20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
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May 7, 2009

Sad news this week with the passing of Washington Savage - for more details, check under SCOOP.  I dedicate this edition of the newsletter to him, one of our brightest musical lights. 

Great article on how to save funds when you plan on going to enjoy the amazing New York City - look under TRAVEL NEWS

Back from 'the day', Dom DeLuise passed away also (TOP STORIES), and don't forget to check out Quebecor Bernard Lachance sings on Oprah (MUSIC NEWS), Star Trek returns in movie format with a Canadian on board (FILM NEWS), Tony Awards scoop (THEATRE NEWS) and hockey, tennis and Lebron James in SPORTS NEWS.

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


Passing of Washington Savage

As some of you know, the Toronto and global music community lost one of its lights in the person of
Washington Savage late last week.  Washington (Blaxam, Maestro Fresh Wes, Jeff Healey, etc.) was a musician, singer, arranger and songwriter, just to name a few of his many talents.  He happily encouraged many of the Toronto music community that we listen to today and have listened to over the years.

There is a musical tribute being planned at the Palais Royale at a date yet to be confirmed.  If anyone is interested in participating in or performing at this planned memorial for Washington, then please reach out to either Eddie Bullen (studio@eddiebullen.com) or Michael Williams (greydread@gmail.com).

If you would like to send me your pictures of Washington (photo credit optional), I'd be happy to create a photo page in his memory.  Send me an email at langfieldent@rogers.com.

Funeral arrangements are as follows:

11:00 am ceremony
Toronto Perth Avenue Adventist Church
243 Perth Avenue (north of Bloor, west of Lansdowne)
Toronto, ON M6P 3X9
(416) 535-1909


Hockey's Loss Baseball's Gain With Fergie Jenkins

Source: www.thestar.com - Garth Woolsey

Fergie: My Life From the Cubs to Cooperstown
By Fergie Jenkins with Lew Freedman
(Triumph, 206 pages, $24.95)

(May 03, 2009) As the lone Canadian in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., Ferguson Jenkins obviously chose the right career path.

But he is a true son of Canada and as such still wonders how his life may have rolled out had he chosen to pursue hockey over baseball. As a kid, while growing up in Chatham, Ont., he writes: "I thought maybe (hockey) was going to be my ticket."

His athletic aspirations changed, however, when he was 14 and his dad took him to a Detroit Tigers game and he watched the American League's first black player, Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians, hit two home runs and win a standing ovation from the Motown crowd.

Jenkins was a rushing defenceman in the mould of Bobby Orr, "only without his great ability." During his long tenure with the Cubs in Chicago, Jenkins writes that he would sometimes work out with the NHL Blackhawks.

"They had Bobby and Dennis Hull at the time. Dale Tallon, who is now general manager of the Blackhawks, used to lend me his stick."

As for comparing the sports, Jenkins says: "My baseball friends won't like this comment, but I still look on hockey as a greater challenge than baseball. ... Or maybe my perspective is skewed because I was better in baseball."

Not just better, one of the best.

Newman's Departure Leaves Huge Void For CBC

www.globeandmail.com - Carly Weeks

(May 04, 2009) So long for now, Don.

Friends, colleagues and fans of Don Newman are struggling to imagine how CBC Newsworld will recover without the tough political questions and trademark drawl on the word "broadcast" that have helped
Don Newman earn a reputation as one of the most respected journalists in Canada.

Newman, who hosts the Newsworld program Politics and is a member of the Order of Canada, has decided to take a voluntary retirement package offered to CBC staff as a way of reducing the number of layoffs at the network, which is facing major budget pressures.

"Don set the standard for daily politics shows on Canadian all-news channels," Susan Delacourt, Ottawa correspondent for the Toronto Star and a friend of Newman's, wrote in an e-mail. "I don't know what I would have done without him, and frankly, I don't know how the parliamentary press gallery will remotely be the same without Don in it."

Newman told CBC News yesterday that he will continue to host Politics until the end of the season in June, but offered no further details. Many of those who know Newman say his departure will leave a huge void at the CBC, but also in coverage of Canadian politics.

"CBC's got massive shoes to fill," said Don Martin, columnist at the National Post and Calgary Herald and a regular guest on Politics. "This guy is like a walking, talking political history book for Canada."

Martin and others say there are few, if any, candidates who could rival Newman's illustrious career, which spanned 40 years and included coverage of the Watergate scandal, the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement and numerous political campaigns. He has reported from Parliament Hill since 1981 and it was his coverage of the failed Meech Lake accord that helped the bureau win a Gemini award. Newman was one of the driving forces behind the creation of CBC Newsworld.

"He's the last larger-than-life authoritative CBC political correspondent. There's no one who comes close," said Peter Donolo, former Liberal communications director for Jean Chrétien who has known Newman for nearly 20 years.

Newman is also seen as a caring, good-hearted true gentleman. In the early 1990s, Newman had to deal with the untimely deaths of his only son and wife, and his strength and dedication in the face of adversity made him an example for many around him.

CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said he couldn't comment on the network's plans after Newman's departure.

Thomson Triumphant In I, Claudia

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

I, Claudia
http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f695192%5fAM4lvs4AASBRSftJPwJ5RWU2Te4&pid=1.5&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f695192%5fAM4lvs4AASBRSftJPwJ5RWU2Te4&pid=1.6&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f695192%5fAM4lvs4AASBRSftJPwJ5RWU2Te4&pid=1.7&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f695192%5fAM4lvs4AASBRSftJPwJ5RWU2Te4&pid=1.8&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)
Written and performed by Kristen Thomson. Directed by Chris Abraham. Until May 23 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St. 416-866-8666

(May 01, 2009) I, Richard, loved
I, Claudia.

Kristen Thomson's portrait of a wonderfully winsome young woman trembling on the cusp of adolescence is one of the freshest things to hit the stage in many a season.

"There are vulnerable people in this society," she confides to us, "and I am one of them."

Claudia has all the trembling intensity of any girl at the awkward age of "12 and three-quarters," but in her case it's magnified by the fact her parents are divorced and her father is involved with the loathsome Leslie. "He calls her his special friend," Claudia snorts, "but I know a euphemism when I hear one."

She spends every Monday night with her father, and every Tuesday is "the worst day since Armageddon" because she has to wait a whole week to see him again. So she retreats to the boiler room of her school to heal her psychic wounds.

Clad in a floppy red beret, an oversized green sweater and a dreary tartan skirt, she looks like any one of the thousands of private school girls you see on the subway, clutching science projects, listening to music and defying the world to make contact.

Thomson has it all down perfectly: the mercurial mood swings, the schizoid vocabulary (part kidspeak, part dictionary), even the awkward attempts to "be a victim of your sexuality" by thrashing away to the Backstreet Boys.

What makes this unique is that she does it all behind a mask. But instead of obliterating the character, the big-browed, hollow-eyed face she dons helps Thomson reach into the heart and soul of sweet Claudia.

"People don't mean to," she admits, "but sometimes they fail each other."

Thomson's triumphant performance as Claudia is rooted in accurate details (she overfeeds her goldfish and they die while she dreams of peer acceptance and a pair of platform shoes) that underscore her contention that "sometimes life is so true."

Blissfully funny, unexpectedly touching, I, Claudia is a must-see.

This is an edited version of a review that originally appeared on April 5, 2001.

Comic Actor Dom DeLuise Dies At Age 75

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bob Thomas,
The Associated Press

(May 05, 2009) LOS ANGELES – Dom DeLuise, the portly actor-comedian whose affable nature made him a popular character actor for decades with movie and TV audiences as well as directors and fellow actors, has died. He was 75.

DeLuise died last night, son Michael DeLuise told KTLA-TV and radio station KNX today. The comedian died in his sleep after a long illness. Calls to his agent were not immediately returned.

The actor, who loved to cook and eat almost as much as he enjoyed acting, also carved out a formidable second career later in life as a chef of fine cuisine. He authored two cookbooks and would appear often on morning TV shows to whip up his favourite recipes.

As an actor, he was incredibly prolific, appearing in scores of movies and TV shows, in Broadway plays and voicing characters for numerous cartoon shows.

Writer-director-actor Mel Brooks particularly admired DeLuise's talent for offbeat comedy and cast him in several of his films, including "The Twelve Chairs," "Blazing Saddles," "Silent Movie," "History of the World Part I" and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." DeLuise was also the voice of Pizza the Hutt in Brooks' ``Star Wars" parody, "Spaceballs."

The actor also appeared frequently in films opposite his friend Burt Reynolds. Among them, "The End," "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," "Smokey and the Bandit II," "The Cannonball Run" and ``Cannonball Run II."

Another actor-friend, Dean Martin, admired his comic abilities so much that he cast DeLuise as a regular on his 1960s comedy-variety show. In 1973, he starred in a situation comedy, "Lotsa Luck," but it proved to be short-lived.

Other TV credits included appearances on such shows as "The Munsters," "The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.," "Burke's Law," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" and "Diagnosis Murder."

On Broadway, DeLuise appeared in Neil Simon's "Last of the Red Hot Lovers" and other plays.

Because of his passion for food, the actor battled obesity throughout much of his life, his weight reaching as much as 325 pounds at one point.

For years, he resisted the efforts of family members and doctors who tried to put him on various diets. He finally agreed in 1993 when he needed hip replacement surgery and his doctor refused to perform it until he lost 100 pounds.

He and his family enrolled at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center in Durham, N.C., and DeLuise lost enough weight for the surgery, although he gained some of it back afterward.

On the positive side, his love of food resulted in two successful cookbooks, 1988's "Eat This – It Will Make You Feel Better!" and 1997's "Eat This Too! It'll Also Make You Feel Good."

At his Pacific Palisades home, DeLuise often prepared feasts for family and friends. One lunch began with turkey soup and ended with strawberry shortcake. In between, were platters of beef filet, chicken breast and sausage, a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs and a saucer of lettuce.

He strongly resembled the famed chef Paul Prudhomme and joked in a 1987 Associated Press interview that he had posed as Prudhomme while visiting his New Orleans restaurant, K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen.

DeLuise was appearing on Broadway in "Here's Love" in the early 1960s when Garry Moore saw him and hired him to play the magician ``Dominick the Great" on "The Garry Moore Show."

His appearances on the hit comedy-variety program brought offers from Hollywood, and DeLuise first came to the attention of movie-goers in "Fail Safe," a drama starring Henry Fonda. He followed with a comedy, "The Glass Bottom Boat," starring Doris Day, and from then on he alternated between films and television.

"I was making $7,000 a week – a lot of money back then – but I didn't even know I was rich," he recalled in 1994. "I was just having such a great time."

He was born Dominick DeLuise in New York City on Aug. 1, 1933, to Italian immigrants. His father, who spoke only Italian, was a garbage collector, and those humble beginnings stayed with him throughout his life.

"My dad knows everything there is to know about garbage," one of the actor's sons, David DeLuise, told The Associated Press in 2008. "He loves to pick up a broken chair and fix it."

DeLuise's introduction to acting came at age eight when he played the title role of Peter Rabbit in a school play. He went on to graduate from New York City's famed School of Performing Arts in Manhattan.

For five years, he sought work in theatre or television with little luck. He finally decided to enrol at Tufts College and study biology, with the aim of becoming a teacher.

Acting called him back, however, and he found work at the Cleveland Playhouse, appearing in stage productions that ranged from comedies such as "Kiss Me Kate" to Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

"I worked two years solidly on plays and moving furniture and painting scenery and playing parts," he remarked in a 2006 interview. "It was quite an amazing learning place for me."

While working in summer stock in Provincetown, Mass., he met a beautiful young actress, Carol Arthur, and they were soon married.

The couple's three sons, Peter, Michael and David, all became actors and all appeared with their father in the 1990s TV series ``SeaQuestDSV," in which Peter and Michael were regulars.


Make Ends Meet In NYC - Frugal (Or Even Free) Outings

Source: www.movieentertainment.ca - Melanie Reffes

New York City
will never be cheap, but if you know where to look, the Big Apple is bursting with juicy bargains. Savvy travellers who do their homework will find plenty of low-cost and even no-cost options, from a bed for under a hundred dollars a night to a walking tour for absolutely nothing.

Although a cheap airline ticket is still a challenge, bragging rights go to those who find a good deal on a hotel room in a good neighbourhood (New York is all about the neighbourhood). Leading the pack of good deals, the Pod Hotel is high on style and low on price. Fashionable in east midtown, its rates include $89 U.S. for a bunk-bed pod and $199 U.S. for a townhouse that can comfortably sleep four peas in a pod. And for pod pals, the Pod Blog offers tips on how to get free stuff like tickets for Saturday Night Live tapings.

At the oh-so-groovy Hotel Gansevoort in the oh-so-trendy Meatpacking District, posh is no longer a four-letter word. There’s some relief from the credit crunch with the “Don’t Break the Buck” package, which includes a host of free extras like Wi-Fi, scrumptious breakfast for two, cocktails pour deux at the rooftop bar, souvenir CD, and a movie of your choosing for viewing on the flat-screen TV. A dip in the outdoor pool with breathtaking city views seals the deal. Best rates are typically for midweek stays and found online.


Celebrating its 100th birthday this year, Barney Greengrass still dishes up mounds of lox, cream cheese and bialys (read: flat bagels without the holes) to gaggles of locals who have made this West Side eatery part of their Sunday morning ritual. And at the famed Carnegie Deli, they’ll charge you three dollars for sharing a sandwich but the gargantuan pastrami on rye — $14.95 U.S. — can easily satisfy two. Sharing is also de rigueur at the crowd-pleasing Carmine’s, where a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs the size of baseballs is large enough to feed a family of four. “Value is our trademark,” says chef and owner Michael Ronis as he serves a prodigious platter of calamari to a table of hungry tourists. “We’re recessionproof because not only is our familystyle menu the best deal in town, but you’ll take away enough for lunch the next day.”

Made for meandering, Chinatown is bursting with tea shops and noodle joints, Little Italy has a pizza parlour around every corner, and in the rejuvenated Lower East Side a pickle at Gus’s is still a bargain at a buck, and a mushroom knish at Yonah Schimmel’s comes in at under four dollars.

For a warm weather experience extraordinaire, there is nothing more New York than a good old-fashioned street fair. Haggling with vendors is a Manhattan rite of passage, not to mention an idyllic way to while away a sunny afternoon, and more proof that a holiday in the epicentre of urban cool doesn’t have to break the bank.


For cheaper tickets for arts or sporting events, go to the will-call window at most stadiums or theatres and hang around until the curtain is just about to go up. seats reserved for family and friends of the stagehands, performers or athletes are sold last-minute at bargain basement prices. And although museums have suggested entry fees, they will often accept any amount you’d like to offer.


www.thepodhotel.com, 800-874-0074


Bernard Lachance : I Sing Of Myself – And Oprah Is Listening

www.globeandmail.com - Les Perreaux

(May 06, 2009) MONTREAL — Long after most aspiring singers would have gone back to their day jobs, Bernard Lachance thinks Oprah may have finally punched his ticket to the big time.

For a change, it's a ticket the crooner didn't have to sell himself.

Oprah Winfrey invited Mr. Lachance to appear on yesterday's show after she was impressed by the unknown singer's determined effort to sell his own concert.

Using the pennies he has scraped together hawking his albums, Mr. Lachance rented the historic 3,600-seat Chicago Theatre for a gig on June 6. Wearing the theatre's seating plan on a T-shirt, Mr. Lachance has paced the State Street venue for weeks, peddling tickets to passersby.

In between sales, the 36-year-old put his considerable salesmanship to other uses, sending a videotaped plea to Ms. Winfrey to see his show. "What I love about this is the innovation, and determination to follow your dream," a tearful Ms. Winfrey told Mr. Lachance yesterday.

Before his appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Mr. Lachance's personal appeals had won over 800 ticket buyers with his enthusiasm and charm. Conventional box office sales lagged far behind.

"They're selling better now!" Mr. Lachance said in an interview after the show aired in Chicago. "Just Oprah being Oprah is a big help!"

Mr. Lachance, who bawled a half-dozen times during his appearance, composed himself to close the show with The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha.

Mr. Lachance is convinced that his Chicago coup will finally push him beyond the status of an occasional Canadian novelty known more for marketing savvy than music.

"Maybe this will be the last time I'll be renting my own theatre," Mr. Lachance said.

"I mean, how do you get a bigger than Oprah? A record deal would be a good end to this story. I've been hearing no for so long."

Message for Oprah Winfrey from Bernard Lachance!

For Mr. Lachance, an adult-contemporary singer, it's just the latest instalment in an unconventional 15-year career that has set new standards for self-promotion.

With no record deal, he quit waiting tables eight years ago and has made a living peddling 30,000 of his CDs on the streets and in shopping malls.

Without a concert promoter, he's rented Massey Hall and the Bell Centre Theatre to stage his own shows, selling out the venues by hawking most of the tickets himself. Buyers are asked to use a marker to strike off their seats from his T-shirt seating plan.

Mr. Lachance's six-stop tour has averaged about 2½ years between gigs. It takes a long time to sell enough $15 CDs to cover the $18,000 rental and thousands more in production costs at a venue like the Chicago Theatre.

Mr. Lachance started out in his hometown of Montmagny, near Quebec City, in 1994, when he staged a concert in a school auditorium.

In a stunt he admits was pure marketing, he mailed a cassette tape of himself singing to every resident of Montmagny. He sold all 600 seats.

Five years later, he rented the 1,200-seat Le Capitole in Quebec City. He wrote a $3,000 cheque to the theatre and frantically sold enough CDs to prevent the cheque from bouncing.

Mr. Lachance spent a year in New York improving his English and fruitlessly chasing a recording contract. Before his appearance of Ms. Winfrey's show, he'd hoped to book Radio City Music Hall next.

Mr. Lachance's performances have received mixed reviews. While he has been flattered to be compared to Josh Groban and called "a male Celine Dion," Mr. Lachance has also had his feelings hurt. A Quebec interviewer once asked if he had to sell his own tickets because he's a lousy singer.

His most complimentary reviewers have referred to him as a singer with a nice voice. "A little too John Tesh for me, but recognizably a special talent," Sean Moffitt once noted on his Buzz Canuck blog.

He added that Mr. Lachance is also "a hustler of the best sort."

The pitch
Mr. Lachance carries around a tape recorder to give passersby a sample of his music. If they like what they hear, he sells them tickets on the spot.
The gimmick
Once a sale is made, ticket buyers mark off their chosen seats on Mr. Lachance's T-shirt map of the venue.
The venue
Using all his savings, Mr. Lachance rented the Chicago Theatre and made a YouTube video offering Oprah Winfrey two tickets for the June 6 show.
Venue: Belanger Theatre,
Louis-Jacques-Casault High School
Seats: 600 seats (sold out)
Venue: Le Capitole theatre
Seats: 1,262 (sold out)
MAY, 1998
Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts
Seats: 1,460 (sold out)
Venue: Bell Centre Theatre, with 700-voice choir
Seats: 5,000 (sold out)
Venue: Massey Hall, with 150-voice choir
Seats: 2,752 (sold out)
JUNE 6, 2009
Venue: Chicago Theatre, with 300-voice choir
Seats: 3,600 (tickets available)

Hamilton, Soulchild Team For Summer Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 30, 2009) *R&B stars Anthony Hamilton and Musiq Soulchild will head out on the road together this summer for a co-headlining tour in support of their new albums.  The 17-city trek begins with a May 28 date in Houston and dips for an extended run in the South before wrapping late June in Charlotte. [Scroll down for details.]   Recent Grammy winner Hamilton continues to support his December release, "The Point of it All," which is his sixth studio effort and the follow-up to 2007's "Ain't Nobody Worryin'." Soulchild, whose real name is Taalib Johnson, is promoting his latest release, "Onmyradio," which also surfaced in December. Several tunes from the set, including the lead single, "Radio," are streaming at Soulchild's MySpace page. The following is their tour schedule:

May 2009
28 - Houston, TX - Reliant Arena
29 - Grand Prairie, TX - Nokia Live
30 - Southaven, MS - DeSoto Center
31 - St. Louis, MO - Fox Theatre

June 2009
4 - Los Angeles, CA - Nokia Theatre
6 - Oakland, CA - Paramount Theatre
11 - Columbus, OH - Palace Theatre
12 - Detroit, MI - Opera House
13 - Chicago, IL - Arie Crown Theatre
16 - Newark, NJ - New Jersey Performing Arts Center
18 - New York, NY - WaMu Theatre at Madison Square Garden
19 - Washington, DC - DAR Constitution Hall
21 - Baltimore, MD - Pier Six Pavilion
25 - Atlanta, GA - Fox Theatre
26 - Augusta, GA - Bell Auditorium
27 - Birmingham, AL - BJCC Concert Hall
28 - Charlotte, NC - Ovens Auditorium  

Maxwell Back In 'Black' On July 7

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 30, 2009) *Coming right along with the dog days of summer will be the cool falsetto sounds of R&B crooner Maxwell, whose new album "BLACKsummer'snight" finally arrives in stores on July 7.

The nine-track Columbia Records set, the first instalment of a planned trilogy, was recorded with a ten-piece band. The first single, the lullaby-like "Pretty Wings," was released Tuesday.

Other tracks include the regretful "Bad Habits," a mid-tempo number with big horns and layered voice-overs; "Cold," about a cold-hearted lover; and the jazz-like "Stop The World," with heavy guitars and kick drums, reports Billboard.com.

The artist, who is scheduled to headline the main stage of the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans on July 4, will be taking his new music on the road with a major North American tour in support of BLACKsummers'night.

Cities along Maxwell's 2009 tour route will include Milwaukee (Sat-June 20), Seattle (Tue-June 23), Vancouver (Wed-June 24), Las Vegas (Fri-June 26), Los Angeles-BET (Sun-June 28), Phoenix (Mon-June 29), Austin (Wed-July 1), San Antonio (Thu-July 3), New Orleans (Sat-July 4), Nashville (Sun-July 12), Louisville (Mon-July 13), Columbus (Wed-July 15), Cleveland (Thu-July 16), Pittsburgh (Sat-July 18), Buffalo (Sun-July 19), Albany (Tue-July 21), Atlantic City (Fri-July 24), Foxwoods (Sat-July 25), Norfolk (Mon-July 27), Savannah (Tue-July 28), Tampa (Thu-July 30), Miami (Sat-August 1), and Orlando (Sun-August 2).

Maxwell's last album, 2001's "Now," has sold 1.8 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen Soundscan.

Bif Naked Records Album During Chemo

Source: www.thestar.com - Victoria Ahearn,
The Canadian Press

(April 30, 2009) About a year and a half after starting treatment for breast cancer, Vancouver rocker Bif Naked says she's feeling physically strong and psychologically free.

"It's almost like from there to here, everything's easy. Everything's easy now," the Juno winner, whose real name is Beth Torbert, said in a recent interview to promote her sixth album, The Promise, recorded during chemotherapy. The disc drops May 5.

"You get a little bit of a sense of 'pshaw' about all the stresses in life and that's something that's pretty cool."

Up until her diagnosis, which she publicly announced in January 2008, the tattooed singer-songwriter – adopted in India and raised in Winnipeg – kept a stringent eating and workout regimen: Only raw, vegan food and mounds of exercise that produced a chiselled body that would make even pop-workout queen Madonna jealous.

"I was incredibly rigid almost to the point of being almost self-righteously stubborn about it, about my eating and my health and my training regimen," Torbert, 37, said in a hotel room, a black porkpie hat covering her now-short locks.

"I wasn't a triathlete but I ... trained like one."

Chemotherapy and radiation sessions, of course, forced her to ease up.

Faced with a voracious appetite and constant nausea, Torbert couldn't be as selective about meals.

"The first time I went into something called neutropenia, which is where your white blood cell count plummets in between chemos – partly because the chemo is working – I became hungry like I've never been in my life," she said. "I was so ravenously hungry."

Torbert still works out seven days a week and has maintained her vegan diet, but she said she's "learned to be a little more chilled out" about those things as she continues to go through preventative procedures, including an ovariectomy, which she announced she was having on her website.

"I'm not going to get upset if I have a couple tablespoons of quinoa in my salad, for example. Something that small, I never used to do. Never."

Torbert's treatment has also included surgery to remove the lump in her breast and a national clinical trial called CARE in which she and 30 other women exercised while undergoing chemotherapy so doctors could measure their bone density.

"We were a posse," said Torbert. "We did Run for the Cure together and everybody was in a different stage of their treatment so you know, we could all compare notes and kind of talk about stuff and it was amazing. "

"It was psychologically integral, I think, for all of us. It was just great to have that built-in support network of other people who were in the trenches with you."

Torbert - whose past hits include "Spaceman" and "I Love Myself Today" - said she wanted to release an album in 2009 even before she was diagnosed, and she wasn't going to let chemotherapy get in the way of her goal. The title, The Promise, reflects her determination to do the album.

She wrote the lyrics by hand, as she always does, in sketchbooks from her bed and upon reflection, noticed one resounding theme: ``There's a lot of fire references and I don't know why," she said.

The single "Sick" is filled with "rage," she said, "but a lot of things make us sick so hopefully everyone can relate to it." The malaise of chemo is also touched on in "Crash and Burn."

Overall, the album is very "self-deprecating," said Torbert. ``But a lot of my records are anyways because that's how a lot of songwriters write."

"It doesn't mean anything, mom, I'm not going to blow my brains out for God's sake. It's just something that's just a style of writing basically and I love writing about despair."

Torbert recorded the tracks in her personal studio that her managers moved a block away from her condo to make it easier to access. Jason Darr produced.

When she had the energy to make the trek up the hill that led to the studio, Torbert put her best face forward in case she was recognized.

"I got wigs from the old lady department at The Bay. Blond, Lady Diana wigs. They're beautiful. They're stunning. I love them," she said smiling. "All the ladies in the grocery store who saw me every morning at eight when it opened, they'd go: `Oh, I love that wig.' ... and I put spackle on every day. "

"Every day I still had eyelashes like Tammy Faye Bakker. Once my eyelashes fell out I just made marks. I put so much makeup on every day to cover the jaundice."

Torbert's husband, sports columnist Ian Walker, would lovingly tease her by telling her the wigs and makeup looked "fun."

Naturally, her illness was tough on their young marriage.

Walker had to live with "a wife who was a yellow, bald frog for six months," she joked, in reference to her big green eyes. "It was a lot. Plus, Ian and I hadn't lived together prior to that."

"I met Ian, two months later I was engaged, four months later we got married, six months later I got diagnosed. It was something."

Still, she doesn't consider her journey to be a remarkable one when compared to those of the women she went through the CARE trial with.

"I'm in awe of them, you know. In awe of them," she said. ``They had to take the bus sometimes to get to their chemotherapy. I didn't, you know, I got a ride. Or they have, you know, four children under 10, you know, and still have to take care of their kids. I didn't ..."

"I just, I felt like I was in such a fortunate position the whole time anyways knowing that no matter what is going on in one's life, there's always somebody who's got it so much worse, you know. I just never felt I could complain."

Will Downing Returns With 14th Album

Source: J'ai St. Laurent-Smyth, Inque Public Relations; Julie Murray Porter, Concord Music Group

(May 1, 2009) *Taking his inspiration from the French term Classique - an author, artist or work of art, of the highest excellence - Will Downing returns with his 14th collection of sensual grooves and true love primers.

Classique is his second album for Peak Records (in stores June 16 via the Concord Music Group) and a triumphant encore presentation following the challenges he faced creating his Peak debut, After Tonight (recorded while battling the muscle disorder Polymyositis).

Back in top form, Downing's sensitive touch is felt throughout the project - singing, writing, arranging and producing, the latter mostly in collaboration with his dear friend and much-in-demand ace Rex Rideout.

Highlights of Classique include the hypnotic tick-tock pulse of "More Time" (a recurring theme of Will's regarding finding more hours in the day for love), the feel-good summer groove "Something Special" and what will surely become this album's top contribution to his personal best canon "I Won't Stop," a passionate backbeat driven declaration of eternal love.

He waxes especially spicy on the clever "Just Think About It" and in the sexy vocal he shares with singer Sherrida on the funky call and response breakdown of "Love Suggestions."

As always, Downing respectfully dips back into the timeless wax of old for three numbers. Interestingly, all three of them are songs originally made famous by three legendary gentlemen of Soul. The first is "Baby, I'm For Real," a monumental 5-weeks-at-#1 smash first penned, produced and arranged by Marvin Gaye in 1969 for his favourite Motown vocal quartet, The Originals. Will recaptures that group vibe by sharing the mic with Phil Perry, whose powerful tenor and trademark falsetto flights play dynamically against his own smooth baritone. Perry, who was a member of just such a singing group called The Montclairs, taps into that experience with overdubbed harmonies.

Next is a stroll through Barry White's very first hit from 1973, "I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby," Will's version of which also recently graced the Rideout-produced compilation The Strength of a Woman (in support of breast cancer research for African American women). Finally there's Will's version of original Temptations lead tenor David Ruffin's 1976 solo masterpiece "Statue of a Fool" (a.k.a. "Name It After Me"), a cover of the 1969 Jack Greene country classic that is among Ruffin's most poignant recordings. Will tenderly delivers the evocative lyric as well as the heavenly backing harmonies for a rendition that goes straight to the heart.

Beyond the music, Downing is a conscientious humanitarian, proven by his role as a spokesperson for the American Stroke Association which has become even more important to him in the wake of prominent victims such as Luther Vandross, Ron Isley and Coretta Scott King.  Whenever possible on tour, Downing conducts the charity bowling event "Strike Against  Stroke" to raise funds towards greater stroke awareness and education in the African American community, which is disproportionately affected.  The American Heart Association awarded Mr. Downing for his efforts, honouring him as a Celebrity Ambassador in their Power to End Stroke national campaign. Off the road, Will indulged his love for photography by self-publishing the 2005 coffee table book Unveiled Series I, and relishes his ultimate life roles of loving husband and father.

Classique is quintessential Will Downing from start to finish…a quiet but emphatic statement on the strength and confidence this Brooklyn native has garnered as he celebrates his 20th anniversary as "The Prince of Sophisticated Soul"  - a career in which the man and his artistry have been recognized for excellence from NARAS to the NAACP.

Classique in stores June 16th.

Ruben Studdard 'Aint Misbehavin'

www.eurweb.com - By Deardra Shuler

(May 05, 2009) *Ruben Studdard was on a bus heading for Delaware when we talked about his tour of Ain't Misbehavin, a musical depicting the music and life of pianist and songwriter Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller.” A 2003 American Idol winner, Ruben is sharing the stage with two other American Idol contestants Frenchie Davis and Trenyce Cobbins.  The trio will be appearing in the play Ain't Misbehavin at the Lehman Center for Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Park Blvd West in the Bronx, on Saturday, May 16th at 8:00 p.m., for a One Night Only engagement.  The Bronx will be the last city on the tour.

 “I am enjoying performing in “Ain't Misbehavin,” and look forward to coming to the Bronx which will be our last city on the tour.  I just thank God that I have the opportunity to do something I love,” said Ruben as we chatted about the play and his American Idol win.

 “You know, I had no idea I was going to win American Idol.  I was just thankful to be in the position I was in to even compete.  I had set a goal for myself to just get past the top 30.  When I did that, my next goal was to get to the top 12.  Clay Aiken and I had both recorded singles and it was clear we were both going to do albums.  We had been in LA for 6 months and was at the point where we were just glad to get a chance to go home for a few days.  I didn't think I might have a shot to win until we were both in the finals.  It was such a great experience.  Just to do something for 6 months that I had dreamed about all my life.  I had wanted to do something on that level since I was 3 years old.  I was an advent fan of Star Search and dreamed about appearing at the Apollo, so being on American idol was a dream come true,” said the Velvet Teddy bear, who was given the moniker by Gladys Knight.

 “Like most singers who start out, I did the standard rounds trying to be heard.  I was about to enter my senior year in college when I decided to give music my all.  I told my mother that I would give music five years and if nothing resulted, I would return to college.  I won American Idol in 3 years,” remarked the Frankfurt, Germany born, but Alabama raised singer, who has received gold and platinum record status, Grammy and American Music Award nominations and via the 2004 NAACP Image Awards won Outstanding New Artist.  

 Ruben Studdard has released 4 albums.  His album “Soulful” topped the 1 million mark even before it reached the stores. He went on to release the gospel album “I Need an Angel” on November 23, 2004 which sold over 96,000 copies in its first week and entered the Gospel charts at #1. “My second release was an inspirational album.  The third “The Return” was released in October 2006 and that took me back to my R&B roots.  I am presently about to release my 4th Album entitled Love Is.  I have to say that I do feel very blessed to be in the position to have made my 4th album, especially in such a cut throat business where some folks never make it past their first album,” said Ruben who will be returning to California on May 17th to work on the promotion of his latest offering “Love Is,” expected to be released this month.

 Ruben appeared in the movie Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed and appeared with Robin Givens in “Heaven I Need  A Hug.” “I think most singers are natural entertainers.  So acting is part of it.  I don't expect anyone to think that I am a world class actor.  “Aint Misbehavin,” is helping me to improve my acting skills and of course I plan to undergo a course of study.  I ask God to keep his hand on me so that I can continue to do what I do,” said the American pop, R&B and gospel singer.

 “The tour is wrapping up on May 17th.  I recently got married, so I try to keep my family unit next to me.  I bring my wife and step daughter with me on the tour as often as I can.  It's good to have your friends and family there to support and care about you.  They help me stay focused and really its the love of my family that matters most to me in making sure my career and goals are met” said Ruben about the things that matter to him the most.

 Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller was well known for his proficiency on the stride piano having been trained by the stride piano master, James P. Johnson who later became a friend and colleague of Fats.  A prolific songwriter, Fats Waller wrote “Honey Suckle Rose,” Squeeze Me." "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now," "Ain't Misbehavin,” "Blue Turning Grey Over You," and "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling." In 1942, he wrote "Jitterbug Waltz."  Waller also composed stride piano display pieces such as "Handful of Keys," "Valentine Stomp" and "Viper's Drag.” 

 Fats Waller died of pneumonia in 1943 at age 39.  He was later inducted  into the Grammy Hall of Fame which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honour recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and have qualitative or historical significance.

 'I feel honoured to play Fats Waller in Ain't Misbehavin,” said Studdard. “Each night I get the opportunity to hear more and more music I didn't know Fats wrote.  In order to familiarize myself with the character, I listened to many of Fats' songs and learned as much as I could about him.  Waller was someone who enjoyed life and had fun living.  I am really proud to be a part of his wonderful legacy.”

 To obtain tickets for the Saturday, May 16th performance of Aint Misbehavin call the Lehman Center box office at 718-960-8833 or visit on line at www.LehmanCenter.org.

Krall, The Interpreter, Misses Only A Signature

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

Quiet Nights World Tour
http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f695192%5fAM4lvs4AASBRSftJPwJ5RWU2Te4&pid=1.2&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f695192%5fAM4lvs4AASBRSftJPwJ5RWU2Te4&pid=1.3&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f695192%5fAM4lvs4AASBRSftJPwJ5RWU2Te4&pid=1.4&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)
Diana Krall at Massey Hall. She returns at 8 p.m. tonight, 178 Victoria St. Tickets $77-$127 at roythomson.com

(May 01, 2009) Kicking off the first of two Toronto shows,
Diana "Everywoman" Krall impressed the capacity Massey Hall audience with her mellow vocals, assured playing and illustrative patter about life with toddler twins and husband Elvis Costello.

The devoted wife and mother by day and jazz-piano-playing singer by night – who somewhere in between acts as the producer of Barbra Streisand's forthcoming album – has refined just about everything except her songwriting.

Krall hasn't turned in an original song since fans failed to embrace the fledgling, autobiographical co-written efforts of 2004's The Girl in the Other Room.

The result is a performer with a wide catalogue – The American Songbook is her playground – but a dearth of signature tunes.

Last night, the only song that drew anticipatory applause with its introductory bars was the encore – 2001's "The Look of Love" from her breakthrough album of the same name.

Fortunately, she is a compelling interpreter who imbued Joni Mitchell's "Case of You" and My Fair Lady's "I've Grown Accustomed to his Face" with enough hair-splitting nuance to conjure both dread and devotion.

She also displayed versatility – though no scatting this time – whether moving at a spirited clip ("I Love Being Here With You") or delivering a seductive lullaby (I swear I heard her stifle a yawn on "Quiet Nights").

The Nanaimo, B.C., native is halfway through a month-long Canadian tour that includes her quartet – nimble guitarist Anthony Wilson, fleet-sticked drummer Jeff Hamilton, song-stealing bassist Robert Hurst – and the 40-piece Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Alan Broadbent.

Clad in a classy, knee-length black dress and glittering heels, she worked at connecting with the audience, a mature, camera-phone-free crowd.

The dominant theme of her meandering patter was striking a work/life balance with her "rock star" husband and "amazing" children. That meant anecdotes about travelling with nannies, seeing dinosaurs at the ROM, and Costello's itinerary (he's in London).

And underneath was the working mom's fear that she isn't managing it all well. Evidenced in Krall's case by the story she tells about recently tickling the ivories in a Washington piano bar and having the elderly house player, unaware of her identity, instructing her to work on her left hand and show a little more leg if she wants to have a future in music.

Creator's Masterpiece Marries Jazz, Classical

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

(May 02, 2009) Three years in the making, composer/baritone saxophonist David Mott premieres the country's first jazz oratorio at Mississauga's Living Arts Centre tomorrow.

The contemporary, jazz-based interpretation of Joseph Haydn's The Creation will feature Mott with a jazz quartet, the 60-voice Mississauga Choral Society and soloists Kathryn Domoney, Adi Braun, Martin Houtman and Giles Tomkins.

"I have a long incubation process," said Mott, who worked on the adaptation of the 18th-century German composer's Genesis-based creation story, right up to the Oct. 1 Choral Society commission deadline.

"There was a lot of rumination, then in the last three or four months the writing got more fast and furious."

The large scale, text-focused piece is rare in jazz, which is usually melodic, harmonic and rhythmically driven, he said, pointing to similar efforts by jazz icons Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington.

But the marriage between jazz and classical is not unique for the 64-year-old Chicago-born composer, who moved here in 1978 for a job at York University, where he is a professor of composition.

"Both of my parents were professional musicians; I listened to Haydn at a young age," he explained. "(The Creation) actually grooves along in spots; it's a masterfully written piece with some motoriffic kinds of rhythmic stuff in that piece that I found interesting and have known for a long time. But you won't hear Haydn when you hear (mine)."

However, the one-through-seven-days structure of Mott's libretto does suggest a similarly biblical view of the world's origins.

"The seven days I see as metaphorical," he explained. "I'll probably irritate both the evolutionists and the creationists. I think they're both right, or they're both wrong. They both have a point.

"One of the things that fascinated me is the mystic understanding that creation is constantly ebbing and flowing; everything is constantly coming into existence. Take a music like jazz where there is spontaneous improvisation, the creative aspect of that is really very vital to the music.

"So there's a refrain that appears (in my text) – `As it was then, it is now' – and if I can help stir anybody's connection to the mystery of that and the magic and the wonder of that, then I'll be very happy."

There will also be a video aspect to tomorrow's concert: 3,000 photos shot in space by Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean on his two space shuttle missions, matched to the speed and intensity of the music. York alumnus MacLean listened to Mott pieces while in orbit.

"It's a very cool thing to imagine," Mott said of his music being played in space.

Ticket info: livingartscentre.ca

The-Dream, Keyshia Cole Plan Tour

Source:  www.billboard.com -
Mariel Concepcion, N.Y.

(May 01, 2009) Singer/songwriter The-Dream has announced a 21-city tour with R&B artist Keyshia Cole that will take off on May 13 at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati and will conclude at the Pearl in Las Vegas on June 21.

The-Dream will be touring in support of his sophomore album, "Love Vs. Money" (Radio Killa/Def Jam) which peaked at No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart with 331,000 units sold in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Earlier this week, The-Dream released his third single, "Walkin' On The Moon," featuring labelmate Kanye West. The video for "Moon" was directed by Hype Williams and will premiere in coming days.

The first two singles off "Love Vs. Money," "Rockin' That Thang" and "My Love," featuring Mariah Carey, reached No. 3 and No. 36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart, respectively. The-Dream also released a remix of "Rockin' That Thang" featuring the 'Def Jam All-Stars' line-up consisting of Fabolous, Juelz Santana, Rick Ross and Ludacris.

"Love Vs. Money" follows The-Dream's 2007 debut, "Love Hate," which sold 552,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen Soundscan. The-Dream's first tour was as an opening act for Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z's "Heart Of The City" trek last year.

Here are The-Dream and Keyshia Cole's tour dates:

May 13: Cincinnati, OH (Aronoff Center)
May 14: Milwaukee, WI (Riverside Theater)
May 15: Chicago, IL (Chicago Theater)
May 16: Detroit, MI (Fox Theater)
May 17: Indianapolis, IN (The Vogue)
May 19: New Orleans (House Of Blues)
May 21: Atlanta, GA (Fox Theater)
May 22: Greenbsboro, NC (Special Events Center)
May 23: Atlantic City, NJ (Mark Etess Arena)
May 24: New York, NY (WAMU Theater at Madison Sq. Garden)
May 26: Boston, MA (House Of Blues)     
May 28: Washington, DC (Constitution Hall)
May 29: Richmond VA (Landmark Theater)
May 30: Norfolk, VA (Ntelos Pavilion -- WOWI)
May 31: Columbia, SC (Township Auditorium)
June 2: Newark, NJ (NJPAC)
June 3: Cleveland, OH (State Theater)
June 5: Atlantic City, NJ (Borgata with Mary J. Blige)
June 6: Baltimore, MD (Pier Six Pavilion)
June 7: New York, NY (Summerjam)
June 11: St. Louis, MO (Fox Theater)
June 12: Southhave, MS (DeSoto Civic Center)
June 13: Dallas, TX (Nokia)
June 14: Houston, TX (Reliant Arena)
June 20: Los Angeles, CA (Nokia Theater)
June 21: Oakland, CA (Paramount Theater)

Michel Bérubé: Making Himself Known The Hard Way

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Entertainment Reporter

(April 30, 2009) Michel Bérubé fell in love with singing at age 6. His first audience was his younger twin brothers in the family living room.

"One of them would hold up the flashlight. Even then, I had to have a follow spot," he recalls, laughing at his precocious ambitions.

It's been a long and winding road from the tiny village of Sainte-Louise, perched at the foot of the Appalachian ridge that overlooks the St. Lawrence River east of Quebec City.

Tonight, Bérubé sings the first of three live shows at the Fleck Dance Theatre (formerly the Premiere) at Harbourfront. He performs a wide range of contemporary classics, including Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," a foray into the Josh Groban songbook as well as a fresh take on the Beatles' "Help."

"I'm doing it in gospel style, which I think suits that song very well," Bérubé explains.

The creative wizard behind Bérubé's arrangements is Mark Lalama, best known as Canadian Idol's piano man. Lalama's collaborators represent the cream of Canadian pop.

Like Santa Claus, Bérubé has been popping into public consciousness every Christmas, thanks to an excellent debut album of seasonal favourites that gets regular airplay. "I'm on the air for three months, then I disappear," says Bérubé.

The three-year-old Christmas album landed him the opener slot for Kenny Rogers at Casino Rama last November. But the creamy-toffee-voiced singer is ready for year-round attention.

Making that kind of jump in the adult-pop world is no easy task. TV talent shows and the head-spinning notoriety of Susan Boyle or Paul Potts make it easy to overlook the long, hard slog of reality. Most of the top contestants on these talent searches have spent years practising, pounding the pavement, scraping together next month's rent – and never losing faith in their dream.

When Bérubé decided to follow an aunt's invitation and move to Montreal at age 18 to take voice lessons, he had no idea of the commitment he would need to make.

"I was so naive," he says, smiling.

But he was never shy, calling up Lucille Dumont (now 90), who was one of the country's first big songstresses, with a career bred on the radio and the early days of television. Dumont introduced Bérubé to the songs of Jacques Brel and Jacques Blanchet.

His first real stage performance was for CÉGEP en spectacle, a talent show for Quebec junior-college students.

He graduated to gigs as a backup singer and cabaret performer. To earn extra money, "I did just about everything," he recalls – including running a Zamboni. "But, mostly, I have had a lot of jobs as a waiter."

Ten years ago, he came to visit a friend in Toronto. "The moment I arrived, I felt a special energy here," Bérubé says. "I knew immediately that I had to move here, that this is the place where I would make it happen."

Within a month, he had met his future manager. He also committed to more training.

"I walked in to the Royal Conservatory on Bloor St. and said, I want to take classical voice lessons," Bérubé says.

He didn't let on that he had never learned to read music. "I had to do it all by ear," he admits.

Last October, he started piano lessons. "The first time I could play a tune that I recognized, I almost started to cry, it was such a moving moment," says the singer.

"I love a challenge," is a phrase that Bérubé repeats several times during the interview. He has a challenge for Torontonians, too, to give his live show a chance.

Just the facts
WHO: Michel Bérubé

WHERE: Fleck Theatre, Harbourfront, 297 Queens Quay W.

WHEN: Tonight to Saturday, 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $22.50-$27.50 at 416-973-4000 or harbourfrontcentre.com

Savannah's Party Earns Its Praise

Source: www.thestar.com - William Littler

(May 02, 2009) SAVANNAH, GA. - Mayor Otis S. Johnson was understandably impressed. In a letter of greetings to visitors, he pointed out that no less a source than The Times of London named the Savannah Music Festival one of the "Top Events of 2009," the only one in the United States to make the list.

Why, one wonders, should the 21-year-old festival make this venerable list this particular year? Anyone who has read John Berendt's novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (or seen the 1997 Clint Eastwood film version) can vouch for one of the obvious sources of the U.K. newspaper's enthusiasm: Savannah itself, whose mossy charms and guilty secrets embody our imagined image of the Deep South.

Yes, you can still see drag shows at Club One, where The Lady Chablis makes occasional star appearances; you can still wander among the tombstones of Bonnaventure Cemetery, communing with the spirits of the not-so-dear departed; and you can still visit the very antique-laden room in the Mercer-Williams House where Jim Williams emptied five slugs from a German Luger into the body of his tempestuous lover, Danny Hansford.

What does all this have to do with the largest arts event in the state of Georgia? Atmosphere, that's what. Savannah, bless its intermittently corrupt soul, boasted no less an 18th-century parson than John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. It's the birthplace of Johnny Mercer, lyricist of Moon River. And it's a place where rented carriages can still tour the 21 original squares laid out by General Ogelthorpe in 1733.

Successful arts festivals draw breath from the atmosphere of their locations, and few places in North America can match the atmosphere of Savannah, which annually draws an astounding six million visitors to a city of only 130,000 residents. Those visitors help explain why the Savannah Music Festival can annually mount an 18-day program of morning, noon and night events in 18 venues throughout the historic downtown district.

At this year's festival, which ended earlier this month, visitors could attend performances in such venues as First African Baptist Church, which dates back to the 1770s; the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, former mansion of one of the city's 19th-century benefactors; and Temple Mickve Israel Synagogue, home of the third-oldest Jewish congregation in the U.S.

Using such venues gives the festival a special character. Programming music in a breathtakingly wide variety of genres does likewise. And one of the strongest-ever line-ups certainly didn't hurt: Over the course of a few days, I was able to toe-tap through a Cajun dance party with Feufollet, watch arguably the world's greatest tap dancer, Savion Glover, heel and toe his way across the stage of the lovingly restored Lucas Theatre, and sit back as banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck interacted with a roster of African musicians playing kora, kalimba and goodness knows how many other percussion instruments.

It would have been worth the trip to Savannah just to hear ageless octogenarian Bob Seeley play St. Louis Woman. Teaming up Seeley with Eddie Palmieri, Henry Butler and Aaron Goldberg in an improvised Piano Showdown represented only one example of the festival's innovative approach to programming. I also enjoyed watching salsa at the Latin Dance Party, presented by Eddie Palmieri with his Afro-Cuban group La Perfecta.

That was when I wasn't feasting on Western classical music, whether the chamber works of Schubert, Brahms and Schnittke, performed by violinist Daniel Hope and his colleagues, organist Joseph Golden's improvisations on The Seven Last Words of Christ, or the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's all-American program of Barber, Gershwin and Theofanidis (Christopher Theofanidis's specially commissioned Symphony, being introduced under Robert Spano's direction).

And speaking of music, U.S.A.-style, yet another of the fest's distinct features continues to be its American Traditions Competition, open to vocalists performing in any characteristically American genre. This year, the top prize went to Todd William Donovan, a baritone from St. Petersburg, Fla.

Quite a bang for a budget of just over $3 million (U.S.). As festival director Rob Gibson explained, "I go to other festivals, but they don't have the breadth of music we do. The Savannah Music Festival is about music and we demonstrate that music can be about anything."

Vancouver Symphony Makes Memorable Music On Toronto Stop

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

(May 04, 2009) The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's whirlwind four-day, four-city tour of central Canada made a memorable stop at Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday night. It had been 33 years since the British Columbians last played in Toronto.

Music director Bramwell Tovey, who returns to lead the Toronto Symphony's Proms concerts later this month, showed off a robust, disciplined ensemble that sounded at ease in a wide range of styles.

Along for the ride was 21-year-old piano protégé Avan Yu, who performed Sergei Rachmaninov's 1934 Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.

Rachmaninov, a sensational pianist, decorated the keyboard score with technical hurdles that Yu surmounted without a hitch. His technique may have been flawless, but the execution was a bit bland next to the full-blooded orchestra. Tovey had so much fun highlighting the musical drama that he frequently drew attention away from his diligent soloist.

The conductor spent the rest of the evening treating an enthusiastic audience to the many shades and colours of orchestral playing, beginning with a delicate, transparent reading of Claude Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune.

It was bookended by Dmitri Shostakovich's magnificent Symphony No. 5, which dates from 1937. Its four movements are a vast canvas for the composer's full musical palette. Rough, rat-a-tat militaristic shadows and pastel whispers of strings are underlined in masterful, complex counterpoint.

Tovey's interpretation erred on the side of intense insistence rather than eloquent persuasion but, then again, there was nothing subtle about the Stalin-era terror that is the backdrop for this music.

Also on the program was The Linearity of Light, a 2003 composition by Vancouver-based composer Jeffrey Ryan. Much darker than the title might imply, the 12-minute piece has an occasional point of interest. Its main strength was in highlighting a tight, virtuosic orchestra.

Let's hope the Vancouver Symphony can return again in this generation, not the next.

No Rest For Il Divo

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

(May 04, 2009) A cool, elegant image is as much part of the Il Divo pop package as their big, operatic voices. So it comes as a shock to catch the vocal quartet's American representative, tenor David Miller, in a hoodie and jeans.

As he strides into our meeting room an hour ahead of a promotional appearance with his bandmates in Toronto last fall, the tall, handsome Miller gives off a sweet waft of soap and shampoo. The opera singer-turned-pop-band-star is relaxed, eager to chat about the joys and complications of being part of an international phenomenon.

Within minutes of our interview, Miller will rematerialize in the hotel ballroom with his partners in "popera" crime, decked out in signature sleek white shirts and slim Armani suits.

I remind the singer of our meeting at the beginning of the Il Divo adventure, when he and fellow tenor Urs Bühler, pop singer Sébastien Izambard and baritone Carlos Marín breezed through Toronto to introduce themselves to the media 4 1/2 years ago.

Miller smiles, sighs and laughs. "It's just been crazy," he says.

After a break last year, the boys are back with a touring schedule that would wear down the hardiest of performers: 35 concerts in 31 European cities from Feb. 21 to April 13, followed by a 50-date, 49-city North American journey that kicked off in Halifax last Tuesday.

Il Divo and their thousands of avid fans colonize the Air Canada Centre tomorrow night. It's their third stadium-size concert in Toronto.

Miller used to think an opera singer's life was nomadic. "It was one month spent in a city for three weeks of rehearsals and a week of performances, and then it would be on to the next gig, go home for a week and then go back out. I thought that was a lot."

He pauses. "I was wrong. Now, two days is the maximum we spend in any place. With the tour, it's one day in every city."

It's fair to wonder how much longer the quartet can keep this up.

The Il Divo franchise is in fine shape. The band's first five albums sold 22 million copies. Their latest CD, The Promise, has been on Billboard's Top 200 chart for 23 weeks (reaching No. 5 shortly after the album's release last November).

But these are not 20somethings with little else but pop stardom on their minds. Biological clocks are ticking.

Miller turned 36 the day after the European tour ended in Glasgow and is rumoured to be getting married to his long-time girlfriend, singer Sarah Joy Kabanuk, in August. Divo-mate Izambard tied the knot last summer.

Then there's the promising opera career that Miller put on hold for Il Divo. His last high-profile stage turn was as romantic lead Rodolfo in Baz Luhrmann's Tony Award-winning production of La Bohème on Broadway in 2002-03.

The tenor is up front about his itch to get back to real opera. He has asked his agent to keep an eye open for any cancellations during the band's summer break.

"I have more than 35 roles under my belt that I can pull out at the drop of a hat," says Miller of his experience on the stage in the 10 years between starting university and Il Divo.

Opera would also be a break from the slog of touring, which can get claustrophobic, Miller explains: "It's like living on a submarine. `Hey, how're you doing?' `You know exactly how I'm doing. We've been together for months, you know how I am.' There's nothing to talk about, there's nothing fresh."

The group had a taste of freedom for about eight months, when the schedule for recording and editing The Promise ran off the rails in late 2007. Miller says it was the best thing that could have happened to the quartet.

"It's good to have time and distance. It helps fuel the energy for what we're doing right now."

The show must go on.

"One of our early mottoes was that we can rest when we're dead," Miller chuckles. He says all other hopes are on hold for now.

"We've made the agreement with each other that while Il Divo is continuing to be perpetually successful, like it is, that we are on board 100 per cent."

The dark suits and white shirts are pressed. The power ballads and operatic choruses are ready to swell. The orchestra is poised. The fans are waiting.


New Yorkers Rediscover Quickest Way To Harlem

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(April 30, 2009) NEW YORK – Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Take the A-Train! New Yorkers were riding a 1939-era train yesterday along the subway line made famous by Duke Ellington. The festivities marked the 110th anniversary of the jazz legend's birth. The restored A-Train started its run at 125th Street – home of Harlem, where the song's "Sugar Hill" is located. It kept the rails a-hummin' through Brooklyn before arriving in Howard Beach, Queens. Participants included Paul Mercer Ellington. He's the executor of his grandfather's estate and leader of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Ellington's career spanned 50 years. The Grammy-winner played over 20,000 performances worldwide.  Ellington died in 1974, a month after his 75th birthday. He's buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Ashanti To Star In Wiz Revival

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 30, 2009) *R&B star Ashanti will ease on down the road to her first theatre role this summer in a New York-staged revival of "The Wiz."  The Grammy winner will star as Dorothy in the African American version of L. Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz," which begins in June as part of the "Encores! Summer Stars" series at New York City Center. According to Playbill News, Ashanti got her first taste of a theatrical Oz when she led a performance of Stephen Schwartz's "Defying Gravity" from Wicked as part of the Yellow Brick Road Not Taken concert on Broadway last fall. She previously appeared as Dorothy in ABC's "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz," a television special in 2005. Tony-nominated In the Heights director Thomas Kail and his Tony-winning collaborators, Andy Blankenbuehler (choreographer) and Alex Lacamoire (musical director), will stage the Encores! Summer Stars production of The Wiz June 12-July 5. The production officially opens June 18.

Call Her Executive VP MC Lyte

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 30, 2009) *DuBose Music Group has announced the hiring of rap veteran MC Lyte as Executive Vice President of its burgeoning music entity. The recording artist and writer will be tasked with shepherding DMG's talent acquisitions and artist development, according to a statement released by the company. "Lyte is a rap music icon and music scholar with a wealth of industry connections and an extensive knowledge of urban music," said James DuBose, CEO of DuBose Entertainment. "With Lyte at the helm, DMG is perfectly positioned to usher in the next generation of artists and influence a new generation of music fans." As her first major deal since joining DMG, Lyte announced the signing of Tenille Johnson, a 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Atlanta who has already completed recording several tracks for her debut album. "At DMG, we will provide artists like Tenille a platform to showcase their talent and to grow into bona fide R&B superstars," said Lyte. "I'm thrilled to be working with DuBose to bring soul music to music lovers young and old." Lyte, herself, will release her new CD "The Second Coming" through DMG later this year. 

Coldplay Giving Away Live Album On Summer Tour

Source:  www.billboard.com -
Andre Paine, London

(May 01, 2009) Coldplay will give away a live CD, "LeftRightLeftRightLeft," to all fans attending its "Viva La Vida" summer tour. The giveaway will begin on May 15 at the opening date of the North American tour at the Cruzan Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Florida, and it continues at every remaining live show in 2009, except festival appearances. "Playing live is what we love," said Coldplay in a statement. "This album is a thank you to our fans - the people who give us a reason to do it and make it happen." The nine-track live album will also be available as a download from the band's official Web site during the tour, beginning May 15. It was recorded at various cites during the "Viva La Vida" tour. Coldplay's tour wraps with two huge outdoor Live Nation-promoted shows at Wembley Stadium on Sept. 18 and 19.

New Chapter Begins For Steven Page

Source: www.thestar.com - Raveena Aulakh,
Staff Reporter

(May 04, 2009) Steven Page concedes he's had a rough time, but he has no regrets. Minutes before making his solo debut last night and taking a step into the future without the Barenaked Ladies, Page briefly talked about his former bandmates.  "There are a lot of things I'll miss about the band. They are my great friends," he said. "The time I've spent with them is what I'll probably miss the most. We made amazing music together, but no regrets. I feel good about the future, too."  Page, the band's former front man, hosted a fundraiser for People for Education at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District.  In his first performance after leaving the iconic Toronto group in February, he sang "What A Good Boy" from the band's album Gordon for the packed hall.  Page said he was happy to perform for a good cause. "Anything that benefits people for education, benefits me and my family," said the singer, whose three children live in Toronto.  It was his first performance after drug charges against him in New York state were dropped last week.  "It's nice to have that behind me," he said. ... (I) feel like a big weight has been lifted." Dale Young, a fan, was glad Page was back. "I'm happy he's made his comeback in a good cause. But it's always a shame when a band loses a member."

Columbia Records New Artist Angel Taylor Releases Debut CD

www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley

(April 30, 2009) *Columbia Records’ newest Pop sensation, Angel Taylor, is promoting her debut album “Love Travels” and will arrive in Baltimore Sunday, May 17, 2009 at the Sonar (407 E. Saratoga Street). The album is something new, though clearly Pop. Angel brings Pop music back down to earth with her laid-back personality.  “My mom named me,” Angel said of her name when asked of its meaning. “I grew up listening to Christian music.” Taylor said when she did listen to secular music it would normally be the Temptations or Aretha Franklin. “I started singing in church. In the fifth grade I was in a Christian concert. I got serious at 14, 15 or 16. People started noticing my voice and said ‘get that voice on a CD!’ I met a producer and said ‘I just want to get my music on a CD”…and he signed me. We flew to New York…it took me four months (to get signed to Aware/Columbia Records).” The music Angel is talking about you will find on her debut CD “Love Travels,” a melting pot of Pop style songs that are well written, as if from a storyteller. Taylor wants the listeners to come away knowing she is just a normal person and not some performer that is untouchable. “Anything is possible,” she said for those wanting that one in a million record deal. “Look at my situation…when you are not looking for something it happens.” My favourite songs on the “Love Travels” debut CD of Angel Taylor are “Maple Tree,” the feel takes me back to my days as a child on my grandfathers farm; “Make Me Believe,” a true Pop classic; “Too Good for Words,” “Don’t Forget Me in Time,” and “Chai Tea Latte,” named after her favourite Starbucks drink. The album was produced by Mikal Blue. Learn more about Angel Taylor at www.AngelTaylorOnline.com.

Fantasy Ride: Ciara

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Sony Music)
http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f793956%5fANAlvs4AACT%2bSgCpSwKoKknwE6M&pid=1.6&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f793956%5fANAlvs4AACT%2bSgCpSwKoKknwE6M&pid=1.7&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)

(May 05, 2009) Despite the line-up of all-star producers – Danja, Tricky Stewart, Polow Da Don, Rodney Jerkins – and high profile guests – Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Ludacris – just about everything on this 23-year-old Texas native's third disc sounds familiar. From Aaliyah's sultry, midtempo bounce ("
Ciara to the Stage," "Surgeon") to Janet Jackson's mindless club strut ("Love Sex Magic," "Pucker Up") to her own 2004 breakout hit "Goodies" cannibalized here with the double-timed "Work." On the disc's one truly original tune, “High Price," she alternates between a digitally manipulated operatic warble and nasal chorus to interesting, but nonsensical effect. And the slower tunes – "Lover's Thing," "Never Ever" – don't convince that the dance-pop artist's whispery vocals deserve closer scrutiny. Top Track: "Echo" finds Ciara swaggering over a snappy beat.

Family Time: Ziggy Marley

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Tuff Gong)
http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f793956%5fANAlvs4AACT%2bSgCpSwKoKknwE6M&pid=1.8&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f793956%5fANAlvs4AACT%2bSgCpSwKoKknwE6M&pid=1.9&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f793956%5fANAlvs4AACT%2bSgCpSwKoKknwE6M&pid=1.10&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f793956%5fANAlvs4AACT%2bSgCpSwKoKknwE6M&pid=1.11&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)

(May 05, 2009) Those who thought Bob Marley's first-born was squandering his talent and legacy by voicing a Rasta jellyfish in Shark Tale won't think much of this disc. Content to leave the heavy musical lifting to his brothers, the 40-year-old married father of five has enlisted "friends" such as Paul Simon and Jack Johnson for a joyous children's album. It's a folk-pop-reggae singalong with lots of acoustic guitar, handclaps, animal references and sunny lyrics. Along with originals, which range from aural tourism brochure "Take Me to Jamaica" to the whistling title track – "The world gets busy/ But it's not hard to see family means the most to me" – there's also a hip cover of Woody Guthrie's "This Train" with Willie Nelson. Don't see why actor Jamie Lee Curtis was chosen to narrate the stories that close the album, though, as her voice is neither distinct nor compelling. The disc includes a booklet with Marley family photos and a drawing for little ones to colour. And Ziggy's not waiting for feedback: a children's album of his father's songs is slated for June.

Mary J. Blige Signs With William Morris

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(May 05, 2009) *The William Morris Agency will now represent Mary J. Blige in all facets of her career while also guiding the expansion plans of her entertainment company, Matriarch Entertainment, reports Variety.  Blige, who had previously been repped by ICM, has eight albums to her credit that have sold over 48 million copies. Her last release, "Growing Pains," won the Grammy for contemporary R&B album. WMA will assist its newest client as she broadens her brand into other areas.  The Brooklyn-born chanteuse already has several acting roles on her resume, appearing on "Entourage," filming the series finale of "30 Rock" and starring in Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All by Myself," set for release on Sept. 11.  Blige has several endorsement deals, currently featured in campaigns for Chevrolet, Citibank and Carol's Daughter, the cosmetics company that she owns with Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jay-Z.  With manager/husband Kendu Isaacs, Blige formed Matriarch Entertainment/ Records, whose roster includes Dave Young and Laneah. Matriarch is partnered with the management shingle Content, run by Jaha Johnson and Chris Hicks, which has also moved its business to WMA.  WMA's music roster includes Alicia Keys, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Prince, Eminem, Pearl Jam and the Eagles.


Amanda Walsh : Bridesmaid Revisited

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(May 04, 2009) Amanda Walsh, an actress who hails from the small Montreal suburb of Rigaud, Que., is proud of her small-town roots and thought her Canadian upbringing had conditioned her to handle anything the weather gods might throw her way.

But even the plucky strawberry blonde admits she has never been as chilled-to-the-bone cold as she was during the five-week shoot in March, 2008, for the romantic comedy, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, which opened in theatres last week.

“We were filming at this mansion called Castle Hill in the town of Ipswich, about an hour's drive from Boston,” recalls Walsh, who plays one of four bridesmaids in the film, which co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner.

“It's a gorgeous, historic property, but it felt like the wind was blowing right through it. All of us would be huddled in one room – wearing these flimsy bridesmaid dresses – waiting for our next scene. It was hilarious, really.

 “And I have to say there is something weird about being in a strapless bra, and getting ready for a wedding everyday for five weeks straight,” adds the gregarious 27-year-old, who plays Denise, a floozy who hopes to bed McConaughey's bad-boy photographer, Connor Mead, but is thwarted by a ghost.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is unapologetic, frothy entertainment that follows Mead, a serial womanizer, who is finally made aware of his many shortcomings when he arrives at the estate of his dead uncle (Michael Douglas) for his younger brother's (Breckin Meyer) wedding.

Determined to go on a tear and sleep with every woman in the place (including the bride's mother, Anne Archer), Mead is finally brought up short when he reconnects with childhood friend (and former sweetheart) Jenny Perotti (Garner). Not to mention the sudden appearance of his long-dead, hedonistic Uncle Wayne and the female ghosts he has brought along to teach his errant nephew a few life lessons.

At her first audition for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past a year ago January, Walsh says she was after the role of the young bride (a part that went to Mean Girls's Lacey Chabert). But director Mark Waters called Walsh back a few weeks later to read for the role of Denise, one of three sex-starved bridesmaids who serve as a comic foil to Garner's far more earnest (and virtuous) maid of honour.

“Jennifer was really friendly, easy going and very funny,” says Walsh of her co-star, who is married to Ben Affleck and recently had her second daughter, Seraphina. “We had a lot of scenes together, and she's just very relatable. She hung out with the rest of us – as one of the girls – and is just a normal, nice human being – which is saying something, given her level of fame.

“I just like the way she handles her stuff. She felt like a cool, older sister. And she's really good at keeping her personal and professional life separate,” adds Walsh, who notes Garner's three-year-old daughter Violet visited her mom while they were doing the frigid filming.

As for the muscled McConaughey? Like Garner, Walsh says he's just a down-to-earth guy who just happens to be dashingly handsome and blow-your-socks-off charming. “The biggest thing about Matthew is that he's just very good at – and it's an intrinsic part of his personality – being this easy-going guy.”

But, Walsh adds, McConaughey is also a stickler for getting it right. “He has a ton of monologues in this movie,” she points out. “And I never saw him drop a single line. He was right on his game every step of the way. It was interesting for me to see there's a lot of work that goes into looking like you're not doing much,” says Walsh, who has been acting (first in her family's living room, then in school plays) since she was 12.

Before moving to West Hollywood 31/2 years ago, Walsh worked in Toronto as one of the youngest VJ's ever hired (at age 19) for MuchMusic. The actress laughs when she recounts that she was “discovered” by a MuchMusic producer while waiting tables at the Chateau Du Lac Bar in nearby Hudson, Que.

“I had just come back to my hometown, after travelling, and was doing different odd jobs to earn money before I started university,” she remembers. “I walked by a table and someone I knew was sitting there. He introduced me to his friend, who did graphics for MuchMoreMusic. He told me I should send a demo tape to his boss.

“A friend of mine had a camera, and we shot a few different comedy sketches that I'd written. I wanted to make something good, but I wasn't expecting to get a job. Two weeks later, MuchMusic called me, and I packed my things and moved to Toronto.”

For the next three years, she honed her improv skills as a VJ – a job Walsh describes “as hard, but great” work. “The perfect training ground to get comfortable with a camera in your face. You have to think on your feet so much,” adds the actress, “and the camera ceases to become this scary thing that can make you freeze up.”

It was during her stint at the hip music channel that Walsh also interviewed Mean Girls director Mark Waters. “I interviewed him in 2004 when he was in Toronto promoting that film. When I went in to audition for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, he remembered me,” chuckles Walsh, who continues to dabble in sketches and stand-up comedy (she holds the gold medal win at the 2000 Improv Games in Quebec).

Walsh's interview with Waters coincided with her decision to finally hang up her VJ microphone and try to focus on an acting career. In recent years, she has racked up a succession of television and film roles, including a recurring part in Lorne Michaels's short-lived sitcom Sons & Daughters on ABC, Smallville and Veronica Mars, as well as a supporting role in Denys Arcand's first English-language film, Stardom, and the recent thriller Disturbia with Shia LaBeouf.

“Even as a kid, I liked to write little shows, and I'd force my brother to perform in them with me,” says the creative-arts graduate of Montreal's John Abbott College.

“He'd be great in rehearsal, but as soon as he was in front of my parents and their friends, he'd freeze. And I'd be livid! So I learned to write shows where he'd be the drunk man or the sleeping man. I'd do monologues and I'd drag him around.”

After Ghosts of Girlfriends Past wrapped, Walsh moved on to shoot a pilot for HBO called the Washingtonienne, a half-hour comedy about women in the U.S. capital that counts Sarah Jessica Parker among its executive producers. Now she's waiting to hear if it gets picked up. “I play a small-town Republican with no social life. A total workaholic.”

When she has a break, Walsh adds, she heads home to visit her family in Rigaud, population 6,000 – a place that keeps her grounded.

“I come from somewhere where everyone knows each other – and there is something really comforting in that,” she says. “I love Los Angeles, but there is something about when I get back to Canada. … I just feel like I can breathe a little easier. It doesn't matter if I'm in Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver – it doesn't matter where I cross the border – I'm like, oh god, it's good to be back.”

Hugh Jackman : Showering praise on Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - John Hiscock,
Special To The Star

(May 01, 2009) LOS ANGELES–It took a cold shower in the middle of a Toronto winter for Hugh Jackman to capture the character of Wolverine, the temperamental, rage-prone mutant superhero of the X-Men.

The actor was filming the first X-Men movie in 2000 and he had not been able to relate to the character or feel comfortable on the set, he recalled.

"One morning I had to wake up at 5:30 and have a cold shower to wash the hairspray out of my hair. It was hard to wake up, my wife was sleeping so I had to be quiet, and I was freezing, annoyed, ticked off and I couldn't say anything.

"I remember backing out of the shower and thinking, `That's him! That's Wolverine!' He's a person who wants to scream every second but just has to keep it within. It was a complete accident and so random. I'd done all the physical things to prepare for the role, but the thing that did it for me was having a cold shower."

Ever since then, the 40-year-old actor has taken a cold shower before donning his Wolverine claws.

Jackman related the story in Los Angeles shortly before the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the spinoff from the hugely successful three-picture X-Men series, each of which has grossed more than the previous one.

The genial Australian has plenty at stake as he is not only the star but also the producer of the $200 million movie and he confessed: "I'm nervous. Now it's personal."

Unlike the previous three X-Men movies, which were all filmed on location in Canada, Jackman decided X-Men Origins: Wolverine should be filmed mainly in Australia and New Zealand. "I wanted to have a fresh look, a fresh aesthetic and a fresh crew," he explained.

Jackman has a particular affinity for Wolverine, the conflicted mutant superhero with quick-healing powers, unbreakable bones and razor-sharp metal claws, because the character gave him his start in Hollywood.

His performance won over both general audiences and hard-core fans of the cult hit comic book character and he went on to appear in the two sequels. Wolverine is the most popular of the X-Men, although fans complained that in the last two films he was turning soft.

Jackman believes there will be no such complaints about X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which, as its title implies, traces how Logan (Jackman) is recruited into the secret government Weapon X program by Colonel Stryker (Danny Huston) and receives the injection of adamantium that turns him into Wolverine, an indestructible, razor-clawed killing machine.

"It's true that by X-Men 3 the character was getting a little softer so we've made him a little darker, a little edgier and – I know it's an American expression – but more badass," he said. "I think Wolverine is so popular because he struggles all the time. There's a lot of self-loathing within him."

Jackman entrusted the directing to Gavin Hood, a South African filmmaker whose low-budget Tsotsi won the 2005 Best Foreign Language film Oscar, but the four-month shoot was plagued with problems.

Hood's initial, dark vision of Wolverine was at odds with the studio's and he admits he struggled with the logistics of working with special effects and a big budget. At one point, Fox executives in Los Angeles flew co-producer and experienced director Richard Donner to the Australia set to work with Hood.

The production also ran into trouble in Queenstown, New Zealand, where an environmental controversy arose over a scene involving the blowing up of a farmhouse and the storing of explosives at a local ice skating rink.

Then, on March 31, an unfinished print of the movie was leaked online. The pirated print lacked most of the special effects and more than 10 minutes of additional footage, according to Hood.

Said Jackman: "It was like a Ferrari without the paintwork; but the most heartening thing was that the online community straightaway condemned the action. I'm a pretty positive person and after a day or two of being pretty down about it I was reminded that these sort of movies are made for the big screen and they've been long awaited by the fans so I think even those people who downloaded it will come and see it on the big screen."

Terrence Howard Says He Has More In Common With Bad Boys

Source: www.eurweb.com -
By Marie Moore

(April 30, 2009) *Terrence Howard’s repertoire consists of many diverse characters, both bad and good. Most actors admit they get greater pleasure playing the corrupt character. The Film Strip asked Terrence if this was the case with him? “No, but I have more in common with them,” Terrence says as he quietly strums the guitar he walked into the hotel room with, wearing a black leather paperboy cap and leather jacket. No, there was no leather pants.

 “You need a common frame of reference,” he went on to say. “It’s hard for me to commit to one particular woman. I try to. I want that desperately but I have a fear of intimacy. So in order to be able to play those characters successfully you have to have a common frame of reference and that’s something I have not learned yet. I know the struggling side of life so I’m better equipped to tell that story even though I’m trying to learn the other subtleties of love and forever, and ever and happiness.”

Although, the actor-musician would not give the details of why he would not be appearing along with Robert Downey, Jr. in the “Iron Man” sequel, he did give kudos to Don Cheadle. But you were the one looking at the suit in the lab, I interjected. “Yes, I was but Don will now put it on. You know Martin Luther King looked at the White House but Obama will carry it through. Like Garth Brooks said, ‘some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. So remember when you’re talking to the man upstairs, just because he may not answer doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.”

Stars from far and wide converged on the big apple to attend the annual Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) founded by Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff. It screens approximately 120 pictures (75 features/45 shorts) from around the world. There are also free films, The Drive-in, Family Festival Days and the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival.

Among the celebs The Film Strip spoke to at the TFF’s All Access awards ceremony who were jurors are Viola Davis, Sanaa Lathan, Lance Riddick and Luis Guzman. The Festival is very important, Davis explained because “innovation in filmmaking is very important. I’m always looking for something new, something we can relate to and at the same time make people think differently about the world.”

Lathan also flew in just for the event. I think the festival is important because these are the future filmmakers of Hollywood. This is definitely a significant part of the process especially for anyone OF color, or an economically disadvantaged background. I’m very happy for those less fortunate having an opportunity to show their projects. I’ve never done this at a film festival so I’m really excited to be a part of it,” Lathan concluded.

Commenting on the various genres of the festival offerings, Famke Janssen liked the idea of “putting together science…- and elements of humour. It’s not an easy endeavour,” she allowed. Famke also expressed an interest in the documentaries. “One of my favourite movies is a documentary I watched last night called, ‘Trouble the Water.’ It’s amazing.” 

“I think it’s a great opportunity to promote young artists, up and coming artists,” says Luiz Gusman. “I was supposed to come a couple of years ago but I’ve been busy but I managed to get out this year and really proud to be here. It’s great meeting so many people you work with. This festival has a very diverse message.”

Actor Lance Riddick, who is currently appearing in the TV series, “Fringe,” also had the highest praise for the festival. “This night is so important, particularly for me, I was one of the judges for the screenwriters. The TAA is all about giving opportunities to screenwriters and filmmakers from backgrounds that are traditionally very underrepresented in Hollywood.” With so many wonderful happenings going on at the Festival, I can’t began to list half of them because of space. Go to www.tribecafilm.com for further info.

On the big screen also this week is the long awaited “Wolverine.” Will.i.am aka John Wraith, made a big splash in “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” as Moto Moto but he says, “This is my first big thing.” Big it is because he plays the Marvel mutant Kestrel. But even bigger than that is the role he played at President Obama’s inauguration. He still gets chills thinking about it. Flying to Australia to do a major film was really cool, he recollected. “It's the total opposite of what I'd normally do. So my whole memory is wonderful. I remember each day, but one that sits out the most is the inauguration. I'd just finished performing at the Lincoln Memorial and straight after that I rushed to the airplane and put on my red suit. So I remember that day, stepping on set after doing that. It was just two different worlds. Of course you're excited and you want to share, but you have to focus on what you're there to do. It was wonderful to see everyone's face when you walk in and everyone is excited, like, 'Wow, we just saw you on TV.' I'm like, 'I was there.' So that was the most memorable thing, that day.”

Hugh Jackman will going up against his dancing partner at the Oscar, Beyonce this weekend but he thinks his new take on Wolverine will make him top dog. “The first priority for this movie, number one is that I want it to be fun,” Jackman says. “I want people to come and have a great time. I want them to be entertained. I want them to go see it on the big screen with their friends or whoever and just have a great time, but I think that what we have is the opportunity to deliver, and this is in the comic book itself, is making people think a little bit, make them feel and take them on a journey through these characters. 

“I think it's fair to say that by 'X-Men III' Wolverine had gotten probably a little soft. I kind of agree with them there and I think what fans love about Wolverine is that he's more in a way an uncompromising character in his approach to life. He is who he is. He's not always a nice guy. He's got edge. He's an anti-hero. There's also vulnerability in there. There are conflicts and battles going on in there. I wanted the film to feel different. It's probably a little darker, a little more raw, a little tougher and hopefully maybe even a little more human because I think that's really what has appealed to me about the comic book. No more black leather suits either.”

But what does Jack miss most in “Wolverine”? Yes, you guessed it and I’m not surprised because when I first interviewed Hugh for “X-Men,” he did lament that the two didn’t get it on. “Everything felt new to me. I mean, obviously, you can see the actors that I'm around and that everything was new. It took me a little while to get over the fact that Halle Berry wasn't on set most days.”

Crafting A Younger Star Trek

Source: www.thestar.com - John Hiscock,
Special To The Star

(May 03, 2009) It wasn't an easy job, but if anyone could do it, figured the executives at Paramount, it was the prolific film- and TV series-maker J.J. Abrams.

His mission was to breathe new life into the tired
Star Trek franchise and plant the seed for a whole new generation of Trekkies; and Abrams, who wrote and directed Mission: Impossible III and created the television series Felicity, Alias, Lost and the new Fringe, is not one to turn down a challenge.

"I wanted to go back to the beginning and start afresh," he said, talking in a Beverly Hills hotel room just before the Los Angeles premiere, but soon after the first, rave reviews of the movie had appeared in the U.S.

As producer and director he knew he had to walk a fine line between creating a fresh, new Star Trek for the 21st century while avoiding alienating diehard Trekkies who still revere the old series. "I wanted to take the spirit of what was created 43 years ago and use it to make it relevant for today, but the key was that we wanted to make it ours and not feel constrained by too many rules and regulations that were almost half a century old."

He enlisted his co-producers from Lost and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who had written Mission: Impossible III and Fringe for him. "I wanted them to create a story about where the young James Kirk and Mr. Spock came from and what sparked their hopes and dreams," he said.

The writers came up with a story that follows the rebellious young Kirk, whose father sacrificed himself at the helm of a spaceship, and Spock, the troubled half-human, half-Vulcan, as they enlist in the Starfleet Academy, join the Starship Enterprise and become colleagues in combating the ferocious Nero (Eric Bana), who wants to annihilate the United Federation of Planets, notably Vulcan and Earth.

Then, with much trepidation, Abrams, 42, approached two Star Trek veterans to seek their cooperation and, if possible, lure them aboard in cameo roles.

William Shatner, 78, who played Captain Kirk in the original series and in seven of the subsequent movies, wanted a larger part, said Abrams.

"One of the problems was that Captain Kirk had been killed off in the seventh Star Trek movie, and we didn't know how to bring him back because we wanted to honour the canon of Star Trek."

Shatner declined an offer to meet with his successor, 28-year-old
Chris Pine, who plays the young Kirk, but, said Abrams, "Everything's fine and there's never been any bad blood."

Abrams, with fingers firmly crossed, then went to Leonard Nimoy, whose emotionless Spock was a mainstay of the original series and six of the movies.

He showed him the script and footage of 31-year-old
Zachary Quinto, one of the ensemble cast of the TV series Heroes, whom Abrams had chosen as the young Spock.

"We knew if he said `no' we were screwed," Abrams said, "because the story is about Spock. We knew Leonard was going to be the key thing for this story to work because the fans of Trek are so passionate and so vocal that if we didn't get this movie blessed by someone from the original Trek they would probably reject it sight unseen."

Nimoy, also 78, said he had no hesitation in giving his approval after reading the script and seeing footage of Quinto. "I think he's excellent," he said. "Obviously he looks enough like me to make it work and more important, he has an intelligence and an inner life he projects as an actor, and I found that very appropriate for the character.

"I met J.J. Abrams and the writers, and ... I felt they were going to do justice to the story and elevate the movie to a level we hadn't been able to reach."

The excitable and garrulous Abrams vividly remembers Nimoy's first day on the set. "He came out with the ears on, his hair had been done, he was wearing the outfit ... and Spock was in the house. We shot the scene and he did his first reading and it was amazing, but I had some things to tell him.

"I'm walking up to him and it hits me: `What the hell am I doing, trying to explain to Leonard Nimoy how Spock should say that line?' So I say, Mr. Nimoy, I have some ideas, but I'm not sure how to tell you ...'

"And he grabbed my shirt and said, `Tell me, tell me, tell me.' And I realized he's an actor and he's a great actor and a fine gentleman, a wonderful collaborator and he made it okay. I love him. I can't say enough about him."

Nimoy and Quinto have become firm friends, and Quinto, whose father died when he was 7 years old, says he looks on the older actor as a surrogate father figure.

"His life is so rich and full and it's been more interesting for me to get to know him as a man than it was to ask him about Spock," he said.

Chris Pine, whose father was the actor Robert Pine, a regular in the 1970s CHiPS TV series, walks with a swagger that suits the cocky young Kirk. Pine, whose biggest claim to fame so far has been a role in The Princess Diaries 2, was offered the Star Trek role at the same time as he was offered a substantial part as a detective in a gritty crime drama starring George Clooney.

"I wasn't sure which one to take, and I thought about it long and hard," he said.

"I eventually decided on Star Trek because in years to come I didn't want to be saying `I wish I'd done that and not the other one.'"

NBC Creates A 'Short Cut' For Diversity

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(May 04, 2009) *Budding filmmakers who think their product is “must see” quality can hook up with NBC Universal for a shot at taking top honours at the network’s Short Cuts Film Festival.

The four-year-old fest showcases films from all over the country with the goal of exhibiting and celebrating diversity in entertainment.

“The Short Cuts Film Festival is part of our talent diversity initiatives,” said NBC’s Director of Talent Diversity, Kendra Carter. The network exec is responsible for these programs and initiatives – from showcases to community outreach to sponsoring scholarships.

“So we put on programs such as this film festival and it’s all to raise awareness of the diverse talent that’s out there, not just to NBC, but to the entertainment industry at large; to find those diverse, fresh voices that are out there and give them opportunities that otherwise they wouldn’t have,” she said.

Though the film festival is still fairly new, it has introduced the industry to some up-and-coming behind-the-scenes talent and vice versa.

“We invite the industry across the board from producers, directors, casting directors, agents, managers,” Carter explained. “These filmmakers get so much exposure through this festival.”

Carter has spent nine years in casting and development and worked with Spike TV before taking on her post at NBC Universal just a year ago.

“Since I’ve come on, [the festival] has really been embraced company wide, even on the cable side,” Carter said. “Our Sci-Fi Channel has offered up a great opportunity to fly out the top filmmaker to Bulgaria to shoot behind-the-scenes footage for one of our original sci-fi films. It’s really grown.”

The festival, the brain child of comedian Wil Sylvince, is basically a talent development program with the purpose of introducing filmmakers to NBC executives.

“But it’s also about building on that and finding how we can keep them in the family,” Carter added, “and what other opportunities can we offer them and grow them and develop them as artists.”

Carter calls the film fest one of her favourite programs because it is a catch-all of talent. In addition to the work of writers, directors, and producers, there is also an opportunity for actors to be recognized.

“Not only are we able to identify talent behind the camera, but also in front of the camera. In ’07 we offered a best actor holding deal. An African American woman named Wendy McKinney won. She was the best actor of the seven films, and she worked at a bank and was just helping out a friend. We were able to open the door and give her entryway into the entertainment industry.”

While the festival is not exclusively targeting African American filmmakers, Carter told EUR’s Lee Bailey that about 1/3 of last years submission were black. She explained that in order for films to qualify for the festival, it has to be diverse in production, cast or theme.

“If you’re a black writer/director and you have an all-white cast, that’s fine, but if you’re a white writer/director, then your cast or theme has to be diverse.”

There is no cost to submit work for this opportunity. Submitted films can be within the genres of comedy, drama, horror, and/or science fiction; the writer, director, producer or cast of the film must be ethnically/culturally diverse or the film must have a diverse theme; and can be no longer than 30 minutes in length.  The submission deadline is August 21, 2009.

 “We make sure we target each demographic to make sure everyone’s is included and really spread the word to make sure they know this opportunity is there. It’s free to submit,” Carter reiterated. “It’s primarily for writers, directors, and producers. If they happen to have diverse talent in their film and they stand out, they could be considered for an opportunity as well.”

For submission information and more details about the festival, visit www.nbcshortcuts.com.

“It’s a great opportunity and it’s a priority for NBC to identify that diversity. Programs like this are important across the board.”

Mike Epps & Wood Harris Come Up For 'Air'

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(May 06, 2009) *The action comedy “Next Day Air” follows two bumbling criminals who accidently receive a package of cocaine that doesn’t belong to them, and begin to make plans to make bank.

As expected, the rightful recipient, the original owner, and the delivery guy are all out to get the package back. The two hoods, Brody (
Mike Epps) and Guch (Wood Harris) set in motion a hilarious chain of events.

Interestingly, Epps just released a DVD featuring a video called “Trying To Be A Gangsta,” which his character in the film is really trying to do.

“The video really has a little message to it,” Epps said. “So the kids can [stop] believing that the videos and the music that they hear and see are real. I’m not trying to discredit the rappers, but a lot of the kids are tricked in what they think it is to being a gangster. They think it’s the stuff that they see in the videos. The stuff they see on TV, the stuff that they see us doing in the movies. I’m just basically calling the people out that are not really gangsters.”

Epps told reporters that he made a serious effort to avoid all things gangster, as a class clown who spent a few months in a juvenile center after a prank involving Super Glue.

“I ain’t doing none of that to sell nothing,” he continued. “If anybody can be a spokesperson for it, it would be me. I really go to the juvenile centers and talk to killers that are 15 years old that blew [somebody’s] head off and don’t know why. And I go to the hospital and see kids 7 and 8 with cancer – that are realer than me. Every city I go to, for years I go in with no cameras. I go talk to kids that are dealing with some real sh*t.”

Co-star Harris chimed in that their film characters are just outside the “wannabe” gangster category.

“We’re on the outs of it. We’re hustlers on the other side,” he described. “We really think we’re gangsters in the movie. It’s just that the situations ain’t pannin' out.”

“We may not be successful, but if you’re running up in banks with a gun out, you’re doing what a gangster do. You’re in the gangster lane,” Epps added. “My character was just down. You call my character, I’m not going to even ask why and how? I’m like, ‘Come on with it.’”

The comedy team of Epps and Harris in the film has been described as quite funny, but not overtly. And that is what Harris and the other film producers were hoping for. “Next Day Air” is not what many might expect. The film shies away from buffoonery and considers itself an urban comedy with a more complex weave of story lines.

“The guys don’t really know what they’re doing,” Harris continued. “The floundering of these characters, we didn’t want it to be buffoonery. You can see comedic actors. I’m not a comic, but I’m f***in’ hilarious in this movie.”

In addition to working to make audiences look at urban comedy in a different light, the filmmakers and cast set out to keep the ‘N’ word out of the film and off of the set.

“We made a pledge to not use the ‘N’ word even on the set.” Harris said, explaining that the film’s writer kept the word out of the script, but to ensure the cast didn’t slip up, the director banned the term from the set.

“I think it even made us more of a team. I’m not sure stuff like that happens on all the sets. I think we ended up with something that was important to express,” Harris said. “We could work together and do something that we said we could do. We as a team came on early in the process and committed to something like that.”

“Next Day Air” also stars Donald Faison and Mos Def. The flick hits theatres nationwide this Friday. For more, check out the movie’s website at www.nextdayair-themovie.com.

Mike Tyson Documentary Reveals Tragic Figure

Source: www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarsi
, The Canadian Press

(May 06, 2009) He's often referred to as an animal, a rapist, a thug. For many, the story of disgraced American boxer
Mike Tyson is easily reduced to a simple condemnation.

But in James Toback's documentary "
Tyson," the former champion is presented as a tragic figure consumed by fear, regret and self-reflection, a battered hero who says he strives to be a good father and a better man.

It's a revelatory film that has drawn raves around the world for Tyson's unguarded confessions of addiction and maniacal violence, but also some criticism for the sympathetic portrayal of a man many love to hate.

Toback, a friend and confidant of Tyson for 20 years, says his film is by no means a puff piece, defending it as a straight-up account of a man who has long been misunderstood.

"He has been branded by the media as a rapist and an ear-biter," the U.S. filmmaker said in an interview Wednesday during a media stop in Toronto.

"Those two images have been so often repeated that they've almost taken on a greater identity impact than being the youngest heavyweight champion ever and probably the greatest fighter who ever lived. . . . And one of the things that the movie does is to give him an opportunity, as it does in all the areas, to express his own view."

Toback says he tried to keep his own opinions out of the film.

"If (Tyson) comes out well, it's because that's who he is. Because I didn't in any way tilt the movie towards him. He's filled with self-recrimination in the film, (saying) `I've only myself to blame, I was afraid, I was terrified.' I mean, there's all sorts of stuff that is the uncensored view of Mike Tyson by Mike Tyson."

Tyson doesn't shy away from discussing infamous incidents, revisiting his 1992 conviction for raping Desiree Washington and the ensuing three years in prison as "the most horrible time" of his life.

"I lost my humanity, I lost my reputation, I lost everything that I worked so hard for," he says in the film, appearing softer around the middle at age 40, the Maori tattoo on his face curling around his left eye.

Of his 1996 comeback fight with Evander Holyfield, in which he was disqualified for biting off a piece of his opponent's ear, Tyson says: "I was depressed with myself, not because I bit him but just because I lost my discipline and composure."

The film begins with Tyson's own attempts at explaining the intimidating fighter he became. His earliest memory is of being a fat boy with glasses, bullied by other kids in his tough Brooklyn neighbourhood. The fear of being humiliated stayed with him all his life, he says.

"People have a misconception that I'm something else, but I'm just afraid."

Recollections of his mentor and former trainer Cus D'Amato bring him to tears.

All this unfolds through a stream-of-consciousness speech delivered direct-to-camera, interspersed with clips from Tyson's fight reel, material from other interviews (including the damning one by Barbara Walters of ex-wife Robin Givens) and news footage.

Toback says the five-day shoot took place at a rented house in Los Angeles two years ago while Tyson was on leave from a stint in rehab. Rather than staging a conversation or an interview, Toback says he stood behind Tyson where he couldn't be seen and just threw out subjects and let him go.

Their friendship dates back some 20 years, to when Toback was directing "The Pickup Artist" starring Robert Downey Jr. and Molly Ringwald. Tyson came by the set to meet Downey and hit it off with Toback. Tyson was 19 at the time, Toback recalls, and they talked about boxing, orgies and madness.

"I told him about flipping out on LSD when I was 19 years old ... and he was fascinated by that subject – 'What does it mean to go insane? What does it mean to be mad?"' Toback says.

"I couldn't really convey it and finally I said, `It's as if I've had an orgasm and you hadn't and I'm trying to describe to you what an orgasm is like, except this is the negative of an orgasm. You really need to experience it to know it, and I wouldn't wish that on you because it's a horrifying experience.' And years later after he got out of prison, he said, `You know in my 19th month I was in solitary lying there in the corner and all of a sudden said, ``This is what Toback was talking about, I am now insane.""'

These days, Toback says Tyson has remained sober, is in a monogamous relationship and has a four-month-old baby.

And although Tyson insists he no longer cares what people think of him, Toback thinks differently.

"I'm not sure that's true, you know. I think he's been kind of conditioned to think of addiction as manageable only by trying to in some way deal with it . . . one day at a time, not too dramatically, and to be oblivious to what other people are saying or thinking – just worry about not doing the thing you're not supposed to do," he says.

"He clearly cares."

"Tyson" opens Friday in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

Saldana Does Star Trek: Beam Me Aboard, Zoe!

Source: Kam Williams

(May 4, 2009) Given
Zoë Saldaña’s meteoric rise, it only makes sense that the flick that finally rockets her to the heights of superstardom would be an intergalactic adventure like Star Trek. Previously, you might have seen this striking ballet dancer-turned-actress as the late Bernie Mac’s daughter who was dating Ashton Kutcher in Guess Who, playing second-banana to Britney Spears in Crossroads, as the love interest of Nick Cannon in Drumline, opposite Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, with Forest Whitaker and Dennis Quaid in Vantage Point, or directed by Steven Spielberg in The Terminal alongside Ton Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones.  

Last year, the photogenic fashion plate made People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People in the World list (see HERE) and she was also name #42 on Maxim Magazine’s Hot 100 list for 2008.

Here, she reflects on portraying Lt. Nyota Uhura in Star Trek, a role originated on TV by Nichelle Nichols in 1966. 

ZS: Hi Kam.

KW: Thanks so much for another interview, Zoe.

ZS: Of course, of course.

KW: The last time we spoke was a year ago, and we only touched on Star Trek slightly back then. Let me ask you this. Was it at all intimidating becoming a part of a film franchise that fans take so seriously and even attend conventions for?

ZS: I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t have any concerns about it. I did ask myself, “Do I really want to take on that kind of pressure?” and take the risk of not being well received by the fans or of becoming typecast so early in my career. But in talking with J.J. [director J.J. Abrams], I became curious about the fact that he had been more of a Star Wars than a Star Trek fan. And what convinced me was that he had just such a beautiful vision for the film. I figured if he was taken with these characters, I definitely didn’t want to be left out.

KW: How familiar were you with Star Trek prior to taking on the role?

ZS: I never really watched the TV series. And after J.J. offered me the part, I wanted to see it even less, because I was so afraid of falling victim to what we sometimes do as actors, which is to imitate. I felt that Nichelle Nichols did not deserve that, and neither did my character. Plus, because I would be playing a much younger Uhura who’s not quite on the [Spaceship] Enterprise yet, it gave me an opportunity to innovate. So, she’s not comfortable in her own skin… she’s finding it really hard… she’s very studious… These were the sort of things I focused on, and I only hope that the fans receive it well.

KW: How has Nichelle Nichols received it?

ZS: She was very happy, when she I met her on the set. She was pleased that J.J. was the one revamping the Star Trek franchise, and that I was playing Uhura.

KW: How did that make you feel?

ZS: That humbled me in such a way that I can’t even describe.  

KW: Did she offer any pointers about playing Uhura?

ZS: Her advice was just to run with it, to follow my gut, and that whatever I was going to do for Uhura, to do it well.

KW: Lt. Uhura is a linguist. Are you good with languages?

ZS: I speak two languages, and I would like to learn more.

KW: How was it working with the rest of the cast on the set?

ZS: It was very enjoyable because the atmosphere was so light and we all became great friends. The chemistry that transpired was very, very natural and genuine. That made me so happy because it’s not often that you get to go to work with people you want to see everyday and who you have so much fun creating with.

KW: The buzz on this film has certainly been very positive. Everybody who’s seen it is saying the franchise has been totally revitalized.

ZS: Gosh, that makes me feel so good. If it could make a believer out of me, trust me, it can make a believer out of anyone. I hadn’t been familiar with the series, although I did know about that one dude with the pointy ears. 

KW: Spock.

ZS: Yeah, I knew who Leonard Nimoy was, and that he embodied what Star Trek meant to all the fans. But it wasn’t until I started doing my research for this movie, and started going to fan sites, that I began to fall in love with these characters.  

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

ZS: None that come up right now, but I wish you would give me a day to think about it and get back to me. 

KW: Okay, the Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

ZS: I always strive to keep a balance with my fears. I don’t like to be ruled by them. At the same time, I don’t like the idea of living my life totally free of any fears. I like having that moderation.

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

ZS: Earlier this week.

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

ZS: I’ve been reading The Catcher in the Rye . It’s the kind of book I get a little concerned about being seen reading in public. So, I only read it when I’m at home. But the last book that I fully read was Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coehlo. 

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays? 

ZS: Right now, I’m listening to Pink.

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

ZS: The biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome is being a woman in a man’s world.

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

ZS: I’d say my niece.

KW: How did it feel to be named to People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People in the World list last year?

ZS: [Giggles] I felt a combination of happiness and humility. At the same time there’s a lot of pressure, because people can approach you whose intentions aren’t in the best place, and they can say things that are very hurtful. And on one of those days when you wake up and you just go and get your coffee without worrying about looking your best, you make yourself vulnerable to someone who’d say something like, “You look awful for being on the Top 100 list.” The pressure that that entails as a consequence, in having to defend leading a normal, everyday life is a bit of a cancer sore, but I do still feel grateful because I’d rather be considered pretty than average.     

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

ZS: I see Zoe.

KW: How do you feel about Obama’s becoming President?

ZS: So happy! It was so appropriate, and it let me know that sometimes we have to be patient because the one thing that is inevitable in life is evolution. Whether it comes at the pace that we are expecting it or not, it’s inevitable.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

ZS: To work and to love working, because I find it really frustrating when people go, “I want to be famous and glamorous like you.” It’s hard for me not to have a bad thought when someone says that to me, since if there’s anything this business is not, is glamorous. It’s only glamorous for maybe five minutes every now and then. Mostly, it’s very arduous work which calls for serious commitment and passion. Plus, half the time you will not get paid what you feel you deserve, if anything at all. So, you have to be very committed and find happiness in the work that you do.       

KW: What’s on the horizon for you?

ZS: I cannot wait for you to get a glimpse of Avatar.

KW: Directed by James Cameron

ZS: I am so proud of all the work that he’s done with the film over the past 10 years. And the cast has put in 2½ years of our love, dedication and sweat into the project. To finally get the opportunity to share it with you all is going to be the best perk. I’m actually sort of tired now. I get really sleepy around this time, because the work has been done with Star Trek when it comes to the interviews and publicity. Now, I can honestly go to bed, wait for the premiere and only pray that the film is going to be well received by the audience. And in a couple of months, I’m going to have to do it again for Avatar. It’s necessary, and it’s so beautiful, and when it works, it’s so rewarding.  

KW: Well, thanks again, Zoe. It looks like a real breakout year for you between Star Trek and Avatar.

ZS: Thank you. Have a good day. Bye.

To see a trailer for Star trek, visit HERE.

Torontonian Wins At Babelgum Festival

Source:  www.thestar.com - Matt Carter,
Thestar.Com Staff

(May 05, 2009) In large part, Michael Patrick O'Hara owes his prize from the Babelgum Online Film Festival to his son Aidan.

The Torontonian won the Professional Jury Award for animation last week for his short film, Mr. Happy. But O'Hara, a writer and director (and brother of SCTV's Catherine O'Hara) had no interest in animation until 2003, when he helped his teenage son create a flip-book cartoon.

The result of that venture was the rudimentary but lively Crouching Tiger, Hidden Snowman, which was aired on the now-defunct CBC show ZedTV, and inspired O'Hara to do more.

Aidan was also a collaborator on Mr. Happy, a darkly comic vignette about the type of loudmouth doomsayer you might encounter on the corner of Yonge and Dundas Sts.

O'Hara says fear-mongering in the media inspired him to make the film. "Mr Happy gets us laughing at fear, often the best way to defuse and help us deal with any problem in life," he writes in an email.

You can see another of O'Hara's cartoons, Wake Up: The Morning Call on Babelgum. And his short A Christmas Carl will be broadcast on Bravo next December.

Director Spike Lee was among the judges for the  Babelgum festival. You can find all the winning films here.


Remix that's actually a good song

Until "Rap Chop" came along, the best that could be said of the countless video remixes on YouTube was that they were amusing.

Steve Porter's "Rap Chop," however, changes the game. Besides being funny, it's a catchy tune.

The song is a remix of an infomercial for a kitchen gadget, the Slap Chop, and stars Vince, aka the ShamWow guy. Unlike the creators of most remixes, who merely cut up a video and lay a beat beneath it, Porter had the novel idea of actually writing a melody, which he renders by filtering Vince's voice through an auto-tune effect of the type popular in current hip-hop.

Beyond the simple melody and infectious chorus, the video works because of Vince. He's cocky and he waves his hands around like an MC.

He also, before chopping some cashews, just happens to utter a line that would fit in well on an Eazy E album: "You're gonna love my nuts."

"Rap Chop" has a way to go before it matches the popularity of such remixes as "Why is the Rum Gone?" and "Cillit Bang," but it's well on its way.


Stream Conor Oberst album for free

Wunderkind folkie heartthrob Conor Oberst's new disc, Outer South, comes out in stores today, but you can hear it for free for the next two days on NPR.

Oberst has broadened his sound somewhat on his new album. Over the past few years, he has nailed down the Americana sound. On last year's self-tilted disc, he seems at times like he's channelling The Band.

And that sound is a big part of Outer South, but there is more variation here. "Air Mattress," for example, features Weezer-style synth, and "Roosevelt Room" is more aggressive than anything he's recorded in some years.

The freebie is part of NPR's First Listen series.

EUR DVD Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(May 06, 2009) *Very loosely-based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's 14-page short story of the same name, this melancholy meditation on love, mortality and loneliness revolves around a baby (Brad Pitt) born old who grows younger over the course of his life.

 Brought to the screen by director David Fincher who interpreted the tale as an elaborate parable of Biblical proportions, the movie landed 13 Academy Award nominations, although it only won a trio of Oscars in minor

 The film opens in New Orleans at the end of the First World War where we find Benjamin's mother (Joeanna Sayler) dying during childbirth being followed by his father's (Jason Flemyng) wrapping the inexplicably-aged infant in swaddling clothes and secretly depositing him on the back steps of the local old folks' home.

 Fortunately, he is immediately adopted by Miss Queenie (Taraji P. Henson), a selfless, mammy-like figure who altruistically decides to care for him the best she can.

 Although her odd-looking, little octogenarian is initially beset by an assortment of infirmities, Queenie can't help but notice that there is something which sets Benjamin apart from the rest of the residents at her assisted living facility. For, while they continue to deteriorate and die, he miraculously has his vitality restored, and gradually gets back his hearing, eyesight, hair, and so forth.

 Eventually, Benjamin not only feels fairly spry, but independent enough to bid Queenie and company adieu and sets out to explore the world on his own. And with an uncanny sense of timing rather reminiscent of a Forrest Gump, he proceeds to embark on an epic journey which lands him in the middle of a number of events of historical import over the ensuing decades, such as a World War II naval battle and a NASA rocket launch.

 The similarities to Gump can be easily explained by the fact that Eric Roth wrote the script for both movies. Nonetheless, Button's reverse aging theme is unique, allowing for a sufficiently novel plotline which proves compelling when you factor in Fincher's extraordinary special effects and the Oscar-nominated performances of Brad Pitt and Taraji Henson.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, smoking and brief war violence.  
Running time: 167 minutes
Studio: The Criterion Collection/Paramount Home Entertainment

2-Disc DVD Extras: Director's commentary, a 4-part "Behind-the-Scenes"
documentary, photo gallery, trailers and more.

To see a trailer for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, visit HERE

How Morgan Freeman Got A Town To Dance Together

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(May 06, 2009) This will be remembered as the year Hot Docs took a leap forward, generating buzz that rivals what happens in September at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Documentary devotees, we usually assume, are purists uncorrupted by star mania. Yet two delicious docs in this week's line-up – Paul Saltzman's
Prom Night in Mississippi and Barry Avrich's Amerika Idol – both have major Hollywood stars at the centre of the action.

The former is a full-length feature and the latter a 34-minute vignette, but these two gems have more than star power in common. Each takes us to a small and overlooked town we've never heard of and makes us fall in love with its people.

Prom Night began by accident a few years ago when Saltzman went back to the place where more than 40 years earlier, as a young civil rights activist, he had been punched in the head by a Ku Klux Klan bigot and thrown into jail. The film he was making, now being finished, is called Return to Mississippi.

But a compelling reason to make a different film came when he met
Morgan Freeman, the Oscar-winning actor who maintains a residence in Charleston, Miss.

Freeman was dismayed to find that it was not until 1970, 16 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered schools to integrate, that black students were finally accepted in the town's white high school. Worse, the school still had separate proms: one black, one white.

"Tradition is one thing," Freeman says. "Idiocy is another."

In 1997, Freeman made the school an offer: have an integrated prom and he would pay all the bills. But his offer was not accepted. A decade later, Saltzman asked if the offer was still good. Freeman said it was.

This time, the offer was accepted and Saltzman used this startling development to create a marvellously rich, complex and revealing picture of a community struggling to break free of its own past.

"Morgan was incredibly generous with his time," Saltzman says. "I'm sure when he comes home, the last thing he wants is a camera in his face, but he gave us four days. And when we screened the movie and I asked if he had any changes to suggest, he said `Not even one.'"

Prom Night screens tomorrow and Sunday at the festival. In the U.S. it will be shown on HBO in July.

In Canada it will have a theatrical release in the fall before its TV appearance.

Segregation is one of the few problems the tiny Serbian village of Zitiste, near Belgrade, has not endured. For 4,000 years, its inhabitants have suffered wars, famine, floods and mudslides. So a few years ago, some of them decided the town had to do something dramatic to catch the world's attention and improve its image.

The winning idea: put up a statue of Rocky Balboa, everyone's favourite underdog, like the one near the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For two years they wrote to Sylvester Stallone hoping for support but didn't get a reply. Their appeals had not been passed on to him by his handlers.

Toronto filmmaker and arts marketing whiz Avrich found about all this as the result of a tiny article in The New York Times. It was such an irresistibly ridiculous idea, he took a chance and went to Serbia with a small crew.

Avrich knew that the only way to get the project done and make a film was to enlist Stallone's support. Through his Hollywood contacts, he was able to arrange a meeting with the superstar.

It took place in an editing studio for Stallone's last Rambo movie.

Avrich gently remarked that the violent sound effects of the movie scenes being edited – including bombings and maulings – made it hard to film the interview.

At which point Stallone told his technicians: "Fellas, take your shoes for a walk."

He wound up not only supporting both the statue-building project and the film, but sending an emotional greeting by video to the people of Zitiste about the bond between them.

The premiere of Amerika Idol last weekend was a sold-out hit. By the time it has its repeat screening on Sunday, chances are Avrich will have signed a deal with a cable network.

Meanwhile the citizens of Zitiste can walk tall because they overcame the odds, just like Rocky. And for their next project, they could do worse than launch a documentary film festival.

Baroness A Mysterious Muse

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

(May 04, 2009) Just as every family has its rebels, often in their wake are young relatives who admire them in spite, or because of, family disapproval.

Such is the case with
Baroness Pannonica "Nica" de Koenigswarter and Hannah Rothschild of the British financial dynasty.

Koenigswarter, born Kathleen Annie Pannonica Rothschild, turned her back on her privileged society in the 1950s and immersed herself in the American jazz scene, becoming a friend, patron and muse of notable musicians such as Charlie Parker (he died in her Manhattan hotel suite) and Thelonious Monk (he spent his last decade in her New Jersey home) until her death at 74 in 1988.

Hannah Rothschild is the documentary filmmaker who has resurrected her great aunt with The Jazz Baroness, which screens at 10 p.m. tomorrow at the Royal Cinema and Thursday at 1:45 p.m. at Isabel Bader Theatre as part of Hot Docs.

"I didn't know anything about her; she was not mentioned," said Rothschild in a phone interview from London about the impetus to research this wayward relation after coming across her name in the Rothschilds' vast family tree.

"I don't think my family were obstructive, I think genuinely that once she left England ... she slipped out of the consciousness."

The mysterious Nica and her French diplomat husband Baron Jules de Koenigswarter lived abroad after their 1935 marriage. When they separated she moved to New York, where she made headlines as a result of the misadventures of her African American jazz musician pals, who immortalized her in tunes such as "Nica's Dream" (Horace Silver) and "Pannonica" (Thelonious Monk).

"My family very much believes you should be in the papers twice: when you're born and when you die," said Rothschild. "There's nothing even slightly racist about the Rothschild family, because (with Jewish origins) they are also, in part, a racial minority, so they wouldn't be.

"I think there was a reluctance perhaps to acknowledge that this woman had done these things that were not actually okay: it's not okay to be involved with drug addicts; it's embarrassing to go to prison. I don't think it's that (her associates) were black. She was living dangerously and she was living in a world they just couldn't understand....

"And she certainly moved from great wealth to quite a bit of penury." Relative penury, of course; an annual allowance from her family, believed to be more than $100,000, allowed Koenigswater, who had more than 300 cats and served whiskey in teapots, to live in Manhattan hotels, drive a Bentley, wear furs and subsidize her jazz buddies.

Some of Rothschild's relatives, including her great aunt's five children, refused to participate in the film, which includes interviews with Clint Eastwood and Quincy Jones. But "I've heard unofficially that they're not displeased," said the director.


Kevin Grevioux To Make Directorial Debut


(May 04, 2009) *Kevin Grevioux, co-writer of the "Underworld" film franchise, will sit in the director's chair for the first time to helm a big screen adaptation of graphic novel "The Pale Horsemen."  The filmmaker will also write the script, according to Variety. The supernatural thriller revolves around a gang of hit men who are forced to work together to uncover who killed their mentor.   NEHST Studios has picked up rights to the novel, which was published through Grevioux's DarkStorm Studios imprint. The film rights to several of Grevioux's other graphic novels have also recently been picked up, including "ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction," optioned by Benderspink, and "I, Frankenstein," at Death Ray Films. Grevioux and Len Wiseman penned the original screenplay for the first "Underworld" movie, which bowed in 2003 and spawned two additional instalments. Grevioux also appears in the first film.

Dwayne Johnson To Play Capt. Nemo


(May 04, 2009) *Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has scored the lead in Disney Studios' forthcoming "20 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo," yet another film version of the 1870 Jules Verne novel "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea."    Apparently, Johnson was cast despite director McG's preference for Will Smith, as the filmmaker "has told anyone who would listen that he'd love to have Will Smith star in his reworking," according to Production Weekly.   The production is listed as "in active development" to start shooting in Australia later this year. Presumably, Johnson, whose last two movies have been for Disney, will play Captain Nemo himself.   The film follows a fugitive whaler who teams up with a naturalist, a mysterious woman and a captain of a futuristic submarine to search for a lost underwater civilization that holds libraries of vast knowledge and a weapon with the power to destroy mankind.  

Jamie Foxx Wants To Make Tyson Biopic

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(May 05, 2009) *Perhaps inspired by the new documentary "Tyson," Jamie Foxx says now, more than ever, he wants to bring a theatrical version of boxer Mike Tyson's life story to the big screen.        "I think I would have to play Mike Tyson. I've talked to Mike several times and his story is the most tragic American story," Foxx told WENN.  "Mike's story is about what America and the world is about today," he added. "Coming up at 18 years old and getting his $60 million and not teaching him what taxes are about, about vultures, about people who will never be real with you as long as you have the money." And Foxx reveals he's already set the wheels in motion to make his dream become a reality: "I'm working on securing the rights to the movie."


CTV Floats Idea Of Capping Cable Bills

Source: www.thestar.com - Jennifer Ditchburn,
The Canadian Press

(April 30, 2009) GATINEAU, Que.–The time might be right to start regulating cable rates again in order to save local television programming, CTVglobemedia president Ivan Fecan said Thursday.

"I might ask, why everyone here in Canada is so afraid of cable," Fecan said at a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearing.

The federal regulator is reviewing the company's TV licences, at time when conventional broadcasters say they are struggling to survive financially – hit by both plummeting ad revenues and hyper-fragmented viewership.

Fecan and others such as Canwest Global and the CBC want the CRTC to let them charge cable companies for the right to carry their signals, something called fee for carriage.

The cable companies have said if they have to pay, subscribers will see higher bills.

Fecan wants the regulator to step in on behalf of consumers, pointing out that cable costs have been regulated in the United States.

"They're depending on you to put their interests, above any corporate or lobby group, be it broadcaster, (cable or satellite company), or union," Fecan said. "If the (cable and satellite companies) insist on holding subscribers hostage, perhaps it's time to regulate basic cable rates again."

Rogers Communications vice-chairman Phil Lind warned earlier this week that if cable firms are forced to pay fees for conventional TV stations, they should have the choice of whether to carry them at all.

Broadcasters would also like to see regulators take action on the transmission of American signals, which are allowed on the cable dial but compete directly with Canadian stations who pay to broadcast the same shows and are fighting for ad dollars.

Thursday's appearance was the third time in a week that Fecan has made an impassioned public plea for government and regulatory help. His company is set to close local stations in Brandon, Man. and in Windsor and Wingham, Ont., and Fecan said if the situation is not improved, more stations could end up closing.

"This is not a cash grab or greed from a private broadcaster, this is real. We're not bluffing."

Fecan said that there is no hope for the Brandon and Wingham stations, but that Windsor might be salvageable if a proposed CRTC fund for local programming is meaty enough.

"If the (fund) comes soon enough and is of a quantum that makes a difference, that is one we would reconsider, for Windsor."

The broadcasters are also pushing back on the regulator and the government over the impending switch to digital signals from analog. TV stations will mothball their old transmission towers and convert to new digital ones, but the cost of trying to reach the entire Canadian population is unreasonable, they complain.

They would like the government to help with the conversion.

CRTC chairman Konrad Von Finckenstein bristled at the suggestion that the broadcasters could choose not to offer the service to some areas.

"We're not going to countenance a solution whereby eight per cent of the population gets cut off and doesn't get a signal. It's not part of our reality."

Why Some Actors Bite Their Nails

Source: www.thestar.com - Frazier Moore,
Associated Press

(April 30, 2009) NEW YORK–Harold Perrineau is waiting for a simple yes or no.

He's waiting, just like his co-stars on ABC's quirky new cop drama The Unusuals (including Amber Tamblyn, Adam Goldberg and Terry Kinney) and the rest of the cast and crew.

"It's nail-biting time," says Perrineau. "I'm trying to be cool, but I'm knotted up."

Welcome to
TV's waiting game, an annual event playing out at dozens of network TV series that are neither slam-dunk hits nor terminal flops but instead (in industry lingo) "on the bubble," their fate undetermined as each network formulates a fall prime-time schedule.

NBC will unveil its roster Monday. Will struggling series such as Chuck, Medium or My Name Is Earl make the cut, competing for precious NBC real estate against other contenders such as the just-launched Amy Poehler comedy Parks and Recreation and gritty police drama Southland, plus any of several pilots vying for a series pickup, not to mention Jay Leno's forthcoming weeknight hour (which will seize nearly one-quarter of the schedule)? Wait and see what NBC's scheduling calculus serves up!

At ABC, CBS, Fox and the CW, the waiting game will drag on a bit longer: upfront week for those networks kicks off May 18.

ABC has already jumped the gun, inviting back a dozen series including Brothers & Sisters, Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty. But the future remains murky for other ABC shows, such as newcomers Castle, Cupid and The Unusuals (10 p.m. Wednesdays), where Perrineau plays an overcautious NYPD detective who refuses to doff his bulletproof vest, even at the station.

Phoning from the Los Angeles home he shares with his wife and their two daughters, Perrineau fondly recalls shooting the season's 10 episodes in New York.

"There was a lot of exterior stuff, and it was cold – definitely not Hawaii shooting," laughs Perrineau, referring to his stint as a plane-crash victim on the balmy Lost isle. "But we were having a great time!"

Then, just about the time The Unusuals premiered, production wrapped: "We had a lot of `so longs' and `I hope I get to see you guys again in a few months.'"

While Perrineau waits to learn if he and his family will head back east for another season of The Unusuals, Tom Hertz is in his own holding pattern.

As the creator-producer of the CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement, Hertz is sharing pins and needles with other members of his show, including stars Patrick Warburton, Megyn Price and David Spade. The show is halfway through its 13-episode third season, currently airing at 9:30 p.m. Mondays. Hertz says his anxiety spikes each morning as he sifts through ratings data – numbers that can seem fiendishly inconclusive.

He reels off a few conflicting ways a set of numbers can be crunched: "The (audience) was good, but this demo wasn't as good as last week, but women (viewers) were better."

Speaking from his car somewhere in Los Angeles, he delivers a comically world-weary sigh.

"It's just another situation in life where you can't really see what's going on, and you can't control it. So you try not to go crazy. And not run out of wine."

Hertz (whose past credits include The King of Queens, Spin City and The Larry Sanders Show) has kept busy since Rules wrapped several months ago. He's working on a screenplay and jotting down ideas for a new season.

CBS announces its fall line-up on May 20. Hertz may not hear the verdict until a few days before.

How does it happen? "A guy with a crewcut, dark glasses and an earpiece knocks on your door," Hertz helpfully explains. "No words are spoken, but he opens a silver metallic suitcase and gives you an envelope that says `yes' or `no' inside."

Which word will be in his envelope? "I'm somewhat optimistic," Hertz declares. "But I don't want to be too optimistic and jinx it."

Cartoons For Adults The Hot New Trend

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(May 04, 2009) Given Canada's prolific history of cutting-edge kid cartoons, it was only a matter of time before we set our sights on the current hot TV trend of adult animation.

Canwest Global has been particularly busy in this regard, with the new, definitely-not-for-kids primetime Bob & Doug cartoon, and now, debuting tonight at 8:30 on TVtropolis, an adult-oriented animated sitcom,
Producing Parker.

Similar in setting, story and tone to Jennifer "AbFab" Saunders' short-run BBC comedy, The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle, the stylishly retro Parker spoofs the backstage chaos of a hit daytime talk show, similarly hosted by an odious, oblivious and self-obsessed prima donna – impeccably voice-cast with Sex and the City siren Kim Cattrall.

Produced by Breakthrough Animation (Atomic Betty), the animated ensemble also features Kristin Booth as the title character, an overworked and unappreciated neophyte producer whose only significant relationship is with her talking dog.

She pines, meanwhile, for her hunky British boss, Blake Bellamy, played by Canadian comedy go-to guy Peter Keleghan.

"He's kind of a cross between Prince Charles and Hugh Grant," Keleghan says of the character, one of two he voices on the show.

The other is James Hard, "a kind of a James Wolcott type ... but, you know, hard. And sometimes he likes to play off that."

Though known primarily as a live-action actor, this is far from Keleghan's first animated effort.

"I'm Scaredy Bat in Ruby Gloom," he says, "and there was Captain Flamingo, Ned's Newt ... but this is really the first one for grown-ups. I mean, animated nudity. What's not to love?"

Keleghan's relentlessly diverse career includes several upcoming, already-shot indie features – "a whole whack of 'em, which I made for like 25 cents. But hey, they're Canadian."

But one particular project-in-progress is literally closest to his heart, an hour-long television adaptation of Love Letters, the Pulitzer-nominated play by A.R. Gurney that has been performed at one time or another by just about every actor on the planet.

Now including Keleghan and his partner – in life, on camera and as co-producer Leah Pinsent.

"We wake up in the morning and we talk shop," he laughs. "And then we start in with the conference calls."

The all-star Canuck cast also includes two other real-life couples, Peter Donaldson and Sheila McCarthy, plus Colin Mochrie and Debra McGrath. CBC will likely broadcast the special to coincide with Valentine's Day. "We sent them a rough cut last week," Keleghan beams. "I'm my own worst critic, but this thing is freakin' good!"


Amy Wallis Brings Charm Of Anne Of Green Gables To Toronto

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

(May 02, 2009) When you've spent the last four years of your relatively short life alternating between playing one of Disney's most beloved heroines and one of Canada's most revered literary figures, you might think it could turn a young lady's head.

But, judging from a recent conversation,
Amy Wallis is doing just fine in the modesty department with none of the arrogance that both her onstage prototypes – Anne Shirley and Belle – have sometimes displayed.

Wallis, 26, is currently in Toronto rehearsing with the Charlottetown Festival Company to begin her fourth season as the title character in that best known of all Canadian musicals, Anne of Green Gables. What makes this time around even more special for her is that the show is going to begin on May 7 with a run at the Elgin Theatre, courtesy of Dancap Productions.

"I'm incredibly excited to be appearing in the city that I hope to build a career in," says Wallis. "I really want to do well here."

The chances are that she will. The reviews from her first three summers as Anne have all been glowing – the same kind of response in her native Vancouver, where she's starred for the past four Christmases in the Arts Club Theatre's production of Beauty and the Beast.

This might be the time for a bit of total disclosure. I directed Wallis's mother, Valerie Easton (who is now a noted choreographer) and my wife, Pamela, appeared on stage with her father, Ray Wallis (who has left the business for a career in financial planning), when we were all young and foolish in Vancouver, back in the 1970s. But the Ouzounians had moved East by the time Amy was born on Sept. 16, 1982.

"Mom and dad didn't want me to go into theatre at all," she laughs. "They tried to get me interested in sports, but all I wanted to do was perform. I would force my parents to watch me put on these long, involved plays I had created when I was only four. I was always running around doing numbers from Cats and driving them crazy."

By this point, Wallis's father had quit show business "cold turkey," in his daughter's words, and was enjoying working in the financial sector. "Dad would try to get me interested in the things he was doing," Wallis confesses, "and I would just stare at him with drool coming down from my mouth. I was such a Broadway baby!"

But the Wallis family still held the line, making sure Amy would have something approaching a normal existence. "I got very involved in high school drama," shares Wallis, "and so I asked my mother if I could have an agent. She said `no.' It was okay if went to dance classes and acted in community theatre, but she wanted me to have a real life."

Eventually she spent a few years at York University, but dropped out, feeling that "I was ready and I knew what I wanted."

After a year on a cruise ship ("just so I could see the world"), she wound up in her old hometown and got her first professional job as Anybodys in the Arts Club Theatre production of West Side Story.

Since then, she's kept busy across the country in various shows, but there's no doubt in her mind that the cherry on the sundae has been playing Anne Shirley.

"I flew out to Toronto to audition for it," she remembers, "and I had no idea how I did at first. I wanted the part so badly! I had read the books as a little girl and the first song I ever sang at a concert was `Gee, I'm Glad I'm No One Else But Me.' I had the VHS copy of the Megan Follows TV version and I'd watched it so much over the years that the tape had literally worn out. That's how much I loved Anne of Green Gables."

So her heart started beating just a bit faster when director Anne Allen stopped her after her audition and asked if she was planning to stay in Toronto a few more days.

"I told her `no,'" says Wallis, "that I was flying right back home. She just looked at me and said `Oh, I'd stay around.'"

Wallis was called back several times, and when she got to her final audition she remembers thinking she had blown it because she saw Allen turn to whisper to someone during her song.

"`Oh great, I thought, `She's talking while I'm singing!'"

What she only found out later was that the person Allen was whispering to was author Don Harron, and what she was saying was "I think we've finally found our Anne."

Things are busy for Wallis right now, but what about life after Anne?

"I see myself playing as many different roles as possible. I really want to do My Fair Lady. And I've always hoped to be in a production of Les Miserables. I'd be anyone ... even the third whore from the left!"

I wonder what Marilla would have to say about that!

15 Tony Nods For Billy Elliot

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(May 05, 2009) NEW YORK–Billy Elliot, the smash musical that features Montreal-born David Alvarez as one of three rotating stars in the title role, dominated the 2009 Tony Award nominations Tuesday, picking up 15 – more than any other show.

Based on the popular British movie, the show about a coal miner's son who dreams of becoming a dancer, will compete for best musical against Next to Normal, Rock of Ages and Shrek The Musical.

The experience of Alvarez, 14, whose Cuban parents granted his wish and enrolled him in ballet lessons as a boy growing up in Montreal, mirrored that of the play's namesake.

"I saw the movie before I even knew there was a musical of Billy Elliot and I found it incredibly touching. Because I want to be a ballet dancer, too," he said in an interview with the Star last year.

"The only difference is that my parents are very supportive."

The show's original score was written by Elton John, who also earned a Tony nod..

"It's been an amazing experience," Elton John, nominated for the show's original score, told CBS' Early Show, which telecast early nominations. "It's made an incredible impact on my life.''

Best-play nominations went to God of Carnage, Dividing the Estate, reasons to be pretty and 33 Variations.

Next to Normal, a heartfelt musical about a woman battling mental illness, received 11 nominations, while Shrek and the revival of Hair tied with eight each.

Winners will be announced June 7 at Radio City Music Hall.


A Pinch Of Paula Poundstone's Patter

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

(May 03, 2009) The publicist's instructions are crystal clear: You have 15 minutes with Paula Poundstone, a stand-up comic since 1979 known for her self-deprecatingly conversational style, her appearances on the U.S. National Public Radio quiz show Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me, her disdain for sex of any kind, and finally, for her 2001 run-in with the law for driving while intoxicated with her four adopted kids in the car.

Tonight, she returns to Toronto for one show only at the Panasonic Theatre at 7 p.m.

Tick, tick, tick ...

Name your comic influences.

When I was little, I worshipped Lily Tomlin ... and I still do. I'm nothing like her, by the way. Laugh-In was a show that was sort of ahead of its time in a silly way and yet, a statement of the times. Everybody that's working today owes a debt of gratitude to Robin Williams ... in the mid- to late '70s, people didn't go out to see stand-up comedy very much, but then Robin came along and there was something about his energy and his excitement for what he was doing, and his huge talent attracted a tremendous amount of attention. Little comedy clubs started to develop about that time – I don't know that that was because of him but it was definitely watered by him, to use a flower analogy. There was a feeling in every little club that he might show up, and the truth is he did. You could be in Black Hole, West Virginia, at Ed's Comedy Yuk House and by God, there's a picture in the manager's office of Robin Williams on their stage.

Do you have taboo subjects?

No, if I had a funny joke on a subject, I would tell it. And probably the subjects that people feel are taboo would be well-served by a good joke. However, I don't spend my time trying to find a Holocaust joke. If one came to me, I would consider it a service to tell it, but the problem is if you misfire on one of those, you really are in trouble.

So I don't necessarily seek out taboo subjects, although I'm about sick of hearing people talk about whether you say "f---'' or not. Honestly, could we just grow up?

I went to Six Flags (amusement park) the other day with my kids and they had five rules printed on these big posters, and the last one was "No profanity." And anybody I could find that worked there, I would go, "can you ... tell me what it is you can't say so that I make sure that we don't break the rules?" And they were all stunned. And by the way, this is Six Flags, you're going to be in a little car travelling upside-down at 1,000 miles an hour. You bet I'm going to say "f---" and I'm going to scream it really loud, by the way, and I might throw up. You can throw up on somebody but heaven forbid you swear.

Much of your material is derived from your personal life, even the tabloid stuff, no?

I happen to have obsessive-compulsive disorder, and one of the ways it manifests itself is that I cannot stop talking, for the life of me, and I don't know if I'm self-centred and if I've just ran out of things to say about every other topic, but I tend to come back to myself.

Likes and dislikes about stand-up or touring?

I do a lot of stand-up and you can really understand why the Beatles stopped touring, you know? They at least had Yoko and Linda, I got nothing. It can be very lonely.

I like to bring videotapes with me of Perry Mason and I often ask (hotels) to give me a VCR. I think they think that I'm doing work on my act, you know, that I'm watching tapes of myself and criticizing and trying to refine and making sure that I don't say "f---" or something. But in fact, I just put the Perry Masons on for noise. I happen to love that old show for whatever reason ... I just have it there for company.

I don't go away for all that long. I only torture myself for maybe three days in a row. But the truth is ... I love stand-up. It's such a treat, it's so wonderful to stand on stage and make people laugh.

Any memories of Toronto or Canada?

It's been a while but I have performed (in Toronto) many times over the years. This is a terrible thing to say (but) I don't remember. I know Canadians are angry with us all the time and I really can't blame them. But I've said repeatedly to Canadian audiences, I've said, "I know you don't like us. Tell me what's wrong?" And a lot of people share with me that they had to study about the United States in school, and yet we know nothing about Canada. And you know what? Busted!

And so I say to Canadians, "Okay, You tell me what you want Americans to know about you and I will carry that news everywhere I go." And you know what? Dead silence from the crowd every time I ask.


DSi Has Potential, But App-Wise It's No iPhone

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko,
Special To The Star

(May 02, 2009) When Nintendo shipped its latest handheld machine, the DSi, to North America last month, the Japanese giant continued a tradition of incremental upgrading of its fleet that began way back in the Game Boy Color days: Each new iteration retains enough of its predecessor to stay familiar, affordable and compatible while adding just enough new hotness to push buyers' "want!" buttons.

In the case of the DSi, this means a subtle but classy redesign for the DS Lite with the addition of two cheapo cameras and SD memory card support, a marginal improvement in screen size and quality – and, most promising, the ability to download games and applications from Nintendo's online DSi Shop.

So how's the selection on those virtual shelves?

Kind of weak, actually.

It's still early, but if this first month of releases is any indication of what Nintendo is planning for the future, DSiWare is going to be less like Apple's iPhone App Store and more an impulse-purchase bargain bin overflowing with cheap downloadable repacks of material available elsewhere. Currently, the bulk of the DSi Shop comprises minigames ripped out of existing titles – Paper Airplane Chase and Bird & Beans from WarioWare, Master of Illusion broken down into its component pieces, etc. – and represented as "Express" editions.

To be fair, you're usually getting what you pay for – the Master of Illusion minis and Bird & Beans can be had for $2 each – but sometimes ... well, you tell me: Is $8 a fair price for an "Express" version of Brain Age that only contains the math challenges?

The originals available are hit-and-miss. WarioWare: Snapped tries to use the series' highly successful formula of rapid-fire minigame madness as a vehicle to show off the potential of the DSi's camera for delivering zany good times. While I like the idea in theory, Snapped 's gesture detection is just too finicky and frustrating to make it work.

On the other hand, Art Style: Aquia – the first in a series of Art Style games – is a beautiful, atmospheric take on tile-matching puzzle gameplay that no DSi should be without, and well worth the $5 (that is, "500 Nintendo Point") download.

More disappointing than the downloadable games selection – because, honestly, I didn't have high expectations – is the dearth of non-game applications available at or near launch. The Opera web browser is there, and it's a steal at the unbeatable price of "free," but it's only just serviceable as an in-a-pinch browser and sorely in need of a usability overhaul.

But what about Moving Notepad? Japan's had this versatile notes/drawings/images/recordings program since December, with a substantial upgrade just this week, while a North American release is still dated for "TBA 2009."

The DSi has a lot of potential to move from "toy" to "tool" – but its drag that Nintendo doesn't seem in too big a hurry to make this happen.


Ontario Proposes New Law For Online Ticket Sales

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Karen Howlett

(April 30, 2009) The Ontario government took aim yesterday at U.S. entertainment giant Ticketmaster by introducing a new law that would block companies from charging scalpers' prices for tickets to concerts and sporting events on resale websites they own.

The proposed legislation follows an uproar over Ticketmaster's relationship with a subsidiary ticket resale website, TicketsNow.com, that allows people to sell tickets above face value. A class-action lawsuit filed in February alleges that Ticketmaster diverts tickets to TicketsNow to sell them for a higher price.

Attorney-General Chris Bentley said yesterday that he has heard "loud and clear" from consumers in Ontario that they are not getting fair access to tickets for their favourite events. What the legislation would do, he said, is make it illegal for primary and secondary ticket sellers owned by the same corporate entity to sell tickets to the same events at higher prices.

"It's the foundation for fairness," Bentley said at a news conference.

"There's a perception out there that if you benefit from both sides of the equation there's not only a perception but a real concern about fair access to tickets."

Individuals could be fined up to $5,000, companies up to $50,000 for breaking the proposed rules.

Ticketmaster could not be reached for comment.

But the proposed legislation would do nothing to stop brokers and agents corporately unrelated to Ticketmaster from reselling tickets at inflated prices on TicketsNow. Officials at Ticketmaster have said TicketsNow is open to anyone reselling tickets. They have also said TicketsNow is being singled out for the widespread practice of reselling tickets above face value.

New Democrat MPP Peter Kormos said the legislation does not go far enough. Ontario already has anti-scalping laws on the books, but these are rarely enforced, he said.

What the government should do, he said, is put a cap on the fee resellers charge, say at 6 per cent of the face value of a ticket. "The legislation will do nothing to protect consumers from being ripped off by corporate scalpers," he said.

Artists from Bruce Springsteen to Charley Pride have lashed out at TicketsNow and other online resale sites for charging fans inflated prices for concert tickets.

Bob Runciman, interim leader of the Progressive Conservatives, said his party will likely support the legislation but said it's unfortunate that Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government appeared to be in the dark on this matter.

"It had to be left to Bruce Springsteen to bring this to his attention," he said.

Bentley said he drafted new legislation after officials at Ticketmaster declined his request to follow practices already in place in Alberta and Manitoba that bar the company from benefiting in the resale of tickets.

"They would not take that approach in Ontario," he said.

The last time Bentley bought concert tickets was for a Britney Spears concert. But he quickly pointed out they were for his daughters, now 22 and 24, and that he did not attend.

British Fundraiser Wins 'Best Job In The World'

Source: www.thestar.com - Belinda Goldsmith,
Reuters News Agency

(May 06, 2009) CANBERRA – A British charity fundraiser won the "best job in the world" on Wednesday – caretaker of an Australian tropical island – after an innovative marketing campaign that highlighted the power of social media.

Ben Southall, 34, was picked from 16 finalists in a highly publicized contest by Tourism Queensland, which attracted nearly 34,700 video entries from almost 200 countries and surpassed all expectations in promoting tourism in the Australian state.

The job description? Explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef for six months and report back to
Tourism Queensland and the world via blogs, a photo diary, video updates and interviews.

Also, if you feel like it, feed the fish, collect the mail and clean the pool – and earn $150,000 Australian ($131,000 Cdn) for your efforts.

"To go away now as the island caretaker for Tourism Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef is an extreme honour," Southall said on live television from Hamilton Island after being named the winner.

"I hope I can fill the boots as much as everybody is expecting, my swimming hopefully is up to standard and I look forward to all of the new roles and the responsibilities that the task involves," he said, adding he would soon be joined by his Canadian girlfriend on the island.

While the job itself attracted global attention, so did the campaign by state-run Tourism Queensland as it highlighted the marketing potential of websites such as YouTube and Facebook.

"This is probably the first time that a campaign has achieved this sort of reach with so little advertising spend other than a few strategically placed job ads around the world," said Australian marketing analyst Tim Burrowes, editor of media and marketing website Mumbrella.

"This has all been about the power of people passing things on, largely through YouTube. The main lesson to be learned here is that if you have an original, exciting idea that gets people talking you don't need to spend huge on advertising."

The "Best Job in the World" campaign began in January with Tourism Queensland launching an advertising campaign centred around the lure of a job that is more like a paid holiday.

Within days, the campaign was one of the most popular items on the web, as applicants from all over the world sent in 60-second video applications and news of the contest spread on social networking sites.


The number of applicants was cut to a top 50 who competed to develop online followers, holding stunts to promote themselves that included scuba diving in a tank in an Amsterdam square and riding the London Tube in scuba gear.

The final 16 contestants, from 15 countries, included students, journalists, TV presenters, photographers, a receptionist, radio DJ, teacher and an actress.

They also came from countries where Australia is pushing itself as a tourist destination including China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, France, Britain, the United States, Singapore and Germany.

The candidates were flown to Hamilton Island last weekend and tested on a range of personal, communication and other skills with a panel of four appointed to decide the winner.

Tourism Queensland has hailed the advertising campaign as an enormous success, calculating the $1.7 million spent had reaped an estimated $110 million in global publicity.

"The worldwide response to Tourism Queensland's "Best Job in the World" campaign has been nothing short of phenomenal," said Tourism Queensland's CEO Anthony Hayes.

"The key now, however, is to convert the global interest raised by "The Best Job in the World" into visitors to Queensland – to bring more tourist dollars into Queensland's economy, protect existing tourism jobs and hopefully create new ones."

Burrowes said the announcement of the winner, who starts work on July 1, would not end the publicity.

"They will have months of coverage where this person who already has a connection with the outside world will start to write blogs and be an ambassador of the islands," he said.

"The chances are this could become an annual event."


Mark Leiren-Young Wins Leacock Medal For Humour

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
James Adams

(April 30, 2009) A memoir of his time as a young journalist at Williams Lake in the B.C. interior has won Vancouver's Mark Leiren-Young the 2009 Leacock Medal for Humour.  Leiren-Young, 47, took the $15,000 prize for his first-ever book, Never Shoot a Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo Country.  Better known as a playwright, freelance journalist, filmmaker and live performer, Leiren-Young was one of five finalists for the Leacock, awarded annually, with one exception (in 1959) since 1947.  Thanks to sponsorship by TD Financial Group, each of this year's runners-up receives $1,500, a first in Leacock history. They are William Deverell ( Kill All the Judges), Sheree Fitch ( Kiss the Joy as It Flies), Jack MacLeod ( Uproar) and Charles Wilkins ( In the Land of the Long Fingernails).  Previous Leacock laureates include Mordecai Richler, Eric Nicol, W.O. Mitchell and, in 1979, Sondra Gotlieb, one of only a handful of women to win the prize.

GTA Arts Groups Get Boost From Ottawa

www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(May 04, 2009) The federal Conservatives continued their road-show of announcing support for the endowments of non-profit cultural organizations yesterday with a visit to Toronto announcing a contribution of $3.63-million this year to 11 arts groups in and around the city. The money is coming via the endowment incentives stream of the Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program established by the Harper government in 2006. This year, for every private-sector dollar donated to a non-profit cultural organization, the government will match the donation with a 72-cent contribution.  Dean De Mastro, Conservative MP for Peterborough, Ont., and parliamentary secretary to Heritage Minister James Moore, announced that the National Ballet of Canada is receiving almost $1.5-million from the program, the most of the 11 Toronto region organizations recognized yesterday. The other recipients are the Canadian Opera Company ($692,129.08), the Royal Conservatory of Music ($486,177.46), Niagara-on-the-Lake's Shaw Festival ($422,858.59), Canadian Stage Co. ($289,345.27), Drayton, Ont. Theatre Festival ($134,073.20), Soulpepper Theatre ($77,106.75), National Ballet School ($47,521.70), Factory Theatre ($7,233.63) and Tarragon Theatre ($1,500.71).


Dancers Make Emotions Turn Physical

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Special To The Star

(April 30, 2009) Two mid-career dancer-choreographers, Susie Burpee and Jenn Goodwin, needn't have much in common to appear on the same bill – a DanceWorks show opening tonight at the Enwave Theatre. But both indie artists were shaped by training that emphasized the creative process, a training now reflected in their work.

Burpee created the Dora Award-winning duet Mischance & Fair Fortune in 2005 in response to a call for dance pieces inspired by the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses. Burpee chose the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, two young lovers forbidden by their parents to wed. They communicate through a breach in the wall between their two houses.

The point of Mischance & Fair Fortune is not simply to tell the tragic tale of this ancient Romeo and Juliet. Burpee aims to take us inside the lovers' hearts and reveal their emotions, moving her audience in the process.

"My greatest curiosity is in humanity," says Burpee. She is interested in transformation, a theme that recurs in her work. The Winnipeg-born dancer took lessons in clown and bouffon at the studio of Philippe Gaulier in Paris.

Born and raised in Burlington, Goodwin confesses she was at first drawn to Concordia University's dance program "to get out of the burbs." Under the direction of Elizabeth Langley, the school promoted discovery of one's own voice over perfecting technique.

"Most of my dance work starts with writing," says a very round Goodwin, expecting her first child next month.

Poems, personal musings, personal narratives have often informed her work. An early solo entitled Four Dollars an Hour and Half-Price Drinks was inspired by a job she had in a bar. But storytelling in this case doesn't necessarily mean a linear narrative.

Goodwin describes her own work as athleticism meets raw emotion. A new version of Accidents for Every Occasion, which was done as a trio in Montreal, is now a duet for Valerie Calam and Alicia Grant. The two dancers are theatrical, a little clownish and definitely characters in their own right. That's how Goodwin likes it.

Goodwin was thinking about fate versus coincidence, and happy accidents: "the things that happen when we're trying to not make mistakes and not screw up." She began with a list of excuses. The piece has morphed over time into a video-enhanced, very physical performance with a hint of vaudeville and an evocative score.

The dancers are mutual admirers. "I'm a fan," says Burpee of Goodwin's work. "I think there's a kindred feeling there." For her part, Goodwin says, "I think we'll play well off each other."

Just the facts
WHAT: Accidents for Every Occasion and Mischance & Fair Fortune

WHERE: Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W.

WHEN: Tonight through Sat. at 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $28 at 416-973-4000 or harbourfrontcentre.com

Dancing In Toronto On A Tightrope

Source:  www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Special To The Star

(May 05, 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 seventh story in a series.

Dance organizations are always suffering financially, so they're better prepared than others to cope with falling tickets sales, diminished endowments or government cutbacks.

For the
National Ballet of Canada, the global financial meltdown couldn't have happened at a worse time. The company has been struggling to adjust to the greater expense of performing in the Four Seasons Centre (an additional $1.5 million, bringing its budget close to $26 million) and resistance to the higher ticket prices.

"The price levels are too high for a lot of our audience," says executive director Kevin Garland.

The company has seen what others in the dance world are noting: people spring for tickets to what they know. The Nutcracker performed its usual Christmas magic; Romeo and Juliet was 95 per cent sold out and this month's performances of Giselle are nearly sold out, but the winter season's Innovation program, a critical success, did not fare so well.

Despite the risk of putting on new work, cancelling creations is one measure dance companies cannot afford. "We could put on Swan Lake all the time, but we'd lose our audience," says Garland.

With an absence of $600,000 or more in endowment revenue, the ballet cancelled its tour of western Canada for 2009. But thanks to Dance Victoria and the Port Theatre in Nanaimo, the company will put 10 dancers on the road for a mixed program in those two cities next season.

Also on the positive side, the National Ballet's youth sales have soared with a new DanceBreak program offering $20 same-day tickets to those aged 16 to 29.

Jay Rankin, managing director of Toronto Dance Theatre, has seen his share of bad times during 30 years in dance. His company is doing what artists have always done: turning disaster into opportunity.

Well before the big crunch, TDT opted out of the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront except for one performance in 2008-2009. Instead, the company staged two programs at its home in the Winchester Street Theatre and will do a third this month.

And, it has concentrated on the local community in Cabbagetown and downtown.

"The amount of activity in our building has created opportunities to showcase the company," Rankin says.

Building a bigger board with strong ties to potential donors and corporate sponsors is another strategy Rankin expects will pay off.

TDT lost money on its co-creation with New York dancer Deborah Hay, Up Until Now, but Rankin says the project "elevated the stock of our company internationally." And the company is running a surplus.

Rankin and artistic director Christopher House have no thoughts of touring to New York City, where TDT has often self-presented shows at the Joyce Theatre.

The news is more dire for U.S. companies such as New York City Ballet, so dependent on interest from shrunken endowments. Ticket discounts are common and dancers are getting laid off.

That's not happening in Toronto, but Jeanne Holmes, who programs dance at Harbourfront Centre, says, "What we've been noticing is how late people tend to buy their tickets. It can be as much as 50 per cent of the ticket sales are sold in the last two weeks before a show." Lower priced and free events, such as summer shows at Harbourfront, are getting greater attendance.


Canada Loses To Finns In World Hockey Shootout

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Johnston,
The Canadian Press

(May 04, 2009) KLOTEN, Switzerland – Canada has its first defeat of the IIHF World Hockey Championship.

While Monday's 4-3 shootout loss to Finland didn't affect Canada's position in the standings, it did show just how tough the road to gold will be.

Hannes Hyvonen scored the shootout winner Monday as both teams wrapped up the round robin. His goal came in the seventh round of a shootout that saw Canada's Martin St. Louis and Finland's Jarkko Ruutu each score twice.

Canada still clinched first in its pool with the point it earned for the loss in extra time and will face Latvia in the quarter-finals. The Finns were so desperate for a win in regulation that coach Jukka Jalonen pulled goaltender Pekka Rinne in the final minute with the game tied.

Tuomas Pihlman, Anssi Salmela, Niko Kapanen scored in regulation for Finland, who will play the Americans in the final eight.

Dany Heatley led Canada with a pair of goals while Jason Spezza added a single.

In Monday's other games, Switzerland edged the U.S. 4-3 in overtime, Slovakia beat Norway 3-2 in overtime, Sweden downed France 6-3 and Denmark avoided relegation by beating Austria 5-2.

The Canadians had been anticipating their first true test of the tournament and the Finns gave it to them for more than 60 minutes. Finland flashed more speed than any of Canada's previous opponents and was able to spring several players early in the game.

Pihlman opened the scoring with his second goal of the tournament. Canadian defenceman Braydon Coburn accidentally knocked the puck on to the Finnish forward's stick and he beat Dwayne Roloson at 4:02.

And they kept coming.

Hannes Hyvonen walked in off the point and tested Roloson with a tricky shot before Ruutu had a pass bounce over his stick while standing alone at the side of an empty net. However, the puck ended up coming around the boards after that play and Salmela made it 2-0 with a point shot that appeared to bounce off Derek Roy's glove and in.

Chants of "Suomi! Suomi!" were ringing through Kloten Arena but Canada soon found an answer.

They worked the puck around on their first power play of the game before Spezza banked it in off Rinne from behind the goal at 16:02. The Finnish netminder should have had it.

Canada carried some momentum into the second period but gave it up by getting into penalty trouble. Captain Shane Doan was called for three minors in the period – the last of which led to Finland's third goal when Kapanen slid the puck between Roloson's legs on the power play at 17:22.

Heatley got that one back less than a minute later on a Canadian power play. Standing in the high slot, he tipped Derek Roy's pass behind Rinne to narrow the score to 3-2.

A chippy period ended fittingly with Ruutu getting pushed by Canada's Steven Stamkos after a whistle and dropping like he'd been shot. However, the Finnish pest didn't fool the referees with his act and the players received offsetting penalties – Stamkos for roughing and Ruutu for diving.

The Canadian equalizer came on another power play. Heatley beat Rinne at 9:20 with wrist shot, setting the stage for extra time.

Switzerland 4 United States 3 (OT)

Roman Wick scored in overtime to lift the host country to a win but it wasn't enough for the Swiss to advance.

Switzerland needed to beat the Americans in regulation to move on the quarter-finals.

Andres Ambuhl, Martin Pluss and Romano Lemm also scored for Switzlerland.

Ron Hainsey scored twice for the Americans while Chris Higgins added a single.

Slovakia 3 Norway 2 (OT)

At Kloten, Ladislav Nagy scored a power-play goal 2:07 into overtime as Slovakia completed its world championship with a victory.

Stefan Ruzicka and Peter Smrek also scored for the Slovaks.

Anders Bastiansen and Lars Erik Lund had the goals for Norway.

Sweden 6 France 3

At Bern, Johnny Oduya, Marcus Nilson and Kristian Huselius each had a goal and an assist to help Sweden beat France.

Kenny Jonsson, Carl Gunnarsson and Dick Tarnstrom scored the other goals for the Swedes.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Anthoine Lussier and Sacha Treille scored for France.

Denmark 5 Austria 2

At Kloten, Mikkel Bodker scored twice and Patrick Galbraith made 33 saves as Denmark rallied from two goals down to relegate Austria.

Kasper Degn, Mads Christensen and Julian Jakobsen also had goals for Denmark.

Oliver Setzinger and Roland Kaspitz replied for the Austrians, who will play in the B pool of the world championship next year.

Daniel Nestor Wins Third Straight Double Title

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(May 03, 2009) ROME–Canadian Daniel Nestor and Serb Nenad Zimonjic claimed their third doubles title in as many weeks Sunday, beating Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 at the Rome Masters.

The victory follows one in Monte Carlo – a crushing defeat of the American twins – and another in Barcelona last week, all on clay.

Nestor and Zimonjic, second in the world behind the Californians, also took revenge for a final loss in Rome a year ago and have now beaten the Bryans in five of their last seven finals dating to that 2008 event.

"This was a great win," said Nestor. "This year we've won two Masters 1000s and Barcelona. We're playing pretty similar to the way we played last year.

"Hopefully we haven't peaked too soon. We want to keep it going for the Slams."

Nestor and Zimonjic now own a 12-match clay win streak heading to next week's new Serbia Open in Nestor's Belgrade birthplace.

"This (spring) has been a great turnaround – similar to last year – where we found our game at Rome," added Nestor.

The 36-year-old from Toronto owns three trophies at the Foro Italico, winning the Italian title in 1997 and 2006 with former long-time partner Mark Knowles.

Nestor and Zimonjic are 23-6 on the season, with four titles including their first of 2009 indoors in Rotterdam. They stand 4-2 in 2009 finals, losing Sydney to the Bryans, who remain No. 1 in the team rankings.

Nestor sealed the latest victory in just under 90 minutes as he fired the team's fourth ace to line up three match points. The Bryans saved two before going down to defeat, their sixth this season against 33 wins.

"I have a long history with the Bryans," said Nestor. "They are the favourites in every match they play. You have to hang with them, if you stay close then you have a chance. We played the big points very well today."

LeBron Wins NBA MVP Award

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(May 04, 2009) AKRON, Ohio – Unstoppable at both ends of the floor this season, LeBron James claimed the league MVP on Monday, receiving the award in the high school gym where he first made his name.

The Cleveland Cavaliers star won what some expected to be a close vote in a slam dunk. He received 109 of a possible 121 first-place votes to easily outdistance Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. James totalled 1,172 points in balloting by media members in the U.S. and Canada.

Bryant, last year's winner, got two first-place votes and finished with 698 points. Miami guard Dwyane Wade was third with 680 points and was named first on seven ballots. Orlando centre Dwight Howard (328) was fourth followed by New Orleans guard Chris Paul (192).

James is the first Cavaliers player to win the award. He averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists this season, his sixth as a pro. He also finished second in voting for defensive player of the year, making him perhaps the league's most dominant two-way player since Michael Jordan.

"You look at the guys who have won this award – Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dr. J, Oscar Robertson. All these guys laid down the path for guys like myself and Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade to name a few," James said in accepting the award at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

James credited his teammates, who were present with coach Mike Brown to see him accept the award, for raising their games in the Cavaliers' best season ever.

"Individual accolades come when team success happens," James said. "You look at those 14 guys over there, I got the award because of them. They put in the work.''

At 24 years, 106 days on the final day of the regular season, James is the youngest player to win the award since Moses Malone (24 years, 16 days) in 1978-79. Wes Unseld was 23 when he won it in 1968-69.

"I'm 24 years old. To be up here and win this MVP award, I never thought it would happen this fast. I always dreamed about celebrating championships with teammates," James said.

"It takes a lot of sweat," said Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry. "I'm sure he did a lot of sweating right here. I've been fortunate enough to watch him sweat the past four years when no one else was around. I just want to acknowledge that and give it a round of applause.''

James vied all season for MVP honours with Bryant and Wade. The three played on the U.S. gold medallist Olympic team last summer and seemed to upstage each other nightly.

"He deserved it," Wade said. "I said all year, I thought LeBron was the MVP of this league. He's a guy who every year is going to be in that conversation. ... He showed it all year, especially with his team's success.''

Focused right from the start, the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James sharpened his already formidable skills this season.

He started a career-high 81 games and set personal bests in field-goal (49) and free-throw (79) percentages as well as blocks (93). James became the second player to post five straight seasons of at least 27 points, six rebounds and six assists. The other is Oscar Robertson, whose extraordinarily versatile game is the one to which James' is most often compared.

James nearly averaged a triple-double – 32 points, 11.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists – as the top-seeded Cavaliers breezed through the first round of the playoffs, sweeping the Detroit Pistons in four games. Cleveland will host the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 on Tuesday.

It's no surprise James would select his high school for the ceremony. It's where he won three state basketball championships and where he burst onto the national scene, becoming a Sports Illustrated cover subject at just 17 years old. He announced plans to skip college in the Fighting Irish's quaint gym and recently filmed a "60 Minutes" interview there, where his retired No. 23 jersey hangs on a wall.

A few days after the Cavaliers were eliminated in last year's Eastern Conference semi-finals, losing a Game 7 in Boston, James got back in the gym.

Despite scoring 45 points in the finale, James didn't feel he had done enough to get his team past the Celtics. So he went to work. He spent endless hours at the Cavaliers' training facility working on his jump shot, which has never looked better or been more accurate. He practiced finishing at the rim with his left hand, making him nearly impossible to stop inside.

James also began lifting weights like never before, adding muscle to his considerable frame. Then, once he began working out with the Olympic team, James set out to refine his defensive game and became an elite stopper, often guarding the other team's best player – regardless of position.

In a league of remarkable athletes, James, with his package of power and speed, may well stand alone.

"His leaping ability with his strength and explosion, he's by himself," said Cavaliers assistant coach Chris Jent, who spent most of last summer working with James. "We don't have anyone in the league like him. Baseline to baseline he has to be the fastest or one of the fastest guys ever, and he can do it with the ball.

"And then once he gets there, his jumping is up there – maybe by himself. That combination along with his mental attitude and aggressiveness make him unguardable.'


10 Ways to Get in Shape for Summer

By Glenn Mueller, eDiets Contributor

The time to put on a bathing suit and head for the beach is coming soon enough. The question is: Will you be ready? Personally, I have to admit last winter provided its fair share of discontent, and now there are a pounds spilling out over the top of my boxer shorts. In fact, the very thought of walking around a crowded beach in my bathing suit is enough to make me break out in hives. Unless I keep my XL Gator T-shirt on at all times, somebody is likely to mistake me for a beached whale and stick a harpoon in my side.

I need a workout routine that can whip me into shape. In order to get some extra motivation, I turned to our Chief Fitness Pro, Raphael Calzadilla, for advice. If you've read any of his articles, you already know Raphael consistently drives home one very important message -- you can't goal without a plan! And, whatever healthy meal plan you chose you must combine a slight caloric deficit with consistent exercise in order to drop that extra weight.

Now, straight from his home office in West Palm Beach, Fla., here's Raphael's top-10 tips for a simply sizzlin' summer:

1. To lose fat and get trim, try alternating exercise activities during the week. Sometimes I fall into the trap of doing the same exercise routine over and over. Of course, other times I go for weeks without doing any exercise other than sixteen-ounce curls. But anyway, the point is that Raphael recommends changing your exercise routine at least every 4-6 weeks.

2. We're all busy people, but the longer days and extra sunlight should keep us extra motivated. Unless you make it a priority in your life, it is easy to feel like there just isn't enough time to exercise. However, during daylight savings time, you should take some advice from that popular 60s song and "let the sunshine in." When you find yourself really pressed for time, Raphael suggests trying three 10-minute workouts spread through the day. Believe it or not, three 10-minute bursts of activity can be just as effective as one 30-minute exercise session.

3. Take yourself off the beaten path. As the poet said, sometimes taking the road less traveled can make all the difference. Yes, I realize that Robert Frost wasn't referring to exercise, but his advice still applies. Now that spring is in full bloom, why not go to a state park and hike on the weekends? You can alternate this with the strength training and cardio you complete at the gym or home during the week. Hiking and climbing burns a lot of calories and actually helps to boost your metabolism.

4. People attain great success when they have a goal. Try to make yourself accountable for reaching your weight-loss goal. You might want to sign up for a 5k walk or race in your local community. As you begin to train for the race and improve your eating habits, you'll start to get leaner. "The objective is not to win the race, but to set a goal and exercise the discipline to complete it," Raphael says. "It will be almost impossible to not lose fat and get leaner."

5. The Weighting Game. If you really want a fit body for summer, Raphael recommends: (a) performing weight training two to three days per week for 30 brisk minutes, (b) doing cardiovascular exercise three to five days per week for 30 moderate minutes and (c) slightly reducing your intake of calories.

6. Give Those Extra Pounds the Boot. If you really want to lose weight, maybe you should try going to boot camp. No, we're not asking you to enroll in the military... although that would certainly get you in shape, too. Many gyms and health clubs offer some sort of group "boot camp" classes. "The basis of the program is combining calisthenics, cardiovascular exercise and running obstacle courses to improve fitness and lose fat," Raphael says. "As the name implies, it's run in military boot camp style but is a lot of fun. Just two days per week of this activity will strip fat from your body. You don't have to be in shape to participate, and you're encouraged to go at your own pace."

7. Don't be afraid to try something new outdoors. Try a variety of outdoor recreational activities, and you'll be more likely to burn fat while having a great time. If you are adventurous enough to give it a whirl, Raphael recommends purchasing a pair of roller blades. "It may take you a few weeks to feel comfortable, but I guarantee you'll enjoy rollerblading in the sunshine and listening to great music on your head phones," Raphael says.

8. Motivation is one of the keys to creating a bathing suit-ready body. Believe it or not, Raphael says you should go ahead and purchase the bathing suit that you would like to be wearing by the start of summer. Yes, I know it won't fit you now... but that is his whole point. "Make fitting into the suit a realistic goal and leave the suit somewhere in your kitchen so it's always visible," Raphael says. "Let the future enticement of fitting perfectly into the suit be your motivation. This isn't psychological mumbo jumbo -- this tip really works."

9. Spend a day at the park. No, we're not talking about going to the ballpark, although that is also an important summer ritual. Raphael recommends finding a park near you with an exercise path. Such parks usually contain fitness stations that require you to complete push-ups, sit-ups and lunges. "Most of these courses only take 20 minutes to complete, but they can be repeated to extend exercise time."

10. One of the keys to getting a leaner body is stimulating the metabolism. In order to give your metabolism that special "get up and go," Raphael recommends exercising in the mornings. "When you work out in the morning, you decrease your appetite and burn calories all day long," Raphael says. "Try to power walk, jog or swim as a start to your day, and don't forget to include strength training to further stimulate your fat-burning progress."


Motivational Note

Source: www.eurweb.com — Jacob A. Riis

"Some defeats are only installments to victory."