20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
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LE NEWSLETTER

April 30, 2009

Hope you've got your taxes in as it's Tax Day! OK, well let's stick to weather - starting to feel like summer is actually in our future ... sometime.  

Don't forget too, that you can check out any previous newsletters in my ARCHIVES section. Or a little trick I learned from my techy friend Darryl, if you go to GOOGLE and type 'site:langfieldentertainment.com' and then whatever person or subject you want to find, it will bring up the links to my site that match.  Cool, huh?

And check out some new pics in my PHOTO GALLERY of a special night featuring Sean Jones and friends, including Divine Brown, at The Great Hall. 

Now, check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

::TOP STORIES::

Funding Boost Confirmed For Arts Festivals

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(April 27, 2009) Organizers for the Toronto International Film Festival say they won't be scaling back because of the recession.

Festival director Piers Handling says the same number of titles will unspool when the annual movie marathon gets underway in September.

"We want to present the same size festival," Handling said Monday following an elaborate press conference to announce federal funds for TIFF and other cultural events.

"We're obviously being sensitive to the climate out there ... but we have no plans to make the festival smaller. We think it feels very comfortable this year – it's still a relatively cheap ticket for the audience to come to the festival. That's important for us to keep it still accessible."

The assurance came as Peter Kent, minister of state of foreign affairs, announced a $3-million boost for the film festival. The cash is part of Ottawa's marquee tourism events program, designed to pump $100 million into various festivals and attractions over two years.

Other funding recipients include the Calgary Stampede, the Edmonton Fringe Festival, the Shaw and Stratford theatre festivals and the Montreal jazz festival.

The Stratford festival recently announced it was putting 30 performances of various shows on hold due to slumping ticket sales in the economic downturn. On Monday, artistic director Des McAnuff said the new funds would allow Stratford to restore all suspended performances of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Kent said the government believes tourism is a key driver of the Canadian economy, and noted it contributes about two per cent annually to the GDP.

"Tourism has been one of the fastest-growing industries in the world," Kent said as dozens of film industry guests noshed on popcorn and mini-cupcakes while sipping wine at the media event, held in a window-panelled ballroom at the top of a downtown hotel.

"Further expansion of Canada's tourism brand can increase tourism export revenues at home and provide stimulus to the economy at a very critical time. Given the global economic uncertainty, now is the time to act to strengthen our investment."

Handling said the cash injection will allow TIFF to aggressively court U.S. tourists, especially those in the border states. Festival co-director Cameron Bailey said it will also allow TIFF to offer more free events, such as outdoor movie screenings and music concerts.

Bailey said the federal funds come with clear guidelines as to what they can and cannot be used for.

"This money is for marketing, to draw tourists," Bailey said. ``It's not operational funding at all, so none of our regular activities can we put this towards."

Although the economic downturn was not expected to curtail the typically splashy red carpet events planned for the film festival, the financial meltdown will likely colour the event in other ways, he added.

"The festival really is an arena to generate debate around films and ideas, including the recession, including how the economy is affecting people," Bailey said.

"You'll see this happening in the theatres, in the Q&A sessions and in some of our industry events at the festival. We want to give people an opportunity to just talk about what's going on and how the last year's been for them."

Handling said it was too early to say what kind of films will come to TIFF, and whether they will be influenced by the financial meltdown.

"Filmmakers tend to be ahead of the trend, to be honest, so I think the last year or two you've probably seen work that's been a little bit darker, a little bit more unsettled," he said.

"People are just less secure in terms of their position in the world, their space in the world. I think we've seen that since 9-11, to be honest. I think the economic downturn is just a continuing reflection of the general uncertainty that everybody feels in the world around them."

TIFF runs Sept. 10 to 19.

Marquee Day For Arts Festivals

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(April 27, 2009) Today will be an unusually happy one for the Toronto International Film Festival, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the Shaw Festival, my spies assure me.

That's because all three will come out winners in a series of announcements that will be made more or less simultaneously concerning the federal government's recently created Marquee Tourism Events Program.

The upshot: a $3 million lifeline for TIFF and the same amount for Stratford. The Shaw Festival will get slightly less, but well over $2 million.

In all cases, this money will be a huge financial boost for organizations facing alarming shortfalls in their normal revenue streams and the prospect of scary deficits.

But here's the twist. This windfall does not come in the form of arts subsidies from the Canada Council or the minister of Canadian heritage responsible for culture. Instead it comes from a tourism-promotion fund announced only a month ago by Diane Ablonczy, the Ottawa minister responsible for small business.

So the recipients can't just use it to pay off their deficits. They have to demonstrate the money will be used to achieve Marquee's stated goals.

The government, no doubt trying to get as much political mileage out of this good news as possible, is letting the word out in a novel way. Instead of holding one central press conference announcing the first round of winners in the Marquee program, there will be a number of them scattered across the country on the same day, possibly eight.

Each announcement will focus on a beloved local attraction and will feature a prominent Tory member of Parliament making a speech.

So in Toronto, members of the media and friends of TIFF have been summoned to Stop 33, the top floor of Sutton Place, where Peter Kent, former TV news anchor and currently Stephen Harper's minister of state of foreign affairs (Americas), will wax eloquent.

In the lobby of Stratford's Festival Theatre, Diane Finley, Harper's minister of human resources and skills development, will deliver the happy news. And in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson will do the honours.

Other winners, not all of them arts events, will be across the country, likely including the Calgary Stampede and the Montreal jazz fest.

Marquee was set up to offer help to annual festivals that attract a significant number of tourists. To qualify for funding, an organization has to demonstrate the money will be used for some special initiative – possibly programming or marketing – that is not part of its normal routine and is likely to help draw more tourists. It has $50 million to hand out this year and another $50 million next year. Large organizations are eligible for a maximum of $3 million each year and small organizations have a ceiling of $1 million.

Considering how slowly the Ottawa bureaucracy has moved in the past, it is downright astonishing that applications could have been received and acted upon so quickly. This is merely part one of the 2009 list. Other festivals, including Luminato, are almost certain to get Marquee money as well – but not yet.

Marley's 'One Love' Voted Jamaica's Best Song

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(April 23, 2009) *Bob Marley's "One Love" sits atop a list of Jamaica's 100 best songs over 50 years that was unveiled Tuesday by a panel of musicians and cultural officials associated with the University of the West Indies.

 The reggae legend had nine songs in the top 100 and two in the top 10, with "Simmer Down" landing at No. 9. His popular "No Woman No Cry" was picked No. 12 and "Redemption Song" No. 14.

 "One Love" recorded the highest score, 726 points, well ahead of the 540 points given to the second place song, "O Carolina," which was originally recorded by the Folkes Brothers and redone by contemporary artist Shaggy.

 The panel was headed by former Finance and Planning Minister Omar Davies and included businessman Chen, musicologist Vaughn "Bunny" Goodison, Frankie Campbell, who heads the popular Fab Five band, broadcaster Francois St. Juste, journalist Basil Walters, and musician Sly Dunbar of the band Sly and Robbie fame. A limited number of members of the public were also allowed to vote.

The Top 10 songs and the singers were:

1. "One Love" - Bob Marley & the Wailers
2. "Oh Carolina" - The Folkes Brothers
3. "54-45" - The Maytals
4. "Got to Go Back Home" - Bob Andy
5. "My Boy Lollipop" - Millie Small
6. "Many Rivers To Cross" - Jimmy Cliff
7. "Israelites" - Desmond Dekker and the Aces
8. "Cherry Oh Baby" - Eric Donaldson
9. "Simmer Down" - Bob Marley & the Wailers
10. "Carry Go Bring Come" - Justin Hinds & the Dominos

Bea Arthur, 86: Actress Was A One-Woman Maude Squad

Source:  www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber,
Associated Press

(April 26, 2009) LOS ANGELES – Beatrice Arthur, the tall, deep-voiced actress whose razor-sharp delivery of comedy lines made her a TV star in Maude and The Golden Girls and who won a Tony Award for the musical Mame, died yesterday. She was 86.

Arthur died peacefully at her Los Angeles home with her family at her side, family spokesperson Dan Watt said. She had cancer, he said.

"She was a brilliant and witty woman," said Watt.

Arthur first appeared in the landmark comedy series All in the Family as Edith Bunker's outspoken, liberal cousin, Maude Finley. She proved a perfect foil for blue-collar bigot Archie Bunker, and their blistering exchanges were so entertaining that producer Norman Lear fashioned Arthur's own series.

In a 2008 interview, Arthur said she was lucky to be discovered by TV after a long stage career: "I was already 50 years old."

Maude scored with television viewers immediately on its CBS debut in 1972, and Arthur won an Emmy Award for the role in 1977.

The comedy flowed from Maude's efforts to cast off the traditional restraints faced by women, but the series often had a serious base. At one point Maude underwent an abortion, which drew viewer protests. She became a standard bearer for the growing feminist movement.

Golden Girls (1985-1992) was another groundbreaking comedy, finding surprising success in a television market increasingly skewed toward a younger audience.

The series had three retirees – Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan – and the mother of Arthur's character, Estelle Getty, all sharing a Miami bungalow. In contrast to the violent Miami Vice, the comedy was nicknamed Miami Nice.

As Dorothy Zbornak, Arthur seemed as caustic and domineering as Maude, but she was unconcerned the two roles were similar.

"Look. I'm 5-feet-9, I have a deep voice and I have a way with a line," she told an interviewer. "What can I do about it? I can't stay home waiting for something different."

Arthur is survived by her two sons and two granddaughters.

Canadian Who Has Lived A Life Of Firsts Makes History Again

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Mary Ann Colihan

(April 29, 2009) She attended a two-room public school for black children in North Buxton, Ont., and was the first black woman elected queen of the Beaux Arts Ball at the Ontario College of Art in the 1940s.

She has painted portraits of movie stars, captains of industry, presidents and first ladies, including Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton and Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy. She has made sculptures of Rosa Parks and Stevie Wonder.

Yesterday, at the age of 81, Canadian-born sculptor
Artis Lane was part of history once again as Michelle Obama unveiled her sculpture of former slave and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth, the first memorial to a black woman in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

The ceremony took place in Emancipation Hall at the newly opened U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Ms. Truth was born into slavery as Isabella Baumfree in New York state in 1797, and escaped a harrowing early life to become an abolitionist, preacher, utopian idealist and fighter for the suffragette cause.

"I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America," Mrs. Obama said to loud applause at the ceremony.

Actor Cicely Tyson, a friend of Ms. Lane's, was also on hand to recite Ms. Truth's legendary "Ain't I A Woman?" speech delivered at a women's rights convention in Ohio in 1851.

Ms. Lane has another unveiling on the books this week - one more modest, but no smaller in significance to her. The artist, who now lives in Los Angeles, will make the trip home to Chatham, Ont., on Saturday to unveil a bronze of Mary Ann Shadd Cary, her great-great-great aunt whose family immigrated to Canada in the 1850s and dedicated their lives to freeing slaves.

"Mary Ann Shadd Cary is my heroine, is my voice of protest that I pour into my visual images," Ms. Lane said in an interview.

Ms. Shadd Cary was a well-educated abolitionist, a teacher and the first black woman to publish a newspaper in North America; The Provincial Freeman was published in Ontario in the 1850s, and Ms. Shadd Cary used it to promote Canada as a haven for hard-working blacks. Ms. Truth and Ms. Shadd Cary were powerful advocates for social justice. They both revered U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and recruited black soldiers to serve in his army during the Civil War.

Artis Shreve was born on May 14, 1927, in North Buxton, a black village in Southwestern Ontario. Her family eventually settled in nearby Chatham, a community once called the Coloured Man's Paris, for its rich black history.

In 1942, at the age of 15, Ms. Lane won the Dominion of Canada award for portraiture. She says Alice McCoig, her art teacher at the time at the Chatham Collegiate Institute, helped her to win a scholarship to the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. Segregation was a part of her everyday life.

"When I would go to Miss McCoig's home to do extra artwork I had to walk a block behind her so that nobody would know," Ms. Lane said.

The move to Toronto brought more firsts, both good and bad. She was the first black student to be chosen as the queen of the Beaux Arts Ball at the college and "one of the rewards was that the top student who graduated did the portrait of the queen," Ms. Lane said. "But he refused to paint me - and he was a wonderful artist."

In her third year of art school, Ms. Lane met and married her first husband, Bill Lane, a black journalist and civil rights activist living in Detroit. She left the college, to the dismay of Miss McCoig, moved to the United States and continued her education at the Cranbrook Institute in Michigan. It was there that she started to gain notoriety, with early clients including members of the Ford and Chrysler families.

Those portraits "helped augment my being able to study," Ms. Lane said.

When her marriage fell apart in the mid-1950s she moved to California with their daughter to do a commission, and never came back. She met her second husband, TV and film actor Vince Cannon, and their celebrity circle of friends gave her plenty of subjects to paint.

In the 1980s her work began to evolve, as she focused on the theme of social justice.

"The two purposes in my work are social injustice and metaphysics together - celebrating the human figure and freeing the human spirit," Ms. Lane said.

Some of her seminal works from what she calls her "black heroines" period include sculptures of civil rights activists Mary McLeod Bethune and Dr. Dorothy Height that are installed in the National Council of Negro Women Building in Washington, D.C.

Her long-time friendship with civil rights activist Rosa Parks also inspired many of her important works, including a life-size bronze for the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Ala., the Congressional Medal of Honor Ms. Parks received from former president Bill Clinton (which Ms. Lane designed) and a portrait of Ms. Parks that appears in the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery.

Even though she's had more than brushes with some of history's great personalities, Ms. Lane says she was deeply touched to be asked to sculpt a piece for a Chatham, Ont., park. Freedom Park, where Ms. Shadd Cary's bust will reside, is across from Ms. Lane's childhood home and has been revitalized - a project spearheaded by Ms. Lane's cousin and historian Gwen Robinson and Chatham Councillor Marjorie Crew.

Ms. Lane says Ms. Shadd Cary was a self-effacing woman - so it may have surprised her to be immortalized in bronze. "But for her this would bring a kind of closure and signify redemption for the awful sin of slavery." She acknowledges, however, that two trips of this kind in one week is a challenge. "The only thing that gives me courage to come to Canada is that I will be with my family."

Special to The Globe and Mail, With a report from Associated Press

Erica Scarff : Gymnast Surmounting Hurdle Of Losing Leg

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Staff Reporter

(April 29, 2009) Erica Scarff spent the Easter holidays like many 12-year-old girls – shopping and seeing the new Hannah Montana film – but it was a bigger deal for her than most.

It was the first time she'd been anywhere without her parents since last fall, when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. This rare form of bone cancer resulted in the partial amputation of Erica's right leg in January. She's recently been fitted with a prosthesis, but still needs a wheelchair or crutches for mobility.

"I was very nervous," confesses her mother, Carmela, of the outings supervised by big sister Kristin, 19.

But the Good Friday movie expedition (Kristin carried Erica to and from upper-level seating because she didn't like the wheelchair stations), and the spree at a mall the next day, were worth the worry.

"It's probably the best we've seen her in the seven months she's been ill," explains Carmela.

The weekend also included visits by a coach and student from Futures Gymnastics Centre, prompting Erica's promise to soon revisit the Mississauga facility that houses some of her best and worst memories.

A competitive gymnast since age 7, Erica had collected an impressive number of badges, medals and trophies from province-wide contests.

Last September, at a club practice, she was running to a vault when she heard a pop and a snap, followed by a sharp pain in her right thigh.

"I stepped on my good leg and sat down," she recalls. "I never cry and I was crying a little bit, so my coach knew something was wrong and called my mom."

The emergency department X-ray confirmed a break just above her right knee in the distal femur. Since there was no previous fall or collision, doctors considered it an abnormal fracture, so Erica was referred to an orthopedic pediatrician. After a week of tests, tests and more tests, she was sent to SickKids hospital for the biopsy. The result upended the Mississauga family.

"My house is a mess," says Carmela about the comfortable two-storey abode, which backs onto the Credit Valley River's nature trails.

Her crisis of vanity is misplaced. The home, which also houses Labrador Riley and cockatoo Skittles, tells the tale of a catastrophic illness: the main-floor family room turned into a bedroom, a physiotherapist's trappings are scattered about the kitchen. Upstairs, 17-year-old Kevin's bedroom is being prepped for painting, because he is trading his space for Erica's smaller one. Everywhere are cards, notes and posters from well-wishers.

Just as weighty are the things you can't see: the financial strain borne by Ron, an electrician, since Carmela, a nurse in neurosurgery, took a leave of absence from work to help see their youngest through this trauma; Kevin's unvoiced fears; Kristen's delayed year of college; Erica's broken heart at no longer being a gymnast.

"Cancer affects the whole family," Carmela says. We are in Erica's ad hoc bedroom. Weary from chemotherapy, the subdued girl listens keenly, quick to correct her mother on the rare occasions she misstates any step of their journey.

Because her primary tumour responded poorly to the three months of chemotherapy prior to surgery, Erica has to continue the treatments until August.

When the C-word was first floated, Erica says two people came to mind: a relative who survived prostate cancer and Terry Fox – she'd taken part in four Terry Fox Run fundraisers with her school.

She turned out to have the same uncommon cancer as Fox.

"I was crying because I didn't want to lose my leg," Erica says. "I didn't know if I'd be able to do stuff I always did, like walking."

But the ever-thoughtful child still managed to assemble a care package for her parents – a video message, sketches, tangerines – before the 10-hour operation to amputate her leg at the knee.

She's learning to walk with the leg prosthesis she received this month and hopes the mental and physical disciplines of gymnastics training will shorten the expected two-year recuperation. Erica badly wants to be back in school in September.

She's also looking forward to Erica's Wish, an Aug. 16 fundraising walk/run to be staged in Mississauga on her 13th birthday. It's being planned by family friends to raise awareness and research funds for osteosarcoma.

"It's going to be the biggest birthday party ever," says Carmela.

Visit events.runningroom.com for information about Erica's Wish.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

St. Martin/St. Maarten - The Friendly Island

Source: www.bocca-fina.com

(January 2009) Circa 800AD Settled by Arawak Indians who arrived from South America, given the name Soualiga, or Land of Salt,
St. Martin/St. Maarten is a tropical island in the northeast Caribbean [18°04’N 63°03’W], approximately 300 km (186 miles) east of Puerto Rico. The 87 km² island is divided roughly in half between France (53 km²) and the Netherlands Antilles (34 km²); it is the smallest inhabited sea island divided between two nations. The southern Dutch half comprises the Eilandgebied Sint Maarten (Island area of St. Martin) and is part of the Netherlands Antilles. The northern French half comprises the Collectivité de Saint-Martin (Collectivity of St. Martin) and is an overseas collectivity of France.

On January 1, 2006 the population of the entire island was 72,892 inhabitants, 37,629 of whom lived on the Dutch side of the island, and 35,263 on the French side of the island. Collectively, the two territories are known as “St-Martin/St. Maarten” or Sometimes SXM, the IATA identifier for Princess Juliana International Airport (the island’s main airport), is used to refer to the island. The main towns and capitols respectively are Philipsburg (Dutch side) and Marigot (French side).The highest hilltop or point is the Pic Paradis (424 m (1,360 ft)) on the center of a hill chain located on the French side. The Density is 836 people per km2. The average yearly air temperature is 27 °C (min 17 °C, max 35 °C) and sea surface temperature 26.4 °C. The total average yearly rainfall is 995 mm, with 99 days of thunder. In addition there is an average of 1,000,000 plus tourist visitors per year.

Neighbouring islands include Saint-Barthélemy (French), Anguilla (British), Saba (Dutch), Sint Eustatius “Statia” (Dutch), Saint Kitts and Nevis (Independent, formerly British). With the exception of Nevis, all of these islands are easily visible on a clear day from St. Maarten. Saint Martin uses the euro as its currency, while Sint Maarten is currently outside the Eurozone and uses the Netherlands Antillean guilder, pegged at 1.79 per United States dollar. It is unknown if Sint Maarten will shift to the euro some time after the Netherlands Antilles dissolves.

Short History Review

• 11 Nov 1493 Claimed for Spain by Columbus, named Isla de
San Martin, upon his arrival.

• 1624 Some French cultivate tobacco on French Quarter. 

• 1631 Dutch small colony on Groot baai to collect salt.

• 1633 - 1647 Spanish army from Puerto Rico builds the first
military fort, but after a few years they destroy it and abandon
the island forever.

• 23 Mar 1648 Divided into French (north) and Dutch (south) zones [Treaty of Concordia.] Dutch zone subordinate to Sint Eustatius until 1672.

• 1679 - 1689 French occupy entire island.

• 1689 - 1792 Dutch zone under Dutch West India Company administration.

• 1690 - 1699 English occupy entire island.

• 1699 - 1702 French occupy entire island.

• 1703 - 1717 Dutch occupy entire island

• 24 Feb 1779 - 3 Feb 1781 French occupy entire island.

• 3 Feb 1781 - 26 Nov 1781 British occupy entire island.

• 18 May 1793 - 5 Apr 1794 Dutch administer entire Island

• 29 Apr 1795 - 24 Mar 1801 French occupy entire island.

• 24 Mar 1801 - 1 Dec 1802 British occupy entire island.

• 09 Jul 1810 Annexed along with Holland by France (not affected).

• 1810 - 1816 British occupy entire island.

• 1816 French and Dutch zones resumed.

• 1919 - 1 Apr 1983 Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten united as Netherlands Windward Islands.

• 1936 Dutch side officially adopted the Dutch spelling Sint Maarten.

• 04 September 1960 Hurricane Donna badly hit the island causing numerous extensive damages.

• 05 September 1995 Hurricane Luis devastated the island at 80% causing very extensive damages similar to Donna.

• 23 Jun 2000 Referendum supports a “status aparte” as a separate entity within The Netherlands by 68.9%.

• 07 December 2003 The population of the French part of the island votes in favour of secession from Guadeloupe in order to form a separate overseas collectivity (COM) of France

• 2 Nov 2006 Sint Maarten and Curaçao sign agreement with The Netherlands on “status aparte”

• 22 Feb 2007 French side becomes a separate an overseas collectivity (COM)

• 15 Dec 2008 Date set for dissolution of Netherlands Antilles. This date has been postponed, although it is still planned.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Derek McKeith : Meet Newest Baddest Funkiest Black Rocker

Source: 
www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(April 24, 2009) *About 10 years ago (my how time flies) Darrell McNeil & I were having one of our marathon telephone conversations about  the state of Black music and the conversation turned to the  topic of "what is the definition of Black Rock."

Darrell insisted that "Black Rock" as far as the Black Rock Coalition was concerned, wasn't what most people's perception was. He insisted to me that while most people considered the band Living Colour to be the total manifestation of the term "Black Rock", nothing could be further from the truth.
 
Darrell said "Black Rock quite simply is the sh*t that we create. We use the term "rock" because we refuse to let that be stolen from us. It's our sh*t and we will define it however we want to."
 
To me that definition sounds a whole lot like "Great Black Music From The Ancient To The Future," so that definition works quite well for me also.
 
So when
Derek McKeith first came to me about a year ago, describing himself as a "Black Rocker," I wondered just what he meant by that? I listened to his album and of course he's got all of the superficial characteristics (based on what we think we know about Living Colour) of what a "Black Rocker" should look like and sound like. He's a good looking & articulate young man, who dresses like a cross between a 90's "grunge artist" and a "60's hippie." And the original songs on his excellent album called "The Signature" are largely stank nasty guitar driven riffs with songs about interpersonal relationships and life in general.

 

All of that was cool, but I wondered if he really understood what the term "Black Rock" meant? Well recently I had the good fortune to host a live performance at Sweet Rhythm's in NYC and I found out that Derek McKeith REALLY does understand what the term "Black Rock" means.
 
Derek did two sets, sandwiched between R&B star Alyson Williams and a Russian folk/pop singer.
 
His music flowed nicely from covers of Jimi Hendrix ("Who Knows"), Taste of Honey ("Boogie Oogie Oogie"), Rolling Stones ("Satisfaction"), Stevie Wonder covers (in a duet with Alyson Williams) and of course some hardcore South Side Chicago Blues. In between were a whole bunch of original songs that were from his previous albums that would remind you of Led Zeppelin/Van Halen types of songs.
 
However Led Zeppelin/Van Halen aren't going to give you these songs with things like James Brown splits or "30 seconds of human beat box" or 10 seconds of a doo wop falsetto, or Joe Tex style microphone tricks or Jackie Wilson begging or a Bobby Womack growl. He is truly a multi talented individual who has obviously studied his culture well and more importantly absorbed it to the fullest.
 
In other words, if Derek McKeith had wanted to he could have ...
 
-- Put on a Tuxedo and sang an hour of Jerry Butler Songs
 
-- Put on some high heeled shoes & a Purple Edwardian suit and
done an hour of Prince songs
 
-- Put on a suit and placed 3 Black men behind him and done an
hour of Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes songs
 
-- Put on a spacesuit and done an hour of P-Funk songs
 
-- Sit in a chair and done an hour of John Lee Hooker songs
 
-- Put a DJ behind him and he could do an hour of RUN-DMC songs
 
(he is just that talented)
 
Instead he dresses like a "grunge rocker," played his blistering guitar and mixed in his own originals with legendary Blues, Rock, R&B/Funk songs. And he did them all in the best traditions borrowed from the past 50 years of Black entertainment, overlaid with some Led Zeppelin/Van Halen style guitar flash. When he was playing the cover of "Who Knows," it was so off the chain I had to call Kevin Amos on my cellphone so he could hear it too. I wanted to make sure I wasn't imagining just how good it sounded.
 
What Derek McKeith gave us that night was quite simply a Black music history lesson, disguised as a rock n' roll show. As I walked from the club in the chilly late night NYC air at 11pm to my awaiting chariot (the Christopher Street PATH station) I thought about Darrell McNeil's definition for Black rock and how Derek fits it to a tee.
 
Whenever the "white kids" find out about Derek McKeith he is gonna become a mega-star. He is 'all that & a bag of chips'
 
(Take that to the bank!)

Tonex Speaks Of 'Unspoken'

Source: www.eurweb.com
- By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(April 27, 2009)   *Recording artist Tonex (pronounced tone-nay) remains a genre mystery, wrapped in a puzzle, inside an enigma. The singer released “Unspoken,” his Battery Records debut disc just last month and is still uncategorized and undeniably eclectic.

The album is laced with inspirational R&B-pop-alt rhythm tracks underneath motivation message driven lyrics. Describable in a mass of verbiage, but indefinable in traditional gospel sorting, is just what makes Tonex one of today’s most important artists.

The new disc comes on Sony’s newly formed RCA/Jive label group imprint Battery after much label shuffling and record company controversy for Tonex.

 His fame grew in 2004 (he’d been recording since 1994) when his double CD “Out The Box” debuted at #1, snagged six Stellar Awards, and garnered the most critical acclaim, but that same year, the industry took its toll on the artist. He was sued by his then label, Verity Records – the gospel arm of Zomba Records, for one million dollars for breach of contract. That year, his father passed away and he divorced his wife. Frustrated, TON3X decided to retire from the gospel music industry. An attempt to reconcile with his label came in 2007, but the relationship was never fully repaired, and he split from the label just three months later.

 Since then, the artist has gone through some souls searching and variations in spelling his name – though always pronounced the same.

 “Tonex is a derivative of Anthony. Everybody called me ‘Tony’ in school, but I spelled it with an ‘e’. Then [R&B group] Tony Toni Tone came out, so I knew that wasn’t going to work whenever I decided to come out as an artist, so I added the ‘ex’. So the ‘x’ is silent; part of a French swing to it. I think there is a little ‘ex’ something in all of us,” he said. “There is something that we all overcame, but we don’t always pronounce, but we know it’s there.” 

 Clarifying his name, Tonex told EUR’s Lee Bailey the name he’s gave his music has a name, too – and it’s just as profound an explanation. His music has been described as an amalgamation of all types of genres including pop, R&B, jazz, soul, funk, hip hop, rock, and electronica, but he’s most often described as a gospel artist. He calls his style gospop.

 “It’s good news, good messages, made popular. I believe that gospel is more than a genre,” he explained. “It’s good news. The world needs good news and why shouldn’t good news be popular?”

“I say gospop because of the foundation of what I do. Even though Ray Charles was a soul/blues/R&B artists, no one can deny that the roots of what he did was gospel. Same thing for Donny Hathaway to Aretha Franklin,” he continued. “Usually you only get that feeling when it’s attached to a traditional gospel sound. This is where you get this real, good gospel that’s anointed, from this although it’s not a traditional gospel sound. I don’t hear it that often in contemporary gospel and of course you don’t usually hear it in pop either. I’m just bringing that element and presenting that feeling to a mass audience. There’s a feeling you get when you listen to Tonex that makes you feel different from anything else you hear.”

 The lead single on the disc is called “Blend” (an appropriate title for Tonex’s music and outlook on life).

 “In this time of change and trying to find truth, I thought this was the best time to let people know that individuality and diversity can actually be celebrated. It doesn’t always have to be considered a negative thing to be an anomaly. That’s what makes the world spicy and wonderful,” he said of the track. “Everything is not black and white. There are always shades of grey. God made it that way or else we’d all be clones.”

 “Of course we all have common denominators between us all, but it’s those individual things that make the world interesting. So when we try to make compromises o f who we are to fit in with mediocrity. And those that are mediocre resent when we know someone is original, trying to dilute their truth. The song is to encourage those who are a little ‘left-field’.  You’re unique in God’s eyes. Celebrate that.”

 For more on the uniqueness of Tonex, go to the Battery Records website at www.batteryrecords.net and/or HEAR samples from "Unspoken" HERE.

John Legend To Go Green On Next Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 27, 2009) *John Legend will keep things as green as possible while touring over 50 cities this summer in support of his latest album, "Evolver."

 The R&B crooner is teaming up with non-profit environmental organization REVERB to ensure that the trek is eco-conscious, reports Billboard. Their efforts will include coordination with venues and local caterers to facilitate the use of green products and practices, along with neutralizing CO2 emissions from venue energy use, hotels, flights and touring vehicles.

The tour's "carbon footprint" was calculated by REVERB and neutralized by financially supporting the construction of new renewable energy projects such as wind farms. Eco-friendly merchandise will be available for fans and a John Legend on-line ride-sharing service will encourage and assist carpooling to shows.

 The tour begins June 27 in Muskegon, Mi., and wraps up in Berkeley, Calif., on Labor Day. India.arie is scheduled to open select shows.

Backed by 11-piece band, Legend will make stops at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta, Mann Music Center in Philadelphia and Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD.

Last month, Legend topped Billboard's Green 10 list for his increased efforts on behalf of various environmental causes.  In January, he performed at the Green Inaugural Ball, a celebration of the Obama administration's pledge to build a sustainable energy economy that was executive-produced by Live Earth founder Kevin Wall.

His two-year-old Show Me Campaign is dedicated to improving life for the residents of poverty-stricken Mbola, Tanzania, with clean water and higher-yielding agriculture. Last year Legend teamed with professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University's Earth Institute for a speaking tour to promote sustainable development in Mbola and other impoverished areas.

Legend's tour dates are listed below:

June 2009
27 - Muskegon, MI - Heritage Landing

July 2009
3 - New Orleans, LA - Louisiana Superdome
5 - Atlanta, GA - Chastain Park Amphitheatre
11 - North Charleston, SC - North Charleston Performing Arts Center
14 - Portsmouth, VA - Ntelos Wireless Pavilion
17 - Columbia, MD - Merriweather Post Pavilion
18 - Albany, NY - Palace Theatre
20 - Toledo, OH - Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre
24 - Elizabeth, IN - Horseshoe Southern Indiana
25 - Windsor, Ontario - Caesars Windsor The Colosseum
31 - Cincinnati, OH - Paul Brown Stadium

August 2009
3 - West Homestead, PA - Riverplex Amphitheatre at Sandcastle
5 - Philadelphia, PA - Mann Center for the Performing Arts
7 - Boston, MA - Bank of America Pavilion
28 - Woodinville, WA - Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
29 - Goldendale, WA - Maryhill Winery Amphitheater

September 2009
1 - Los Angeles, CA - Greek Theatre

De La Soul Returns And Brings Nike Along

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 28, 2009) *De La Soul's first new music in five years is a series of tracks that run together in one 45 minute-long piece that was crafted specifically for runners as part of the Nike+ campaign.

Titled "Are You In? Nike + Original Run," the album is being released today via Apple's iTunes music store for $9.99.  ( Download it here: www.itunes.com/nikedelasoul.) It's described by Nike as a "continuous full-length body of music that reflects the arc a runner experiences during a run."

"We'd worked with Nike before, designing kicks and playing some of their marathons," Kelvin Mercer, aka Posdnuos, tells Billboard. "We were excited when they approached us because we're the first actual band to do one of these tracks."  

Commissioned by Nike, this is the fifth release in the Nike+ Original Run series following releases by artists such as A-Trak, Aesop Rock, LCD Soundsystem and Crystal Method. 

"The set we did is an actual album, with eight or nine songs, not one long DJ set," says Mercer. "We recorded the songs and took them to Nike for feedback, and then brought in Flostradamous to mix it all together."  

Mercer says his participation on the tracks encouraged him to focus on his own fitness. "I've dabbled in running before, but I got back in to it and would run to test it out," he says. "Nike also has a team of runners on staff who listen to it and give us their opinion."

De La Soul are also celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their debut, "3 Feet High and Rising," and are planning tours of Australia, Europe, and the UK. Mercer says the band is also in the process of working on another full length release.

K-Os On Two Coasts

Source: www.thestar.com -
Robert Everett-Green

(April 28, 2009) His new album is called Yes!, but K-os could just as easily have called it Home!, because that's where the rapper and singer has been headed for at least a year: Home to hip hop, and home to Vancouver, a city he had never lived in but that suddenly last summer revealed a claim on him that he couldn't refuse.

The return to hip hop is clear from the first moments of Yes!, in which K-os (Kheaven Brereton) comes back to the rhymes, rhythms and production techniques he put aside for his pop-oriented 2006 album Atlantis: Hymns for Disco. If only because of what it was not, Atlantis seemed to crystallize K-os's complaints against hip hop, and made him everybody's favourite source when the genre's flaws and future came up for discussion.

“I became this poster-person, the representative from my culture who's rebelling against my culture,” he said, during a conversation in Toronto. “I got sick of this question, ‘What do you think of the state of hip hop?'… When you become famous on your block or in your country for speaking out against hip hop, you have to realize that at some point you loved it. Rapping is the folk music and the punk-rock music of my people. If I don't have 808s [a drum machine], if I'm not bouncing, I'm not really being myself. I had to find a way to make hip hop music that I loved. I think I had to do Atlantis so that I could love hip hop again.”

It sounds straightforward, but it was a hard thing to come around to, because K-os is a bit of a fighter, who has sometimes put obstacles in his own way. He got a version of that diagnosis from his new manager, Nettwerk's Terry McBride, who let the news trickle in gently.

 “I think he never said this, but this is sort of Terry's thesis: If you're an artist, why is there so much ego surrounding your thing?” K-os said. “If you're confident about what you do, if you're so different and original, why do I sense so much struggle?”

It turns out that struggle, in K-os's life, is partly a geographical thing. Some time last year, he realized that his recordings to date split fairly evenly between those made in Toronto and those made in Vancouver (with a bunch more from Atlantis made in Halifax), and that for him Vancouver was the place where he could most readily take the gentle path.

“I'd been dating Vancouver for 10 years, and when I went there to record last summer, I felt like I was home,” he said. “By January 1st, I had a place there.”

The kind of recording he did that summer was relatively unplanned and free-flowing. He got together a bunch of players he had worked with in the past, and they jammed for two days. Those improvised sessions were the basis for Yes!, which needed very little additional recording, he said. It was a way of working that he would find almost inconceivable in Toronto.

“It's very interesting what happens when you do something experimental in Vancouver, and then you come back and listen to it on your computer at your place at Richmond and Portland [in Toronto],” he said. “You start asking questions you don't ask in Vancouver, like: ‘What are you really trying to say? Get to the point. That's cool that you're jamming, but is there a song structure here? Is it radio-friendly?' You start unabashedly asking those questions.

“In Vancouver, it's easy, it's live music, it's the water, it's the mountains, and you can hear that vibe in the music. … In Toronto, when I come here, it's like: CMW, buzz bands, who's hot? The trends are coming in very quickly, and that affects your ability to trail off and improvise. So that's how Toronto affected those songs from Vancouver. It's very good for checks and balances.”

Being in those cities, in short, is for him a way of visiting or liberating different sides of his personality. It's also about plugging into different kinds of music scenes, because the players in those towns, he finds, display very different attitudes about collaboration and getting ahead.

“Musicians in Vancouver are like gazelles, you have to coax them out of the forest,” he said. “They're very wary of corporate stuff. Whereas people move to Toronto just to get a gig.” He has called musicians in Vancouver for a recording session, and been told that, no, that day won't work because the kids are around. Maybe next record.

You can hear K-os trying to embrace his Vancouver side in songs like Astronaut, in which he sees himself coming down from another galaxy to make hip hop new again; or in Burning Bridges, in which he recalls worrying about what other people thought, as if that were definitely a past phase. You can hear his Toronto mind breaking in on tracks such as Zambony, in which he defines his post- Atlantis stance: “I am not indie rock, I'm West-Indie hip hop.”

But though the compass needle has swung around, Yes! still includes ample traces of rock and pop, and even echoes of classical music – partly an after-effect of a 2005 collaboration between K-os and the CBC Radio Orchestra.

The connection with his new manager has also started to redefine K-os's relationship with his public. An open remix contest made songs from Yes! available in advance to fans to mess with however they pleased; the best of the results are coming out on a full album of Yes! remixes. Admission to K-os's first batch of cross-Canada tour dates, which begin tomorrow in Vancouver, is on a “pay-what-you-want” basis. After a transient period when K-os was between labels and between managers, he sees McBride (who he describes as “very Zen”) as a wise counsellor who arrived in the nick of time.

“Terry McBride and David Suzuki are like Obi-Wan Kenobi figures in my life, where the dark side is looming, and you can't find your way, and here are two guys who have seen so much,” said K-os, who got to know Suzuki through his daughter. He wishes he had met McBride five years ago, though he also thinks that things are working out more smoothly than if he had planned everything from the start. His years of struggle, of the inner-directed kind at least, seem to be over.

“I'm happier now,” he said, “because hip hop is in my life.” As he more or less says in The Avenue, the closing song on Yes!, hip hop is the girlfriend who waited for him to stop fooling around, and to start showing the unconditional love she deserves.

K-os's pay-what-you-want Karma tour begins at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver April 30.

Adele : Brit Singer's Got A Potty Mouth

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(April 26, 2009) A fortuitous Saturday Night Live appearance on the same bill as Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin last fall, followed by two Grammy wins cinched Adele's U.S. crossover.

Not that she didn't deserve it on talent alone. The British singer/songwriter's debut album 19, written when she was 18, is a bluesy collection of stirring pop which includes hit single "Chasing Pavements."

"Everything has gone mad," said the performer by phone from England ahead of this Wednesday's Massey Hall show.

"I'm doing a lot more shows now – which I love – 'cause since Saturday Night Live my audience has got a lot bigger. It's tiring, but it's so much fun getting to travel across the States and Europe and stuff. I don't really have much time for myself anymore, but I get to have a friend with me now which is good."

Adele dismissed the suggestion that all that touring should make her more precious with her gritty pipes.

"There's no point in me trying to look after my voice, I smoke 30 cigarettes a day," she said. "I'm just going to kill my voice anyway."This will mark Adele's third Toronto appearance. She's traded her five-piece English band for American musicians. And the male photographer pal accompanying is not a boyfriend, she maintained.

It's worth asking how things are going on the relationship front, since 19 was a break-up album and she said she already has five new tunes ready to go.

"I still have exactly the same problems with boys I've always had," she said. "It's more complicated now if anything. My (next) album is still going to be about love and stuff like that and the new songs are much like that already.

"I'm a lot more independent now than I was on the first record; I'm not as pathetic. I've had a lot more experiences than I had when I was 18 and I think that comes through in the new songs."

When she concludes her North American swing at the end of June – with a Hollywood Bowl show co-headlining Etta James, her "favourite singer by far" – Adele plans to enjoy her new London flat and catch-up with loved ones. She'll pen new songs as her muse permits, but is in no hurry to deliver the new disc to maintain buzz.

"I will always, in my career, be very stubborn with this, because you're only as good as your next album. If you rush an album and it's shit, then you're going to lose the little momentum anyway that you had going on. I'm not having anyone put pressure on me, to be like `You got this little niche now, don't lose it.'

"Yeah, people, they all forget about you, but if you come back with a hot single on the second album and blow everyone away, then everyone's going to remember you. I'm not going to try and fool my fans like `I got a new record already in like three months' and they listen to it and it's f---ing s--t."

Inspiration often comes in the wee hours.

"I usually get an idea when I get up in the middle of the night to go the toilet. A phrase, or one lyric, or melody, or backing vocal comes into my head, then I get the guitar and start writing it; or sometimes I just jam on a guitar and come up with really nice chord sequence."

The loo is also where Adele keeps the awards she's racked up in the last year. (She's still waiting for her Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammys which are being engraved).

"It's a tradition in England to put your awards and memorabilia and plaques in your toilet. I have a nice little cabinet that has all my awards (including American Music Award and Brit Award) I'm not just sitting them on the floor."

She professed a good rapport with the other wavemaking British songstresses – Leona Lewis, Duffy, Estelle, Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen – despite reports otherwise.

"I've met all the girls and they're all quite lovely. It's a shame when some media try and make up stories that we're having a fight. I met Duffy for the first time in November and months before we met the press in England was saying that we had a huge fight in the toilet somewhere and I hadn't even met her."

Along with bad, comes lots of good though, including being photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the current issue of Vogue.

"I love them, especially because it was not a traumatic experience for me like most photo shoots are," she said of the pictures which came out of a "low-fuss, 30-minute" sitting.

"There were a few people on blogs saying how Vogue had photoshopped it loads, but my thighs are very real in that photograph. I've lost a bit of weight, because I've been so busy running around."

************

Adele's just one of a wave of female singers from Britain. An update on the others:

Lily Allen: The diminutive pop singer/songwriter, promoting her new album It's Not Me, It's You, played a well-received sold-out show in Toronto last week. Before she left town, according to her own Twitter feed, "Had a massive ice cream fight dressing room based, cost me $2000. End of tour, time to get mashed."

Duffy: Alternately referred to as the new Winehouse and the new Dusty Springfield on her way up, the blond soul singer won both Grammy and BRIT awards for her album Rockferry (containing the smash, single "Mercy") has received another, perhaps more significant honour. This month she earned a place on the annual Times of London Rich List, with an estimated worth of four million pounds ($7 million).

Estelle: The 29-year-old who cracked the charts on both sides of the pond with "American Boy" (also a Grammy winner) is gathering songs for her new album and recently won a "Fearless Fashionista" award from US Magazine. Her reaction? "I feel famous. No, it's kind of cool."

Leona Lewis: The singer who won Britain's X Factor talent show and went on top the charts with "Bleeding Love" keeps a low profile, but her family can't say the same. Two cousins of singer Leona Lewis have been arrested after they allegedly raided a London drug den.

Amy Winehouse: No news. Just kidding! The same wealth-list cited above chart that Duffy entered suggests Winehouse has lost half her fortune in the last year to a mere $8 million or so; the tracks she collaborated on last year with Snoop Dogg (that is not a joke) are reportedly stuck in legal limbo.

Garnet Fraser

Brian O’Neal Introduces 'Daisy'

Source:
www.eurweb.com - By LaRita Shelby

(April 29, 2009) *Meet Motor city native and star on the rise, Brian O'Neal. He's celebrating the release of his current CD “Daisy,” which has tracked nearly one million spins on MySpace.

Brian started at an early age but it took a while to hone his skills.  From a high school music teacher to a paternal mentor in a rock band, Brian’s guardians led him properly. The man nicknamed "Bean" had a void that only music could fill.

"Any kind of band that was in school, I was in it; though at that time I was not a decent player.  My buddy Kem and I grew up together and did a lot of songwriting.  That’s where I got most of my experience for writing songs.”

When Kem landed his deal with Motown, Brian had the good fortune of joining his musical comrade as keyboardist and assistant music director.  Their kinship continues and Kem is mutually supportive of Brian’s solo ascension.  His first CD “Mood Swings” is followed up by “Daisy” which tantalizes listeners with superb musicianship on songs like Mezmorized, Autobahn, For My Mother and Room To Breath.  

Today Brian masters many instruments with superstar charm and a prolific writing ability; a sure formula for success.

"I am extremely grateful but it has taken a lot of work. I’d also have to give a lot of credit to the internet; it gives people the opportunity to reach millions when in any other time there was no way to do that.”

Brian’s resume boasts performances with Will Downing, Morris Day and The Time, India Arie, Fantasia, Angela Bofill, Stevie Wonder, George Duke, Chaka Kahn, Najee, Kindred the Family Soul, and Jeff Lorber to name a few.  The very humble Brian O’Neal asserts that it is indeed possible for an independent artist to make an impact.

“I would like to think that I’m making music effectively enough to reach the ears that I’m trying to reach and that the music is changing people. I see my music global because we all know that music is the universal language. 

  In just a couple of years, Brian has gained the kind of world wide appeal that would make his alma mater Alcorn State University very proud of the full music scholarship that they afforded him.  The Brian O’Neal team is definitely Grammy bound, led by Mr. O’Neal, Kelly and Kimberly who are also known as BCO Media. Brian is tracking five hundred new fans a day and the list is growing. Brian joins Kem as one of the headliners on the Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage next month!

For a list of other upcoming performances check out new jazz sensation Brian O’Neal at www.MySpace.com/BrianOneal.  

Studdard Wants His 'Idol' Fans Back

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(April 29, 2009) *Second season "American Idol" champ Ruben Studdard is back with a new album he hopes will "reconnect me to the 20-some odd million people that voted for me and...are my fans from 'American Idol.' "

"Love IS," a collection of romantic ballads due May 19 from Hickory Records, gets back to the style of music that fuelled his "Idol" victory in 2003, and inspired guest judge Gladys Knight to famously title him "the Velvet Teddy Bear."

Studdard tells Billboard.com that with his fourth album – produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis -- along with Stargate and country artist John Rich – "[I] just wanted to do the music the fans always ask me for. Ever since I won 'American Idol,' people have always been saying they love the way I sing ballads and would love to have me do an album of love songs. I've been in the music business awhile now. I've had an opportunity to see exactly what the fans want from me and expect, and I think this is exactly the kind of album they've been waiting on."

"Love IS" also finds Studdard switching labels, from J Records to Hickory Records, which is still distributed by SonyBMG but, Studdard says, is more attuned to that fan demand for ballads.

"I think J Records didn't do a good job with connecting me to my 'American Idol' fan base," says Studdard, whose last outing, 2006's "The Return," was a commercial disappointment that's sold less then 240,000 copies. "I wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to make the music they want to hear, and we got that."

Studdard recorded "Love IS" during the first five months of 2008, before he went on the road with the musical "Ain't Misbehavin'." The first single, "Together," which was produced by Stargate, was the last track recorded for the album, he says. Studdard co-wrote several of the tracks, including "A Song For Her" for his wife, Surata, who he married in January of 2008, and "Footprints in the Sand," which was inspired by the Barack Obama presidential campaign.

"Love IS" also features covers of Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It," Al Green's "For the Good Times," the Beatles' "The Long and Winding Road," Extreme's "More Than Words" and Johnnie Taylor's "Just Because." "They're all favourites of mine," Studdard says of the choices.

Currently finishing his run with "Ain't Misbehavin'," Studdard plans a full-scale promotional tour to support "Love IS," including TV appearances, in-stores and radio station shows.

Toronto-Bound Native Of Zaire Is Taking Baroque Opera World By Storm

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

(April 25, 2009) Joao Fernandes' life sends us two clear messages: Don't write off the tone-deaf kid; and inspiration really can come from the most unexpected places.

At age 35, the tall, green-eyed native of Zaire is the toast of the Baroque opera world. The bass has worked for the best period-performance conductors – William Christie, René Jacobs, Christophe Rousset – and is quickly building a repertoire of critically applauded recordings.

Fernandes intends to have a long career, eventually graduating into the meaty modern opera bass roles written by composers such as Giuseppe Verdi and Modest Mussorgsky.

For his Canadian debut, he is doing what he already does best: singing a principal role in a masterpiece of early opera.

This evening, the curtain at the Elgin Theatre rises on Opera Atelier's production of Claudio Monteverdi's 1642 drama, The Coronation of Poppea, with Fernandes in the role of Seneca. He sings alongside a strong cast that includes American male soprano Michael Maniaci (as Nero), and a period orchestra led by David Fallis.

Facing a gilded theatre didn't even seem a remote possibility to a boy growing up in a Portuguese home in Africa.

"I did have a predilection for theatricality," he admits, smiling, "but, in a religious family, playing a martyr in church was as far as it went."

He didn't touch any kind of music until well into his teens. "I could never sing in tune, so people were always asking me to please stop," Fernandes recalls, laughing.

Everything changed one day when he was 17, thanks to an archaeological interest in the ancient worlds of the Middle East. "I would read every book I could find on the topic," the singer explains.

One day, he came home with a VHS tape marked Nabucco. "I thought it was about the life of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II," Fernandez says. "Instead, there was all this singing."

He had never heard an opera before. He didn't even know what an opera was. But when he heard Verdi's grand work, with a strong baritone hero at its centre, "I knew, at that moment, that I needed to make that sound," the singer declares.

Fernandes persuaded his father to send him to Lisbon to study economics. Once there, he signed up for some music courses.

"The secretary at the school said I would need to take some history and theory courses," he recalls. "I asked her what that was."

The woman left her desk and returned with some printed music – something else Fernandes had never seen before. "I remember thinking that I was never going to be able to learn this strange language of dots and lines."

But he worked hard, discovering a strong ear, a rock-solid voice – and a near-photographic memory. His teachers quickly unearthed his true bass range.

"A basso cantante," explains the singer, with an upper range larger and more flexible than many ordinary basses.

He applied to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, England, so that he could study with Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel's teacher, Rudolf Piernay. "My teacher (in Lisbon) said, `What if you don't get accepted?' I said, "If I don't, I'm going to go plant potatoes in Portugal,'" Fernandes recalls.

Even after seven years of steady work, Fernandes acknowledges that his voice is still developing. "People say that, on average, a bass doesn't reach his prime until about age 45," says the singer, who notices small, beneficial changes to both the quality and technical ability of his vocal cords with every new project.

It's all part of a job that hardly feels like work. "Even those nights when I go home absolutely exhausted, I still feel happy," Fernandes declares.

That's more than many people can say after a day of toil.

Just the facts
WHAT: The Coronation of Poppea

WHERE: Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge

WHEN: Tonight to May 2

TICKETS: $30-$135 @ 416-872-5555 or ticketmaster.ca

MUSIC TIDBITS

My One and Only Thrill: Melody Gardot

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Verve) (out of 4)

(April 28, 2009) The Philadelphia singer/songwriter gets heavyweight help on her sophomore album from Joni Mitchell ex Larry Klein, who has similarly worked his producer magic with singers Madeleine Peyroux and current wife Luciana Souza. His stunning collages of strings and acoustic flourishes spice up Gardot's intimate lovestruck and lovelorn lyrics and smouldering, bluesy pipes. More stylish and varied than her 2006 debut Worrisome Heart, which had her pedestrian guitar in the forefront. Can't wait to hear this music live; she plays the TD Canada Trust jazz fest June 29.  Top Track: A surprisingly sexy samba version of "Over the Rainbow," the disc's only cover.

The Russians Are Yummy, With Music To Savour

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

(April 29, 2009) A box of fine chocolate truffles is the best metaphor for last night's premiere visit of the 6-year-old Russian Philharmonic Orchestra to Roy Thomson Hall. Under founding music director Vladimir Spivakov (who has conducted in Toronto before), the visitors served up some Greatest Hits of Russian Music in a way that honoured a rich tradition while making the pieces sound as fresh as wet ink on a sheet of paper. To extend the truffle metaphor, each work was shaped by the same elegantly wielded baton, but given its own subtle flavour. This wasn't music to knock your socks off. Rather, it was a show of fine craft meant to be savoured. The showpiece was Sergei Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 1, played with a mixture of quiet intimacy and boisterous panache by Russian piano star Denis Matsuev. He and the orchestra allowed the composer's lyrical side to speak, while also satisfying thrill-seekers with bursts of pyrotechnics. In a mid-program encore, Matsuev threw aside the velvet gloves to all but demolish the piano in a blazing transcription of Camille Saint-Saëns' Danse macabre. The program opened amidst the diaphanous, late-19th-century glow of Anatol Liadov's The Enchanted Lake. Spivakov carried this lyrical spirit through the Rachmaninov to Peter Ilytch Tchaikovsky and Sergei Prokofiev concert reworkings of their Romeo and Juliet ballet scores. The overall effect was sweet, but never saccharine. The concert closed with the Prokofiev, interpreted with a crisp clarity that highlighted every colourful orchestral move in the cleverly written score. Although the music ended with Tybalt's death, the concert was full of life itself.

Together Through Life: Bob Dylan

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(Columbia)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(April 28, 2009) If you're expecting some kind of metaphysical, late-life rumination on the meaning of everything, you may be misled by this album's title, and deeply disappointed. Compassionate
Dylan fans, however, will understand that this blues-anchored, Tex-Mex, R&B gumbo – the kind of love-and-heartache, pulp noir, let's-get-drunk, go-to-hell-in-a-handbasket songs you might find in a Jim Thompson novel set in a roadhouse – is very close to Dylan's heart, to his musical origins and to his self-image as a latterday Americana-music carney. "I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver and I'm reading James Joyce ... Some people they tell me I got the blood of the land in my voice," he sings with the self-deprecating wit that characterizes this set, driven mostly by David Hidalgo's relentlessly rhythmic accordion. That's not meant to make too much of this album , which comprises mostly groove-dominated co-writes with Jerry Garcia's old collaborator Robert Hunter and suffers from a less than lustrous mix. Dylan's production, under the pseudonym Jack Frost, sacrifices some of guitarist Mike Campbell's best licks and Donny Herron on steel and mandolin. But Together Through Life distinguishes itself as an unaffected, hard-boiled, back-in-the-throat chuckle at people who take themselves – and life – too seriously. Top Track: The bittersweet rocker "It's All Good."

Usher Officially Introduces New Artist

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(April 29, 2009) *Usher hosted industry folk in Los Angeles Monday to introduce his new protégé Justin Bieber, a 15-year-old who's currently getting radio airplay with the Chris "Tricky" Stewart-produced single "One Time." Ursh's sit-down lunch took place at The Sunset Tower Hotel and promoted the Stratford, Ontario-born teen who was discovered on YouTube by manager Scooter Braun, a former So So Def marketing executive, after Bieber began posting homemade videos from his 2007 second-place contestant stint on a local singing competition.  A chance meeting with Usher led to an audition and later to a recording contract offered last October by Island Def Jam chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid, reports Billboard.com. Bieber is currently in Atlanta recording "My World," his Island Records debut due later this year.  Songwriting/production collaborators so far include The-Dream and Midi Mafia. A video for "One Time" was shot on Monday.  Staying at the lunch event only long enough to introduce Bieber, Usher described the artist as a "young phenomenon. He's definitely a priority for me and Island Def Jam." A musician as well, the fresh-faced Bieber performed a short acoustic set during which he played keyboards, guitar and the congas—adding that he's been playing full drums since he was two years old. "I guess you can say I've been blessed with talent," says Bieber.

::FILM NEWS::

Obsessed: Innocence Fatal To Action

Source:  www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

Obsessed
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Starring Beyoncé Knowles, Idris Elba, Ali Larter and Christine Lahti. Directed by Steve Shill. Written by David Loughrey. 105 minutes. At major theatres. 14A

(April 26, 2009) It's pitiful, I know, to complain about a job that entails sitting in a comfortable theatre for a couple of hours assessing a movie's artistic and/or entertainment value while workers in the real world are dealing with all kinds of hardship, stress and crises on the first truly beautiful afternoon of the year's promising summer.

And if the producers had done their work properly on
Obsessed – the much-advertised Beyoncé Knowles star vehicle about a happily married young mother whose upscale life is fractured by a demented blond office temp with designs on her straight-arrow husband, which represents itself as a racially spiked take on Fatal Attraction – I would not now be wishing I could reclaim the two hours I wasted on this tepid, sexless, thrill-free melodrama.

Accept my complaint as an attempt to save discerning movie audiences from similar ennui.

For those who've never seen Fatal Attraction, the plot points in Obsessed are flashed so far in advance that comparisons are unnecessary. For those who admire Adrian Lyne's 1987 gripper, it's essentially the same story (without the boiled bunny), but with a climactic cat-fight that's not nearly so cathartic.

The greatest of several astounding flaws in the design of the update, however, is that British director Steve Shill – best known for his work on TV's sexed-up The Tudors – and writer David Loughrey (Lakeview Terrace) have removed all traces of moral ambiguity in their leading man, the tormented and transparently innocent husband, Derek (Idris Elba, who did such great work as a gangster with mainstream corporate ambitions in TV's The Wire). They also stripped the drama of its potentially gripping – and obvious – racial overtones.

Aside from his past record as a seducer of vulnerable female work colleagues and an apparent acceptance of macho sexism among his male peers, Derek's worst offence is not fessing up to them, or to his wife, Sharon (Knowles), when the new temp at his Los Angeles office, Lisa (Ali Larter, from the TV series Heroes), hits on him at the office Christmas party and in the parking lot a few days later.

That oversight only encourages Lisa, who begins an aggressive stalking strategy that gets only more rejection and sets up the inevitable violent conclusion, but not before a laughably impressionable detective, played by a very confused Christine Lahti, gets into the mix and implies – because the plot needs some kind of jolt, any jolt – that Derek may not be as innocent as he appears to be.

Also missing from Obsessed are efforts to create any sexual heat between Derek and Lisa, even between Derek and Sharon, or visceral terror. This donkey plods along as if motivated by a stick across the rump, not by passion or logic.

Obsessed offers its stars few opportunities other than to mouth lines that often sound absurd, and little scope to display their chops. Elba, even with the lion's share of screen time, is reduced to a cipher. Larter, as the delusional seductress, gets no back-story to work with, and nothing in the script that justifies her psychopathic behaviour.

Knowles, one of the producers, may have been hoping for a part with some grit and emotional power, but she gets very little to do till she starts whacking on the bad lady.

And when that happens, the relief is overwhelming. The end, we suspect, is nigh.

Terence Howard’s 'Fighting' Words

Source: 
www.eurweb.com - by Kenya M. Yarbrough

(April 24, 2009) *Academy Award nominated actor Terence Howard is starring in the new film “Fighting,” with Channing Tatum (opening this weekend). Tatum takes the lead as Shawn MacArthur, a young man attempting to make his way in New York, who gets seduced by the idea of easy money in the world of organized street fighting. Howard plays Harvey, Shawn’s troubled manager.

 “Harvey is in a very dangerous, dangerous place,” Howard said of the questionable character of his character. Unfortunately there are so many of us walking around on the verge of becoming Harvey. Every compromise you get one step closer to Harvey. Harvey is a collection of a lifetime of compromises.”

Howard admitted that he certainly has been in situations in which he had to compromise, though this particular character has made a career out of it.

“Every day each and every one of us is put in a circumstance where we’re asked to compromise; whether it’s our values, whether it’s a principle, whether it’s a truth – in order to fit in,” he said. “Harvey made the right choice 20 years ago when he refused to lose a basketball game. And sometimes [we] get punished when we do the right thing. He had made the wrong choice right before that because he had agreed to lose that game and as a result had his dreams taken away by his legs being broken and he never recovered from that.”

Howard described his journey to reporters, revealing a bit of misery in becoming the role. Howard’s take on the role added complexity to the characterized scam artist.

“It was like a mouse that every once in a while he’d be shadow boxing in front of a candle. The closer he gets to the light, the bigger his own shadow and he gets frightened. The further away, the smaller the shadow and he could beat up on it,” Howard philosophized. “He was afraid of what would happen if he allowed himself to stop being a nocturnal creature and come out into the light and taste a bit of sunshine. But if you’ve been in the dark most of your life, by choice, the sun burns your eyes.”

While fans of the actor will undoubtedly like his performance, Howard said that he’s sure Harvey did not like himself. Howard admitted that he didn’t like the character either, and continued that he didn’t have to like his character to understand who he was.

“I loathed Harvey,” he said. “I hated that I had to go back to an abandoned piece of me and allow that to grow; to allow Harvey to graduate to where I am. You have to be careful with the characters that you choose. I didn’t know where I wanted to take him to, but I knew Harvey; there was something a little more fragile.”

Howard drew on his own down-and-out experiences to develop Harvey.

“When I was living in my garage, before I could get myself together after my divorce, a really good friend, Michael Grant, came by one day; he was the Heavyweight Champion and lost the championship to Lennox Lewis. This was about two years before I did ‘Hustle & Flow,’ he opened up my door, and he looked at me in my garage, sleep on my bed and he said, ‘You know, I don’t hang out with people that ain’t doing nothing with themselves,’ and he turned around and left. I looked up and I saw myself in this make-shift mirror and I said, ‘Wow. I’ve lost.’”

That literal rude awakening got Howard back on his feet and back on his ambition, but the actor recalled the event to find the place of emptiness that he’s assigned the character. He also recalled days with his formerly incarcerated uncle to shape the Harvey personality.

“My uncle ... is a combination of both Shawn and Harvey. There’s a monster in him that enjoys the fight. He gave me a piece of Harvey,” the actor said. “I don’t know where his (Harvey's) voice came from. I was worried about the voice for a while, but I didn’t feel Harvey without that voice. It was like a full possession. And it didn’t let me go.”

“Fighting” is now playing in theatres nationwide. For more on the film, go to the official website at www.fightingmovie.net.

Will Expounds on Everything from X:Men to “Yes We Can

Source:  Kam Williams

(April 27, 2009) William James Adams, aka Will.i.Am, was born on March 15, 1975 in the City of Los Angeles where he attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. But by the time he got around to launching his own clothing line (“i.am”) in 2005, the talented Renaissance man had already found fame as front man for Black Eyed Peas, the multiple Grammy-winning hip-hop group with hits like “Let’s Get It Started” and “My Humps.”

A versatile musician, Will not only plays various keyboards, the bass and drums, but also sings and raps as well. Besides Black Eyed Peas, he’s produced several successful solo projects, plus he has collaborated with a number of other artists, including Sergio Mendes, Usher and Flo Rida.

Perhaps his most important cultural contribution came during the run-up to the presidential election, when he released “Yes We Can,” [WATCH HERE], the Emmy-winning song which ostensibly served as the Obama campaign’s unofficial theme song. Will made his first foray into acting last fall when he provided the voice of Moto Moto in the animated feature Madagascar : Escape 2 Africa. Here, he talks about all of the above, and about X-Men Origins: Wolverine where he co-stars opposite Hugh Jackman as John Wraith.

WiA: Hi Kam.

KW: Thanks for the time, Will. By the way, is this you or just a hologram of you?

WiA: No, this is really Will. 

KW: I remember when you were interviewed by Anderson Cooper as a hologram on Election Night. [WATCH HERE]

WiA: Yeah, it’s wild being a hologram back then and now being teleported in X-Men Origins.    

KW: I believe that your song “Yes We Can,” played a pivotal role in getting young voters excited about Barack Obama and that it helped him become President of the United States . How do you feel about his first 100 days in office?

WiA: So far, he’s done great! People are enthusiastic about America like they haven’t been in a very long time. He’s passed the Stimulus Bill… the Stem Cell Research Bill… he’s closed Guantanamo Bay . Base on that, this dude has overachieved already. It’s really too early to be judging him, but I’m super thrilled that he won, and I think he’s doing a phenomenal job so far. The people judging him now are the doubters who think there’s a possibility that he’s going to fail. We can’t afford that. It’s all psychological. If he fails, that means we’ve failed, too, to since he’s in the White House because of us. If we’re going to judge him now, then we have to judge ourselves also, and ask, what have we done since his inauguration?

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks what inspired you to write “Yes We Can?”

WiA: My passion. I was inspired by his speech, and by all the invisible freedom fighters from the past who you never read about in school. 

KW: Did you think it would help Obama become president?

WiA: No, I wrote it basically so teachers could teach his speech in school. I wasn’t thinking, “I’m going to write this song to make Obama our president.” That’s not logical. I was thinking, “I’m going to write this song so we would have a politician’s words being taught in schools.” That was something I could do that would have an immediate effect.

KW: That’s brilliant, Will!

WiA: Thank you. That was the real reason I did it, although there was the possibility that this dude could become our president once he was already being taught to the kids.

KW: As for X-Men, what a spectacular screen debut you’re getting to make by being a part of such a popular film franchise.

WiA: Yeah, it’s more than spectacular. It’s unbelievable, and kind of crazy, if you ask me.  

KW: Did you base your approach to playing John Wraith on anybody?

WiA: I modeled him after my cousin, Earl. He used to be a very, very bad, bad man. He’s done some bad, bad things, but he’s also a very approachable, likable, huggable kind of guy. He has some bad friends who’ve done bad things, too, but he has a conscience. 

KW: How would you describe your character’s relationship to Logan , aka Wolverine?

WiA: He and Wolverine are close buddies. They go off into the world, and mess up things, but he has a heart, and knows when enough is enough. 

KW: What was working with director Gavin Hood like?

WiA: Working with him was incredible. First of all, I love his movies. He’s very talented and very endearing as far as making you feel comfortable about tapping into all the emotions you need to deliver. He pulls the best out of you, and that’s awesome.

KW: And how was it acting opposite Hugh Jackman?

WiA: Hugh Jackman is the nicest guy on Earth. I was like, “Dang, dude,” he was so super nice.   

KW: Are you planning to make more movies?

WiA: I would love not only to do more work as an actor, but to write and direct.

KW: You’re an incredibly accomplished Renaissance man who has made a mark in a number of fields. But you started out in fashion. Is it still your first love? 

WiA: Yeah, I love fashion. It is my love.

KW:  I know you were born in Los Angeles , but where are your parents from? 

WiA: My folks are from Mississippi .

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan wants to know, where in L.A. do you live now?

WiA: [Sings to the tune of Hollywood Swinging] Hollywooooooooooood!!!!!

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

WiA: It’s more the opposite. I’ve been asked a lot of questions I wish people wouldn’t.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

WiA: Afraid about what?

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

WiA: I’m happy every day of my life.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?

WiA: Last night. 

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

WiA: Can I be honest. 

KW: Of course.

WiA: I’ve never really read a book. 

KW: Why not?

WiA: I can read pretty well, but my attention span is really short. When I read, the first paragraph is great, the second is great, but by about the third paragraph or so, I’m just reading the words and it’s no longer sinking into my mind. 

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

WiA: I’m going through that right now. 

KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?

WiA: I have many heroes. When it comes to moulding my character, my grandma, Sarah Cain, is my biggest hero. We call her Nanny. And my mom, Debra, of course, too. But aside from my family, my biggest hero is Quincy Jones, by far.  

KW: A big fan of yours, Marcia Evans, loves those CDs you made with Sergio Mendes. [WATCH HERE] She wants to know, how you liked working in Brazil .  

WiA: I loved working there. Brazil is one of my favourite places on the planet.

KW: Marcia was also wondering what you think of the Brazilian culture.

WiA: I love the culture because black people in Brazil are Brazilian, whereas in America , black people are black. The Brazilians have graduated and have accepted pigment, so they all just celebrate Brazilian-ness. I’m not saying we need to abandon our origins, but Brazilians are from Africa , too. America is almost there. Most of us don’t know what part of Africa we’re from anyway.

KW: I recently read a book by a sister who went back to Africa to find her roots and came back feeling more American than African.

WiA: Interesting. Brazil has faced the same issues we have, but the difference is that they were conquered by the Portuguese. Sergio Mendes taught me a whole lot about African culture and how we’ve evolved from slavery. He pointed out that the Portuguese didn’t strip their slaves of their culture, so the Brazilian people were able to grow together as a nation, avoiding what America is suffering from.  

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps, like my son who is majoring in music in college? 

WiA: I would say just to continue to make music and to share it on the internet. That’s the future, in just making it and sharing it.    

KW: Thanks again for the interview Will, and best of luck with all your endeavours.

WiA: Thank you so much, dude. 

To see a trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, visit HERE.

To see Will.i.Am’s campaign video for Barack Obama, “Yes We Can,” visit HERE.

To see Will.i.Am’s duet with Sergio Mendes of Mas Que Nada, visit HERE.

Te see a hologram of Will.i.Am interviewed on CNN on Election Night, visit HERE.  

The Soloist: Bittersweet Symphony

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell
, Movie Critic

The Soloist

(out of 4)
Starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.. Directed by Joe Wright. 109 minutes. At major theatres. PG

(April 24, 2009) A movie about an improbable friendship set against the backdrop of urban and cultural decay, The Soloist strives for deep meaning and settles for gritty reality.

It's a rare instance of a film that is both calculating and nakedly honest at the same time. Based on the true story of schizophrenic musical prodigy Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) and his discovery on the streets of L.A. by newspaper columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.), the film aches from unrealized Oscar aspirations.

Director Joe Wright (Atonement), screenwriter Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) and stars Foxx and Downey clearly had golden ambitions for something that is really more human interest than high art. The 11th-hour decision to remove the film from last fall's Oscar derby suggests studio expectations were more grounded.

Nevertheless, Foxx and Downey deserve praise for resisting the urge to make their characters seem like angels with dirty faces. Neither savant Nathaniel nor scribbler Lopez are particularly likeable, which is what you'd expect in real life.

Nathaniel's emotional and mental problems are almost intractable, and he has trouble accepting any kind of assistance. Lopez is blunt about using "the violin guy" as fodder for his column in the Los Angeles Times. The two earn our respect more than our love as both come to realize that the need for friendship leaps all kinds of barriers.

Nathaniel cuts quite the colourful figure, dressed in a collection of tossed-off clothing that includes an Uncle Sam hat, a Barney the Dinosaur costume and a yellow safety vest. Playing a two-stringed violin — we later find he's an Juilliard-trained cellist with an uncanny gift for Beethoven – Nathaniel performs in noisy L.A. traffic because he "likes how the city sounds."

Lopez, dressed like rumpled journalists the world over, chances upon Nathaniel and figures he's a quick hit for a slow news day. Readers respond to Lopez's column, and one of them sends a cello as a gift to the two-stringed tramp.

You can tell by the look on Lopez's cynical face that he knows he has a live one here, good for more columns. He doesn't want to get more involved in Nathaniel's life than absolutely necessary.

Yet something resembling a heart beats within his chest, and he finds himself drawn to the man's plight, recognizing a fellow lost soul. Lopez's own life has been on a downward spiral. His alcoholic ex-wife, Mary (Catherine Keener), is also his boss at the Times, and she's completely preoccupied with layoffs and tumbling profits at the paper, another part of the film that is true to life. Unfortunately, her character remains a cipher.

A note at the end of the film says there are 90,000 homeless people on the streets of greater Los Angeles. It's a staggering figure, and The Soloist leaves you with the depressing thought that even saving a single one of these people is an almost impossible task.

It's no small testament to the film's essential integrity, Oscar pretensions notwithstanding, that nobody tried to candy-coat the bitter truth.

EUR Film Review: Enlighten Up!

Source: 
www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(April 23, 2009) *29 year-old Nick Rosen was already a little sceptical about the value of yoga when he decided to embark on a personal quest to find out whether it could transform his nagging discontent into a state of bliss the way it seemed to do for so many other devotees.

So, he agreed to allow his friend, filmmaker Kate Churchill, an avid yoga enthusiast, to follow him around with a camera as he traveled from New York to India stopping at a variety of gyms, clubs and ashrams along the way in search of inner peace.

Were the yogis they encountered really capable of cosmic healing, or was the industry just a sham scamming millions of Westerners inclined to consume spirituality in the same way they way buy sneakers and hot dogs?

I think Nick was half-hoping to find a legit alternative to the life he'd been leading, since the Quebec-born journalist freely admitted to being unsatisfied with his current mainly materialistic path.

The upshot of his half-year endeavour is this charming little documentary called
Enlighten Up!, an alternatively funny and revealing flick which dares to knock some seemingly sacrosanct gurus off their lofty pedestals. The movie succeeds primarily because of the contrast between the approaches to yoga taken by ever-battling Nick and Kate, the former being an irreverent Doubting Thomas, while the latter is decidedly deferential to the shamans they seek out.

In the end, alas, neither one's attitude changed much, leading the viewer inexorably to the conclusion that the answer to the question of whether the practice of yoga holds the key to nirvana just might be in the eye or the soul of the beholder.

Ommmmm..

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 82 minutes
Studio: Balcony Releasing

To see a trailer for Enlighten Up, visit HERE.

FILM TIDBITS

The Wrestler

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(Alliance)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)

(April 21, 2009)
Mickey Rourke's the Dickensian focus of Darren Aronofsky's soulful and occasionally humorous portrait of life on the way down.  Rourke's Randy "The Ram" Robinson once enjoyed top billing and income, but now he plays for chump change on the nostalgia circuit. His brutal passion has cost him his marriage, estranged him from his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) and taken a toll on his health. He still takes steroids, but now he's also addicted to painkillers for a back problem. His heart tells him that he's living on borrowed time. His only comfort is a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) whose interest in him may be purely professional.  The film is a triumph on many levels, not least of which is Rourke's return as an actor of reckoning; he should have won this year's Best Actor Oscar. Also worthy of applause is Aronofsky's return, after the indecipherable indulgence that was The Fountain, to the well-deep drama that Requiem for a Dream proved him capable of. The Wrestler is suffused with sadness, yet also the wonder of a spirit that refuses to be snuffed out. Pity the extras are so lightweight. My review copy has just the Springsteen video of the title song. The Blu-ray version also has a making-of documentary. Are they saving a Rourke commentary for a deluxe edition?

Kodjoe, Banner In Kenya Moore-Backed Film

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(April 24, 2009) *Boris Kodjoe, David Banner and Richard Roundtree star in the upcoming thriller "The Confidant," the first film to be released under former Miss USA Kenya Moore’s Moore Vision Media company.   According to Allhiphop.com, the story follows college buddies and longtime friends, played by Kodjoe and Banner, who make a life-changing pact after Kodjoe's character mistakenly kills a man in a gambling dispute.   They both agree that Jackson, played by Banner, should cop to the killing and serve the prison time. Under their agreement, Kodjoe's character, Nigel, promises that Jackson will be taken care of once released.  However, Jackson becomes twisted in prison, and upon his release he plots to take over his former friend’s life, starting with the illicit seduction of his lonely wife.   Principal shooting for "The Confidant" begins in May, with a tentative release time for fall 2009.  

Fox Searchlight Nabs Musical 'Black Nativity'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 27, 2009)  *The popular Langston Hughes musical "Black Nativity" will be adapted for the big screen with filmmaker Kasi Lemmons writing and directing. Searchlight is fast-tracking the holiday classic for a possible Christmas release, reports Variety.  "Black Nativity," which was first performed in 1961, is a retelling of the Bible's nativity story with an all-black cast and features traditional Christmas carols sung in gospel style.  Writer-director Lemmons, who burst onto the scene with 1997's critically acclaimed Southern drama "Eve's Bayou," has been selective with her follow-up projects. She most recently helmed the Don Cheadle starrer "Talk to Me." Celine Rattray, Galt Niederhoffer and Daniela Taplin Lundberg are producing through their Plum Pictures shingle. Joy Goodwin is exec producing.  

Common, Taraji P. Henson Cast In 'Date Night'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 27, 2009) *Rapper Common and Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson join the ensemble cast of "Date Night," a comedy about a married couple who find themselves in harm's way after their routine date night goes horribly wrong.   Tina Fey and Steve Carell play the ill-fated daters. The 20th Century Fox film, due in 2010, also includes Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Leighton Meester and Kristen Wiig.  Wahlberg plays a successful and crazily buff securities expert who flirts with Fey's character. Franco portrays a not-too-bright con man and petty criminal. Meester is onboard as the couple's babysitter. Henson plays the one good cop who believes the couple is in danger, and Common portrays a villain. Wiig, who worked with Fey on "Saturday Night Live," rounds out the cast as the actress' best friend.  Director Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum 2") said he aimed high in casting "Date Night" with the goal of populating all the supporting roles "with formidable actors."  "And people just kept saying yes," added Levy. "I think people just really wanted to work with Tina and Steve."

Ving Rhames Snaps Up "Piranha'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 27, 2009)  *Ving Rhames returns to the big screen in Dimension Films' upcoming "Piranha 3D," a remake of the 1978 film that followed the accidental release of a genetically-altered species of piranha into lakes, rivers and even swimming pools. According to ShockTillYouDrop.com, the update will have an earthquake causing Arizona's Lake Havasu floor to open, setting free scores of prehistoric piranhas. Rhames joins Richard Dreyfuss, Elisabeth Shue and Adam Scott in the film. Director Alexandre Aja starts shooting next month in Arizona for release next March.

Oliver Stone Making Wall Street Sequel

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(April 29, 2009) LOS ANGELES–Michael Douglas and Oliver Stone are going to show us the money again with a sequel to their 1987 hit Wall Street. Douglas is reprising his role as Gordon Gekko and Stone is on board again to direct the sequel, which for now has the working title Wall Street 2, said 20th Century Fox spokesman Gregg Brilliant. Brilliant said the project is timely and relevant given the state of the world. "We need to keep the storyline under wraps, but it's literally ripped from today's headlines," Brilliant said. "It's going to be very big and very cool.'' With the economy and financial markets in a tailspin, it will be different times for Douglas' Gekko. In the original film, corporate raider Gekko was a symbol of Wall Street greed and corruption during the boom era of the 1980s. Gekko has endured because audiences give him the "same kind of respect we've got for the great white shark," Douglas said in an interview Friday with Associated Press Television News for his upcoming life-achievement award from the American Film Institute. "He's a villain. Gordon Gekko is a great, old-fashioned villain," Douglas said. "And, interestingly enough, if you look at most actors' careers, their biggest achievement, not necessarily success, but (achievement), is playing a bad guy.'' Academy Awards voters agreed. Douglas earned the best-actor Oscar for Gekko. The sequel is scheduled to start shooting this summer. Edward Pressman, who produced Wall Street, also is back for the sequel, while Allan Loeb wrote the screenplay.

::TV NEWS::

Cutbacks Altering What's On The Box

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux,
Special To The Star

(April 26, 2009) Has bad economic news started to seep into TV storylines? Consider the evidence:

Earlier this month on
30 Rock: Jack (Alec Baldwin) announces budget cuts and layoffs. This season on Law & Order: a stockbroker is beaten to death and, more recently, the mistress of a Bernie Madoff-like banking weasel is murdered. This past week on The Office: A competitor's low prices continue to bleed business from Dunder Mifflin.

As Denis McGrath, a former writer for CBC's
The Border sees it, it is all about networks feeling our pain and not wanting to be behind the curve. "We've got to do something to acknowledge what people are going through," he sees them saying, "because there is a danger of being out of step with what people want to see."

McGrath is about to take his own step toward the light. He leaves this week for Newfoundland, where he will run the writing room on
The Republic of Doyle, an upcoming CBC private-eye drama he describes as retro and fun. But even darker shows like AMCs' Emmy-winning Breaking Bada show about a dying school teacher (Bryan Cranston) so desperate to provide for his family he turns to selling drugs – have had to adjust to the new economic reality.

"Reality does impact, and you can't help but pay attention to what's going on in the newspapers every day," says Breaking Bad creator/producer Vince Gilligan. He sees his show as being about "a good man who makes a very bad decision" and then "the cascade of consequences, the domino effect from that decision." It is an extreme example of what a lot of people are dealing with today.

There seems to be two ways the networks are dealing with hard times as they scramble this month and next to book shows for the fall – with a return to sitcoms and with a shift away from dark crime procedurals and toward sunnier, more relatable characters. Check out some of the pilots under consideration for the fall:

Canned (ABC): "They're young, they're moving up ... and they've all just been canned. Five friends are about to find out what happens when their upwardly mobile lives turn upside down."

The Dealership (Global): A retired used car dealer (William Devane) comes out of retirement to try and help his two children jump start the family business during hard times in the auto industry.

Untitled Kelsey Grammer Project (ABC): "Wall Street legend Hank Pryor (Grammer) and his wife Tilly have been living the high life in New York City. That is until Hank is forced out of his CEO job and has to move his family back to the small town of River Bend."

Untitled Debra Messing Project (NBC): The former Will & Grace star is back as "a laid off CEO who is ill-prepared to be a full-time wife and mother as her husband is to provide for the family."

This Little Piggy (ABC): "You can go home again, but what happens when three grown siblings all try to go home at once?"

Suddenly, CEOs and bankers are the new bad guys on TV. The Canadian-born creator of the American cable drama Leverage, John Rogers, says the recession probably helped his show get a second season because many of his stories focus on people going after corporate criminals. McGrath found it interesting that the creators of the midseason ABC comedy Better Off Ted had tapped into a growing cynicism and mistrust about the corporate world. "It has finally sunk in that these guys have wrecked our economy," says McGrath.

There is word leaking out from Friday Night Lights that job-loss storylines will be on the agenda next season. "It's certainly on producers and writer's minds and that means those kind of stories will be on the table in the coming weeks," says veteran Canadian TV screenwriter Jim Henshaw (BeastMaster).

Reality TV is getting more socially relevant, too, although not all of it will be fun. Fox, ever skilled at exploiting any situation, has a Survivor meets The Office reality show in the works called Someone's Got to Go. The series will feature real companies crushed by the recession, with actual employees deciding which one will be canned.

Even HBO, long the home of grim, unflinching dramas such as The Sopranos and The Wire, are lightening things up this season with the cheery, uplifting The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency.

One of the most winning scripted shows in years, Glee, is set to preview May 19 immediately following the American Idol finale on Fox. With small-town Ohio as the setting, the series – from the unlikely hand of Nip/Tuck writer/producer Ryan Murphy – puts a smart, adult spin on High School Musical. Vancouver's Cory Monteith is among the fresh-faced stars.

Telling, too, that one of the least heralded midseason shows to debut this spring – Bob Saget's Surviving Suburbia – is also the highest rated. It is an urge that goes all the way back to The Honeymooners – viewers seem to be looking for working stiffs they can root for.

"The only thing the networks want to see right now are what the networks are calling `Blue Sky Shows,'" says McGrath, who has heard through his agent and writer friends in L.A. that "Happy stuff` is all the rage. "All those Criminal Minds, CSIs, dark, crime procedurals are in real trouble.

"When the real news is all doom and gloom, the dive to comedy and escapism is almost a reflex."

Some Change We Can't Believe In

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(April 27, 2009) See, the thing about suspension of disbelief, at least when it comes to serial drama: if you do it right, the sky (for that matter, outer space) is your limit. Done wrong, the whole thing comes crashing to earth.

Tonight, for the last time this season, we can compare and contrast the two most extreme current examples of far-fetched television storytelling, airing opposite each other at 9 in the States, conveniently scheduled back-to-back, at 9 and 10, in Canada on Global.

Fox's 24 and NBC's Heroes, respectively, do have superficial similarities – both started off this season coming off an all-time creative low, a season so bad even their creators had to cop to it, and promised an immediate return to form. One succeeded, the other didn't.

This may be 24's most outrageous storyline yet, and that is saying something. (Anyone stockpiling recorded episodes is advised to skip the next eight spoiler-saturated paragraphs.)

We have, by my count, now ascended to the fourth or fifth level of a still-enigmatic global conspiracy, which started with a brutal African dictatorship and came to embrace corporate American war profiteers, along the way assaulting the White House and assassinating the First Son.

To say nothing of the thwarted nerve-gas attack – thwarted, with the single exception of our go-to good guy, Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer, whom we left last Monday night writhing on the ground in agony with turncoat ex-pal Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) standing over him.

At least, we're pretty sure Tony has embraced the dark side. Sure, he did, at considerable risk to his own life, single-handedly save the world. On the other hand, he also smothered a high-ranking FBI agent with his bare hands, which is never a good sign.

But who knows? Tony started out the season bad, then turned out to be good, and now apparently has been really, really bad all along. Stranger still, we accept that. Indeed, that's more than half the fun.

This brings us to the real secret of suspending disbelief: emotional investment. You have to be invested in the characters, good and/or bad, to care what happens to them and how they respond, patently ridiculous as things may get.

It applies as much if not more to villains. A Batman without his Joker is just a big-winged Pez dispenser with anger issues.

Let's face it, what really drove 24's best-ever fifth season – the one before last year's fall from grace – was Gregory Itzin's Nixonian bad president.

Don't get me wrong here: producer/star Sutherland remains the show's reliably consistent solid rock (yeah, right, like he isn't going to survive the nerve gas). But I for one was genuinely disappointed to see Jon Voight's CEO of Evil pop the poison pill last week. Then again, he's a sneaky guy, and I haven't given up on him just yet.

As it happens, this is precisely what's wrong with Heroes, which comes to the overdue end of a very silly season tonight (24, gratefully, still has another five hours to go).

Viewership has plummeted as the show effectively ruins its most popular characters, one by one, Masi Oka's Hiro being particularly ill-served, with Ali Larter, whoever she happens to be playing at the moment, freeze-dried and shattered and sent off to a movie career that seems to have already fizzled with Obsessed.

And what to make of villainous Sylar – in the first season, one of the best bad guys ever. Last year came the fatal mistake of reforming him. This year has further confused the issue by giving him the power to become other actors. No wonder actor Zachary Quinto was in such a hurry to jump aboard the USS Enterprise.

My theory is not perfect. Sometimes compelling characters don't do the trick: for example, Zachary Levi's endearingly Zach Braff-ish (what's with all the Zachs?) Chuck, also ending the season tonight, and very likely the series itself, on NBC and City at 8.

Sometimes, as with Sunday night's Prison Break, it works all too well. With characters such as Rob Knepper's addictively evil T-Bag compensating for its woodenly stoic sibling stars, we have been drawn into a pyramid plot even more ludicrous than 24's, capping off its final season (ending in June) by tracing its own multi-layered conspiracy all the way up to their mother.

Jack Bauer would be appalled.

TV TIDBITS

Mary J. Blige on '30 Rock' Season Finale

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(April 23, 2009) *Mary J. Blige will join Clay Aiken, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow and Adam Levine of Maroon 5 in the May 14 season finale of NBC's "30 Rock," the network announced. NBC is keeping quiet about their particular roles, saying only that the finale will be a "special episode featuring Alan Alda and surprise musical guests." Alda, the Emmy-winning star of "M*A*S*H" and the final season of "The West Wing," will appear in "30 Rock's" final two episodes, and Sherri Shepherd will also reprise her occasional role as Tracy's (Tracy Morgan) wife.

New Crime Dramas Coming To Showcase

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(April 27, 2009) Actors Callum Keith Rennie, Luke Kirby and Clark Johnson are returning to series television in two new dramas set for Showcase. Rennie is set to star in the hour-long series Shattered, about a brilliant detective whose multiple-personality-disorder has a major impact on his job. Edmonton's Rennie was last seen in the U.S. series Battlestar Galactica and Californication. Meanwhile, Johnson and Kirby will star in the tentatively titled, Lawyers, Guns and Money, about a claims adjuster who must manoeuvre his way around insurance scams and the criminal underworld in Hamilton. The Toronto-raised Johnson was a regular on the U.S. series, The Wire, while Hamilton's Kirby appeared on Tell Me You Love Me and Slings and Arrows. Canwest says both one-hour dramas begin production this summer. Lawyers, Guns and Money is produced by Whizbang Films Inc., the Toronto-based company created by Paul Gross and Frank Siracusa. Shattered is produced by E1 Entertainment and Force Four Films Ltd.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Cirque Rolls With Recession Punches

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(April 29, 2009) With Sin City in a slump and the recession weakening most Asian markets, the indefatigable Cirque du Soleil is shifting its focus to the Big Apple, where the entertainment scene is showing no apparent signs of decay.

In an article in today's New York Times, Cirque revealed its plans to: Continue its yearly Christmas production, Wintuk, at Madison Square Garden; begin a new hopefully annual residency at the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side next February; and become the summer tenant of Radio City Music Hall for four months each year starting in 2011.

All of this will serve to take the sting out of several recent economic setbacks for the Montreal-based juggernaut, which include the cancellation of a second show in Macau and the postponement of a permanent home in Dubai.

And while Cirque's shows are down a total of 7 per cent in Las Vegas, that seems mild compared to the 20 per cent decline in tourism being quoted for the city as a whole. And in all other markets, Cirque's revenues are up 7 per cent.

Guy Laliberté, Cirque's founder and leading figure (whose personal wealth was recently estimated by Forbes as $2.5 billion U.S.) is quoted as saying: "we've gone through three recessions in Cirque history and they've all been growth periods for us."

The show scheduled for the Beacon Theatre is tentatively titled Vaudeville and will be directed by David Shiner, with an original score by Laurence O'Keefe, who wrote the musicals Legally Blonde and Bat Boy. It will preview for several months in Chicago this fall.

The Star has received reliable reports that the Radio City Music Hall project will in all probability be a reworking of the variety-based show that popular entertainer René Simard had been preparing for this summer's opening of a new venue in Macau.

That show has since been cancelled because the hotel that was to house it is no longer being built due to recessionary cutbacks.

The plan is to present that show during the summer months in New York (leaving the winter for the omnipresent Rockettes) and to move it to European capital such as London or Paris for the rest of the year.

All of this multi-venue activity in Manhattan has been caused by Cirque's failure to acquire its long-time holy grail: a permanent Gotham residence of its own.

"So instead," as Laliberté put it, "you come in by the back door, or even a window."

In Canada, Cirque opens its latest touring show, OVO, in Montreal next Wednesday, with a Toronto run scheduled for later in the summer at The Ports.

And, despite the economic downturn in Las Vegas, Cirque is still planning to open its Elvis Presley spectacular at the new MGM City Center later this year.

Guy Laliberté has definitely not left the building.

Ben Elton : Takin' It To The 'Peg

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Patrick White

(April 24, 2009) Winnipeg — ‘My wife suspects I have a girlfriend in Canada,” says Ben Elton, winding his way through the labyrinthine back halls of Winnipeg's Manitoba Theatre Centre. “I spend so much bloody time here.”

She may have a case. For the last two months, Elton – stand-up comedian, Blackadder writer, Andrew Lloyd Webber collaborator, bestselling novelist and certifiable tabloid fodder in his home country of Britain – has been living a bachelor's life in the Manitoba capital.

Stationed at the drab Fort Garry Place, steps from the swollen Red River, he has been leading a very different existence from the charmed, gossip-worthy one he's used to. “I've had a great deal of success over the years and can't pretend I've wanted for much,” says Elton, motor-mouthing at a pace you might expect from someone who's written 12 novels, nine TV shows, three musicals, four plays and a smattering of feature films over the last 20 years. “But here I am, married with children, and I'm living in this little Winnipeg flat, sticking me chips in the oven and trying not to open that second bottle of wine every night.”

So what exactly is one of England's most prolific artists doing wandering this flood-sieged Prairie city?

A lot, actually. On a recent afternoon, he sat in the cheap seats at the MTC explaining his love for Canadian actors and Canadian bars and why the Winnipeg theatre scene has become his latest Canadian mistress. Dressed in a bland grey T-shirt, he propped his black boots on the row ahead as he described his main priority here: to direct the world premiere of
The Boys in the Photograph, a Belfast-set musical he wrote with his pal Lord (Andrew) Lloyd Webber.

If it sounds strange that a piece by the biggest stage composer in the world is premiering in the Slurpee capital of the world, don't worry. It is.

The Boys in the Photograph is actually a revised version of a piece the duo wrote a decade back. Titled The Beautiful Game, it premiered in London nine years ago, ran for 11 months, won several awards, and promptly disappeared. That it failed to catch Broadway's attention always bothered Elton. He blames a faulty ending.

Set against the backdrop of the Troubles, The Beautiful Game follows an Irish soccer team of Catholic and Protestant boys as they struggle to rise above the corrupting influences of religious bigotry and tribalism that slowly engulf them. In the original staging, the hero is irredeemably corrupted, going off to become an IRA terrorist. That fate never sat well with Elton.

“Andrew and I debated that endlessly,” he says. “There was a feeling amongst the producer, who was Irish, and the director, that we mustn’t compromise the ending. But I felt we did just that by concluding that our wonderful hero – with whom we'd laughed and cried, and seen play football and fall in love with a beautiful girl – would go walking off into the darkness. It was a mistake.”

But how to fix it?

Elton knew London critics would treat a rewrite as warmed-over hash, so he shelved the idea until 2006, the year he began working with Canadian talent on the Toronto staging of We Will Rock You. During rehearsals, he was stunned by the level of talent in the country. “It was sort of heartbreaking,” he says, “because although we cast the very best cast, we knew we could have cast it twice with all the brilliant people we saw.”

The Toronto sojourn also introduced him to impresario David Mirvish. Elton quickly saw an opportunity for a Beautiful Game redo to escape the gravity of British critics.

“David and I became friends, and I said to him one day, ‘This might seem a long shot, but Andrew and I have always wanted to reinvent our Beautiful Game,'” Elton explains. “He said he loved The Beautiful Game and always wanted to put it on, which was wonderful.”

Just one hitch: “Mirvish had just one theatre available, the 2,300-seat Canon.” Elton needed a more intimate venue. They looked elsewhere, and the choice soon became obvious.

“The MTC is a world-renowned house,” says Elton, praising the 50-year-old theatre's production staff and odd, asymmetrical design. “I'm not saying the bloke in the chip shop's heard of it, but it is known. In the end, everyone decided that Winnipeg would be as effective a shop window for the show as Toronto.”

Elton and Lloyd Webber have changed one-quarter of the music and one-quarter of the script, to make The Boys in the Photograph much more uplifting than its predecessor. They also scrapped the old title, which had garnered the piece a reputation as Lloyd Webber's football musical. “And who would want to see a musical about [expletive] football? That's like saying South Pacific is about the Second World War, or The Sound of Music is about Nazis. The football team is just a vehicle. Basically, it's got [expletive] all to do with football. I'm not even interested in sports.”

The MTC is co-funding the $1.4-million production, which premieres April 30.

In all, Elton will have spent four and a half months haunting its hallways. As he showed off the set last week, he showed little sign that the time away from family was taxing. Days away from his 50th birthday, he praised the healthy options in Winnipeg's subterranean food courts. “I've just discovered this one place. Have you heard of Oriental Wok? It's a wonderful way to get your veggies.”

Elton likes to talk about eating almost as much as he likes to talk about drinking, a pastime he has found he shares with many in Winnipeg's ample creative class. “It's cold here, right, so you shag, drink or write. Shagging's out of the question because my wife's in Britain, so I've done a fair bit of drinking. I like to drink. I love it. I'm a great believer in speaking out about the great pleasures of the grape and the grain. I had two pints of Guinness and a whisky last night after we finished around 11. Fort Garry Hotel. Very nice bar, very nice barman.”

Not to say he hasn't been writing. Winnipeg's reputation as an artistic incubator has rubbed off on Elton quite gainfully. He has been working steadily on a new novel (his previous 12 have all been British bestsellers) and on the pilot script for a comedy-detective series for NBC. “I went to New York to talk to the producer a couple of days ago, which is kind of exciting for me,” he says. “I've done a lot of things in Britain, but I've never really done anything over here.”

He has good reason to suss out North American opportunities. Elton has reached that stage of celebrity in Britain where he and his work are under constant scrutiny. He first rose to prominence as a foul-mouthed, Thatcher-bashing comedian. Many Brits feel his rock-musical collaborations – We Will Rock You with Queen, and Tonight's the Night with Rod Stewart – reek of a sellout.

“I'm famous in Britain, and you're always going to get shit if you're well-known,” he says. “But I've always loved musicals. I did my degree in drama. I just happened to catch my first breaks in television, including the Blackadder series. For what it's worth, what I'm doing now is much closer to what people thought I was going to do when I was 18.”

That includes another highly anticipated collaboration with Lloyd Webber that Elton doesn't like to talk about much. “I did it as a favour over a weekend,” he says of writing the Phantom of the Opera sequel. “Andrew didn't have the story in any kind of shape at all. He asked me to take a look. I did it as a favour for a bloke. That's it. I don't take much interest in it.”

Lloyd Webber had been toiling over the project for years, and Elton says he immediately saw where the holes were. The four-page plot synopsis he wrote will form the basis for Love Never Dies, set to open later this year in London, Shanghai, New York and, possibly, Toronto. “I'm not doing the lyrics or anything,” he says. “I kind of did my job, and if it's a great success, that's great for me.”

But he may soon have spare time to take a more active interest. The future of The Boys in the Photograph depends entirely on how Winnipeg receives it. The only other planned staging, in Toronto, was scrapped last year because, according to a Mirvish Productions spokesperson, the company still hasn't located an appropriate venue.

“We have to make it a huge hit here,” he says. “The audience is going to have to love their night, and I'm confident they will.”

Great Teamwork, Strong Actors Make Cleverly Shifting Play A Must-See

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(April 26, 2009) NEW YORK —The words "savage" and "merciless" don't normally coexist with "hilarious" and "entertaining", but that's exactly what's currently happening in Manhattan where Yasmina Reza's latest assault on our polite sensibilities called God of Carnage is currently playing to packed houses.

If a play ever mirrored the patterns of guerilla warfare, this one is it, starting out as a seemingly innocuous comedy about two upper middle-class couples trying to work out the problems their children had in a recent quarrel, only to end 90 minutes later in an all-out, no-holds-barred assault on the very foundations of our civilization.

Theatre this clever requires consummate teamwork from top to bottom and that's what we get here. Reza's writing (superbly translated from the French by Christopher Hampton) takes us along the road to hell step by step with gossamer skill.

Director Matthew Warchus is able to modulate his staging from polite coffee-table banter to full body-press violence and the four cast members – Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden – are all the kind of courageous troupers you would like to have with you on beach at Normandy, as well as on the stage of a hit Broadway show.

One of the beauties of this play is the way the tectonic plates keep shifting. The person you may find the most contemptible as the curtain rises is the one you're likeliest to cheer as it falls. The most righteous turns out to be the most prejudiced; the wimp turns out to be the viper and so on.

Nothing or no one is what they first seem to be.

That's what makes this such a constantly fascinating piece of theatre: a dialectical Rubik's cube that invisible hands keep reshaping before your eyes.

While the writing and direction command our respect, it's the acting that demands our total admiration. I urge you to run to Manhattan as soon as possible to see this show in order to savour the sheer magic of the quartet of artists joined together in this production.

It's impossible to decide who to praise first. Harden is front and centre with the risks she takes, going from tight-lipped liberalism to free-swinging anarchy as the play progresses.

There's nothing more hysterical or braver than the way Harden throws herself on her opponents, or leaps up and down in anger when things don't go her way.

Davis has a fascinating trajectory, running from doe-eyed subservience to projectile vomiting worthy of a character from The Exorcist, while Daniels as her cell-phone-dependent husband works within a narrower margin of hysteria, but still finds enough ground to frighten us as well.

And then there's Gandolfini, spending a large part of the evening radiating that smiling benevolence we know so well from his days as Tony Soprano. But, just like the former refuse manager from New Jersey, Gandolfini's character here is capable of the most horrifying eruptions and if there's any doubt how close our civilized society is to the jungle, his Neanderthal rantings will eliminate them in a minute.

God of Carnage is that rare play which will not only surprise you and entertain you, but give you plenty to discuss for hours afterwards. Put this on the top of your "must-see" list in New York.

This Dinner Party Serves Up Comedy Delight

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert Crew,
Special To The Star

Le Dîner de Cons
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
By Francis Veber. Directed by Guy Mignault. Until May 9 at 26 Berkeley St. 416-534-6604

(April 27, 2009) Each week, Paris-based publisher Pierre Brochant and his oh-so-smart friends invite a complete idiot to dinner and mock him unmercifully for the whole evening. And the unfortunate object of their derision hasn't a clue what's going on.

François Pignon looks like one of their best dinner dates ever. He's a total nerd who makes models of the Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge out of matchsticks and will provide every detail about how many matches and tubes of glue it all took.

But in Francis Veber's
Le Dîner de Cons, the final show of Théâtre français de Toronto's 40th season, now playing at 26 Berkeley St., things don't quite work out as planned.

When François arrives at Pierre's apartment, he finds his host suffering. Not only has he wrenched his back playing golf, but his wife has walked out on him.

François sets out to help ... and makes everything much, much worse.

What follows is a delightful little comedy about wives and mistresses, tax inspectors and soccer fans, unkindness and friendship. And by the end (as Pierre acknowledges), François has avenged himself and all the other nerds for the cruelties heaped upon them.

It's very mainstream French, in the hallowed tradition of Molière and Feydeau, satirizing the foibles of society and making us laugh at them. But Veber's play – a cult hit both as a play and as a film – is gentle and forgiving. Pierre has learned his lesson and there's a (probable) happy ending.

In the skilled hands of director Guy Mignault, and with Pierre Simpson leading the way with a gloriously gawky performance as François, it's a delightful evening of fun, with lots of twists and turns and a dénouement that is surprisingly heartfelt and moving.

Paul Essiembre plays Pierre while Jean-Michael Le Gal is his best friend, Just Leblanc. Both create well-rounded characters and the energy is excellent. René Lemieux garners his share of laughs in a couple of cameos, but neither Marianne Lambert nor Stéphanie Broschart manage to make much out of the roles of the wife and mistress.

Performances with subtitles are on May 1, 6 and 9 at 8 p.m. and May 9 at 3:30 p.m.

All-Star Cast Delivers Deeply Moving, Rich Piece Of Theatre

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(April 27, 2009) NEW YORK – Everyone knows the story about how famed tragedian Edmund Kean, as he breathed his last, proclaimed "Dying is easy; comedy is hard."

I wonder what he would have made of the extraordinary production of Eugene Ionesco's
Exit the King, now on Broadway, which turns dying into a comedy and makes it both easy to watch and hard to forget at the same time.

Thanks to a bravura performance by Geoffrey Rush that Kean himself would have envied, and thrilling work from a supporting cast featuring Susan Sarandon and Canada's adopted daughter, Andrea Martin, what could have been a dry and intellectual exercise in Theatre of the Absurd becomes something richly theatrical and deeply moving.

We meet Berenger (Ionesco's ubiquitous Everyman), who has been the self-centred monarch of a once-great kingdom for so long that he's allowed his own pettiness to destroy nearly everything.

He's left with only five subjects: his first wife (the chilly Sarandon), his younger trophy wife (the electric Lauren Ambrose), his faithful guard (the charismatic Brian Hutchinson), his doctor (the droll William Sadler) and his one servant (the always-sublime Martin.)

There's no mystery here. In one of the biggest spoilers ever, Sarandon imperiously announces shortly after the curtain rises that the king will be dead at the end of the play.

And then we watch it happen. At first, it's full of brash vaudevillian strokes and physical humour worthy of the best silent screen comedy. But the sheer magic of director Neil Armfield's work is that as the Grim Reaper gets closer to taking Berenger away, his proximity to us increases as well.

A chill falls over the audience as the once vainglorious monarch loses his senses, one by one.

To watch Hutchinson attempt an 11th-hour defence of the man he's spent his life serving, to see Martin meekly try to explain to her king the emptiness that fills her days, to feel Ambrose trying to infuse her youthful vigour into him like some kind of psychic CPR, to hear Sadler vainly try to explain away death as a series of dismissible symptoms ... each actor's turn on the stage of mortality is unforgettable.

But they're only setting things up for the one-two punch at the end, which truly devastates.

It begins with Rush, delivering an almost fragilely pathetic account of how, late in life, he connected emotionally with a stray cat, the only living being who ever aroused such feeling in him. And then Sarandon is ready for her true role, as the Angel of Death, who slowly guides Rush towards his final moments.

It's totally empty of any sentimentality and it touches us all profoundly. To see a show like this in the marketplace of jukebox tune fests, tepid revivals and movies-turned-into-musicals, gives you hope for the future of the commercial theatre.

Premieres To Mark 40th Season

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(April 28, 2009) The 40th anniversary season that artistic director Ken Gass announced for Factory Theatre yesterday served notice that the veteran organization hasn't lost any of its fire over the years.

Two new works by two of our country's most important writers will have their premieres and, most significantly, each one shows its author heading in new directions.

And So It Goes will be George F. Walker's first new script for the stage since Heaven in 2000.

"It's a very risky play for George in many ways," Gass said in an interview. "It's quite different from his other works, more experimental in structure. Edgier."

The other big news is the North American premiere of Brad Fraser's latest, True Love Lies, which opened to smash reviews in Manchester this year and is being steered toward a West End production.

"Brad has found a way to not need outrageousness, although the play has plenty of sexuality on its own terms," Gass says. "But I feel it's his most mature work to date and I feel extremely lucky we got it." Another world premiere from an A-list author is who knew grannie: a dub aria by ahdri zhina mandiela, co-produced by Obsidian Theatre.

The world premiere of Linda Gaboriau's English language translation of Michel Marc Bouchard's The Madonna Painter will also light up the season, as will the Vancouver Playhouse production of Kevin Loring's Where the Blood Mixes.

And on May 1, 2010, the theatre's 40th birthday, will come the first performance of a revival of Featuring Loretta, which Gass calls Walker's "most accessible and entertaining play. A perfect work for a celebration."

THEATRE TIDBITS

Suzan-Lori Parks Stars In Her Next Play

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(April 24, 2009) *Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks will star in the world premiere of "Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 8 & 9)," a play she wrote and that has the same name as a series of short works under her "365 Days/365 Plays" - but is otherwise unrelated.  "Parks takes the stage to play the role of our guide leading through a multimedia epic tale about slavery, war, freedom, and the difficulty of family ties," according to press notes. "Part 1 tells the story of Penny, a slave, awaiting her husband’s return from the Civil War while resisting her own desire to flee with a band of runaway slaves. Parts 8 & 9, set in present day, follow a Poet-General struggling with the reality of his impending death while he plans his annual celebration for the army troops."   Part of the Off Broadway theatre’s developmental Public LAB series, the show runs June 5-28 at the Public Theater in Manhattan (425 Lafayette St.). A LAB offering from Parks, who picked up a 2002 Pulitzer for her play "Topdog/Underdog," was announced earlier this year, although no title, plot or cast was given.    Parks fills the master writer chair at the Public, which has produced Parks plays including "Topdog," "Venus" and "Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom," among others.    For tickets phone (212) 967-7555 or visit http://publictheater.org/  

::OTHER NEWS::

True Expatriate Love Brought Ignatieff Home

Source: www.thestar.com - Sandro Contenta,
Staff Reporter

(April 29, 2009) In his latest book, True Patriot Love, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff describes growing up in a Canadian household with parents who believed "life was elsewhere."

"This is how it is in small countries and provincial societies everywhere in the world," Ignatieff writes. "My mother used to go about the house humming a Judy Garland song with a line about how, if you haven't played the Palace, you might as well be dead.

"The Palace theatre was elsewhere – not in Ottawa, where I grew up, but in the big, bright world beyond."

The passage is a fascinating insight into a would-be prime minister accused by some of being a stranger to his country. He found the bright lights irresistible and spent almost three decades "playing the Palace" abroad – first in London as a journalist and writer and then in the United States as a Harvard University professor.

Ignatieff's return home becomes official when he is confirmed as his party's leader at a convention that begins tomorrow in Vancouver. He became interim leader, succeeding Stéphane Dion, in December.

True Patriot Love: Four Generations in Search of Canada sketches a platform of sorts with infrastructure proposals to reinforce national unity in the face of rising regionalism and pressures from free trade with the United States.

Some might instead see the book – detailing the vision of Canada since the 1870s of his mother's family – as a response to those who question the depth of Ignatieff's Canadian roots. The Liberal leader brushes off the suggestion, insisting his main purpose was to "pay homage to my mother's people," two decades after writing about his father's Russian family heritage.

But he acknowledged, in a recent interview at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, that his time as an expatriate sparked a fundamental question: "My career has been a bit of a focal point for a debate about what makes a good Canadian."

"There's a funny idea out there that you can only be a Canadian if you lived in the country the whole time. It doesn't seem to me to make any sense. More than one million Canadians live and work outside of the country at any one time. Are we saying they are less good Canadians than the people who never leave? On the contrary," he said.

"Everywhere I go people say, `Well, it was good that you were out of the country – you know stuff,'" added Ignatieff, who moved back to Canada in 2005, a year before his first bid for the Liberal leadership.

In leaving Canada, Ignatieff followed in the footsteps of three generations of high-profile relatives from the side of his mother, Alison Grant. "And then I did what they all did – my great-grandfather, my grandfather, my uncle: I came home. Life was elsewhere all right, but this place was my place, my problem, my obsession, my home," Ignatieff writes.

"The questions my family had always asked – Is there enough here? How do we make this place worthy of our dreams? How do we fix what is obviously wrong? – those questions became my own. It's why I came back. It's why I entered politics. It's why I'm here."

Specific proposals in the book are bids to strengthen national unity by removing provincial trade barriers, expanding the Trans-Canada highway, building an east-west energy grid and constructing high-speed rail lines to connect Vancouver to Calgary, Calgary to Edmonton and cities in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor.

The book describes concern for Canada's survival as a Grant family trait. Ignatieff describes Canada as a global example of bilingual accommodation.

He says his passion for preserving it is fuelled by having covered wars as a freelance journalist. "You only feel that if you've seen people firing at each other 200 yards away in little dugouts in Bosnia. That teaches you a lot about Canada, believe me," he said in the interview.

He believes focus on Quebec as the central national unity issue has detracted from the more threatening strains of five regional economies more integrated with the U.S. than the rest of the Canada.

"If we want a country to hand on to the next generation, we will have to strengthen those east-west linkages – of citizenship and common life together – to offset the north-south drift that fragments us," he writes.

Passion for country should never be blind, he insists. A "true patriot" should recognize Canada's failings – in the interview, Ignatieff notes the plight of aboriginal people and low-income Canadians, lack of adequate pensions for many, and the fraying of the immigrant dream.

He calls himself an "insider-outsider" – a Canadian who can see the country with experience from abroad. It's a hybrid status that links him to the relatives he writes about: His great-grandfather, George Monro Grant, principal of Queen's University in Kingston; his grandfather, William Lawson Grant, historian and principal of Upper Canada College in Toronto; and his uncle, George Parkin Grant, the conservative Christian philosopher and author of Lament for a Nation, the 1965 polemic on Canada's subservience to the U.S.

The Grant family emigrated from Scotland to Pictou County in Nova Scotia in 1826. The patriarch, James Grant, was an unsuccessful farmer. His son, George Monro, became a Presbyterian minister. In 1872, he set out on a cross-country adventure with railway engineer Sandford Fleming to trace the first rail line survey to the Pacific Ocean. He became principal of Queen's University five years later, a job he held until his death in 1902. He took a sabbatical, travelled throughout the British Empire and supported the sending of Canadian soldiers to fight on the side of the British in the South African Boer War of 1898.

"He was a puzzling paradox: a nationalist imperialist, a passionate Canadian who believed that the country's survival next door to the United States depended on strengthening the British connection," Ignatieff writes.

His son, William Grant, spent several years living in Paris and Britain, where he lectured in British imperial history at Oxford. In World War I, Grant was wounded in France on his first day of battle. His unit fought at Vimy Ridge, where 855 of its men died. The war defined both the man and the nation.

"Canadians like Grant entered World War I as loyal colonials. Having fought for the mother country, they slowly realized they were actually fighting for Canada, for its right to be considered a sovereign nation," Ignatieff writes.

The book's most personal portrait is of philosopher George Grant, William's son and Ignatieff's uncle. When World War II broke out, he was studying at Oxford. He pronounced himself a pacifist, thereby breaking a family tradition of service to country.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, thrusting the U.S. into the war, Grant contemplated suicide. Then one day, while on a bike ride in the English countryside, he had an epiphany and knew that God existed. He returned to Canada in 1942, a bit of a wreck. He renounced his pacifism near the end of the war.

In Lament for a Nation, Grant twisted the national visions of his father and grandfather to back his view of a conservative, Christian Canada, Ignatieff charges. But all three Grants shared the "illusion" that Britishness defined who Canadians were, neglecting the founding role of French and aboriginal people, he writes.

"And yet, Lament remains a masterpiece of grief and anger. It continues to speak to an elemental anxiety about our country, that sense that there is not enough here to make a country," Ignatieff writes.

He rejects Grant's thesis that subservience to the U.S. made Canada's disappearance a matter of time. Canadians are "such captives of these worn-out clichés of dependency" that they fail to recognize the country's strengths as an energy powerhouse with a distinctive social and political culture, he writes.

Jezebel Shows Burlesque Scene's Got Legs

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

(April 26, 2009) Out with the old, in with the new. Replace "sleaze" with "tease" and another piece in the ongoing yuppification of Ossington Ave. falls into place.

On April 30, a new club called
Jezebel, taking its cue from Toronto's long and storied burlesque past, opens near the corner of Ossington Avenue and Dundas St. W.

"In the case of our vision, it was really to take all the good things that burlesque represents and all the great things that Ossington now represents," said former magazine publisher and co-founder of Toronto restaurant/nightspots Atelier and Brant House, Michael King.

"Think of it as the craziness of Studio 54 meets Dita Von Teese," King added. The second floor at 227 Ossington Ave. – with a back-alley entrance opening onto a conveniently placed green P parking lot – was formerly a low-end strip club called Baby Dolls.

With the collaboration of designer Marc Kyriacou, whose past work includes Jacob's Steak House, Maro and Strangelove, along with a handful of partners who collectively have about 60 years of restaurant/nightclub experience, King hopes to add yet more buzz to the stretch of Ossington between Queen and Dundas Sts. as it rapidly transforms from blue-collar old-school neighbourhood with a Portuguese accent to a hot new strip of artistic spaces, boutiques and watering holes. The only thing King and company have retained from the former strip club is the adult entertainment licence, which will allow Jezebel to feature tastefully erotic burlesque performers in a setting that features pale yellows, grays and cream-coloured walls, velvet banquette seating, antique chandeliers, a curtained stage and a backroom "boudoir" for private functions.

Giancarlo Spataro said he and the other Jezebel partners first started scouting Ossington about two years ago.

"We wanted to find the right space with the right feel. We looked all over the city, and we kept coming back to Ossington because it had a really `New York' feel," Spataro said.

The burlesque theme, which has deep roots in the city's entertainment past, emerged as the best fit for the site, he added.

"Burlesque is one of the oldest forms of entertainment and art, and we're bringing that back," Spataro said, noting his team has consulted with local burlesque/dance performers such as Coco Framboise and Sophie Luxton.

"There's a great burlesque community here that does performances ... maybe one night a week or one night a month. What we're offering that community is the opportunity to have a venue to perform in," Spataro said.

That's great news for the newly formed Starlight Burlesque troupe, which put on a show at one of Jezebel's recent "soft" openings held to build up word-of-mouth.

Anna Coquette said she and her co-performers focus on "classical" burlesque, which she noted is a far cry from standard strip-club titillation.

"No. 1, we only go down to our g-strings and our pasties, and No. 2, there's a lot of work involved in our performances. We're trained dancers and our costumes cost thousands of dollars – we're addicted to sparkles," Coquette said.

"We don't do pole work. It's worlds apart (from stripping). It definitely is an art form; it takes a lot of dedication"

Once upon a time, everybody understood the difference. The black letter of the law through the 1960s dictated that the bosom be at least partially concealed. As an art form, or at least a lively form of entertainment, dancing girls persisted through the heyday of the 1920s and '30s at burlesque halls like the Star Burlesque on Temperance St. and the Victory Burlesk at Dundas and Spadina.

Both halls are long gone (the Victory's site is now a bank), killed by the arrival of straightforward strip clubs as elsewhere in North America. But in the late '90s revival scenes sprouted up in New York and Los Angeles, and they soon spread here, with troupes such as the Scandelles and Shameless Dames taking over rock venues like Lee's Palace for regular shows. In some places it may have proved a mere fad, but here burlesque is a scene with legs.

King has already tapped into his extensive contacts, bringing up performers from the Crazy Horse Paris cabaret show at Las Vegas's MGM Grand for another "soft" opening during last month's Toronto Fashion Week. The same event featured "mixologists" from four top Vegas casinos demonstrating their drink creations. Vegas performers will be featured once a month at Jezebel, Spataro said.

The opening-night party (on Thursday) will even feature performers from Cirque de Soleil's Vegas show, Zumanity.

King is already busy creating some international buzz. New York-based Black Book magazine did a photo shoot at the club last week, and plans to run a piece on Jezebel in its June issue.

He argues opening a new space in recessionary times is less risky than it sounds. "More than ever, people are seeking an escape. In the past, one might have escaped to Miami for a long weekend or Europe for a week's vacation.

"What I'm witnessing increasingly is that those people are saying, `I can't afford to get on a plane ... what I can do is a crazy night out with my friends.'"

Young Drinkers Keep Clubs In Business

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar
, Entertainment Reporter

(April 28, 2009) With the recession in full swing, it's time to look at how the arts and entertainment industry is coping, and how various sectors plan to keep their audiences in the months ahead. This is the sixth story in a series.

Despite all the economic doom and gloom permeating the news, Toronto's bar and club businesses seem to be doing as well as ever, if not better.

Take this past Friday night, for example.

"I know it sounds callous to say but I've still got my job, so things haven't changed very much for me," says Eric Savoie, a 26-year-old who works in financial services and was on his way to meet friends at The Keg on York St. "It's the weekend and that means I will go out and have a few drinks."

Saturday's great weather meant patios were packed during the day but, later in the evening, after the storm cooled things down, the usual cars, crowds and young people looking for fun kept the streets of the Entertainment District busy.

Established nightlife veterans in the city say they have noticed consumers being a bit more careful with their dollars, but there is no need for a bailout of any kind.

"I've gone through a couple of recessions and I've always found it doesn't have a real impact on the bar, nightclub or casual bar scene," says Nick Di Donato, president of the Liberty Entertainment Group, which own the C Lounge, Phoenix Concert Theatre and Courthouse, among several other night spots.

"I think what happens is that people are less inclined to go after big-ticket items, like cars and homes, and they adopt a wait-and-see attitude. And not doing anything, what happens is that they end up having a little bit more spending money in their pockets. So, in terms of recessions and worries, everybody still needs to have a break, and the bars and the clubs are that break for people."

If there is an area that has been softer, it has been corporate bookings and rentals of entire venues. The trend started before Christmas when many companies saved money by cancelling holiday soirees, but that hasn't had an effect on the average weekend night for the public.

One reason cited by Di Donato is that the younger clientele at most nightclubs, who are just starting their careers, have not been as affected by the recession.

"If there is an effect, it's typically that your spend-per-head may drop a little bit. So, as an example, on average a person spends $15 instead of $25, but people still come out."

The other sign that this branch of the entertainment business continues to do well is the sheer number of new openings throughout the city: the Curzon and The Roy in Leslieville; the Comedy Bar in Bloorcourt Village; and the white-hot Ossington strip. There are plenty of entrepreneurs who think the best thing to offer patrons in this downturn is a place to belly up to the bar.

"People are making choices," says Tara Hendala, director of public relations for Ink Entertainment, the umbrella company that runs the Guvernment, Ultra and other bars and restaurants in the city.

"Where, before, they might go out three to four times a week, now they are being more conservative and only going out once or twice."

Hendala and Di Donato agree restaurants are probably feeling the pinch. As well as having to deal with a high-profile closing like Perigee in the Distillery District, that sector has put out more special menus and promotions.

But Hendala's Ink continues to grow, with the planned opening of a new restaurant in Burlington and a music festival in Horseshoe Valley this summer.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Catching Up With … Daniel Igali

Source: www.thestar.com -
Randy Starkman

(April 16, 2009) There’s Olympic wrestling champ Daniel Igali sitting with his feet up in his hotel room, chilling for a bit in front of the television on a recent swing through Toronto, intently watching his favourite channel – CPAC.

The topic is public policy and the 2000 Sydney Games gold medalist can’t seem to get enough.  Even when his buddies come over to his home in Surrey, B.C., and want to watch sports, they can barely wrestle the converter away from him.

He was in town a few weeks ago to help shoot a video for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and had just recently wrangled a promise of $1.7 million U.S. from the Nigerian government for his school project there, but he’s still considering another serious run at politics here.

Igali was unsuccessful in trying to win the provincial seat for the Liberals in his home riding of Surrey in 2005, but now is toying with the idea of running federally.

“I like what Ignatieff is doing,” said Igali. “I like how he has brought supporters back to the Liberal party. I like the position the Liberal party’s in right now in the opinion polls. I like his policies and his world view. It’s something that is tempting.”

Right now, Igali is plenty busy trying to get the Maureen Matheny School project in his home village of Eniwari firing on all cylinders. The school is in its second year, but its operations were limited because they had only three teachers.

But the new government in Bayelsa State has put $1.7 million U.S. in its budget to build a gymnasium, dormitories, teacher’s accommodation, a cafeteria and a playing field for the school, as well as to provide 16 teachers.

They’re motivated by the crisis of youth violence in the Niger Delta region and are looking at education and sports to help bring the children out of the current mess.

“The government is quite focused on ensuring we do whatever we can to arrest that menace,” said Igali.

Igali has also kept himself busy with coaching in Nigeria and also Canada, where his former coach Dave McKay has brought him and fellow Olympic medalist Gia Sissaouri back on occasion to try to teach a new generation of grapplers how to win.

But it’s clear the school and his work through the Igali Foundation is what drives him most. He will be receiving an Amazing Aces award for courage on May 27 in Toronto from the Herbert Carnegie Future Aces Foundation.

“I get a lot of pride in helping out with the less fortunate. To be in a position to do what I do is almost what I would have crafted for myself. I don’t know if I can do it forever. But I think at this time where I just finished competing, it gave me an outlet to be able to do it without missing competition so much.”

Mutombo Injury Leads To NBA Exit

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(April 24, 2009) *Houston Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo has decided to end his NBA career after a knee injury knocked him out of the team's playoff game Tuesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers. 

 "For me, basketball is over," said the 18-year NBA veteran, who tangled with Portland center Greg Oden and fell hard on his left leg late in the first quarter of Game 2. He stayed prone on the court under the Blazers' basket for several moments before he was taken away by stretcher. A preliminary examination revealed a knee strain.

 Afterward in Houston's locker room, the 7-foot-2 veteran was on crutches and fighting back tears.

 "Nobody ever thought they'd be carrying the big guy out like a wounded soldier," he said.

 Mutombo is an eight-time All-Star who won the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award four times and stands in second on the NBA's career blocks list with 3,289. He has played for Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Houston. In 1,196 career games, Mutombo has averaged 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

 The athlete is also known for his humanitarian work. He founded the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation in 1997 to benefit the people of his homeland of Kinshasha in the Congo. In 2007, he opened the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center there, named after his mother.

 "I've had a wonderful 18 years of staying injury-free, so I just want to go out with my head up, no regrets," he said. 

Team Nestor Captures Second Straight Doubles Title

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(April 26, 2009) BARCELONA–Canadian Daniel Nestor and Serb Nenad Zimonjic have added another clay title to their resume.

The pair defeated Nestor's former partner Mark Knowles of the Bahamas and India's Mahesh Bhupathi 6-3, 7-6 (9) to win the Barcelona Open doubles title, their second clay championship in as many weeks.

"We're both playing on the top of our game," Nestor said. ``Everything's been working perfectly for us."

The trophy at the Real club came on the heels of last week's victory in Monte Carlo, where they trounced the world No. 1 team of Bob and Mike Bryan of the U.S.

The victory came in Nestor's 100th career final, and in the Toronto player's first match against Knowles since the two split up prior to the start of the 2008 season.

Nestor and Zimonjic broke their opposition twice in a first set that lasted 33 minutes. A Zimonjic double-fault contributed to a break of the second seeds in the third game.

The combative second set quickly turned into a grind, taking twice the time of the first. Nestor and Zimonjic saved a set point in the 10th game and another in the tiebreaker. The seeds finally earned the victory on their fourth match point.

"We're playing at our best ever level as a team and we're very pleased to get this victory," said Nestor, who won the Barcelona event with Knowles in 2004 and 2006. "We had a slow start this season, but that's behind us now.

"We've picked up our confidence again by just playing matches. We'd really like to continue this roll."

Nestor and Zimonjic opened 2009 with back-to-back final losses in Doha and Sydney, but have since captured titles at Rotterdam in February, plus their pair of consecutive titles on clay.

The pair are 19-6 on the season and second behind the Bryans in the 2009 doubles standings. The win was Nestor's 58th career in doubles from 100 championship appearances.

Capitals Enforcer Brashear Suspended 6 Games

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(April 27, 2009) The NHL came down hard on Donald Brashear on Monday, suspending the Washington Capitals enforcer a total of six games for two incidents during Game 6 of their playoff series with the New York Rangers.

Brashear was slapped with a five-game ban for a blind-side hit to the head of Rangers forward Blair Betts and one game for shoving Colton Orr during the pre-game warm-up.

"Brashear delivered a shoulder hit to an unsuspecting player," league disciplinarian Colin Campbell said in a statement after a hearing with the player. "It is also my opinion that the hit was delivered late and targeted the head of his opponent, causing significant injury."

Betts suffered a broken orbital bone and will be out indefinitely. He was hit at centre ice well after dumping the puck into the Washington zone at 9:54 of the first period of the Capitals 5-3 win on Sunday.

The injury will deprive the Rangers of one of their best players on face-offs and penalty-killing for Game 7 of the series on Tuesday night in Washington.

"Bettsie is a huge part of our team," said Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky. "He brings so many intangibles to our team that are so often looked over, so it's going to be tough.

"But we will all have to step up and rise to the occasion. Anytime a tough competitor and a teammate goes down, you can use it as motivation."

Brashear will also sit out Game 7, plus the next five games, either in the playoffs if Washington wins, or in the 2009-2010 regular season.

Before the game, the 37-year-old went to the centre ice dot to exchange words with Orr. He gave the Rangers winger a light shove before skating away. Orr and Brashear have tangled before, including a long slugfest during a game on Feb. 11.

A Capitals spokesman said neither Brashear nor general manager George McPhee would comment on the punishment.

"He obviously has a presence and makes guys look behind them when he's on the ice," Capitals defenceman Mike Green said of Brashear. "We're all going to have to step up our game and be a little bit more physical, because we're going to be missing that key component with him out."

Brashear's suspension is the second of this series. Rangers coach John Tortorella sat out Game 6 after throwing a plastic drinking bottle at fans during New York's loss at Washington in Game 5.

Earlier in the playoffs, Calgary's Andre Roy was suspended one game for a pre-game incident with Chicago's Aaron Johnson, and Boston's Milan Lucic got one game for high-sticking Montreal's Maxim Lapierre.

There was no word from Campbell on the Ranger's allegation that Caps defenceman Shaone Morrisonn bit Dubinsky during a second-period skirmish in Game 6. The Rangers said Dubinsky needed a tetanus shot after the game, but Morrisonn denied biting him.

"I didn't do that," he said. "I was kind of shocked they'd say that."

With files from The Associated Press

Messier, Moon Enter Sports Hall Of Fame

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell
, Movie Critic

(April 28, 2009) The Canadian Sports Hall of Fame welcomed seven new members including Stanley Cup winner Mark Messier and CFL quarterback Warren Moon.

Messier was part of the Edmonton Oilers teams that dominated the NHL during the 1980s and was captain of the New York Rangers' first Stanley Cup winning team in 54 years, in 1993-94. His is second to Wayne Gretzky in NHL career points.

Moon joined the Edmonton Eskimos in 1978 from the University of Washington. He played for six seasons with Edmonton and led them to five consecutive Grey Cup championships (1978-82). He is the only player in history to be inducted to both the CFL and the US Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Moon's coach during that Grey Cup string from 1978 to 1982 was Hugh Campbell, who will be inducted in the Hall's builder category along with basketball's Ken Shields.

Angela James was a player and a pioneer in the development of the women's game. Dubbed the Gretzky of women's hockey, James began her career at a time when it was difficult for women to find a place to play the game. Her intensity made her the go-to player and one of Team Canada's greatest clutch performers. She was a member of gold medal world championship teams in 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1997.

Kayaker Caroline Brunet won ten world championship gold medals. She competed in Seoul, Korea in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992 before first stepping onto the Olympic podium in Atlanta in 1996 with a silver medal in the K-1 500 metre. Four years later Caroline repeated in Sydney and in 2004 she brought home the bronze from Athens in the same event.

John Campbell is widely recognized as standard bred racing's all-time greatest driver. He recorded his first victory at age 17 and in 1983 became the first driver to top $6 million in purses in a single season. By 1991 he became the first to record over $100 million (U.S.) in lifetime purses and ten years later the first, and still only, to hit the $200 million mark. Campbell excelled in premier stakes races as evidenced by 42 Breeders Crown victories. He won his 10,000th race in 2008. Campbell was named driver of the year by the US Harness Writers Association in 2006.

Hugh Campbell's three years as a CFL player with the Saskatchewan Roughriders earned him the nickname Gluey Hughie. After coaching stints in the NFL and USFL, he returned to the Eskimos as general manager and one of the real forces in CFL development. His 20 years as an Eskimo ended with his retirement in 2006.Ken Shields has more coaching victories than any man in the history of Canadian inter-university sport. His University of Victoria Vikes won seven Canadian Interuniversity Sport championships. A four-time winner of the CIS coach of the year award, he coached the men's national team from 1990 to 1994. His dedication was recognized in 1998 when he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. One year later he was inducted to the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.

With the additions, there are now 506 of members in Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

Chris Cummins Takes Over As TFC Head Coach

Source: www.thestar.com - Neil Davidson,
The Canadian Press

(April 29, 2009) A former central midfielder whose career was cut short by injury, Chris Cummins grew up supporting West Ham United and their elegant brand of soccer.

The newly named
Toronto FC interim coach, who succeeds the departed John Carver, looks for similar entertainment from his MLS side, which currently tops the Eastern Conference standings with a 3-2-2 record.

"I like the lads to play," Cummins told a news conference Wednesday at BMO Field. "There's going to be a freedom to play, to get the ball down (field), to look to pass the ball and put on a show as well as getting a result. Now that doesn't mean that we're going to be taking unnecessary risks, playing out from the back and causing ourselves problems."

Cummins, 37, has shown a taste of his brand of soccer the last two games when he was directing traffic from the TFC sidelines. Carver was watching from high in the stands April 22 in the 1-0 win over Chivas USA. He resigned unexpectedly prior to Sunday's 1-0 win over Kansas City.

TFC played an attacking 4-3-3 formation, which at times resembled more of a 4-2-1-3 Sunday with Amado Guevara in the hole behind strikers Danny Dichio, Chad Barrett and Pablo Vitti.

The laidback Cummins also offers the team a change from the unbridled passion of Carver, who by the end of his tenure had a hard time shrugging off the bad calls and other irritations that can plague the man in charge.

Cummins, who was brought on by Carver in May 2008, said those won't bother him.

"I take things as they come," he said. "I don't get too uptight when I don't need to. But I also set high standards and if things are not right, then I will jump on players at the right time."

Those around the English native point to his leadership qualities, confidence and charisma.

Mo Johnston, who hired Carver as coach, said he likes what he sees in Cummins.

"You can see he has a little bit of arrogance, plus a little bit of air in terms of being cool in front of the camera, which is good. Especially in this media," said Johnston, now Toronto's managing director of soccer. "The way he's conducted himself within the locker-room. The way he's handled the games. I think when you break it all down, he was the obvious choice.

"If I go out and bring someone else in here, then there's going to be a lot of changes. And that's not what we need because we have a very good young team."

Johnston said if Cummins gets the job done, he will get to keep it.

"Well why not? Look, it doesn't matter if you've got Jose Mourinho on your side or you've got Chris Cummins. Because at the end of the day if you're winning games, your fans are happy."

Said Cummins: "I'm doing it until I get told not to do it."

Cummins came from English League One side Luton Town, where he had worked with Carver. He began his coaching career with Watford.

"I'm only 37 but I've been in the professional game for about 16 years, I've worked with many, many managers," he said. "Many that I thought were terrific and obviously a few that were not so good."

Cummins singled out Graham Taylor, who gave him his start at Watford, as a particular influence. Taylor went on to manage England.

"I tend to take a lot of things off of him. I pick up the phone now as well and speak to him."

Cummins also spoke glowingly of Carver's talents as a coach, as did Nick Dasovic, who was elevated to first assistant coach.

Cummins played semi-pro soccer up until the age of 20. A knee injury, coupled with a realistic assessment of his talent propelled him towards coaching at an early age.

"And I got a little bit disillusioned with a lot of the managers I was playing for, to be honest with you," he said. "It was a little bit old-school, it was a lot of running and not a lot ball work. And I quite like getting on the ball, I don't enjoy the running as much. So I just decided to get into coaching, very very early."

He grew up supporting West Ham in the 1980s.

"I just thought the football they played was first-class."

He also still follows Watford because a lot of the talent he helped develop there is now in the first team.

Johnston said he does not plan on hiring a new assistant coach. Cummins and Dasovic will be assisted by strength and conditioning coach Paul Winsper and goalkeeping coach Mike Toshack.

Toronto FC hosts the Columbus Crew on Saturday.

SPORTS TIDBITS

We Remember Greg Page: Former WBA Boxing Champ Dies At 50

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(April 29, 2009) *Former heavyweight boxing champion Greg Page, a one time sparring partner of Muhammad Ali, has died at his Kentucky home, said his wife Patricia Page. He was 50. Page suffered a severe brain injury eight years ago at a fight in Louisville and his wife said he died of complications from that fight, reports the Associated Press.  Page was in a coma for a week following the March 2001 World Boxing Association title fight. He suffered a stroke during post-fight surgery and was paralyzed on his left side and received intensive physical therapy. At the time of the fight against 24-year-old Dale Crowe, Page was 42 and had a 58-16-1 career record. He hit the canvas after 10 rounds and didn't get up. Page won a 1.2 million dollar suit two years ago over the lack of medical help at the match. Page, who turned pro at age 20, knocked out South African Gerrie Coetzee in 1984 to win the world championship title. He lost the belt five months later to Tony Tubbs.

::FITNESS NEWS::

Ask the Trainer: Lower Ab Exercises

Source: www.ediets.com - Raphael Calzadilla

(April 24, 2009) Raphael, I would like to know which exercises I need to do in order for my lower abs to get in shape. I'm very satisfied with all the other recommendations! The videos are great! Thanks!
- Jezabel


Jezabel,

I’m glad you like the videos that I’ve created because my goal was to make them instructional and effective. Thanks for watching them!

Concerning your lower abdominal question, I want to dispel two big myths. The first myth is that we have separate lower abs and upper abs. In reality, the abdominals are one long sheet of muscle comprised of an upper and lower region and not two different muscle groups as most people believe.

The second myth is that we have a six-pack – it’s actually an eight-pack. Internationally acclaimed research scientist Michael Colgan provides the following description of the eight-pack from his book, The New Power Program:

“The eight-pack is a long, thin muscle whose fibres run vertically down the body from the breastbone and fifth, sixth and seventh ribs to the top of the pubic bone. The eight sought-after bumps poke out through a grid of flat tendons that run down the center and across the muscle at intervals.”

So now that we have that out of the way, we can focus on helping you to get tight abs with a focus on the lower ab region, but now you know that the abdominals are in fact one muscle group.

A lot of people think that hours and hours of abdominal work is the best approach and some gyms and health clubs even offer one-hour ab classes. Talk about a colossal waste of time!

Think about it. Would you work your biceps for one hour? Would you perform 500 reps for your triceps? The notion is ludicrous. The reason I mention this is because I want to not only provide you with an effective ab workout, but I want you to learn key information about the abs as well. This way, my recommendation will make more sense to you. Brief but intense workouts are the answer.

Another truth we all hate to accept is that our bellies will not get smaller unless there is a reduction in body fat. You must be using a well-designed calorie reduced nutrition program such as eDiets Meal Delivery or eDiets Glycemic Impact Plan as well as an intelligently designed exercise program. If not, you won’t achieve the results you desire.

In fact when an eDiets members asks me how to get a flatter ab area, I always ask how far they are from their weight goal and if they know what their body fat percentage is.

Assuming your nutrition program is on track and that you strength training with weights 2-3 days per week and perform cardio 3-5 days per week, I recommend the following routine three days per week on non-consecutive days. The exercises are important, but the limited time between sets is the key to its effectiveness.


A1. Weighted Fitball Crunches

Weighted fitball crunches are one of my favourite ab exercises. This exercise developed my abs more than any I’ve ever performed. Position yourself on the ball (with hands crossed over a weight plate on your chest).

Begin with your lower back positioned toward the front of the ball and with your feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re performing this for the first time, spread your feet wider for additional stability. Also, make sure you have a spotter to assist you.

Next, lower your torso back on the ball. Your neck and head should be in a neutral position and never extend. Focus on your abs and contract as you raise the upper torso.

Do not swing back and forth on the ball (the ball should not rock). Focus your eyes on the ceiling and crunch tight. Lower to just a bit below parallel and repeat.

The added resistance is extremely effective in working the abs. Let’s face it, people perform crunch after crunch and never really make a significant impact on their abs because of a lack of resistance. One other tip to effectively work the lower ab region is to slide back on the ball a bit. However, be careful to not slide back too far. When you slide back and perform the crunch, you’ll feel the lower ab area being worked quite hard.

When purchasing a fitball just remember that one size does not fit all. Follow these size guidelines:

Under 5’ - 45 cm ball
5’1/4” to 5’6” – 55cm ball
5’6 1/4” to 6’0” – 65cm ball
Over 6’0” – 75 cm ball

Instruction: Perform 12 slow and controlled reps and immediately go to A2.


A2. Bicycle Manoeuvre


Research consistently rates the Bicycle Manoeuvre as one of the most effective abdominal exercises.

Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Place your finger tips on either side of your head by your ears. Bring your knees up to about a 45 degree angle.
Slowly go through a bicycle pedaling motion, alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.

This can be a more advanced exercise. Do not perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back. Do not pull on your head and neck during this exercise.
The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your abs have to work.

Instruction: Perform 15 reps on each side and when finished, immediately go to A3.


A3. Double Crunch

I like the double crunch because if performed correctly, you can isolate the lower and upper region of the abdominals.

Lie on the floor face up and bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Place both hands crossed over your chest or gently place your finger tips on the side of your head.

Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Focus on the lower and upper ab region while you contract. Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor. Exhale while rising up and inhale while returning to the starting position. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck. Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement

Instruction: Perform 15 reps or as many as possible. When finished, immediately go to A4.


A4. Plank

Lie face down on mat with elbows resting on floor next to your chest. Push your body off the floor in a pushup position with body resting on elbows or hands. Contract the abs and keep the body in a straight line from head to toes. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

Instruction: After performing the Plank, rest for 60 seconds and repeat A1-A4 one additional time. In 3-4 weeks, add a third super set so that you’re performing A1-A4 3 total times (with 60 seconds rest after A4)

Although it looks like a lot, you’ll be surprised how fast you can complete this routine. Good luck, Jezabel!

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

"If we do not learn to live together as friends, we will die apart as fools."  

Source: www.eurweb.com — Martin Luther King