resolve flavours "Lock U Down." Produced by Scott Storch and co-written (like all of Liberation's songs) by Mya, "Lock U Down" is a hip-shaking mission statement. "There's definitely a harder edge this time. The lyrics are less passive and more straight-to-the point. " Equally honest is "I Am" produced by Kwame. "That was one of the first songs we recorded, it's kind of therapy. If there's a theme on the album it's self- confidence that comes from my own personal experiences."

Mya's newfound strength stems from changes professionally and personally: because in many ways she is finally free to openly speak from her heart, soul and mind. After three successful cds at Interscope Records, Mya amicably left and, in 2005 signed with Universal Motown Records, where she says, "I feel that I've found home. " She's also found home within herself.  Last year, Mya also moved from California, where she'd lived since 2001 and relocated back to Washington, DC, where she grew up. The decision was based on an increasing sense that the business of music had muted Mya's passion for making music.  "I just knew that I had to get back to my roots and rediscover what had made me excited in the first place. I have all this creative energy and all these ideas but LA it was too impersonal of a place to develop a real creative family. So I thought, 'let me go back to DC; get creative and do what I love to do.'"  With that goal in mind Mya bought a house, enlisted her brother to build a studio, and began experimenting; laying down rudimentary tracks and learning how to engineer. By mid 2005 she'd put together a band and took them to the Caribbean and Africa to perform her hits and new material.  "We had a great time. I was working with local, very talented people. Now I have a real team; crew, dancers, a band. DC hasn't really blown up like Atlanta, NYC or Miami. There's no real scene here but so much talent. My goal is to bring more recognition to my city that's so rich in culture."

Her drive didn't stop there. A long time advocate for young women and life long dancer and dance teacher, Mya established the Mya Arts Foundation, dedicated to providing the arts to DC's youth. Along with spearheading the foundation Mya taught dance; something she hadn't done since was 15.  In the midst of moving back home and nurturing her creative and charitable energies, Mya's world was turned upside down when her parents, who were both actively involved in her career, split up. The fall-out from the break-up took its toll on the then teenager.  "I experienced a lot of transitions going through the tug of war of the divorce and dealing with my mother's breast cancer. I've been through a lot and it's taken years to heal. But alongside the new freedom I'm experiencing with my career, I also feel personally liberated from insecurities and fears I had in the past, and I'm closer to my family than ever before."

Born in Baltimore, MD Mya became a star at the 18 with 1998's Mya. The platinum cd, yielded three top 10 singles, "It's All About Me," "Movin' On" and "My First Night With You." She continued to shine when "Ghetto Superstar" and "Take Me There" (which appeared on the Bulworth and Rugrats soundtracks, respectively) also topped the charts. Mya's sophomore cd Fear of Flying ((2000) also went platinum and featured "Case of the Ex" and the "Best of Me." 2003's Moodring went gold and that same year she starred in the acclaimed film Chicago, earning the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture. Since Chicago, Mya has appeared in several movies, including Havana Nights and Shall We Dance and is currently shooting Cover, directed by Bill Duke. She also just signed with the Ford Modeling Agency. Says Mya of her new creative outlet, "I'm just getting started in acting and I'm taking the time to study and learn enjoy it and be true to the craft."  And you can hear that throughout Liberation's pulsating tracks that Mya's back and ready to work. Asked about the album's message and Mya answers," I started out in the industry as a young girl trying to find her way. I've definitely experienced my share of struggles and pain, but most of my experiences have taught me something great. The CD takes you on a journey of just that; it's a guide to why I'm liberated and how I got there."  Liberation is a whole new beginning. 

AUDIO "Lock U Down" featuring Lil Wayne (Produced by Scott Storch)
WM:
REAL:

Stevie Wonder Offers Rare Track With Ella Fitzgerald

Source:Shore Fire Media, Paula Witt, pwitt@shorefire.com / Carrie Tolles, ctolles@shorefire.com, http://www.shorefire.com/clients/efitzgerald/

(May 14, 2007) Verve Records has confirmed that music superstar Stevie Wonder's rare version of "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" featuring Ella Fitzgerald, which they performed and recorded live together in New Orleans in 1977, will be included on Verve's forthcoming Ella tribute recording 'We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song' set for release June 5. Wonder also joined the line-up for the recently taped all-star concert "We Love Ella! A Tribute to the First Lady of Song" and performed a crowd pleasing, harmonica laced version of "Too Close For Comfort."  The concert was filmed in Los Angeles and was produced by music icon Phil Ramone (who also produced the Verve tribute recording) and Gregg Field and featured a bevy of diverse yet spectacular performances by Patti Austin, Natalie Cole, George Duke, John Faddis, Quincy Jones, Dave Koz, Ledisi, Kimberly Locke, Monica Mancini, James Moody, Ruben Studdard, Take 6, Nancy Wilson, Lizz Wright and Wynonna.  The LA Times has already dubbed the concert "an impressive and entertaining tribute." The concert is set to air as part of PBS's GREAT PERFORMANCE series on Wednesday, June 6 at 9-10:30 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings).  Verve's star-studded tribute recording 'We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song' is part of a year-long celebration of Ella's 90th birthday year and is filled with passionate performances of classics made famous by Fitzgerald and sung by world-renowned singers and break-out stars Michael Bublé, Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Diana Krall, Etta James, k.d. lang, Queen Latifah, Ledisi, Dianne Reeves, Linda Ronstadt and Lizz Wright.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the 'We All Love Ella' recording as well as the "We Love Ella!" concert ticket sales will be donated to the Ella Fitzgerald Foundation. Fitzgerald created and funded the foundation to create educational opportunities for children, foster love of music, assist those in need, and support medical care and research. Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 GRAMMY® awards and sold over 40 million albums. Her catalogue continues to be as popular as ever and her iconic stature is undiminished. Fitzgerald would have turned 90 on April 25, 2007. 'We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song' track listing:

1) A Tisket A Tasket - Natalie Cole
2) Lullaby of Birdland - Chaka Khan
3) The Lady is a Tramp - Queen Latifah
4) Dream a Little Dream of Me - Diana Krall & Hank Jones
5) Mr. Paganini - Natalie Cole & Chaka Khan
6) Oh, Lady Be Good - Dianne Reeves
7) Reaching for the Moon - Lizz Wright
8) Blues in the Night - Ledisi
9) Miss Otis Regrets - Linda Ronstadt
10) Someone to Watch Over Me - Gladys Knight
11) Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me - Etta James  
12) Angel Eyes - k.d. Lang  
13) Too Close for Comfort - Michael Buble
14)  You Are the Sunshine of My Life - Stevie Wonder & Ella Fitzgerald

Malcolm Jamal Warner: Actor/Musician Joins 'Dad' Cosby At 2007 Playboy Jazz Fest

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(May 16, 2007) Malcolm Jamal Warner has gone from ‘Cosby’ kid to the new kid on the block of the Playboy Jazz Festival.  The actor/director is a jazz fan with a new breed of jazz funk all his own, and though many recognize him as Theo Huxtable from the very popular ‘80s sitcom “The Cosby Show,” Warner has split his career in entertainment to include being an up-and-coming musician.  Next month he reaches a milestone in his music career, reuniting with fest emcee Bill Cosby, as an opening act at the Playboy Jazz Fest at the Hollywood Bowl. Warner has been working on his music with band Miles Long for approximately eight years; with no musical training, with the exception of short-lived piano lessons as a child.  “I started playing bass in ’97, during the first season of ‘Malcolm & Eddie.’ The show was stressing me out so badly that I decided I needed a hobby,” he told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “So I started playing music just as a hobby. I figured, directing started as a hobby and then became a career. When I picked up an instrument I thought it would just be a hobby; it would never become a career; I would never start a band; I would never record a CD or any of that stuff. And through the year’s it has developed into what it is now.” Well, that’s exactly what happened. Warner’s second release, and first full disc “Love and Other Social Issues” will be available May 25. He dropped an EP in 2003 called “Miles Long.” He also has a one-man show of the same name as the new disc that showcases his poetry. More info on that show, which opens June 2, can be found here: www.malcolmjamalwarner.com.    “I’ve been working on this CD for several years, but some of the pieces overlap with some of the pieces in the show,” he said. “My one-man show, I started doing at the National Black Theater Festival in 2003. I’m really excited to bring it to L.A. It’s a full on theatrical production. It’s an interpretation of my poetry, but instead of me staring at a mic for an hour and a half, I have a lighting director and everything.”

Newbie Warner makes no claims of being a true jazz head. Since he’s only been dabbling in the genre for about ten years, he’s created his own style of jazz he calls jazz funk.  “Because I’m not yet a jazz ‘straight-ahead’ cat, ‘Miles Long’ is a jazz-funk-spoken word band because I’m also a poet. There’s a lot of poetry in our set,” he said. “A lot of the pieces are played with very much a jazz approach to the kind of music we play in terms of improv-ing inside the confines of a set variable.” But why not R&B or hip-hop?  “I’m not a singer, and I’m not a rapper,” Warner said plainly. “Because I have grown up as part of the hip-hop community, there is definitely a hip-hop edge to the music, but because I’ve been raised on jazz and a lot of the guys I play with are jazz cats, I was very clear that I wanted something that was outside of that box. And I didn’t want to be in that neo-soul vibe. So, when I started creating the music, because it was just my own thing, I wanted to create something new that didn’t have to fit into a category because I was doing it for fun. It developed into something that I’m so proud of and something that’s very viable and necessary in music today” Furthermore, Warner described his style as a genre for Generation X, somewhere between real hip-hop and heavy jazz.  “For those of us who have grown up on hip-hop, yet hip-hop no longer speaks to us,” he said of his target audience, “but we’re not necessarily into straight jazz just yet – I think we’re a good medium. There are a lot of people in my age range for whom jazz is still a little too heady. Our music is a little more acceptable for those who want to mature from hip-hop, but still want to bob their heads.” Warner and his Miles Long band will do a 30-minute set to open Sunday’s show at the Playboy Jazz Fest. The 2007 edition takes place June 16 and 17 at the Hollywood Bowl. The fest also features Buddy Guy, Chris Botti, and others on Saturday and Etta James, Dianne Reeves, Arturo Sandoval, Marcus Miller on Sunday.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “Because of the vibe that we have, I think we are good band to set the show off. It’s exciting to tell people we’re actually playing this year. I think we can set the show off with some hot grooves.” For more on Malcolm Jamal Warner, his new disc, his one man show and his role in the upcoming film “Fool’s Gold,” go to his site at www.malcolmjamalwarner.com. For more the festival, check www.playboyjazz.com.

Everyone Loves Norah

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Norah Jones
At Massey Hall
In Toronto on Friday

(May 14, 2007) My, what a lovely singer, didn't catch her name. When the young woman with one of the world's most famous and favourite voices casually walked on stage, nobody applauded. It was a blue-jeaned and unadorned Norah Jones who accompanied troubadour M. Ward for the first three songs of his opening-act set, beginning a sold-out concert with an unhurried Blue Bayou under dim lights. Almost certainly half the audience knew who she was, but, baffled as to why the unaware other half wasn't warmly greeting her, they too sat on their hands. After Ward introduced her, the crowd collectively exhaled - roaring and applauding extra hard to compensate for not welcoming the superstar chanteuse instantly. "I thought it was her," one sheepish woman said afterward, "but I wasn't sure." What's to be unsure about? Whether dressed for campus or in the southern summer dress she wore for her own 19-song set (and three-tune encore), Jones is highly identifiable, if not by her looks, than at least by her pipes - an embraceable mix of breathy coo and friendly croon that just plum turns the world on. "Norah," a male devotee yelled out, "I love you!" To that, the 28-year-old singer flashed the same gaga look of surprise she gave at the 2003 Grammy awards, where she held the armful of trophies earned from her debut album Come Away with Me. "Awesome," Jones quickly replied with a cheerful shrug, barely missing a beat as she struck the opening Wurlitzer notes to Thinking About You, the languid-soul single from her latest and most intriguing album, Not Too Late.

Backed by her fine four-piece Handsome Band (which counted beau and standup-bass player Lee Alexander as a member), Jones stretched out a bit, rendering most of her jazz-pop and county-soul hits faithfully while getting adventurous elsewhere. I've Got to See You Again was recast as wooly improvisation, while Sunrise was loosened and plunky. Jones stuck to her piano mostly, but ventured to acoustic, and, unpredictably, electric guitar. "I just learned how to play," she said, referring to a Fender six-string dubbed "my little red monster." It was a beast without teeth, but on the impish waltz Broken, Jones as a guitarist was a participant. Though an uncommonly alluring performer, Jones was not flawless. Rosie's Lullaby was a snooze, and, on the late-set jaunty country of Creepin' In, M. Ward was a poor substitute for the recorded version's role sung by Dolly Parton. Ward's own opening set of smoke-throated, era-unspecific folk music was respectfully received, if misunderstood. The Portland-based singer-songwriter introduced a cover of Story of an Artist as a "funny song" written by Daniel Johnston, a manic depressive cult hero. On one level the tune is humorous, but it isn't a joke. Oblivious to the song's crushing sadness, the audience chuckled at lines about an artist not taken seriously. When it came to establishing context to lyrics, Ward failed awfully. Jones was received more coherently, her cautious tempo and wholesome sensuality a success. The night-closing Long Way Home, written by Tom Waits, gave the crowd a loping melody to remember. "Come with me," Jones beckoned, and nobody sane would say no to the invitation. Norah Jones plays the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver on June 28.

The Mother Of All Concerts

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

(
May 12, 2007) Of all the reasons to pick up an instrument and rock out in public, motherhood seems the most unlikely. But membership in the Mama Nation is the prime qualification for performer status at tomorrow's second Toronto edition of the Mamapalooza Festival, the local offshoot of a growing New York-based franchise that boasts its own satellite radio program, a line of merchandise and 40 similar events staged in May all over North America, Britain and Australia. You have to have your own material and some actual performing experience as well, says Toronto-born ex-pat, New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Lynda Kraar, co-organizer with seasoned local promoter Gary Topp, of the event at Jeff Healey's Roadhouse tomorrow.  More than 17 maternally enhanced artists – both homegrown and imported, they include Kraar, Ardene Shapiro, Zro4, Maria Kasstan, The B-Girls, Kathryn Rose, Arlene Bishop, Sandi Marie Porter, Heather Katz, Ilana Waldston, Michele Mele, Laura Fernandez, Lenka Lichtenberg, Sisters of Sheynville, The Sisters Three, Lara Berlin, Lynn Harrison, Naomi Macklem-Tremblay, Barbara Stokes, Marianne Girard, Zoe Chilco and host Erica (Yummy Mummy) Ehm – will hit the stage between noon and six.  "The original idea was for musical mothers to play for each other in a community that makes room for children and family members of both sexes," Kraar said in a recent interview from her home in Teaneck.

Like most of the acts on the bill, Kraar put her musical life to the side to raise children, but a series of coincidences in 2005 – the year her mother died – led her across the river to the heart of Mamapalooza territory in New York City, where reconstituted rocker Joy Rose had established an annual Mother's Day festival and a figurehead for the movement in her band Housewives On Prozac. "It was a milestone for me, one of the best times in my life," Kraar said of her first Mamapalooza experience. "I just had to bring it back home to Toronto." She did that for the first time last year, and with Topp's help staged a one-day festival that sold out virtually overnight and instantly became a fixed item on the city's cultural agenda. "Toronto is ideally suited to Mamapalooza," she said. "It's an easy-access city for families with kids, it's liberal-minded and family-friendly, and the cultural mix is so rich – everyone is wide-eyed about everyone else." For 50-year-old mother of four Joy Rose, who started the Mamapalooza ball rolling in 2002 in the belief that if people made more time for music, dancing and art they'd be less inclined to make war, the annual festival is "a celebration of the rearing momhead that has been with us throughout history. "My idea was to create stages for women who had stepped away from their passion, women of a certain age, with a certain look, women who were no longer welcome in the music industry – professionals and semi-professionals who wanted to keep their music going now that their children are grown.

"And my hope is that it will grow into a women-owned business that will support itself and help careers blossom," added Rose, who won't be at the Toronto Mamapalooza. That's exactly what former Toronto punk rocker Cynthia Ross hopes will happen with the reformed B-Girls, once darlings of the city's crash-and-burn culture and former touring mates of The Clash, no less. With a son and a daughter in their 20s, Ross and her erstwhile bandmate Zenya, now a yoga instructor, have started playing again, partly in response to resurging interest in pre-grunge Toronto rock and power pop. They've already performed at the Radio Heartbeat Festival in New York. "I was in a club in Brooklyn a month ago and they were playing our records, along with The Diodes and Teenage Head – all Toronto bands," she said. "And apparently we're huge in Japan as well. "I'd never heard of Mamapalooza, but when I checked out the website (mamapalooza.com) and saw they were serious about promoting women in the arts, we had to be a part of it."

Just the facts
WHO: Mamapalooza
WHEN: Tomorrow, doors at noon
WHERE: Jeff Healey's Roadhouse, 50 Blue Jays Way
TICKETS: $15, ticketweb.ca; kids under 13, free

Elizabeth Fischer - A Voice From The Cabaret, A Heart On The Street

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett-Green

(May 14, 2007) Some voices seem to tell their own histories as soon as you hear them. The sound of
Elizabeth Fischer's voice hints at dark truths learned suddenly in back alleys, or slowly in cheap rooms. Her heavy alto gusts and throbs through her songs, which often seem to be making an inventory of disappointments worthy of her defiance. It's a real cabaret voice, pregnant with experience, not something you will ever hear on pop radio or in a Nike commercial. Fischer is the singer and co-writer (with guitarist Ron Samworth) of the Vancouver band Dark Blue World. Once you've heard her sing, on the band's recent self-titled disc or at such shows as Thursday's performance at Toronto's Ciao Edie, it's no surprise to discover, as I did more fully when I met her in a greasy-spoon café, that this musician, writer and visual artist insists on going her own way, however stony and solitary the path may be. But she also gravitates to projects that need the collaboration of others. The urge to get tangled up with other people's lives and imaginations has marked all of her musical endeavours (including the eighties new-wave band Animal Slaves), as well as a rescue-operation-cum-art-project that got her deeply involved with a Romany family in Transylvania.

"I don't like to work within my own limitations," she said. "I love to find musicians that I admire, and collaborate with them. And I'm a catalyst - people who have never written songs will write if they work with me. I know how to find the beginning, the middle and the end of things."
Her own beginnings were scattered all over the globe. Her Hungarian family was displaced by the Hungarian uprising in 1956, and spent the next five years as refugees in Austria, Argentina and Sweden, where they got in on the strength of a faked X-ray that landed Fischer's mother in a Swedish sanatorium (she was discharged a month later). Sweden was okay, except for the beatings Fischer got from kids who mistook her for a Romany girl, but Fischer's father really wanted to go to Canada. "He had this real rosy idea about Canada," she said. "At that time it was hard to be classified as refugees, so my father, being a simple guy from a village, said, "I'm going to write a letter to the Queen." And he did, and he got a reply." They arrived in Montreal, without royal help, when Fischer was 14. She knew no English or French, and floundered in school till a sympathetic art teacher steered her toward the École des Beaux Arts de Montréal. It was a temporary refuge, as Montreal itself proved to be. "My mother was very damaged, she was afraid of everything, and she needed to hang onto me emotionally to a degree that would have killed me," Fischer said. "In order to breathe, I had to go away as far as I could."

Vancouver was the obvious choice, and a good place to be when punk's demystifying ethos swept through the club scene and the visual-art enclaves of North America. Fischer borrowed a bass guitar and joined a band that rehearsed for six months and broke up after its first gig, but not before she had begun writing poetry that demanded to be sung. The communal activity of performing calmed her insecurities and engaged the passionate, demonstrative, Hungarian side of her character.
When she talks about the early days of Animal Slaves (which folded in 1991), she makes it sound more like a love affair than a band. "We just jammed all the time, we were so addicted to each other we were continually playing," she said. "We practised five or six times a week, and if we were on the road and had a couple of nights off, we would rent a place just so we could play together." Hungary turned out be another addictive relationship, as she discovered when she returned there in 1991, and discovered that habits of mind and expression that had seemed idiosyncratic back in Canada were normal in the homeland where she was now seen as a foreigner. During a later trip to Transylvania, a once largely Hungarian region of Romania, she had a chance encounter with a Romany boy who was searching through a garbage can for toys. She took him to a toy store, met his family, and entered a complex relationship with a Romany clan living at the bottom of the social order, like exiles in their own land. She organized a support network, mainly of her friends, that grew into an art project about dreams, story-telling and the role of artists in a world in which art often seems to be addressed only to the comfortable (her texts and photos are at http://www.fishbreath.net). "You make art, and it seems like a luxury, when people are hungry," she said. "How can I do art that actually benefits somebody? That was the whole premise of my work with the Gypsies." (She uses the old term because she says it's closer to the Hungarian word cigany).

Most of what she tried didn't work. The cultures were too different. But she did manage to help three of the children learn to read and write, and when the family's shelter was about to be taken away, Fischer found the money to buy them a one-room house. She herself still lives in a rent-controlled flat in Vancouver, in a neighbourhood where pricey condos spring up like mushrooms after rain.
Dark Blue World came into being on the edge of Vancouver's improvisational scene. Samworth's elegant riffs and atmospheric playing seemed to open another door for Fischer's texts and end-of-candle singing style. Others who have played in or with the band include drummer Skye Brooks, bassist Pete Schmitt and guitarist Chad MacQuarrie, as well as guitarist Tony Wilson, trumpeter JP Carter, cellist Peggy Lee and violinist Jesse Zubot, whose Drip Audio label put out the band's disc. The music isn't all dark: A couple of tunes have a Latin lilt that offsets the sombre tone of Fischer's lyrics. There's also a slippery, explorative feeling to the band's glowing arrangements, as if the right metre or the appropriate riff just might change everything. We might wake up from a dark night of the soul and realize that some things are still good, and within our power to improve. We might find in a Romany boy's radiant smile an appropriate, defiant response to a long, sad story that even just one person, a singer from far away, can help change. Dark Blue World plays Ciao Edie in Toronto on May 17; Hamilton's Club Absynthe, May 18; the Velvet Elvis in Oshawa, Ont., May 19; and Montreal's Casa del Popolo May 23.

Wendy Raquel Robinson Succeeds With ‘Grace’

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 11, 2007) *Actress Wendy Raquel Robinson, who can currently be seen on the CW series “The Game”, is celebrating more than being a working actor in Los Angeles these days.   She’s celebrating 10 years as the owner and co-founder of the Amazing Grace Conservatory in Los Angeles. Even before she was catapulted to fame with her TV role as Principal Regina Grier on “The Steve Harvey Show,” Robinson was helping to shape young, creative minds.  “I co-founded it in 1997 with my business partner and best friend Tracy Coley. He passed away in 2002, but we’ve carried on the legacy and we’ve been here for 10 years,” she told EUR’s Lee Bailey.  Nestled in the LA inner city, the conservatory is a year round theatrical institute that trains area youth, ages 5-21, in voice, dance and acting and then showcase in fall, spring, and summer productions. AGC's Spring performance is “The Wiz.”  “We do three shows a year and this is the culminating performance of our tenth season, so that’s about 29 shows,” Robinson said of the organization’s track record. ‘The Wiz’ is opening tomorrow, May 12 (at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles) and the kids are really, really excited.” 

Robinson explained that students are accepted not only for their potential talents, but on their drive to entertain.  “We don’t have auditions per se,” she explained, “We have an interview process basically to determine that this is something that the child wants to do. So many times we get a mother or father that wants their child in this, but the child doesn’t want to be here. It’s important that we see if the child wants to do this. We ask them to sing a song; do a cold reading; and I take them through some dance movements. And because we have beginner, intermediate and advanced level classes, I place them in the level I think they should be in.”  Robinson believes that all her students and every child has the potential to do well, but proudly mentioned some of the working actors that are a part of the conservatory including Laivan Green from CW Network’s “All of Us” and Rhyon Brown, who stars as Lizzie Sutton on the ABC Family show “Lincoln Heights”; both of who are starring in the AGC production of “The Wiz.” Of the 2500 students that have come through the doors of AGC, about 15% are actively working in the industry. In addition, a number of students have gone on to pursue theatre careers in New York, as well as gone on to Julliard, and Yale and Columbia to major in the performing arts.  “We accept all levels from the beginner to the professional actor and we just raise the bar and bring them to the level of expectations of what we want,” Robinson said, but also explained that there are restrictions and rules in the admission process. 

“We have very strict rules: no cussing, fighting, gang banging, fighting, gossiping – things like that. We try to eliminate that from the jump-start,” she added. “Any child that is involved in such activities will either be dismissed from the program or put on probation. But our doors are open to everybody.”  AGC is predominately made up of aspiring African American students, though Robinson said she’s recruited outside the area and hopes to link up with a similar program that targets young Latino artists.  “I don’t think there is anything like this in Los Angeles,” she said, “but Tony Plana from ‘Ugly Betty’ has a performing arts organization for Latino actors called the East Los Angeles Players. We talked about doing a bridge or doing something together – somehow bridging the gap because he had the same situation.”  Robinson said that addition would be another major step for the program she was inspired to co-create a decade ago. She and Coley were struggling artists touring with a play in the mid-90s when the seeds of what would become AGC were sewn.  “When we came back to LA [after touring], he got me a job at Marla Gibbs’ Crossroads Arts Academy teaching dance. That folded, but we had such a following of young people and there was no place for them to go. So we put our heads together and we came up with this. Everybody thought I was crazy because I had no business skills.”  After two years of bouncing around the idea, they founded the Amazing Grace Conservatory and in the interim, Robinson booked the “Steve Harvey Show” and her name recognition helped build up the program as it turned into a full-fledged business. 

“I’m really proud of it,” she said.  Amazing Grace Conservatory is a non-profit organization and tuition-based conservatory with working artists as the staff and faculty. For more on the AGC, the upcoming productions, and how to apply, call 323-732-4283 or visit www.amazinggraceconservatory.com.  "The Wiz," directed by Denise Dowse, will run Saturdays May 12 & 19, 2007 at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays May 13 & 20, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. at Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA  90016. Tickets are $15.00 in advance and $20.00 at the door.  For more information or to reserve seating, call 323-732-4283. 

MUSIC TIDBITS

Cee-Lo Green Starts His Own Record Label

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 10, 2007) *Cee-Lo Green, the one time member of rap group Goodie Mob who has found international fame as one half of Gnarls Barkley, has just announced the blast-off of his own label imprint under Atlantic Records. Titled Radiculture, the label is designed to serve as a launching pad for new artists. "I've been in the music business for quite some time now. I've had some unforgettable high points and some disappointing low points," Green told NME.com. "I'm eager to pass on the lessons I learned along the way." The singer is scheduled to officially launch the label during two events scheduled for today (May 10) in Atlanta. His offices and studios will be nestled within new state-of-the art facilities he built in the ATL.

American Idol Spinoff Will Seek Hot Bands

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - AP

(May 11, 2007) Los Angeles -- Reality shows can have spinoffs, too. The producers of American Idol are launching The Search for the Next Great American Band, a new talent series. That's a working title for the Fox show, which will "scour the [United States], seeking musical groups of all ages, styles and genres," the producers said yesterday. No air date has been announced. For Fox, the spinoff means it's expanding its dependence on the American Idol brand.

Mariah Working On New Album In The Virgin Islands

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 11, 2007) *Mariah Carey is currently recording the all-important follow up to her multi-platinum 2005 monster, “The Emancipation of Mimi,” and she’s also receiving acting kudos from the producer of her upcoming feature film “Tennessee.”   According to Billboard Biz, the singer recently jetted to the British Virgin Islands to lay down tracks for the new album, an as-yet-untitled set due in the coming months for Island Records.   Bryan Michael-Cox – who has written hit songs for Mary J. Blige and Usher – is one of the songwriters submitting tunes for the project. Back in the States, Carey is hoping her success in the music industry will rub off on her latest film project, ‘Tennessee.” In the biased opinion of the film’s producer, Lee Daniels, Carey’s performance in the drama is on the verge of making folks forget all about her previous Hollywood misstep in “Glitter.”  Liz Smith wrote in her Thursday column: “It seems the divine diva next door, as I call her, had been a doll to direct, even forsook her six-inch heels when the characterization called for flats, and it's Lee's belief that she is going to surprise us this time out.”

Bow Wow/Omarion Team For Joint Album

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 11, 2007) *The “106 & Park” crowd is about to lose their minds. Scream Tour veterans Bow Wow and Omarion have announced they will team up for a new two-disc duet album to be released before the end of the year. "Me and O have been trying to put this together for so many years, and now we've got the opportunity to do it," Bow Wow tells Billboard. "We're in the creative process right now, still trying to come up with a title and everything. Me and him are coming up with ideas daily, so the process is gonna go real smooth. We're anxious to get in the studio together and make this whole thing happen." Bow Wow, born Shad Gregory Moss in Cleveland, has already experienced a successful pairing with the former B2K frontman on their 2004 hit, “Let Me Hold You.” The rapper is already calling their new project “an event."  "I'm not even calling it an album," says Bow Wow. "It's gonna be a special event. It's gonna be crazy, something the people have been waiting on -- the girls have been waiting on -- for years." Meanwhile, Bow Wow is currently touring to promote his fifth album, "The Price of Fame," and will have an as-yet-unnamed song on the upcoming "Rush Hour 3" soundtrack.  In addition, he's launching his own label, LBW Entertainment, which features fledgling artists such as Young Jinsu and Clee-O.

Canucks In Chart Combat

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com

(
May 13, 2007) This just might be a historic week for Canadian music. Not only are local chart's top three all Canadian, but there's another at five (how ya doin', Avril?) and eight (how'd you do it, Collingwood rockers Midway State?). In the nationwide charts, Canucks rule the top five, with Avril and Quebec's Isabelle Boulay moving up to grab spots. If recent hot sellers Nelly Furtado, Neil Young and Jann Arden could have stuck around, Canadian music could have just about run the table – but it's nicer for the maple leaf juggernaut to make some room for the likes of poor little Ne-Yo, if only out of pity.

Lauryn Hill To Play Two Cali Shows In June

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 14, 2007) *Lauryn Hill will make one of her patented once-in-a-blue-moon appearances next month in California for two shows in June. The Fugees singer has announced she will perform at Oakland's Paramount Theatre on June 27, and Pala's Palomar Starlight Theatre on June 29. Pala is located in San Diego, County, south of Los Angeles. Hill is rumoured to be working on a new album titled “Khulami Phase.” Her last CD, “MTV Unplugged,” was released in 2002. The reclusive artist also announced that she will play three shows in the UK in July.

Joan Armatrading To Launch Summer Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(
May 15, 2007) *Pioneering rock, pop, R&B and now blues musician Joan Armatrading will tour North America in support of "Into The Blues," her new album for 429 Records and a recent No. 1 debut on Billboard Blues Chart. The CD raced to the top in its first week in release (May 1) and also landed at the No. 2 slot on the iTunes Blues Chart. This marks the first time in the artist's 30-year career that Armatrading hit the No. 1 spot on any U.S. chart.  Dates for an extensive summer tour of the United States and Canada kick off May 29th in Toronto and travels across the country with her band thru mid-July

::FILM NEWS::

The Secret Life Of Mike Myers

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss Los Angeles


(May 15, 2007) LOS ANGELES —
Mike Myers swears he has been keeping busy. And he understands that he has got a lot of convincing to do. Shrek the Third is the only movie that the popular, mop-topped funnyman has made since, well, Shrek 2, which came out three years ago. And both animated features only used Myers's Scots-burred voice for the cranky, trumpet-eared ogre. He hasn't actually appeared in a movie since 2003's The Cat in the Hat, all but unrecognizably encased in a suit of fake fur – which was, admittedly, hard work, but left the impression that he has been absent from the screen for even longer. What has the Scarborough, Ont.-born comedian been up to, then, beside laying down Shrek voice tracks a few days a year? “I love making stuff,” insists Myers, who turns 44 on May 25. “There's a joy in having the first molecule of an idea, then testing it in front of audiences for roughly a year at secret shows that people only know about the night before. I videotape those, look at and study them, enjoy being in the character and figure out the movie.  “I did that with Wayne's World at Second City before I got to Saturday Night Live and it became a movie, and with Austin Powers, I knew that that was a very useful process.”

“And with my new project, The Love Guru, which I'm filming in about a month, I've done the secret-shows thing again.” In the film, Myers will play a Canadian boy who was raised on an Indian ashram, then brought home to help a troubled Maple Leafs star. “It's a similar process to Shrek, sort of an evolutionary, glacial process,” he says, proudly adding that he puts in regular eight-hour workdays while developing his projects. “The average movie takes about 60 months [from inception to release]; I take 36 months.” That, he figures, explains his limited, if highly successful, body of work, which is now composed of more Wayne's World, Austin Powers and Shrek entries than stand-alone film appearances. The biggest of them all is the one Myers didn't create. Built up from William Steig's children's book, the Shrek features have become family-film phenomena, while spoofing ages-old fairy-tale conventions. But to keep the formula fresh, Shrek must face challenges to his ogre-like nature. A big one in Shrek the Third emerges when his royal wife, Fiona (voiced by Cameron Diaz), announces she's expecting a little green goblin. “We try to answer the question, ‘Why would we come back to this world?' That becomes the genesis of the next movie,” says Myers, who otherwise underplays his input on the Shrek films. The franchise operators report that Myers's contributions go well beyond that, though.

“He brings a lot,” says Aron Warner, one of the
series’ producers. “Mike is a filmmaker in his own right, so he understands story, he understands comedy, he understands the process and, most of all, he understands Shrek. He has a lot of opinions on who the character should be.” “You don't read a script,” Myers explains further. “I come and they tell me stuff and, like a four-year-old, I ask questions. Like a child would say to you, ‘Do you have the plane tickets?' as you're leaving the house. So I'll end up asking questions like, ‘Well, how did they get to the boat?' and they'll go, ‘Wow, didn't think of that.' But they usually get quiet first, then they scribble furiously. “So I get to rephrase, here and there. But mostly, I'm trying to make sense of it, especially since things change on these movies so much.” You sense that one of the reasons for Myers's low public profile may be a similarly childlike attempt to understand a confusing world. It's probably instructive that his most bankable characters – heavy metal kid Wayne Campbell, retro-superspy Powers, even Shrek – all ply the comedy of arrested development. Myers admits that having so many of his professional dreams come true – which began when he was hired by Second City the same day he graduated from high school – still kind of boggles his mind. On a less cheerful note, after 12 years of marriage, Myers and wife, Robin Ruzan (whose mother, Linda Richman, inspired one of his most popular SNL characters), announced that they were filing for divorce in late 2005. He won't discuss the union's status or any new developments in his love life. But when he tells you what he does with himself outside those reported 9-to-5 writing hours, Myers sounds like a guy who seeks comfort in the joys of his youth.

“I play hockey in a league in New York,” he says. “I draw. I make models; my father [an immigrant from Liverpool who instilled an early appreciation of English comedy] and I used to make planes and trucks and stuff, so still doing that is a strong connection to him. I play the ukulele. I have a great group of friends and we do things like have battles of the bands – me sometimes on ukulele, but mostly on drums.” Myers admits that fame has proved somewhat daunting. “Success is trickier than I thought,” he says. “Toronto is a very, very laid-back and unpretentious city, so when you are thrust into different environments, there's an odd adaptation period. There are times when unkind and unfair and ungenerous and, moreover, untrue things are written about you. That bothers me less now. At first, I was like, ‘I can't believe that. I'm not on a UFO alien sex diet where I only eat salmon' – actually, the irony being is that I am on it now.” Also on the horizon is a rare dramatic project about a guy who couldn't take the pressures of showbiz success: Keith Moon, the hard-living Who drummer and master of hotel-room demolition. Why the mild-mannered, maybe-a-little-too-shy Myers would be drawn to such a flamboyant, demon-haunted person raises the age-old maxim about comedians being unhappy people when they're not making us laugh. “Oh, I'd say that's 100-per-cent accurate,” Myers says without a pause. “Most comedians want to be the architect of their own embarrassment. They have horrendous self-esteem issues. They're like, ‘I myself will fall into the mud; I don't want to be pushed into the mud.' So that's probably true. But I think most people struggle with self-acceptance, that's pretty universal. Comedians just get an outlet to externalize it.” It just takes longer for some to get it out than others.

Hollywood Renaissance Man, Harold Perrineau

By Gil Robertson, The Robertson Treatment: America’s Leading Urban Lifestyle Column: Volume 10, Edition 8

(May 10, 2007)  *With a growing list of roles across various mediums, actor Harold Perrineau has established an impressive pedigree as an artist. Best known for his role on the ABC drama “Lost,” Perrineau first gained notoriety as the wheel-chair bound inmate on the HBO series “OZ”.  A graduate of the Alvin Ailey Dance Center, the New York native eventually made his way back to acting, which is a really good thing for his many fans.  Currently saving the world against zombies in the new film “28 Weeks Later,” Perrineau recently shared with the Robertson Treatment the secret that has made him one of the most compelling talents of his generation.

Robertson Treatment: Tell us a little bit more about your character in the film?

Harold Perrineau: The character that I am playing is Flynn. He’s an American helicopter pilot who’s apart of the American army who has come in to help repopulate London.  While there they also have to hold off other people who have been infected with the disease in order to start the process to rebuild that society. 

RT: There is a lot of high energy action packed scenes – how has that been?

HP: There’s a lot of high energy and action packed into my scenes. I do some amazing stunts on the helicopter that were really exciting. My character most overcome a lot of violence situation which me sort of a real understanding of what people who are in an actual war might go through. My scenes move real fast, and give audiences an idea of the urgency involved when you experience a real sense of terror. 

RT: What did you do to prepare for your part?

For the full interview by Gil Robertson, go HERE

Dark Side Sent Ron Mann to Jazz

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(May 10, 2007) If rock 'n' roll hadn't turned against Ron Mann, he might never have found his jazz muse. The Toronto filmmaker presents a newly remastered version of his feature debut Imagine the Sound, his 1981 film about free jazz musicians, at Cinematheque Ontario tonight. Mann's documentary is the definitive portrait of free jazz artists, intrepid innovators who colour outside the lines of traditional jazz forms. The film showcases saxophonist Archie Shepp (a collaborator with the legendary John Coltrane), trumpeter Bill Dixon, and pianists Paul Bley and Cecil Taylor. Imagine the Sound, soon out on DVD for the first time, was honoured in March with a special screening at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Tex. Few directors get so much acclaim for their first celluloid efforts. But the film wouldn't have been made at all, were it not for two incidents that turned Mann from a rock fan into a jazz hound. "I worked at Sam the Record Man's in the mid-1970s, and it was the winter of Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon," Mann, 48, recalled in an interview. "And at Sam's they played them over and over again. It drove me crazy. I grabbed a copy of Dark Side of the Moon and flung it like a frisbee over the diving customers. I nearly decapitated a Wings fan buying Band on the Run. "They wanted to fire me, but I ended up in the jazz department, where nobody went ... so I started listening to Albert Ayler and Eric Dolphy and a lot of the other free jazz musicians. I fell in love with them immediately and I became a jazz fan."

Mann still had a big commitment to rock, though. He had planned to make his feature debut with a documentary about Heatwave, a 1980 rock festival at Mosport Park featuring the Talking Heads, the B-52s and Elvis Costello. "About a week before we were going to film, the organizers told me that they didn't get the rights from the musicians to make a concert film. So the whole thing just fell completely apart," Mann said. "I had a distributor at the time who said, `I'm not going to let all this money that I have to make a movie evaporate.' So I said, `I'd like to make another music film.' And that turned out to be Imagine the Sound." Jazz lovers have applauded his change of heart for more than a quarter century. And now they'll get to see the film in all its restored glory, including 24-track sound that Mann is only now able to fully utilize. They'll also see how one of the musicians in the film, Canadian Paul Bley, taught Mann not only about music, but also making movies. "One of the first memories I have on set of Imagine the Sound was filming Paul Bley. Paul finishes his piece, and I yell, `Cut!' And Paul pulls me aside and says, `Ron, why don't you wait just a little bit until a few seconds or so after I finish? Because music's in the air and it resonates.' "And that's why there's all these long holds at the end of takes, because Bley had truthfully helped me direct."

Imagine the Sound screens at Jackman Hall at 6:30 p.m. The box office is at 416-968-FILM.

'Crouching Tiger' Heirs In Lawsuit

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -Entertainment Reporter

(
May 11, 2007) HONG KONG (AP) – Ang Lee's 2000 martial arts hit "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" made more than US$130 million at the box office and won four Oscars. One would think the movie's success would have brought great wealth to the family of the late Chinese author Wang Dulu, who wrote the novel that inspired the film. Not so, says Wang's son in Canadian court documents. Wang Hong said the Wang family only received US$30,000 because they were ignorant about the movie industry and the law. "Because we did not understand the motion picture business when we signed the 1997 agreement, we had left ourselves in a position where we were unprotected in many ways...and we feel that we were given no proper opportunity to consider the 1999 declaration with the benefit of proper legal advice," Wang said in an affidavit filed in a Regina court last year. He referred to agreements that awarded the movie rights to "Crouching Tiger" to the filmmakers.

Wang, however, did not accuse director Lee or his producers of cheating the Wang family. Now more cautious about protecting the legal rights of his father's works, Wang Hong, a research scientist who lives near Regina, has been caught up in a lawsuit over the movie rights to his father's other novels. The novel "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," was part of a series of five novels called "The Crane-Iron Pentotogy." Both Columbia Pictures and Hollywood producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein's The Weinstein Co. claim they have agreements with Wang to buy the movie rights to the four other novels in his father's series. Columbia Pictures filed a lawsuit in Regina against Wang and The Weinstein Co. in April 2006 seeking to block any agreement between the two defendants about the novels and seeking damages of US$200 million. Wang, however, said in his affidavit while he negotiated with Columbia Pictures he never received a binding agreement from them. He said he has reached agreements with The Weinstein Co. but didn't elaborate on its terms. Wang and The Weinstein Co. tried to kill Columbia Pictures' lawsuit or move it to California but a Regina court rejected their request in July 2006.  An appeals court upheld the lower-court ruling in January, the Regina Leader-Post newspaper reported. Wang and The Weinstein Co. can now appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Wang, Wang's lawyer, Robert Leurer, Columbia Pictures and The Weinstein Co. did not respond to e-mails seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Reel Movies By Rank Amateurs

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Micah Toub

(May 11, 2007) If your yearly suggestion to set up the 8-millimetre projector and watch old reels of the kids running around the yard naked is met with groans from your family, fear not, there is an audience for your work. This Aug. 11 marks the fifth-annual International Home Movie Day, a celebration that includes screenings all across the United States, in Canada and even Japan, of footage shot not by auteurs, but amateurs. In Toronto, Home Movie Day (HMD) is hosted by the Film Reference Library, a division of the Toronto International Film Festival Group. In preparation for the big day's screening - which will take place at Cinematheque Ontario's Jackman Hall - the library invites all small-gauge chroniclers across the city to bring their 8-mm, Super-8 and 16-mm films down to the office from May 15 to July 20. (Videos are accepted if film no longer exists, though grudgingly.) "Each film will be inspected to see if it's playable," says Sylvia Frank, director of the Film Reference Library. If necessary, repairs will be made, and then the film passed on to a curator who will decide whether it is an accidental masterpiece fit for the HMD celebration, or just an accident.

According to Frank, the highlight of last year's screening in Toronto was footage of a Boy Scouts retreat from the 1960s. Included were scenes of the boys paddling their canoes and sitting around the campfire roasting hot dogs, but, for Frank, what made the film special was the landscape. "The shots of a pristine Muskoka brought back a flood of memories," she said. Frank, who calls these nostalgic narratives "the people's art form," believes, as HMD's founders did, that home movies deserve to be preserved alongside the work of more renowned cinematographers. The Library of Congress seems to agree with the sentiment - last year, a short film screened at an HMD event in New Orleans, Think of Me First as a Person, featuring scenes of a developmentally disabled boy as he grows up, was one of the 25 films entered in the library's film registry. After the final frame has run out in Toronto, the film chosen to be the best of the lot will receive more than $100 worth in transfer services so the entrant can get digital copies made of his or her work. That might sound like a strange award for an event promoting the sacredness of film over newer media, but Frank calls these transfers "access copies," easier to play since people probably don't own the proper projectors any more. As for the original, Frank admonishes: "Never throw out the film. The film is the real thing."

So next time your family complains when you start digging through the closet for dusty boxes, just tell them Martin Scorsese called home movies "historical and cultural documents." That's from the HMD website, just below a request from cult-film director John Waters that shouldn't be ignored. "Home Movie Day is an orgy of self-discovery," he says. "If you've got one, whip it out and show it now."

Quest For A Queer Cure

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -Entertainment Reporter

(
May 11, 2007) In a country where same-sex couples get legal status after they've lived together for a year – and in a city where a gay or lesbian wedding ceremony need only be a streetcar ride away – it's easy to assume that we have reached the end of history in the politics of homosexuality. Not so, as seen through the eyes of filmmakers at the annual Inside Out Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival. The 17th edition serves up a heavy dollop of fun, escapist fare among its 276 features and shorts, but polemics are never far below the surface. It's not easy being gay, lesbian or transgendered in most of the world. And festival films reflect that reality. One typical non-fictional effort is Abomination: Homosexuality and the Ex-Gay Movement, a 34-minute documentary produced and directed by New York psychiatrist Dr. Alicia Salzer.

"It's a funny film because we're not filmmakers, we're psychiatrists," says Salzer during a break in taping the Montel Williams daytime television show, where she works as "onscreen trauma expert and director of aftercare." Through the stories of several individuals, Abomination reveals how many fundamentalist Christian organizations in the United States encourage homosexuals to "convert" to heterosexuality through behaviour modification and myriad other therapies, including electro-shock and hypnosis. Salzer will be in Toronto for the screening of Abomination on May 20 at the Royal Ontario Museum. It will be shown with three other films that all focus on reconciling Christianity with same-sex love. The psychiatrist is quick to say that these conversion ministries are not confined to the southern states. She attributes much of the issue's current profile to civil-rights campaigns on behalf of homosexuals. "When people are debating about civil rights, it is for something that you can't change," says Salzer. But if you can change a gay man into a straight one, then he has no need for same-sex rights.

Salzer says that she had no idea how many people have been affected by efforts to "turn" them straight until she started making the film: "It's like when you learn a new word and suddenly it's everywhere." Because of the inner conflicts involved in denying one's true sexuality, Salzer says that we may never know the full extent of the emotional damage inflicted on gay and lesbian people. "It's like incest," says Salzer. "It's everywhere yet no one talks about it." Salzer has aimed Abomination at two groups: "One is the mental-health community to get the word out. I'm afraid that some professionals may not perceive the harm of these conversion therapies." Salzer also wants to speak directly to fundamentalist Christians – "to families on the fence, for the enormous population of parents with gay children. "It's not the statistics that will sway the parents, it's the stories," adds Salzer. The most affecting is from Mary-Lou, a well-spoken Arkansas senior who rejected her lesbian daughter. It was only the daughter's eventual suicide that led her to realize where she had gone wrong. The ultimate message in Abomination is one any person can take away from the theatre. As Salzer says, the film is "for anyone who has wasted a life by trying to be something that they're not." The Inside Out festival, which has grown every year, is now an 11-day event. This year, 100 filmmakers from 30 countries are represented. It opens next Thursday, May 17, and runs until May 27. There are three venues for screenings: the Isabel Bader Theatre, the Royal Ontario Museum and, for fringier fare, Cinecycle. Regular screenings cost no more than $11, while tickets to gala screenings run from $20 to $28.

For more information, visit insideout.ca or go to the festival ticket office on the main floor of the Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor St. W.

Jane Fonda: The Georgia Rule Interview With Kam Williams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 10, 2007) *Baptized Lady Jane Seymour Fonda, the actress/activist dubbed Hanoi Jane during the Vietnam War was born on December 21, 1937 to legendary actor Henry Fonda and New York socialite Frances Brokaw.  The Fonda side of the family is of Italian extraction, having made its way from Genoa to America in the1600s by way of The Netherlands. Jane, a two-time Oscar-winner (for Coming Home and Klute) who's been nominated for an Academy Award seven times, has been riding the wave of a career revival as of late, in the wake of the end of her marriage to brash billionaire Ted Turner. In 2005, she had a surprise hit on her hands with Monster-in-Law, her first film in fifteen years. Now she's back in another titular role, as Georgia, a family matriarch whose frustrated daughter (Felicity Huffman) returns to the family Idaho farm from San Francisco, her spoiled rotten offspring (Lindsay Lohan) in tow.

Kam Williams: What interested you in this film?

Jane Fonda: When I heard that Garry Marshall was going to direct it, I really wanted to do it, because Garry's known for comedy, and I knew from reading the script that there's a lot of funny in here. It's rare that you laugh out loud. In the hands of most other directors, it could have been too dark, but I knew that with Garry it would be one of these movies that you're laughing and crying throughout.

KW: Where do we find your character as movie opens?

JF: Georgia's been pretty happy for 13 years. She was in a marriage that wasn't so good, and I think she's a pretty happy, peaceful widow living here in this small town in Idaho. taking care of her garden, and puttering around. and taking care of the kids next door. and cooking. She loves to cook. And she has her rules. There are certain things you don't do, like you don't take the Lord's name in vain. And you always give people a second chance. That's why the title is Georgia Rule.

KW: What's then occurs as the film unfolds?

JF: The two other generations of women intrude on her life, and the ghosts of the past kind of come back to be healed. And they are, for all three women in their own way, in ways that are very universal. There's a lot of pathos and there's a tremendous amount of humour in it.

KW: How does that plot thicken, so to speak?

For full interview with Kam Williams, go HERE

Laura Linney Is Disciplined, Much Like The Characters She Favours

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey


(May 10, 2007) 'Now you're trying to spin. I recognize spin when I hear it."
Laura Linney wags her finger at me, like a headmistress who has just caught a naughty boy reading comic books in class. We are seated in facing chairs in a bedroom off a publicist's suite, each clutching an unopened bottle of water, trying to negotiate the terms of our interview. She has just said: "I'm not sure it's a good idea for your readers to know this background before seeing the movie." And I have answered: "Okay - just between you and me then ... " That wasn't spin, just a lie, and in any case, she's failing to appreciate my respect for her craft - I haven't asked her whom she's dating or what she's wearing to the premiere. Though she'd probably spank me for saying it, I'm beginning to suspect she's a bit of a control freak. Control is important to many of her characters, even when she plays someone who struggles, sometimes comically, to fight against her own wayward impulses. Now 43, Linney had her breakthrough seven years ago as a single mother trying to cope with her deadbeat brother (Mark Ruffalo) in You Can Count on Me (2000).

You can see that same fight to maintain discipline in several of her best roles, from Mystic River to The Squid and the Whale to Kinsey. Behind it, perhaps, is the toughness of an actor who made it through diligence, not luck. The daughter of well-known off-Broadway playwright Romulus Linney (he divorced her nurse mother when Laura was an infant), she had to work hard in school to get through Brown University, graduating from Juilliard in her late 20s, cutting her teeth on Broadway before Hollywood. She was never an ingénue, and her two Emmys, two Tony nominations and two Oscar nominations (You Can Count on Me and Kinsey) have all been earned since she hit her late 30s. The problem started at the beginning of the interview when I arrived directly from the afternoon screening of her new film, Jindabyne, and she asked me brightly: "So, what did you think?" Jindabyne, which opens tomorrow, is Australian director Raymond Lawrence's adaptation of a well-known Raymond Carver short story, So Much Water So Close to Home (previously used as a central episode in Robert Altman's Short Cuts), about a group of four men, on a fishing trip in the Australian wilderness, who find a murdered woman's body in their favourite fishing spot and tether her corpse to a tree until their weekend's fun is done. Linney plays Claire, an American immigrant married to one of the fishermen, a retired Irish race car driver, Stewart (Gabriel Byrne). She had a breakdown after the birth of their first child. Their marriage, already strained, suffers when she tries to reach out to the aboriginal community.

Lawrence (Bliss, Lantana) has a distinctive working method. He had the male and female actors rehearse separately. When it came time to shoot, he used just one take per scene. As co-star Gabriel Byrne says, his instructions to his cast consisted of such advice as: "Look out that you don't hit that lamp on the left side of the room." Lawrence's apparent aim was to create spontaneous, naturalistic performances, against the brooding presence of the Snowy Mountains landscape. I had difficulty understanding how an apparent blue-stocking American woman like Claire ended up in the remote part of Australia, and I wasn't convinced that amplifying Carver's story improved it. During our interview during the Toronto International Film Festival, I said something non-committal about the emotional distance between the characters. Linney wanted to know what I meant. I answered with a question: "Did you create a back story for Claire? How did she meet Stewart?" She paused as though she were about to regret her answer: "I think they met, probably, in a bar. She was there on a ski trip, looking for adventure. They were both ready to settle down ... "

Then she stopped. She wasn't sure her background work was relevant and may, in fact, prejudice viewers' experience of the film. I said I was trying to understand her creative process. She thought for a moment, and then countered: "I'm happy to talk about the creative process, but you're looking for answers." Not so unusual in an interview, though I understand her concern. What an artist really wants to be asked: What was it you were trying to do? We went back to familiar ground. How did she hear about the project? Australian actor Anthony LaPaglia, a friend of hers, sent it to her and said Ray Lawrence was a genius and she had to do the film. What motivated her to take the role? She loved the "beautifully balanced" script, it was a chance to work in remote areas of Australia and work with a favourite actor, Gabriel Byrne, for the third time (P.S., A Simple Twist of Fate). Thematically, she saw it as a movie about "forgiveness, forgiving each other and forgiving yourself." And why did she think her character reacted the way she did? Partly, Linney says, out of a sense of guilt at abandoning her husband and child when suffering from postpartum depression. It may also have been her background as an American, she says, and the legacy of the civil-rights movement. Then she catches herself: "But now you're asking for answers again." Would she feel the need to invent a history for a character in a Chekhov play?

"You had better know your character's history with Chekhov," she says. She outlines, with a tone of firm patience, how it works: You speculate about and research the character as much as you can. Then you work on the physical embodiment, the body language, voice and gestures that follow from the psychological profile. Then, you stop analyzing and do the performance, and "you hope" that some part of your work will communicate to your audience. Like everything creative, the steps are obvious as the process remains mysterious. Laura Linney's creative process may be as personal as whom she dates or what she wears, but perhaps she offers one clue. It's about maintaining control as much as possible, and then surrendering it.

Moore Hits Back Over Cuba Probe

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(
May 11, 2007) LOS ANGELES – Filmmaker Michael Moore has asked the Bush administration to call off an investigation of his trip to Cuba to get treatment for ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers for a segment in his upcoming health-care expose, Sicko. Moore, who made the hit documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 assailing President Bush's handling of Sept. 11, said in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Friday that the White House may have opened the investigation for political reasons. "For five and a half years, the Bush administration has ignored and neglected the heroes of the 9/11 community," Moore said in the letter, which he posted on the liberal Web site Daily Kos. "These heroic first responders have been left to fend for themselves, without coverage and without care. "I understand why the Bush administration is coming after me – I have tried to help the very people they refuse to help, but until George W. Bush outlaws helping your fellow man, I have broken no laws and I have nothing to hide.''

Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. is releasing Sicko, told The Associated Press the movie is a "healing film" that could bring opponents together over the ills of America's health-care system. "This time, we didn't want the fight, because the movie unites both sides," Weinstein said. "We've shown the movie to Republicans. Both sides of the bench love the film. The pharmaceutical industry won't like the movie. HMOs will try to run us out of town, but that's not relevant to the situation. "The whole campaign this time was not to be incendiary. It was, can Michael Moore bring both sides together?'' The health-care industry Moore skewers in Sicko was a major contributor to Bush's 2004 re-election campaign and to Republican candidates over the last four years, Moore wrote. "I can understand why that industry's main recipient of its contributions – President Bush – would want to harass, intimidate and potentially prevent this film from having its widest possible audience," Moore wrote. Treasury officials in Washington said Friday they would have no comment on the contents of Moore's letter, citing a policy against discussing specific investigations being conducted by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, the agency that enforces the trade embargo against Cuba.

"Generally speaking, as administrators and enforcers of U.S. sanctions, OFAC is required to investigate potential violations of these programs," Treasury spokeswoman AnnMarie Hauser said. "In doing so, OFAC issues hundreds of letters each year asking for additional information when possible sanctions violations have occurred.'' OFAC notified Moore in a letter dated May 2 that it was conducting a civil investigation for possible violations of the U.S. trade embargo restricting travel to Cuba. Moore questioned the timing of the investigation, noting that Sicko premieres May 19 at the Cannes Film Festival and debuts in U.S. theatres June 29. The Bush administration knew of his plans to travel to Cuba since last October, said Moore, who went there in March with about 10 ailing workers involved in the rescue effort at the World Trade Center ruins. Weinstein said the investigation would only help publicize the film. "The timing is amazing. You would think that we originated this. It reads like a fiction best-seller," Weinstein said. The Weinstein Co. said it has hired David Boies, the chief attorney in Al Gore's recount battle against Bush in the 2000 presidential election, to help on the "Sicko" case. Cuba on Friday characterized Moore as a victim of censorship and the U.S. trade embargo. The Communist Party daily Granma called the 45-year-old U.S. travel and trade sanctions "a criminal action that has cost lives and grave consequences for the inhabitants of the island," as well as Americans.

"Any resemblance to McCarthyism is no coincidence," the newspaper opined, referring to the political witch hunt that U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy carried out against suspected American communists in the 1950s. The U.S. government's targeting of Moore "confirms the imperial philosophy of censorship" by American officials, it added. U.S. State Department officials on Friday declined to comment on Granma's criticisms of the American government and referred calls to the Treasury Department. OFAC's letter to Moore noted that he had applied in October 2006 for permission as a full-time journalist to travel to Cuba, but that the agency had not made any determination on his request. The agency gave Moore 20 business days to provide details on his Cuba trip and the names of those who accompanied him. Moore won an Academy Award for best documentary with his 2002 gun-control film Bowling for Columbine and scolded Bush in his Oscar acceptance speech as the war in Iraq was just getting under way. The investigation has given master promoter Moore another jolt of publicity just before the release of one of his films. Fahrenheit 9/11 premiered at Cannes in 2004 amid a public quarrel between Moore and the Walt Disney Co., which refused to let subsidiary Miramax release the film because of its political content. Miramax bosses Harvey and Bob Weinstein ended up releasing the film on their own and later left to form the Weinstein Co., distributor of "Sicko.'' "This is Fahrenheit all over again. `Let's pressure somebody.' Last time it was Disney, this time it's direct," Harvey Weinstein said.

FILM TIDBITS

Jaden Smith Books Second Film Role

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 10, 2007) *
Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, the 8-year-old son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, has been cast in his first feature film since debuting last year in his father’s movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.”  In the film “Newton’s Law,” from Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment shingle under Columbia, the younger Smith will play a bright and talented young inventor who gets trapped in a science center during his class field trip.   “Newton’s Law” was written by Carolyn Brooks, who has worked as a visual effects artist on such films as "Garfield," "The Chronicles of Riddick," "Ice Princess" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."      As previously reported, Overbrook is set to begin production next month on “Lakeview Terrace,” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington in the story of an interracial couple whose move into their dream home turns ugly when they are taunted by their racist next door neighbour.

Eddie Murphy May Star In Fantasy Island Remake

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - APF

(May 11, 2007) Los Angeles -- Veteran comedian
Eddie Murphy is in negotiations to star in a big-screen remake of the long-running television show Fantasy Island, it was reported yesterday. Murphy, 46, who missed out on an Oscar this year for his performance in the hit film musical Dreamgirls, will play several roles in the film simultaneously, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The TV series, starring Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize, ran from 1978 to 1984 and centred around a magical island where guests lived out their dreams. The film will be made by Columbia Pictures.

Laurence Fishburne ‘Tortured’ In New Thriller

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 11, 2007) *
Laurence Fishburne will be on the receiving end of much pain in the new crime thriller “Tortured,” which is scheduled to begin production on Monday in Vancouver. The story follows an undercover FBI agent (Cole Hauser) who infiltrates the world's most powerful crime syndicate. When he cracks the inner circle, he's assigned the task of torturing one of its accountants, played by Fishburne.  Five Star Pictures, Insight Film Studios and Proud Mary Entertainment are producing, with Nolan Lebovitz directing from his own script, reports Variety.  Fishburne will next be seen in the blockbuster action film “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” which is due for release on June 15.

Oceans 13 for Darfur

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(May 11, 2007) Stars of
Ocean's Thirteen have agreed to use the lighthearted caper film to call attention to a more serious cause: the genocide in Sudan's western Darfur region. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle along with producer Jerry Weintraub are using the film to promote their website, notonourwatchproject.org, partnered with the International Rescue Committee to raise funds to aid the hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by the conflict. There will be benefit screenings in advance of the June 8 release, and a fundraising debut in Cannes, plus a June 5 premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where the stars will leave footprints in the wet cement outside the Hollywood tourist spot.

Mike Tyson Documentary In The Works

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 16, 2007) *Filmmaker James Toback first met
Mike Tyson in 1985, when the boxer from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, NY was just 19 and on the verge of winning his first heavyweight title. The director’s fascination with the former champ would increase throughout the years; Tyson was even granted bit parts in two of Toback’s films: "Black and White" (1999) and "When Will I Be Loved" (2004). Iron Mike will appear in yet another Toback project this year, but for the first time he’ll serve as the film’s main attraction.  “Tyson,” Toback’s forthcoming documentary about the ex-fighter, will use more than 30 hours of recently completed interviews with the former boxer and is expected to be completed in the fall, reports Daily Variety.  The film will chronicle every aspect of his rise and fall – including his marriage to actress Robin Givens, being knocked out by Buster Douglas, his prison stint for rape and biting off Evander Holyfield's ear in the ring. After Tyson emerged clean and sober following a recent rehab stint, he and Toback decided it was time to tell his story in full detail. "The point is not to polish his image or make a cinematic apology, but rather to get a firsthand look at a very complex and epic story," Toback told Variety. "He was honest about all the things that have highlighted his life, from the bitter divorce, the ear-biting, prison, to his becoming a sex addict. He is self-aware, smart and a totally fractured personality, and he made himself completely vulnerable."       Tyson said he was "humbled and appreciate that Mr. Toback gave me an opportunity to be involved in this project. I will, to the best of my abilities, give a truthful account of myself."

::TV NEWS::

Me And My Girl And The Gilmore Girls

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Helen Spitzer

(May 13, 2007) On the day that I found out that the next episode of
Gilmore Girls was to be the last in the series' eight-year history, I went to my daughter's school to eat lunch with her, because I needed a hug. Like a lot of moms and daughters, we are grieving the demise of the show – about an eccentric single mom and her geeky-cool daughter – because we too have grown up alongside Rory and Lorelai Gilmore. Through distressing plot turns and sometimes uneven scripts, we've been there, shouting advice at the television. Rooting for those girls.  We're not really a TV family. A couple of years ago the man I'd been dating showed me the first two episodes of Gilmore Girls – I promptly burst into tears, stunned to see something that resonated so strongly. I went home with the first season on video, and a sense that this guy was a keeper. Edie and I spent that entire winter watching obsessively, and I grew to love the moment when she'd turn to me, mischievous freckles ablaze and ask, "Want to watch Gilmore Girls?" It became part of who we are together, and eerily mirrored our own lives. You see, I'm a rock 'n' roll mama. Edie learned to put a needle on a record (Elvis Costello's Get Happy) at the age of 5, and for most of her young life, normal has looked like this: kitchen counter piled high with CDs as well as permission slips, me writing record reviews when she comes down for breakfast, and the occasional band staying in her room (I always ask first) when she's at her dad's.

There was that time I showed up as parent supervisor and had to keep my jacket zipped up, because I'd unthinkingly worn my "rock 'n' roll motherf*er" T-shirt. Or the inescapable fact of our improvised meals (how they don't go broke eating out every day, neither of us understand). For a long time I felt vaguely inadequate waiting with the other moms for the school bell to ring, coffee in hand. I really, really get Lorelai Gilmore. Though the population of Guelph is 10 times that of Star's Hollow, Edie spends most of our walks downtown saying hello to people who know the minute details of her life. She's the centre of my universe, and the whole town knows it. Like Lorelai, I am lucky to have a ridiculously level-headed kid, who doesn't necessarily want to come to the all-ages show with me, and who works ahead on her homework so that Friday's assignment is done mid-week. In other words, nothing like me. Except that Edie knows her own mind, and will not be moved until she has argued her point. She has a slightly kooky way of dressing and an inordinate fondness for striped socks. Though she wasn't particularly bookish when we started watching the show, Rory Gilmore worked her magic there too. Watching the show together has helped draw Edie out of her quiet self, sparking conversations we might not have otherwise had. Yes, it was mildly terrifying when my then-9-year-old watched with interest one of Lane and Rory's more frank conversations about sex, or when Rory lost her virginity. And Lorelai gets more action than any other mom on a family TV show. Keeping communication honest is easy to decide, and hard to do – Lorelai helped me be brave.

Gilmore Girls helped my daughter and me see each other as flawed and real, and love each other fiercely anyway. Being a parent is all-consuming: it's heartbreak and magic wrapped up all together, and I'm still amazed my kid can cross the street by herself. The show brought Edie and me closer as she approaches her teen years – not what I was expecting at the cusp of 13.  Somewhere along the way, I started to see that Edie's been rooting for my happiness as well. And when I fell for the guy who brought the Gilmore Girls into our house – the love of both our lives – I asked her permission first. Because it would only make sense to share it with someone who appreciates the beauty of our unconventional life together. Helen Spitzer is a music critic and broadcaster based in Guelph.

Major Change Coming For Radio, TV Rules

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Grant Robertson

(May 10, 2007) Canada's broadcast regulator is laying the groundwork for a dramatic shake-up of the television and radio industries by suggesting it will entertain “a lighter approach to regulation” as long as support for Canadian programming is upheld. Speaking to broadcasters in British Columbia Thursday, the chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Konrad von Finckenstein, gave the first indication of how he plans to reshape the regulator over the next five years. On the heels of a major review of the telecom sector that has paved the way for deregulation of local phone service, Mr. von Finckenstein announced the CRTC is conducting a sweeping assessment of its own TV and radio policies. “In the past, we took a heavily regulated approach in order to nourish our broadcasting system,” he said in a speech in Penticton, B.C.  “We now feel that there is a need for some rebalancing. We must avoid suffocating the forces of the market. In fact, we must give fuller play to the energy and creativity of market forces.”

However, Mr. von Finckenstein attached a key condition to the process. Any changes to regulation must fit within the Broadcasting Act, which requires support for domestic programming and access to the broadcasting system for all Canadians. In the face of technological change, radio and TV broadcasters have been arguing for changes to the regulations governing the sector. In radio, some broadcasters want Canadian content requirements reduced, saying it hinders their ability to compete against iPods and Internet radio. TV broadcasters, meanwhile are seeking the right to consolidate. In the case of CTVglobemedia Inc., which bought CHUM Ltd. last summer, the company wants to own several stations in one market. “There is no doubt that a new wind is blowing. We have a government that is very keen on less regulation, and that has directed us to accept market forces as the default and regulation as the exception,” Mr. von Finckenstein said. “Regulation will always be necessary [in broadcasting].  “The question, however, is what level of regulation?” Mr. von Finckenstein said the CRTC has commissioned two communications lawyers – Laurence Dunbar and Christian Leduc – to conduct the review of its policies.  Observers said the regulator appears to be avoiding a complete deregulation of the TV sector, which critics of the industry have feared would lead to less support for Canadian programming.

Several times in his speech, Mr. von Finckenstein referred to upholding the principles of the Broadcasting Act, said Marc Raboy, a professor of media policy at McGill University in Montreal. Instead, Mr. Raboy said he views the CRTC's move more as a signal from the regulator that it is willing to reshape the industry through negotiating with the broadcasters. That is, if they are willing to uphold their support of Canadian programming, then the regulator might be willing to bend on concessions such as ownership restrictions. “They're saying we are attuned to the changes taking place in the industry, and to the government taking a lighter hand … but he keeps coming back to the cultural objectives,” Mr. Raboy said. “We'll have to see how he actually puts it into concrete terms.” The CRTC isn't bound to implement any conclusions of the report, which will be completed over the next four months

Beyond YouTube, Challengers Emerge

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(
May 13, 2007) There is a lot of talk these days about YouTube killers, particularly now that it looks like the video-sharing site might be facing death by a thousand lawsuits. At this point, though, when it comes to TV on the Internet, the embattled site remains king. However, in the last few months two new interesting and very buzz-filled ventures are seeing if they are ready for prime time.  Joost (www.joost.com) and Vuze (www.vuze.com) have many things in common, but take slightly different approaches to Internet-based video. People keen to chase down commercial TV for their computer will be trying out both in the weeks to come. Are they worth the bother? From what we've seen so far, here's a compare and contrast.

Pirates going legit: Joost was created by the masterminds behind the online phone service Skype and the file-sharing service Kazaa, and was originally called the Venice Project. Vuze, originally named Zudeo, is the new venture from the folks at Azureus, a very popular file-sharing program which works with BitTorrent.

The Hype: Joost is definitely winning in this category. The interweb has been buzzing since the Skype guys first announced it. It's available on an invite-only basis, and up until recently those invites were quite hard to get. In a recent update, users were given 998 invites to share, so they're now trickling out.  Vuze is available for download by anyone, and in some ways it's a simplified, slick re-skin of the company's incredibly popular BitTorrent client, but the company has not yet decided how to aggressively try to convert those users over.

Partners: This is where a lot of the recent news has been coming as both companies have been signing deals left and right to win the rights to programming. Vuze has the BBC, Showtime Networks (so shows like Weeds, Dexter and The L Word are available), A&E, G4 TV, National Geographic and Starz Media among many others, and also encourages self-publishers. Joost has plenty of biggies including Viacom and Warner Bros. but is also striking deals with organizations like the NHL. They also have a fair bit of Canadian partnerships, including CHUM, JumpTV and Alliance Atlantis – helping you enjoy your favourite Canadian shows anywhere in the world, and on your schedule.

The viewing experience: Joost feels a bit more like a regular TV experience on your computer. Unless you minimize the screen, it takes over your entire screen with a sharp, broadcast-quality image. Through a series of drop-down menus, you select you channel, and then the show. The delivery of video is almost instantaneous. Just select and go.  With Vuze, you select a video that you'd like to watch, but then you have to wait until it downloads. It's quite fast, though – a movie trailer took about four minutes to download on my high-speed cable – and it allows users some flexibility – they can watch the video later, or on a device. That's all opposed to Joost's model, which is similar to streaming. The downloaded Vuze file plays in the default media player on your computer – in my case, QuickTime. Vuze is also trying to set itself apart by delivering high-definition content, but even on my non-HD screen, the video quality was excellent.

How do they make money: Joost is ad-supported, so while you search for things to watch, or sometimes before and after shows, a commercial will play, but all the content is free. At this time, much of Vuze content is free; some is for rent (after a certain time period, it disappears from your computer) or for sale. Vuze is also working on their ad-supported model, which will allow publishers to decide how they want to integrate ads into their videos.

What makes them different from YouTube?: Neither is browser-based, so you have to download the software, although both are easy to use. The video quality on both leaves YouTube in the dust. Vuze's content – particularly the stuff for rent or sale – comes with digital rights management, however.  Joost feels much more immediate with its broadcast model. Vuze seems to want user-generated content and wants to build a YouTube-like community. At this point, that is an area where YouTube has both beat. Neither has an easy, fast-linking way to capitalize on something that goes viral. That will probably change as the community grows, but even now, both Joost and Vuze are better at long-form content.

The verdict so far: It's very early days, but both already have an impressive level of content. Joost seems a bit fancier, while Vuze's feel will seem more familiar to most computer users. We like that all Joost content is free, while premium content costs on Vuze. But both are definitely worth checking out, and on that front, Vuze wins simply because it is open to all, as opposed to Joost's current invite-only approach.

NBC, Producer Reach Deal To Save Law & Order Shows

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - David Bauder, Associated Press

(May 14, 2007) NEW YORK – NBC Universal and producer Dick Wolf struck a last-minute deal Sunday to keep
Law & Order and its two spinoffs on the air, although Law & Order: Criminal Intent episodes will first be seen on the USA cable network. The deal ensures an 18th season of Law & Order on NBC. That's second only to Gunsmoke, which aired from 1955 to 1975 and was the longest-running network drama series on TV. NBC announces its fall television schedule on Monday, opening a week where all the broadcasters outline next season's plans to advertisers in New York. NBC had essentially concluded it had room for only two of Wolf's series on next year's schedule. Law & Order: SVU has the highest ratings of the three, so that was safe. After some brief conversations about shifting Law & Order to Time Warner Inc.'s TNT, the decision was made to keep Criminal Intent for USA, said Jeff Zucker, chairman of NBC Universal. NBC and USA are corporate cousins within NBC Universal, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent reruns make up some of its most popular programming. Now USA will be able to premiere a full season's worth of 22 episodes of what had been an established network series, a first for the business. The series is entering its seventh season.

"This was a strategic decision by us," Zucker said. "We are really taking USA to a new stratosphere."
It's not clear when Criminal Intent episodes will air on NBC; they will likely be used to fill a hole when a new fall drama fails. Law & Order sank sharply in the ratings this year, although that was partly expected with a move to Fridays, one of the least-watched nights on television. While it will be back for an 18th season, NBC executives declined Sunday to say whether it will start in the fall or midseason. The deal also forces Wolf to cut production costs for the series and hit new financial targets, although they weren't publicly outlined. Wolf said this wouldn't result in any significant cast changes or be visible to viewers. "Nobody was casting aspersions on the creative process," he said. "It was just costing too much for the realities of how the business has evolved." NBC has suffered in the ratings this season, particularly this spring, with only Heroes emerging as a new hit. At the same time, USA is a very profitable operation. NBC said the status of Fred Thompson, who plays District Attorney Arthur Branch on Law & Order and is considered a potential GOP presidential candidate, had nothing to do with the discussions. Thompson is under option for another season of ripped-from-the-headlines crime drama, but Wolf said Sunday he knew nothing of the actor-politician's plans.

"I haven't talked to him for the last two weeks," he said. "So your guess is as good as mine."
Keeping Law & Order on the air long enough to eclipse the Gunsmoke record is his "ultimate dream," Wolf said. "Creatively, the show is still firing on all cylinders and I have no doubt the show's quality can and will continue for years to come," he said.

Grey's Anatomy Spinoff Leads ABC Line-Up

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - David Bauder, Associated Press

(May 15, 2007) NEW YORK – ABC's
Grey's Anatomy spinoff will air next fall on an all-new Wednesday night schedule, one of 11 new series the network plans for next season. Private Practice features Dr. Addison Shepard, who leaves Seattle for work in Los Angeles. A special Grey's Anatomy that effectively served as the show's pilot was seen by 21 million people earlier this month. Veteran TV actors Merrin Dungey, Tim Daly, Taye Diggs and Amy Brenneman will join star Kate Walsh in Private Practice, which will air at 9 p.m. Two other new series will air Wednesdays on ABC in the fall. Pushing Daisies, described as a forensic fairy tale, features a boy who can touch dead people and bring them back to life. Dirty Sexy Money is a prime-time soap opera about a wealthy New York family. ABC also gave the go-ahead to Cavemen, a comedy adapted from the Geico insurance commercials. The network cancelled the comedies George Lopez, Help Me Help You and Knights of Prosperity. What About Brian did not make the cut, and ABC is still debating the future of According to Jim, while leaving it off the fall schedule. The first prime-time series from Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions, Oprah's Big Give, will debut in midseason. It's a reality series where contestants compete in philanthropy.

In contrast to last year, when Grey's Anatomy made its successful switch to Thursday nights, ABC plans no major shifts of its existing series. Men in Trees moves to an earlier time slot on Friday nights. Lost will return in midseason, but ABC made no commitment Tuesday on where it will land on the schedule. Other new series that ABC plans for next season:

Big Shots, a drama about four hard-charging friends who are dysfunctional CEOs. Dylan McDermott, Christopher Titus, Joshua Malina and Michael Vartan play the lead characters.

Cashmere Mafia, ABC's attempt to inherit the Sex and the City mantle. Four women, friends since business school, juggle their personal and professional lives in New York. NBC has a similar new show – with three women.

Eli Stone, a drama about a top lawyer in San Francisco who begins having visions because of a brain aneurysm.

Women's Murder Club, based on James Patterson novels, is a drama about four women in San Francisco – a detective, district attorney, medical examiner and reporter – who work together to solve crimes.

Carpoolers, a comedy about four men from different backgrounds who get together each day for some male bonding on the drive to work.

Miss/Guided, a comedy about a former high school geek who returns to her alma mater as a guidance counsellor, only to see an ex-cheerleader and former nemesis come back as an English teacher.

Sam I Am, a comedy with Christina Applegate about a woman who awakes from a coma with no memory, only to find out she was a creep before.

TV TIDBITS

Selleck Joining Cast Of TV's Las Vegas

Source:  Associated Press

(May 10, 2007) Los Angeles --
Tom Selleck, who reigned in Hawaii asMagnum, P.I., is getting ready to take over Las Vegas. Selleck will join the cast of the NBC drama next season, playing a billionaire with a mysterious past who becomes the new owner of the show's centrepiece hotel, the Montecito Resort & Casino, the network said yesterday. Selleck is coming to the series as the same time that James Caan, who starred as the casino's surveillance chief and chief exec, departs. Caan, who had previously announced he would leave after the season finale in March, will be back for the premiere next season, NBC said. Selleck played easygoing detective Thomas Magnum on the hit CBS drama Magnum P.I. from 1980 to 1988. His films include 3 Men and a Baby and In & Out

‘All Of Us’ Cancelled By CW

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 16, 2007) *It’s a wrap for the Will Smith-produced sitcom “
All of Us,” one of four black comedies in the CW’s Monday night line-up and the only casualty of the quartet. The series, starring Duane Martin, LisaRaye, Terri J. Vaughn, Tony Rock and Elise Neal, survived the transition from UPN to the CW, but was unable to live past its current third season. Its Monday night neighbours, “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Girlfriends” and “The Game” were all picked up for another year.  “Chris” was renewed for a third season earlier this spring. “Girlfriends,” which aired its season finale last week, will begin an eighth season in the fall. Its spinoff, “The Game,” completed its first season on Monday.  As for CW’s other fare, the “Gilmore Girls” ended its seven-season run last night, “Veronica Mars” is still awaiting word on its fate, and returning for another year are the dramas "Smallville," "Supernatural" and "One Tree Hill.  Three new dramas and two unscripted magazine shows have been added to the CW’s fall line-up. The dramas include "Gossip Girl," "Reaper" and "Wild at Heart.  On the unscripted side, “Online Nation” is described by Daily Variety as sort of "America's Funniest Home Videos" for the YouTube generation, while “CW Now” is the net's "ET"-style look at pop culture.

Randy Jackson To Host NBC Dance Competition

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(May 16, 2007) *“American Idol” judge
Randy Jackson will serve as an executive producer and host of “World Moves,” a new television series for NBC that will follow dance teams from around the world competing in Los Angeles for an international touring contract. Also behind the series is Hip Hop International, a Los Angeles-based live event and television production company who created the annual World Hip Hop Championships, an annual three-day event featuring panel workshops with famous hip hop dancers, an urban moves dance workshop, a popping and locking contest and more.  Jackson will assist in the auditions of dance crews from around the world, who will vie for a chance to come to Los Angeles and compete for the global championship and an international touring contract.  The live episodes of “World Moves” will feature five to seven members demonstrating their creativity, athleticism and ability to dance, while capturing the personal drama that unfolds within each of the teams.  The show was announced Monday as part of NBC's new 2007-08 primetime line up.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Radio Golf: In The Winner's 'Circle'

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(May 11, 2007) August Wilson's final play
'Radio Golf' is a winner. On the heels of opening at Broadway's Cort Theatre earlier this week, the Kenny Leon-directed tour-de-force -- starring Harry Lennix and Tonya Pinkins -- was awarded the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play. This latest win makes the late Pultizer Prize and Tony Award winner the most celebrated playwright by the Circle with eight wins, total. The awards will be presented at a cocktail reception on May 14 at the Algonquin Hotel, where the New York Drama Critics' Circle was founded in 1935. Comprised of 21 drama critics from daily newspapers, magazines and wire services based in the New York metropolitan area, The New York Drama Critics' Circle Award holds the distinction as the nation's second-oldest theatre award, after the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. 'Radio Golf,' also starring Anthony Chisolm, John Earl Jelks and James A. Williams, is the final play in a ten-play cycle, chronicling African American life in Pittsburgh through the 20th century -- decade by decade.

Set in 1997 in the city's renaissance-ready Hill District, 'Radio' is the story of a charismatic real estate mogul with promising political aspirations. He and his publicity savvy, Starbuck-swigging spouse are a shoo-in to be the city's next power couple. But ghosts from the past shake him to his moral core, as a government sanctioned gentrification project gets underway.  With Tupac Shakur, Usher and EnVogue as a musical backdrop, and imagery of Tiger Woods in full swing displayed, 'Radio Golf' is a great reflection of what the contemporary landscape embodies. The play's title is the name of a black-owned radio station's program. African-American business dealing and the new popularity of golf is a big part of the storyline. Even the notorious N-Word gets some shine during an intense scene, where two black male stereotypes go toe-to-toe. "Negroes got blindeyetis," one character tells another. "A dog knows it's a dog. A cat knows it's a cat. But a Negro don't know he's a Negro. He thinks he's a white man." From there the language gets a little uncomfortable -- for some -- but nevertheless remains authentic. Acclaimed actors Tamara Tunie and Wendell Pierce are making their own history by co-producing this monumental effort -- their first Broadway play. "It's about August Wilson and his legacy and his brilliance and his contribution to the country as a whole," Tunie told 'The BV Newswire.'  The coveted Tony Awards nominations will be announced on May 15, and 'Radio Golf' is certainly worthy of a few nods.

Stage West Has Come A Long Way Since Its Early Days

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(May 10, 2007) When the six leading men of The Full Monty finish their final number tonight at Stage West and rip off their last piece of apparel, the roar from the crowd won't just be celebrating the guys and their grand unveiling. No, this isn't just one more premiere for the popular Mississauga dinner theatre; it's the 100th opening night in its 21-year history.  That's a lot of prime rib sliced up at the buffet and a lot of Spanish coffee flowing under the bridge. Close to 2 million patrons have enjoyed the offerings at Stage West over the past two decades. But things have changed a lot in the world of dinner theatre since that night in 1986 when Stage West Mississauga opened its doors with a production of Andrew Bergman's comedy Social Security that starred Beth Howland (Vera on Alice) and Ray Buktenica (Benny on Rhoda). Back in those days, the formula was simple: pick a small, one-set comedy, then cast it with some people who had been on a TV series not that long ago. For a while it seemed like everyone who had ever played a role on M*A*S*H found their way onto the stage of the theatre on Dixie Rd. just south of the 401 to entertain the crowds in between the Caesar salad and the cherry cheesecake.

It was a concept that businessman Howard Pechet had already been honing to a fine edge for the previous decade in the Stage West operation he began at his family's Mayfield Inn in Edmonton. "It's a wonder we're all still here," laughed Pechet on the phone from the West Coast. "I knew so little in those days, I managed to screw up in every possible way. "I opened up with Gloria DeHaven in one of the few flops Neil Simon ever wrote, something called The Gingerbread Lady," he recalled. "Our first night, the temperature outside was 40 below and we had 40 people in the audience. "And then Miss DeHaven proceeded to rewrite the entire script as she was going along on opening night. Oh, it wasn't dull, let me tell you that!" The hardest part on Pechet in those opening years was that he could only run shows for 2  1/2 weeks. "That meant," he groans, "that I had to have another one ready to go into rehearsal the Monday after the last one opened." Now each show runs eight weeks, which makes things a little easier. Pechet also had more than his fair share of nightmares with stars who showed up "and promptly started pouring triple vodkas down their throats, until they didn't just forget what play they were in, they forgot what country they were in." I witnessed one of those disasters personally back in the early 1990s. A celebrated screen star (no names, please, she's still alive today) showed up for the opening night of the musical she was supposed to star definitely the worse for wear.

At first, we all just thought she was acting a little odd, but it was when she crossed the stage, sat down on the floor and said to the conductor, "Honey, just play my first note and everything will be fine," that I knew we were in big trouble. She never made it to a second performance. I think they said she had come down with the flu. But then there were the good stars. "I can't say enough about the people like Jamie Farr and Gale Gordon," stresses Pechet. "They showed up and worked like solid professionals, were kind to their fans and kept everybody happy." Things were moving smoothly and at one point, there were five theatres in the Stage West empire. Now it's down to two: Calgary and Mississauga. "It was too many venues to run effectively," Pechet came to realize. He also noticed that the overall dynamic was changing. "I wasn't able to get stars right after they'd finished their TV series any more. Why not? Because they were now making a million dollars an episode and they didn't need what we could pay them." And as long as he stayed rooted to the old-style plays with the old-style names, "I'd be playing to an ever-shrinking demographic. We all know that older people like to go to the theatre, but what appeals to the 55-year-olds today isn't what appealed to them 20 years ago." And so he switched: away from fading Hollywood stars to up-and-coming Canadian talent. Nowadays, Pechet, the man who used to boast about signing Joyce DeWitt, takes more pride in announcing that he's "one of the three largest employers of Canadian Equity actors in the country."

With the change in talent came a change in shows as well. Where comedy once was king, the musical is now the monarch. At first, Pechet went in for the classic Broadway shows like South Pacific and My Fair Lady and he still leans on them to a certain degree. But more and more, the pendulum has swung to hipper titles like The Rocky Horror Show (which he produced two years ahead of CanStage) and musical revues like the popular British Invasion and California Dreaming series, which he co-authors. "We're bringing in a much younger audience now," says Pechet. "Our matinees these days are more likely to have groups of students than seniors." And although some people roll their eyes when they hear the term "dinner theatre," Pechet can justifiably point to the fully professional calibre of all the shows he produces. Sure, not every one is a hit, but then every other professional company in the GTA has its ups and downs. Some things haven't changed in 21 years: the salad bar, the prime rib carving table, the crowd that surrounds the dessert buffet like vultures, the "specialty cocktails" created for each show. "Those things provide a comfort element for people," says Pechet. "And it must be working, because we're currently up to 18,000 season ticket holders and growing." It's also one of the city's better entertainment bargains: a five-show subscription starts for as little as $223 – and that includes your meal. So when you go to see The Full Monty, feel free to raise a glass and toast the ongoing success of Stage West. And if the cast don't join you, never mind; they need their hands free to cover certain parts of their, er, onstage personalities.

Just the facts

What: The Full Monty
Where: Stage West, 5400 Dixie Rd., Mississauga
When: Until July 8
Tickets: 905-238-0042

We're Talking About A Hit

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

Mack and Mabel
(out of four)
Music & lyrics by Jerry Herman; Book by Michael Stewart. Directed by Molly Smith. Until Oct. 28 at the Festival Theatre. 1-800-511-SHAW

(May 14, 2007) NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE–Ladies and gentlemen, welcome a dazzling new star to the Canadian musical theatre: Benedict Campbell.
Yes, that's the same Campbell whose work as a classical actor you've been admiring at Stratford and Shaw for over 20 years, but on Saturday night, he delivered a performance at the opening night of Mack and Mabel that not only was a thing of beauty in itself, but also succeeded in making this problematic musical truly work for the very first time. Crackling with electricity, firing on all cylinders, Campbell grabs our attention with his first entrance and never lets go. As silent filmmaker Mack Sennett, he acts with passion, sings with conviction and even dances with panache. And although we're dealing with my memories of a production I saw 33 years ago, I'm willing to say that Campbell surpasses Robert Preston in the original version.  He has all of Preston's surface snap, crackle and pop, but there's also hurt and anger burning underneath. It's simply an astonishing piece of work and, if this version of Mack and Mabel had nothing else to recommend it, Campbell alone would be worth the drive to Niagara.

Happily, there's a whole lot more to cheer about this clever and classy production that has "hit" written all over it.
In Glynis Ranney, he has a leading lady of sweetness and warmth, who's able to make us laugh one minute and cry the next. Her Mabel Normand is a feisty, street-smart cookie with an innocent heart who gets plunged into stardom and suddenly finds she just can't pay the price. The book by Michael Stewart (revised by his sister, Francine Pascal) remains the same sketchy affair it's always been, especially when chronicling Mabel's journey down the road to ruin. A few lines of coke and she's suddenly weaving around the stage like Lindsay Lohan on a lost weekend. And I defy anyone who doesn't know their Hollywood history to understand the murky events surrounding the death of Mabel's other lover, director William Desmond Taylor, as presented in the show. But enough complaining. It's true that Mack and Mabel has an ugly stepsister of a book, but it's got a Cinderella of a score by Jerry Herman, and Paul Sportelli is the musical fairy godmother who brings it to joyous life on the stage. His orchestra has zing, his singers are all gems and the sound design by John Lott is the best I've heard on a Canadian stage in years. Every word, every note is a clear as bell and yet it never sounds amplified. Sheer magic.

Director Molly Smith has staged things with brisk inventiveness against an ever-changing set from William Schmuck. They do a nice job of actually recreating the look as well as the feel of old silent movies, even though Jock Munro's lighting could use a little more showbiz razzle dazzle on occasion.
Smith has also seized on the fact that she has an ensemble company of talented actors and encouraged them to fill out the paper-thin characters they've been given with their considerable skills. Gabrielle Jones has heart to spare as the faithful Lottie, Jeff Madden is smooth and bright as Frank Capra, Neil Barclay brings Fatty Arbuckle back to life with gusto, Peter Millard lurks in style as William Desmond Taylor, while Jay Turvey and William Vickers are consistently droll as a pair of financiers. On the other hand, the choreography of Baayork Lee is pretty standard stuff, full of routine kick lines and ho-hum tap combinations.  One wishes the same level of imagination invested in the rest of the show had been placed in its dance numbers. But that's a relatively minor quibble. You have the high-powered Campbell and the delectable Ranney leading a first-rate cast, while Herman's glorious score is treated with tender loving care by all concerned. Believe me, that's more than enough.

"Time heals everything," sings Mabel at one point and she's right. It's even cured this problematic show. And it certainly didn't hurt to have Campbell as the physician in charge.
 

Plummer Up For Seventh Tony

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(May 16, 2007) Canada's
Christopher Plummer received his seventh nomination as Best Actor in a Play for his performance in the revival of Inherit the Wind when nominations for the 61st annual Tony Awards were announced yesterday. Plummer has won twice before (in 1974 for Cyrano and in 1997 for Barrymore). His competition this year includes Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Liev Schreiber (Talk Radio) Boyd Gaines (Journey's End) and Brian F. O'Byrne (The Coast of Utopia). Four shows walked off with the lion's share of the nominations: Spring Awakening, Duncan Sheik's musical about sexually troubled 19th-century teenagers in Germany, got 11 nods; The Coast of Utopia, Tom Stoppard's sprawling trilogy dealing with the Russian intelligentsia earned 10, as did Grey Gardens, the quirky musical about some of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy's odder relatives; and Curtains, a musical murder mystery set during the tryouts of a show in 1950s Boston, walked off with eight. Besides Stoppard's script, the other Best Play nominees were Frost/Nixon, Radio Golf and The Little Dog Laughed. The other Best Musical nominee in addition to Spring Awakening, Grey Gardens and Curtains was Mary Poppins. The Best Actress in a Play category has veterans Angela Lansbury and Vanessa Redgrave squaring off against Swoozie Kurtz, Julie White and Eve Best. The Tony Awards will be given out starting at 8 p.m. on June 10 at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall and will be televised on CBS.

::DANCE NEWS::

La La La Takes Romantic Steps

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(May 15, 2007) OTTAWA–The dance shows of Édouard Lock, artistic director and choreographer
of La La La Human Steps, constitute one of Canada's proudest exports.  Since forming the company in 1980, when his dancers did a three-week stint in a tiny Montreal theatre, Lock has created more than a dozen arresting shows and dance films. For nearly 19 years, blond dynamo Louise Lecavalier was La La La's lead female dancer. In 1985, the company and Lecavalier took the world by storm with La La La Human Sex, an explosive, multimedia piece about physical risk-taking in an age of anxiety.  The choreographer has had a long and fruitful relationship with Toronto audiences, where the company most recently – in 2004 – performed Amelia.  Amjad, arriving at the Hummingbird Centre tonight, is Lock's latest work.  The show, which premiered in April at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, draws on the music of Tchaikovsky and the most famous of romantic ballets, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty.

Q.        What does Amjad mean and how does it relate to 19th-century romantic ballets?

A.            Amjad is a name, applicable to both a man and a woman. It's a little wink to my own ethnic heritage. I was born in Casablanca and came to Canada when I was 3. There was a vogue for the exotic and the faraway during the romantic era. Artists such as Léon Bakst (Russian painter, set and costume designer) were bringing those sorts of visuals into romantic ballets. Oriental imagery was the ultimate in exoticism.

Q.        Is this your first foray into classical ballet?

A.            My first encounter with Tchaikovsky was very practical. When Rudi van Danzig of the Dutch National Ballet invited me to make a piece for the company, it was my first work en pointe. It was made to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto in D Major, a very sweet and very lyrical composition, which we juxtaposed against the Human Sex music, which is anything but.

There remained a fascination with that iconic composer. I was intrigued by how many people knew the music without knowing why they knew it. It's been embedded culturally and that's interesting because dance is seen as a very exclusive art form. But (Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty), both their music, their visuals, seem to be a much greater part of our cultural heritage than people assume.

Q.        Were did Gavin Bryars, your composer, come in?

AIt was interesting also to see his reaction to the music. He is not known for this sort of thing (deconstructing classical music). He phoned me up at one point and he said "You know Tchaikovsky is a very good composer." (Laughs.) He was Quite thrilled and ended up wanting to make a comment and still be very respectful of the scores.

Q.        And the music is performed live onstage?

A.            We have always done that. It's more human. You have two elements that influence each other, whereas with a recorded track, one of them is simply not there. The music is fixed in time. Also, to my eye, musicians dance. They move to make sound.

Q.            Andrea Boardman is dancing with La La La. How did that come about?

A.            When she retired from Les Grands Ballets Canadiens I asked her, "Do you really want to retire, or would you rather not?" She has been a wonderful asset and there's something nice about having a large age range in the company. It's a much healthier situation than a concentration of young people.

Q.        How much classical training was required to do parts of Amjad that are directly from classical ballet?

A.            Xuan Cheng came to us from the Guangzhou Ballet of China and she is very much a ballet person. She has performed the principal role in Swan Lake. It is important to refer to these ballets properly.

Q.        Amjad sounds as if it's an artistic departure for you. How do you make change without losing your audience?

A.            Over the years I've developed this pact with my audience, which is, "Let me try and do new stuff and if you don't like it then don't stay." They give me the benefit of the doubt. Some people get angry if you take a direction that isn't evolutionary and oddly enough, they're the people who got upset when you took the direction you're changing.

::OTHER NEWS::

Celebrating Art, Lost And Found

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com -

(May 11, 2007) It's official.
Nuit Blanche, Toronto's bubbly all night long, no-cover-charge celebration of the arts, returns for a second year, thanks to Scotiabank, which will be back as title sponsor. The date: Saturday, Sept. 29. Yesterday's media launch at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art on the funky turf of Queen St. W. was like a New Age engagement party, celebrating the impending three-way nuptials of the creative community, its Bay Street Medicis and cheerleaders from city hall. In making the announcement, Mayor David Miller crowed: "Many people said to me last year, `This is the greatest thing that's ever happened to Toronto. You have to do it again.' So right then and there, I committed to doing it again." Councillor Kyle Rae, chair of the city's economic development committee, added: "Toronto was transformed by artists for one magical night. The response was beyond anything we had anticipated." Indeed. Despite heavy rain and fog, 425,000 people turned out for the nocturnal revels, featuring free events that showcased contemporary local artists from dusk to dawn in three zones: Bloor/Yorkville, Grange/Chinatown and Queen West.

In the words of Linda Book, who runs the Drabinsky Gallery, "It showed me a side of Toronto I had never seen before, and I've lived here all my life."  Still, what was left unspoken seemed as notable as what was said. Wiped from the record was how through a series of delays and fumbles at city hall, Toronto came close to losing Scotiabank, which would have made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to go forward with Nuit Blanche II: The Sequel. The level of congratulating hit epidemic levels, but there was no mention of Rita Davies, the city's executive director of arts and culture whose vision and judgment were essential in getting the show off the ground last year. This time, her staff will take a back seat while the city's special events team produces the big night. For the benefit of latecomers: the whole idea originated in Paris in 2002. Toronto is one of several cities following the lead of the French capital on the same night. The budget for the Toronto version is about $1 million.

Myspace To Offer News, Lifestyle Video Channels

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(May 15, 2007) LOS ANGELES – The social networking site
MySpace is launching video channels that will feature news and lifestyle video from such partners as the New York Times newspaper and National Geographic magazine, the company plans to announce Tuesday. The branded channels will include content created for the Web and comes as MySpace, which is owned by News Corp., is rapidly expanding its video offerings. Video is seen as an important driver of traffic to sites such as MySpace, YouTube – which is owned by Google Inc. – and different sites offering both user-generated fare and shows produced by TV networks and other professionals. Advertisers are shifting much of their budgets from traditional network television networks to the Internet, a key issue this week as major networks start the process of selling ad time for their fall shows. In the coming months, MySpace has said it will offer video channels from National Geographic, including short video drawn from shows such as Explorer and The Dog Whisperer. Also featured will be movie reviews, political news and other content from the Times and Reuters Group PLC.

Branded lifestyle channels will feature animated content, video game and other content from News Corp's IGN Entertainment site and shows from Ripe TV targeted to young adult males. Other channels will include: The Daily Reel, a selection of the best short video clips on the Web; Expert Village, offering advice on topics such as "how to make the perfect margarita"; Kush TV, featuring reality shows and coverage of live concert and sporting events. Other partners will include LX.TV, which will feature dining, shopping and nightlife guidance in major cities; VBS TV, a music and cultural channel from the makers of Vice magazine and Young Hollywood, featuring exclusive celebrity footage and videos.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Disabled, Or Enhanced?

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -Mary Ormsby

(May 15, 2007) A legless man is terrifying international track and field officials. Why? Because he’s too good. And he’s not quite legless, which is the root of the issue for the international track officials from attempting block South African Oscar Pistorius from qualifying for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.  The 20-year-old is a dominant Paralympian sprinter, whose stunning record times -100 metres in 10.91 and 200m in 21.58 seconds - are solid efforts for able bodied runners gunning for Beijing.

'It's Very Disappointing,' Artists Say Of Olympic Budget

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Alexandra Gill

(May 14, 2007) VANCOUVER — Culture is enshrined in the Olympic Charter as one of the three pillars of the Olympic Movement. And for the host country, the artistic program - the razzle-dazzle spectacle of the opening ceremonies, most significantly - is the ultimate opportunity to set the tone of the games and sell the soul of the nation to the world. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Now we finally know how much money is going to be spent on the cultural program for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. And while organizers claim excitement over the budgets for the Ceremonies ($64.3 million) and Cultural Olympiad ($20-million), members of Vancouver's arts community are less than impressed. Burke Taylor, vice-president of culture and ceremonies for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC), says the budgets are "very strong by historic standards" and will go a long way to creating "the most ambitious" arts and cultural festival the Winter Games has ever seen. But some artists aren't happy with the figures, and what is perceived as a scaled-back vision.

"It's really disappointing," says Andrew Wilhelm-Boyles. The executive director of Vancouver's Alliance for Arts and Culture, says the $20-million allotted for the Cultural Olympiad, which includes a five-week Olympic Arts Festival in 2010, the 10-day Paralympic Arts Festival in 2010, pre-game celebrations to be held across the country in February and March of 2008 and 2009, plus 3½ years of educational programs beginning next September, falls short. "That's not a lot of money to do a lot of ambitious programming, particularly if these festivals are going to be national and international in scope," Wilhelm-Boyles notes. By comparison, the budget for Luminato, Toronto's new 10-day cultural festival that kicks off June 1, is $12-million. ItalyArt, the program of cultural events that took place during the 2006 Winter Games in Turin and struggled with many problems, cost up to $35-million. The original plan, as outlined in the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 bid book, was to have a four-year Cultural Olympiad, beginning in Vancouver and Whistler in 2006. The allotted budget was $18.2-million (U.S., the International Olympic Committee reports all figures in U.S. dollars), which was worth a lot more then than it would be now, considering how much the value of the Canadian dollar has increased. "People understand that when you put in a bid, you sometimes inflate your ideas. The reality can be somewhat less than your fondest dreams," Wilhelm-Boyles concedes. He points out that a large chunk of the $64-million ceremonies budget will presumably go to artists. (That figure is broken down into roughly $58.4-million for Olympic Ceremonies and about $5.8-million for Paralympic Ceremonies). "But again, we have no frame of reference," he says.

The budget for the ceremonies is expected to cover the opening and closing shows for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, plus all the welcoming and nightly medal ceremonies. The budget does, nonetheless, seem promising when compared to the opening and closing ceremonies in Turin, which are estimated to have cost $38.5-million. The Vancouver organizing committee is now sifting through applications for an executive producer to oversee the ceremonies, which will be seen by some three billion television viewers around the world, making them the two biggest media programs produced in Canadian history. Toronto producer Garth Drabinsky is rumoured to be in the running. Neither he, nor Taylor would comment last week. Taylor insists that the pre-games cultural component has simply been refocused, not delayed. Instead of programming winter festivals for 2006 and 2007, the committee decided it made more sense to invest in development funding. Last month, a new $6.5-million fund, called Arts Partners in Creative Development, was announced. The three-year program, designed to encourage original works in the performing, visual, media and literary arts, allows arts and cultural organizations in British Columbia to apply for 90 per cent of their development and commissioning costs, to a maximum of $300,000.

"I don't think we've lost any of our ambition," Taylor says. "We got off to a slower start than we expected. But we've probably made the wise choice in terms of ensuring the resources are invested in a way that will have the maximum output, in terms of celebration and festivals and leaving legacies in the community." He also explains that the budgets announced last week are just the beginning. The committee is planning to leverage it into additional money with corporate sponsors and partnerships in other provinces.