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October 29, 2009

Happy Halloween everyone!!  Celebrate safely out there and watch out for those little ghosts and goblins. 

Please see the information below on how to detect the swine flu versus regular flu.  And I spoke with my own doctor and she said that absolutely EVERYONE should get the vaccine, even if you've never had a flu shot before.  Expect a sore arm and perhaps some chills the day of the shot but other than that, there shouldn't be any side effects. 

And the Caribbean tourism industry and media descends on Toronto  tomorrow for the annual
Caribbean Week in Toronto held in the Distillery District.  The CTO’s mission is to provide to and through its members, the services and information needed for the development of sustainable tourism for the economic and social benefit of the Caribbean people.  See all the details under TOP STORIES

Well, the legendary film This Is It is out and opens to great reviews.  See all the details under TOP STORIES

Also, check out my PHOTO GALLERY for photos and videos from the children's theatre show GO BANANAS FOR THE WIGGLES!!  (On the new LE YouTube Channel! here!).  Yes, I know, why was I at a children's theatre show?  Friend encouraged me to witness this phenomen for kids and know what?  I had a great time - tons of fun and jokes and awesome gymnastic and circus performances.  The kids were WILD for them.  I was surprised as one of the only adults there without a child, that I still enjoyed myself.  Check out the links above!

This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTS


When Caring For Swine Flu Cases, Warning Signs Signal Patient Needs Help

Source: By The Canadian Press

(October 28, 2009) The following signs may be seen in a swine flu patient taking a turn for the worst. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says patients showing these symptoms should seek medical care immediately.  CHILDREN: Fast or troubled breathing; skin turning bluish; not drinking enough fluids; being unusually hard to wake up or not interacting; being so irritable that the child doesn't want to be held, flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough; fever with a rash.  ADULTS: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen; severe or persistent vomiting; sudden dizziness; confusion.  Source: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control.


Toronto To Celebrate Caribbean Spirit At 2nd Annual Rum & Rhythm Festival

(October 21, 2009) TORONTO – The sweet flavour of rum and the pulsating beat of island music will be on full display in Toronto during Caribbean Week in Canada’s second annual Caribbean Rum & Rhythm Festival, Friday, October 30 from 6:00p.m.- 9:00pm at the Fermenting Cellar in Toronto 's trendy Distillery District. Tickets are now on sale for the highly anticipated event at www.caribbeanweek.ca, or by calling (416) 935-0767 .

 A variety of the Caribbean ’s award-winning rums will be available for tasting in addition to rum cocktails served up by the region’s top mixologists.  The Festival will also feature mouth-watering cuisine by some of the Caribbean’s most celebrated chefs, musical performances and a silent auction including “one of a kind” vacations to the Caribbean .

The silent auction will benefit the CTO Foundation, a charitable entity established by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) to provide opportunities for Caribbean nationals to pursue studies in the areas of tourism, hospitality and language training. The Foundation selects individuals who demonstrate high levels of achievement and leadership both within and outside the classroom and who express a strong interest in making a positive contribution to Caribbean tourism.

 “The Caribbean Rum & Rhythm Festival is arguably the most anticipated event during Caribbean Week,” said Hugh Riley , secretary general of the CTO. “It’s an authentic opportunity to experience the Caribbean while here in Canada . Guests can taste rums imported directly from the region and sample fare from our celebrity chefs while dancing to the beats of Caribbean music.”

Tickets are available for CAD $55 per person and can be purchased online at Ticketweb.com and www.caribbeanweek.ca or by calling (888) 2... .  Admission includes six rum samples and one rum cocktail along with Caribbean food tastings. Guests must be at least 21 years of age for entrance to the Caribbean Rum & Rhythm Festival. 

Caribbean Week in Canada 2009, held October 23 – November 1, 2009 is organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), and brings together influential policy makers, financial leaders, marketing professionals, and tourism industry officials to interact and discuss both tourism and investment opportunities in the region. It also serves to provide a taste of the Caribbean to showcase its diversity and inspire travel.

For more information on Caribbean Week in Canada 2009, including the Caribbean’s presence at the Montreal-based SITV consumer travel show, Toronto-based Press Conference, Media Marketplace and Awards Luncheon, Rum & Rhythm Festival, or the Caribbean’s presence at Toronto’s Zoomer consumer travel show, visit: www.caribbeanweek.ca, or call 416-93... to speak to a representative from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

About the Caribbean Tourism Organization

The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), with the headquarters in Barbados and marketing operations in New York , London and Toronto , is the Caribbean ’s tourism development agency and comprises membership of over 30 governments and a myriad of private sector entities.

The CTO’s mission is to provide to and through its members, the services and information needed for the development of sustainable tourism for the economic and social benefit of the Caribbean people.

The organization provides specialized support and technical assistance to member countries in the areas of marketing, human resource development, research and statistics, information technology and sustainable tourism development.  The CTO disseminates information on behalf of its member governments to consumers and the travel trade.


The CTO’s New York office is located at 80 Broad St., 32nd Floor, New York, NY 10004, USA: Tel: (212)... ; Fax: (212) 635-9511; E-mail: ctony@caribtourism.com; CTO’s London office is located at The Quadrant, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1BP, England. Tel: 011 44 208 948 0057; Fax: 011 44 208 948 0067; E-mail: ctolondon@caribtourism.com; CTO Canada is located at 2 Bloor Street West, Suite 2601 , Toronto , Ont. M4W 3E2, Canada. Tel: (416) 935 0767 ; Fax: (416) 935-0939; E-mail: ctotoronto@caribtourism.com. CTO Headquarters is located at One Financial Place, Collymore Rock, St, Michael, Barbados; Tel: (246) 427-5242 ; Fax: (246) 429-3065; E-mail: ctobarbados@caribtourism.com. For more information, please visit www.caribbeantravel.com or www.onecaribbean.org. Get the latest CTO updates on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ctotourism. Connect with CTO on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CaribbeanTourismOrganization.

Jackson Fans Awed

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Sandy Cohen, Associated Press

(October 28, 2009) Los Angeles —Michael Jackson's This Is It premiered to high praise from fans who
applauded at each number as though they were at a concert and marvelled as the singer stepped nimbly through his moonwalk and other signature moves.

Jackson, 50 when he died last June, kept pace with backup dancers half his age during rehearsals for such hits as Thriller, Billie Jean, Beat It and Human Nature. The film was shot as Jackson prepared for a marathon concert stand in London that never happened.

“He looked better than he did when he was 30,” said Jessica Childs, a 21-year-old aspiring dancer who caught the Los Angeles premiere. “His voice stood out.”

Four of Jackson's brothers — Jermaine, Marlon, Tito and Jackie — attended, saying afterward that seeing their brother on film filled them with love and pride.

 “It's amazing to see him up there doing his thing,” Jackie Jackson said. “To see him up there doing his performance like that has brought a lot of tears to my eyes, sitting there watching him. Because I love him so much. That's why I keep this with me at all times in my pocket. It's a little token of him,” he said, pulling out a white-glove key-ring fashioned after one of his brother's best-known accessories.

“It was closure for me,” said Marlon Jackson. “And it was a moment where I just felt his spirit inside of me. And that made me feel good.”

Performances in the film included a medley of Jackson 5 hits the singer originally performed with his siblings.

Most of the material was intended for Jackson's private use, but it now serves as the last bow of a performer who ruled the pop charts in the 1980s and later retired to a reclusive life amid allegations of child molestation.

The mood at simultaneous premieres around the world Tuesday and Wednesday was tearful yet celebratory. At the Los Angeles premiere near the arena where much of the rehearsal footage was shot, This Is It director and longtime Jackson collaborator Kenny Ortega introduced the film to the audience, calling it the “last sacred documentation of our leader and our friend.”

“It was touching. Well done. It was beautiful,” said Casey Gosh, 24, who was invited to the premiere by a friend. “It told his story. You really felt like you knew him. It was his final performance.”

“I loved seeing him in action again,” said David Montalvo, who saw This Is It in New York. “It's like you were able to see Michael again for the last time, so it was a good chance to say goodbye to him.”

The footage revealed just how elaborate and demanding Jackson's comeback run of 50 planned concerts last July would have been. One segment showed how Jackson would have made a grand stage entrance inside a mechanical spider. Another, intended as a 3-D film accompaniment on Thriller, featured an expansive graveyard set.

“We thought it was excellent. The concert we never saw,” said Marilyn Morrison, who also saw the film in New York. “Just seeing all the moves, his original moves, just seeing him doing them again. Just wonderful.”

Early reaction from critics was equally positive. Matt Soergel of The Florida Times of Jacksonville calls it an “exuberant, astonishingly entertaining concert film.”

“Looks like the world has missed one helluva concert,” writes Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter. And Nekesa Mumbi Moody of The Associated Press said, “The amazing performances Jackson delivers in this film are not a result of camera magic, but Jackson's own.”

The film already was getting repeat business. Gina Meconi and a friend attended the Los Angeles premiere then went to one of the first public screenings at the new adjacent Regal theatre.

“I had tickets for this anyway, so I said let's go see it again,” Meconi said. “It was awesome. I loved it. I thought it was going to be sadder, but it wasn't sad at all.”

Elizabeth Gonzales slept outside overnight to buy tickets to see the film at the Regal. Wearing a fedora, a spangled glove and a red leather jacket a'la Beat It, she said the movie was worth the wait.

“I thought it was great,” the 19-year-old said. “People were clapping, screaming. It was crazy. It's like he's still alive. People still scream for him. His music is still alive.”

Before the Los Angeles premiere, Ortega wiped away tears as he greeted dancers and celebrity guests, including Paula Abdul. Among others attending were Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton, Neil Patrick Harris, Katy Perry and Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr.

Said Abdul afterward: “It was beautiful. It was sad. It brought you closer to who he was as a person.”

It was the biggest cinematic blowout ever for a music film as This Is It opened for paying customers immediately after the premieres, with evening and midnight screenings in North America to middle-of-the-night and morning showings in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.

Distributor Sony, which paid $60-million for the film rights, opened This Is It in 99 countries. It expands to 110 territories this weekend.

“I was tossing and turning with nervous feelings all night. Michael Jackson is a hero in my life, and I cannot wait to see the final shot of Michael,” said Noh Kyeong-ae, a 34-year-old accountant, sobbing at a movie theatre in Seoul, South Korea.

The simultaneous showings around the globe were anchored by a star-studded premiere at the Nokia Theatre, a concert venue across the street from Staples Center, where many of Jackson's rehearsals — and his high-profile public memorial — were held.

The plaza in front of the Nokia Theatre was transformed into an elegant red-carpet arrivals area, with a dozen crystal chandeliers, displays of Jackson's past costumes and “This Is It” spelled out in giant letters.

Jackson memorabilia was on sale inside, from T-shirts proclaiming “I Love MJ” to key rings reading “King of Pop.”

The film captures Jackson dressed with customary flamboyance, his fashion flourishes including military epaulets, sequins and gold-spangled pants.

Jackson backup dancer Misha Gabriel said the film is “such an honest and raw look at the creative process that at times it makes me think that maybe he wouldn't want people to see so much of the creative process before it was finalized. But I think that's the beauty of the film.”

“It's Michael becoming great, perfecting his perfection, if that makes sense,” said fellow dancer Nick Bass.

Some of Jackson's family and friends saw This Is It in advance. Elizabeth Taylor, a longtime friend of the pop star, posted her thoughts Monday on Twitter.

“It is the single most brilliant piece of filmmaking I have ever seen,” she wrote. “It cements forever Michael's genius in every aspect of creativity.”

The 77-year-old actress added that she “wept from pure joy at his God-given gift” and urged her fans to see the film “again and again.”

Clocking in at one hour, 51 minutes, the film was culled from more than 100 hours of footage that captures Jackson as a showman, a mentor coaching backup talent and a goodwill ambassador.

Near the film's end, Jackson and the crew hold hands as he gives them a pep talk about the London shows.

“It's a great adventure,” Jackson tells his colleagues. “We want to take them places they've never been before. We have to bring love back into the world.”

Your Very Own Haunted House

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(October 28, 2009) Wanna see something really scary? ... Then don't leave the house.

I don't know about you, but in my experience, scary stuff is invariably scarier to watch alone at home on TV than it is in a crowded movie theatre.

(I mean, who among us was not scarred for life the first time we saw The Wizard Of Oz's Wicked Witch appear in a puff of flame and smoke – right there, in the safety and sanctity of our own homes. Who could ever feel safe again?)

There is in fact research to support my theory: studies by the U of T's McLuhan Program suggest the brain has a more visceral, less linear reaction to the light projected from the home set than the reflected light of a movie screen.

At the same time, there is something to be said for the communal thrill of a group gross-out at the local bijou duplex. And then of course there's the quintessential en masse movie experience, a boisterous Halloween audience-participation screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, also airing on TV this year in remastered high definition, on CTV Saturday night at 9.

Released in just a couple of theatres in 1975, Rocky Horror went on to become a cult classic midnight movie staple, the longest uninterrupted run of a single film ever. Along the way it has evolved its own audience enhancement of choreographed cat-calls and participatory props.

Though this stuff does tend to suffer in the transition to the home screen – not to mention having to clean up all that toast and rice afterward – it does present an opportunity to appreciate the true merits of this irresistibly irreverent combination of rock, schlock and shock.

Stay up till 1:30 a.m. and then switch over to TVO for the second half of the ultimate monster musical double bill, Brian DePalma's Phantom of the Paradise.

On the other hand, if you've entirely given up on the idea of getting any sleep at all, there's always the unexpurgated The Exorcist an hour later on CBC, Carnival of Souls on Space at 3:15, or the original Night of the Living Dead, at 2 on ABC and again at 4 a.m. on SUN TV.

So it isn't all fun and games this Halloween week, and plenty of opportunities to snuggle up under a blanket with our loved ones and dig our fingernails into each other's arms.

You can get a head start Wednesday with one of the great unsung exploitation flicks of all time, and the best drive-in movie ever made, Peter Bogdanovich's 1968 thriller Targets, at 8 p.m. on TCM.

Bogdanovich, directing a Samuel Fuller script, also co-stars as an aspiring young filmmaker trying to talk an aging horror star – played by aging horror star Boris Karloff in one of his final films – into one last public appearance at a local drive-in.

It is there that the story intersects with the movie's harrowing secondary plot thread, and a sociopath sniper perched atop the drive-in screen, picking off patrons with a high-powered rifle ...

Of course, psycho killers don't come any more psychotic than Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter, and he's all over the place this week, with Silence of the Lambs screening Friday night at 9 on W, Saturday at midnight on WGN and Sunday afternoon at 3:30 on WPIX.

Or go with the master of the macabre, Stephen King, with Carrie Wednesday night at 9 on E!, and The Shining on AMC late Saturday night starting at 12:45 a.m.

With the sixth Saw just out in theatres, you might want to reacquaint yourself with the first three in the series, running hack-to-hack on Showcase Action Saturday night at 9, 11:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

DUSK (formerly Scream) double-bills the 2005 Amityville Horror remake with the 1979 original, Friday night at 9 and 11 – both incidentally starring Canadians, Ryan Reynolds and Margot Kidder, respectively. Kidder herself hosts a 30th-anniversary screening over on AMC, starting a half-hour earlier, 10:30 on Friday night.

For the literal-minded, there is of course the original 1978 Halloween, the movie, screening Saturday at noon and 6 p.m. on AMC.

Halloween II is on SUN TV Wednesday night at 8 and Space Saturday at 11:05, where it is followed by Halloween III: Season of the Witch at 1:05 a.m.

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers is on AMC Wednesday at 4 p.m. with Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers following at 6.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later is on IFC Saturday at 7 p.m. (with a 2 a.m. repeat).

Oh, and don't be alarmed by that thumping noise you hear outside the house ... it's just the neighbourhood children. Give them candy and they'll go away.

Rob Salem, the Star's TV columnist, will be watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. on YTV and at 8 on ABC). He will spend the rest of Halloween week hiding under his bed. Email: rsalem@thestar.ca

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber Diagnosed With Cancer

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 25, 2009) LONDON–Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, his spokeswoman said Sunday.

The 61-year-old Lloyd Webber's condition is in its early stages, a statement from his publicists said.

"Andrew is now undergoing treatment and expects to be fully back at work before the end of the year," the statement said.

Lloyd Webber recently announced plans for a sequel to his phenomenally successful musical Phantom of the Opera. Called Love Never Dies, it is scheduled to open in London in March and follow on Broadway in November. Rehearsals begin in the new year.

At a media event for the new musical earlier this month, Lloyd Webber said that while the story picks up where Phantom left off, he doesn't regard it as a sequel – "it's a stand-alone piece.''

But Lloyd Webber said he was inspired to write the musical because "there's unfinished business.''

In Love Never Dies, the Phantom leaves Paris for Coney Island at the turn of the century, which Lloyd Webber said was like Las Vegas "and then triple it.''

Producers say the original Phantom has been seen by more than 100 million people around the world. In September, it became the longest-running show in Broadway history, brushing aside Lloyd Webber's Cats.

Lloyd Webber's other musical hits have included Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita. He owns several theatres in London's famous West End.

According to his website, Lloyd Webber has won seven Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe and an Oscar. In 2006, he was awarded the Kennedy Center Honor.

Lloyd Webber was knighted in 1992 and named to Britain's House of Lords in 1997.


Extended Jazz Fest Aimed To Increase Tourist Arrivals

Source: Jamaica Gleaner Online
- Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

(October 28, 2009) Walter Elmore, CEO of TurnKey Productions, producers of the annual Jamaica Jazz
and Blues Festival, says next year's show may be the most challenging since it was first held in 1996.

The 2010 event runs from January 24-30, three days longer than previous years. The Rose Hall Aqueduct in St James is again its main location, but smaller venues have been added to win new fans.

"Two years ago, we had 4,000 to 5,000 hotel rooms near the festival to fill - next year we'll have double that amount. Looking at that, we have gone the way of St Lucia," Elmore told The Gleaner.

The St Lucia Jazz Festival is arguably the best known of the Caribbean's pop/jazz festivals. Unlike its Jamaican counterpart, its dates are held in several venues across the island.

Growing tourism

Elmore says the longer itinerary is a reach-out to a growing tourism market.

"We're looking to expand into Canada and the United Kingdom. We find that people from those countries usually spend more than a week here. It's important we keep them entertained," Elmore explained.

The Jamaica Tourist Board cites Canada as its most resurgent region, while the UK accounts for most visitors from Europe.

Elmore says the new-look Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival will move to laid-back locations like Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios and five-star hotels in Montego Bay.

Reggae singer Maxi Priest will perform at Dunn's River and Cornwall Beach in Montego Bay, both leading cruise ship stops. Cuban-American singer, Jon Secada, and smooth jazz pioneer, Roy Ayers, are also down to perform more than once, at the Iberostar and Sunset hotels in Montego Bay, as well as on the main bill at Rose Hall.

Hall and Oates, one of the biggest names in 1980s pop music, and Academy Award-winning singer/actress, Jennifer Hudson, are headliners for the show.

Rhythm and blues singer, Billy Ocean, Jamaican jazz pianist, Monty Alexander, and reggae band Third World, are also on the Aqueduct roster.

Different launches

The Jamaica Jazz Festival has had launches in New York City and Toronto, Canada. Next week, producers will be in London for another launch, at the World Travel Market.

Elmore said this year's festival cost US$2 million to stage. That included a US$500,000 boost from the Government, a gesture that was criticised by the Opposition People's National Party and promoters of smaller events like the Ocho Rios International Jazz Festival.

Elmore could not say how much the 2010 show would cost.


Rodney Jerkins' Plate Is Full

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 26, 2009) “There is a certain groove, there is a certain melodic-ness to Janet and you have to be able to capture that. Also, Janet writes. A lot of the hits that happened in the past, Janet was heavily involved in the writing process. And if you look on her last three records, she didn’t write at all. So that’s the first thing I did with her. I gave her a pen and a pad and said, ‘We’re going back to the roots. I want you involved; I want to see how you feel.”

*Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer
Rodney Jerkins has created hits and hot tracks for the likes of Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Toni Braxton, Beyonce, and the King of Pop Michael Jackson. With a roster of megastar alliances such as this, Jerkins might have every right to arrogant, but he lives his life quite to the contrary.

The super producer might have simultaneous hits, but he takes it one day at a time, as one of the most sought after music producers around. He’s finished up a track with Mary J. Blige and Drake that is not only a hit, but the AT&T commercial soundtrack and he’s currently putting the finishing touches on a track with the sister of one of his greatest music collabo partners, Janet Jackson.

“Janet is coming out with a greatest hits album. It’s due this winter for Christmas,” Jenkins revealed. He produced the single “Make Me” for the new album.

“It’s fun. We did it focusing on her fans,” he said of the track. “We weren’t trying to make a record that’s going to compete with Rihanna or Beyonce; it really is a gift for her fans. We just really wanted to tap into her fanbase, and for me – being a fan – that made it easy for me.”

Jerkins commented that while Jackson had a great chemistry with producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, new music from the pop star will more than likely not be Jam & Lewis dominated.

“They were taking her in a different direction, but it wasn’t iconic,” Jerkins said of the famous duo. “There is a certain groove, there is a certain melodic-ness to Janet and you have to be able to capture that. Also, Janet writes. A lot of the hits that happened in the past, Janet was heavily involved in the writing process. And if you look on her last three records, she didn’t write at all. So that’s the first thing I did with her. I gave her a pen and a pad and said, ‘We’re going back to the roots. I want you involved; I want to see how you feel.”

Like we said, the new Jerkins/Jackson track is title “Make Me.” The two-disc greatest hits album, titled “Number Ones,” will include 33 classic hits ranging from "Control" to "Discipline” and is scheduled to be released mid-November.

As he mentioned, Jerkins has been a fan of Janet Jackson for some time; since her days as Penny on the 1970s television show “Good Times,” but the musician told EUR’s Lee Bailey, he considered himself both a huge fan and a close friend of Michael Jackson, who died this past summer.

“It was definitely a sad experience,” he said in learning of and dealing with Jackson’s passing. “We miss Michael as the superstar icon that we know him to be. I miss Michael as a friend. I cherish all the moments that I had a chance to spend with him. I can remember every single moment that I had with him and getting to know him as a person outside the music. Music was a big part of him as a person, but I learned a lot from working with Michael.”

Jerkins said that he has to keep reminding himself not to dwell on the fact that the superstar has passed, but that his music must be celebrated all over the world.

“We have to celebrate the music that he left us. He left us with the best music ever. It’s not every day that someone comes along and is able to make music that can impact the world and impact generations,” he said.

Plus, as Jerkins revealed, there is a lot more Michael Jackson music that the world hasn’t heard that the producer thinks will catapult Jackson’s legacy even further.

“There are so many records that Michael broke, but there were so many more goals that he had. I would always say, ‘Wow, how is it that this man stays so hungry with all that he’s accomplished?’ I knew some of those goals and now I think he’s going to shatter some of their goals. It’s sad that he won’t be here to celebrate it.”

Of the projects archived that he worked on with Jackson, Jerkins simply promised that they will be released in time.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to rush. Michael’s legacy is forever. In due time, some of that music will be heard. It’s exciting to know that there is new music to look forward to.”

In the meantime, new music and a new act that Jerkins is working with are making a big splash on the music scene. Newcomer Verse Simmonds, who is signed to Jerkins Interscope/Darkchild record label, is all the buzz with his debut hit “Buy You A Round.”

“I’m really excited about him. When you work with everybody you’re always thinking, ‘Who am I going to work with next?” I’ve always had success with female artists. I only had one #1 record with a male artist and that was Michael Jackson. And then this guy comes across my desk and I’m just excited about him,” Jerkins said.

More on award-winning producer Rodney Jerkins and his new projects in Part II. Also, check his website (www.darkchild.com/). And for more info on Verse Simmonds, and to hear his music, check www.versesimmonds.com.

Centric Presents: 2009 Soul Train Awards Show

Source: BET Networks / Centric (via PRNewswire)

(October 23, 2009) *NEW YORK -- CENTRIC announces a prestigious list of nominees to be recognized in the Network's first special, Centric Presents: 2009 Soul Train Awards Show.

Grammy Award-winner Beyonce, R&B diva Keri Hilson, and soulful crooner Maxwell lead the pack with four nominations each.

Hosted by Academy Award-nominated actors Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, the return of the Soul Train Awards promises to be a soulful music event acknowledging R&B music's finest.

Taping at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday, November 3, the show will premiere on both CENTRIC and BET in a special simulcast on Sunday, November 29 at 9pm (E/P).

The show will honour the longstanding careers and musical influences of legendary artists Chaka Khan, Charlie Wilson, L.A. Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds in special music tributes. The special will also showcase a Motown Records 50th Anniversary musical celebration. The show
will also recognize the outstanding musical work of selected artists in ten prestigious music categories and will honour the phenomenal star power and showmanship of the late Michael Jackson with the special Entertainer of the Year Award.

Featuring a star-studded line-up of performers, including Toni Braxton, Trey Songz, Erykah Badu, Robin Thicke, Fantasia, Ryan Leslie, Chrisette Michelle, Raheem DeVaughn, Karyn White, Boyz II Men, Ledisi, Chico Debarge, Angie Stone, Brian McKnight, Ginuwine, Melanie Fiona, and Johnny Gill among others, the show is guaranteed to take viewers on a soul-stirring ride.

The CENTRIC PRESENTS: 2009 SOUL TRAIN AWARDS brings the Love, Peace and Soul
with an unforgettable evening showcasing the present and future to celebrate the past.

The following is a complete list of nominees and categories for the CENTRIC PRESENTS: 2009 SOUL TRAIN AWARDS:

--  Drake
--  Jazmine Sullivan
--  Keri Hilson
--  Ryan Leslie
--  Solange

A Year Of Tragedy And Triumph For Jennifer Hudson

By Sophia Tareen, Associated Press

(October 26, 2009)
CHICAGO – In the year since three members of her family were brutally killed in Chicago, Grammy and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson has found ways to heal and start a new life.

And it appears the 28-year-old is happy again.

The actress and singer has gushed over her role as a new mother. She has started going out again, including an appearance at a New York gala just days ago. And she's poured herself into her work, from a gospel-tinged rendition of the national anthem at the Super Bowl months after the slayings to a "VH1 Divas" concert in New York last month.

Now she is set to return to Chicago in a few weeks to film an ABC prime-time special in which she'll share memories of her childhood Christmases in her old neighbourhood and the church where she started singing.

It will be a bittersweet journey as she films "Jennifer Hudson: I'll Be Home for Christmas," which is scheduled to air in December.

A year ago, just as her career was really taking off with roles in movies like "Sex and the City" and "The Secret Life of Bees," Hudson had to return home for the worst reason possible.

On Oct. 24, 2008, the bodies of her mother, Darnell Hudson Donerson, 57, and brother, Jason Hudson, 29, were found in the family's home on the city's South Side. The body of her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, was found days later in a sport utility vehicle on the city's West Side, just over 10 miles away. All three had been shot.

Hudson has repeatedly declined to talk about publicly about the killings. She and her publicist declined interview requests from The Associated Press.

"She's heartbroken," said Bob Israel, 40, who was friends with Jason Hudson and lives near the Hudsons' Chicago home. "They were a close-knit family."

William Balfour, the estranged husband of Jennifer Hudson's sister, Julia, was charged with first-degree murder in the killings. Prosecutors alleged Balfour killed them in a jealous rage because he was upset Julia Hudson was dating another man.

Balfour pleaded not guilty and remains jailed. Several calls to his public defender were not returned.

The following days were tumultuous for Jennifer Hudson, including a trip to the Cook County medical examiner's office to identify King's body.

A picture of the cherub-faced boy, nicknamed "Juice Box," was posted on Hudson's MySpace page after the killings and has remained there.

"I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time," she wrote on her MySpace blog. "My sister and I take great comfort and strength from your love and concern."

After the funeral and a star-studded memorial service, Hudson, who won her an Oscar in 2007 for her supporting role in "Dreamgirls," spent the next few months away from the public eye.

By February, she had launched back into work, filming a video for "If This Isn't Love," followed by the Super Bowl performance and a Grammy win for best R&B album for her self-titled debut CD.

Hudson, who first gained fame as a finalist on "American Idol" in 2004, returned to Chicago last month to perform "Spotlight" for "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

"It feels good to be home," Hudson told the crowd on Chicago's Magnificent Mile.

The trip garnered the respect of many, including residents in Englewood, one of the city's most troubled neighbourhoods where Hudson grew up.

"People look up to her," said Aaron Wright, 38, who lives in Englewood. "Even in tragedy, you still come home and represent where you come from. For her to come back home, that gave everybody else strength."

These days, Jennifer Hudson is focusing on her son, David, named after her fiancé Daniel David Otunga.

Hudson recently talked with reporters about her son, saying she's looking forward to seeing "who he becomes, who he takes after, what he decides to do, if he'll sing."

Violinist Lara St. John Keeps Herself Guessing

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(October 22, 2009) Violinist Lara St. John may have spent most of her adult life outside Canada, but there are some things a London, Ont., native can't shake.

"Do you know that there are 15 Tim Hortons in Manhattan now?" she says from her apartment in the Big Apple. Last time she walked past the doughnut-and-coffee outpost in Pennsylvania Station, there was a long line-up, she adds with a note of pride in her voice.

She wishes there were a Roots store in her adopted city. Instead, she'll have to do her shopping in Toronto over the next few days.

St. John is in town for a concert Friday night with the all-string Sinfonia Toronto at the Glenn Gould Studio.

The program will allow the 38-year-old to show off her wide-ranging repertoire, including Ralph Vaughan Williams' lovely "Lark Ascending," and Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla's tango-suffused "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires."

Music director Nurhan Arman has rounded out the program with a string-orchestra arrangement of a quartet by Joseph Haydn and a Serenade by Peter Ilytch Tchaikovsky.

On Oct.30, St. John performs the Violin Concerto by Wolfgang Korngold with the Stratford Symphony Orchestra.

In between, she'll visit her mom in London and hopes to hook up with Venezuela's Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra during their Glenn Gould Prize residency in Toronto next week.

It's all part of an incredible professional career that began more than a quarter-century ago. St. John has mastered all the great concertos of the violin world, while tirelessly exploring new musical possibilities. She even founded her own label, Ancalagon Records, in 2000, giving her the freedom to pick her own material.

An ideal example is her most recent album, made with 22 members of the Simón Bolívar orchestra. It pairs the Piazzolla piece from Friday's program with the always-popular Baroque-era Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi.

"You know, because everyone wants to hear the Vivaldi, some orchestras get very jaded. But, playing it with the Bolívar, there was so much energy. I really enjoyed that," she says.

The recording sessions were so tight that she had only an afternoon to go to the outskirts of Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, to see children learning music in the state-sponsored "El Sistema" program But seeing the progress the young people make from kindergarten through high school impressed her.

"It's the first time I've ever seen a miniature tuba," she says of the smaller-scale instruments the younger children learn on.

The violinist says she is returning to Venezuela to perform next year. This season, she is alternating symphonic music with smaller-scale gigs. She kicked things off last month at Brooklyn's intriguing Poisson Rouge, a club that has become a destination for alternative classical programming.

There, she played with her mates from the three-month-old album Polkastra, which has fun with central European party music.

St. John enjoys the variety. "It's unpredictable, but that's nice," she says.

"There are some performers who travel playing the same two concertos over and over again. If I had to do that, I think I'd shoot myself," she declares. "Change is always a good thing."

A Bright And Sunshiny Dusk

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Good News
Matt Dusk

(October 26, 2009) Matt Dusk walks into a bar. Bartender says, “Hey, Matt Dusk, you with the new album and everything, what'll it be, two shots of happy and one shot of sad?” Dusk says, “That's right, Mac, but hold the sad, will ya?” “Sure thing, pretty boy,” the barkeep answers with a smile, “sure thing.”

Yep, Dusk is in a sunshine way. Good News , which follows up 2006's Back in Town and 2004's Two Shots (with the U2-written hit single Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad ), is upbeat pop, often with gang-vocal choruses and ripe with sing-along possibilities. Where fellow Canadian crooner Michael Bublé just released his Crazy Love breakup album (which includes a cover of the Eagles' Heartache Tonight ), Dusk is singing cheerful songs entitled Feels Good and such.

The other difference between the oft-compared singers is that Bublé sells records like crazy and he shaves his face every day. (Just saying, Matt, just saying.) Fans of ole dinner-party Dusk are to be baffled by his transformation from a Sinatra-loving vocal jazz artist to blatant pop singer. The lush title track sweeps with radio-friendly majesty, adds a minor-key middle eight and closes with “la la-la-la la” background chirping as the Dusker explains his happy vibe, “It's like singing along to your favourite song.”

You might sing along to the hummable Wouldn't Change a Thing or the unstoppable On Vacation , which demands call-and-response participation.

Apparently the Toronto crooner earned air miles searching for radio hits in other countries, stuffing them in his luggage for his own record. Or at least that's the story. He wouldn't have had to clear customs to use Britney Spears's Womanizer as a template for the electro-popping (Under) Love Attack , which he co-wrote. And Love, Don't Let Me Go is a bold-faced theft of the Ron Sexsmith manner, though Sexsmith would never stoop to a banal couplet like “Love, leave me in the dark/ and I will fall apart/ and it will break my heart.”

The album is often formulaic, with standard tricks used: the fake record-hiss intro on the syrupy and catchy ballad It's Not That Easy ; the compressed sound; the lo-fi vocal asides; the ELO-backing vocals; and the “hidden-track” thing.

That album-closing secreted track is Arlen and Mercer's melancholic bar-closer One for My Baby (And One More for the Road) . One for the road, sure thing. Good News is a live-audience pleaser, full of ear candy and “one-more-time” refrains. And hey, who wouldn't want to drink to that?

Matt Dusk's national tour begins at Regina's Regina Casino on Nov. 7 and closes with an outdoor performance at Toronto's Cavalcade of Lights on Nov. 28.

Venezuelan Youth Orchestra's Special Musicmaking Begins With 'We' Instead Of 'I'

Source: www.thestar.com

(October 27, 2009) It was one of those occasions when the pros wanted to be there as much as fans.

Normally a quiet, reserved man, conductor Ivars Taurins -- best known in Toronto as the director of the Tafelmusik Chamber Choir -- couldn't stop smiling at intermission. He looked like he was floating on air.

He had brought some of his conducting students to the afternoon rehearsal. His big revelation was how everyone in the orchestra appeared to know exactly where they fit into the larger structure of a piece. If a woodwind needed a moment of correction, the strings knew exactly where this was happening relative to their parts.

"It's a very 18th century approach to orchestral playing," beamed Taurins of the organic, communal nature of the performance.

This is the operational mirror of José Antonio Abreu's philosophy behind Venezuela's El Sistema: that people can change their lives through (to use 1990s management-speke, not Abreu's words) goal-oriented, team-based approach that puts the we ahead of the I.

Not that these kids don't need occasional reminders from someone in charge.

At yesterday's rehearsal, maestro Gustavo Dudamel had to focus the 200-plus teens and 20-somethings on stage. Tired from travel and (hopefully) excited to the in Canada for the first time, they were noticeably scattered when they assembled at the start of the rehearsal.

At one point, Dudamel stopped the music and reminded them how each musician's "mentality" -- mental attitude, thoughts, concentration -- affects the sound of their instrument and, hence, the sound of the whole orchestra.

Assuming that the technical side of the performance is taken care of, harmonizing the mysterious link between what's going on inside of our heads and what comes out from our mouth or fingers when we play is the key to making great music. It doesn't matter how old you are, which country you're from, or how well-paid you are for being on that stage. This is why a great symphony orchestra will sound lame when they are not inspired by their conductor, and why a great one will make them sound noticeably better.

Here is a full-size treat: San Francisco violinist Richard Biaggini performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the
Simón Bolivár Youth Orchestra in 2007:

Dudamel's Young Magician-Musicians

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(October 27, 2009) The phenomena that have bowled over jaded big-city audiences in Europe and the United States have arrived in Canada – and wasted no time in winning over patrons at the Four Seasons Centre Monday.

The 28-year-old Venezuelan superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the country's
Simón Bolivár Youth Symphony made their Canadian debut at the behest of the Glenn Gould Foundation. Monday night, it presented José Antonio Abreu with the triennial Glenn Gould Prize to recognize his remarkable, 35-year history of building "El Sistema," which brings music to all corners of Venezuela.

Abreu is taking his $50,000 award in the form of $150,000 worth of Yamaha instruments, which will be distributed to the more than 200 government-funded Venezuelan music centres that provide self-empowerment through music to a quarter-million young people every year.

Also Monday night, Dudamel, whose latest triumph is in becoming the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, received a companion protégé prize from Toronto Mayor David Miller.

But the real excitement was the music. Before dispersing to schools and community centres Tuesday, the 250-member orchestra treated the house to a selection of 20th century pieces by Latin American composers, as well as Peter Ilytch Tchaikovsky's massively melodramatic Symphony No. 4.

Without ever resorting to a printed score, Dudamel coaxed every snappy rhythm and a full, blazing rainbow of colour out of the young players, who range in age from the late teens to early 20s.

You would expect these musicians to have Latin rhythms in their blood. But the magic they wrought with the well-worn Tchaikovsky piece was remarkable. Even quiet passages took flight as Dudamel punched up rhythmic counterpoint as much as harmonic.

An unintentional star was the opera house itself. Its rich, responsive acoustics made the most of the musicianship. The stage was fitted with the acoustical shell from the Canadian Opera Company's current production of The Nightingale and Other Fables, turning this into Toronto's finest large concert hall.

Music critics don't usually go to pre-concert rehearsals, but, on Monday, I couldn't resist going to see how this magic is created.

Part of Dudamel's secret is in knowing each and every note, being able to pinpoint problems and solve them quickly. He has an easy, collegial rapport with his fellow graduates of El Sistema.

He has an unassuming grace on the podium that belies an iron command of the music and a laserlike ability to get his point across to the furthest reaches of his band.

As for the orchestra itself, it is a potent example on how a bunch of ordinary kids can make some extraordinary music. That is, in the end, what the Glenn Gould Award celebrates: Any child, from any background, anywhere in the world, can make beautiful music, if given the opportunity.

Neo-Soul's Rahsaan Patterson's World Tour Comes To An End In Detroit

www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley

(October 22, 2009) *Rahsaan Patterson started in the entertainment business on the kids television show “Kids Incorporated” with Fergie, Mario Lopez and Shanice and then he later worked as a background singer for such artists as Brandy (“Baby”) and Tevin Campbell (“Back to the World”). He later signed to MCA Records and released his self-titled debut in 1997. His next release was “Love in Stereo” in 1999.

He later contributed to the soundtrack of “Brown Sugar” and in 2004 released “After Hours” on his own label Artistry Music. In 2007 he released “Wines and Spirits” and in 2008 he released “The Ultimate Gift.” Through it all he collaborated on projects for such artists as Ledisi, Jodi Whatley, Chico DeBarge and Brian Culbertson.

“I sing background, write and occasionally produce, “Rahsaan Patterson said about his work with other artists. “My 2007 release has been sustaining my live performances for two years.”

Rahsaan said he enjoys performing live in fact, his world tour will finally be ending December 30, 2009 in Detroit. He recently performed near my home town of Baltimore in Annapolis at the Rams Head.

“I enjoyed performing there. I love Annapolis,” Patterson said. “Last Christmas was the first time I performed at the Rams Head. I heard about it from a friend, LaLah Hathaway.”

To date Rahsaan Patterson has sold over 10 million albums and has received a 2008 BETJ Virtual Award and was honoured as the 2007 SoulTracks Artist of the Year. His single off of his “Wine and Spirits” CD, “Stop Breaking My Heart,” entered Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart as the Hot Shot Debut and the highest ranking debut of that week. On the Adult R&B Chart the single remained in the top 20 position for several months, an amazing accomplishment for an independent artist (and label).

For more in Rahsaan Patterson log onto www.Rahsaan.com and www.MySpace.com/Rahspace

Stellar Award nominated singer/songwriter Tarralyn Ramsey releases 'Beyond the Darkness'

When I first listened to Gospel singer/songwriter Tarralyn Ramsey's “Beyond the Darkness” release her voice immediately reminded me of a combination of Deborah Cox and Whitney Houston.

“Recently I have been getting the comparison to Deborah Cox,” Tarralyn Ramsey admitted to me when I said her vocals were reminiscent of those talent ladies. “My nick-name is Lil' Whitney!”

Well “Lil' Whitney” has an awesome voice and she brings it to us, her third CD, on her own “indie” label Tarprincel Entertainment Group. Her company is not only a label but a publishing, management and production company.

In 2000 Tarralyn started in the music business with a recording deal at Verity/Warner with a self-titled debut which garnered her a Stellar Award nomination. In 2004 she released “Tarralyn” on Casablanca/Universal Records. Ramsey won the VH1 “Born to Diva” Award. Recently she released “Beyond the Darkness” on her label, which is distributed by Central South.

“My distribution company called and said it’s been two-three years,” Tarralyn recalls the reason she went back into the studio after so many years since her last 2004 album. “I kind of got in a place before they called where I couldn't sleep and once the distributer called I got overwhelmed with stress. I remember stepping my foot in the studio and ten songs were done. We were in the studio for five days straight… (We) finished twelve songs in a month!”

Tarralyn told me the gap in CD releases was because she “got burnt out.” Well the wait was worth it because of her passion to the task resulted in a powerful CD. You don't hear allot of instrumentals, which is great because you get to hear her unbelievable vocal ability.

“I don't like a lot of busy production.” Ramsey pointed out.

Tarralyn Ramsey says she hopes her CD touches people in a “dark place” because life can throw you curve balls but “God will change it.”

My favourite songs on this funky soulful Gospel singer's “Beyond the Darkness” CD include “I'll Take Your Trouble,” a sweet testimony of God's love for us; “Glory and Honour,” a great hand clapping Praise and Worship selection; “Wise Men Still Seek Him,” a heart-felt worship song, and “Yes, You Can,” a lovely uplifting anthem for dream seekers.

To hear from the CD or learn more about Tarralyn Ramsey log onto www.TarralynRamsey.com

Rapper Lil Wayne Pleads To Weapons Charge

Source: www.thestar.com -
Jennifer Peltz

(October 22, 2009) NEW YORK–In the midst of a career surge that has made him one of rap's biggest stars, Lil Wayne is bracing for a year behind bars after pleading guilty Thursday in a two-year-old gun case.

A glum Lil Wayne said little as he admitted illegally having a loaded gun on his tour bus in 2007, moving to end a case that had churned along as he collected Grammys and gold records. He's expected to get a year in jail at his sentencing, set for February.

The plea, which came as he boasted the country's No. 1 pop song, makes Lil Wayne the latest in a long line of rappers to face incarceration after topping the charts.

Arguably rap's most popular artist, Lil Wayne sombrely answered his judge's questions with "yes, sir" and "no, sir" as he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of attempted criminal possession of a weapon.

He acknowledged he had a loaded .40-caliber semiautomatic gun when the bus was stopped shortly after a Manhattan concert on July 22, 2007. His lawyer had previously disputed the gun was the rapper's, in part by questioning the reliability of a highly sensitive DNA test that prosecutors said tied him to the weapon.

State Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon warned Lil Wayne that he wouldn't be able later to withdraw the plea, as some people try to do.

"I'm not one of those people," said the rapper, who sat in court in jeans and a hooded parka. He pulled up the hood and didn't speak as he left the courthouse with members of his entourage, who piled into four black SUVs. He's due back in court Dec. 15 before his sentencing date, which has yet to be set.

He had faced at least 3 1/2 years in prison if convicted of the original weapons-possession charges against him.

Lil Wayne, 27, also is scheduled for trial in Arizona in March on felony drug possession and weapons charges stemming from a January 2008 arrest at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

In March, an Atlanta judge dismissed felony drug charges against Lil Wayne. His lawyer had said the rapper wasn't staying in the hotel room where police said the drugs were found in 2006.

Over the past two years, Lil Wayne – born Dwayne Carter – has emerged as the best-selling figure in music. His Tha Carter III topped all album sales in 2008 with 2.8 million copies sold off of such hits as the No. 1 smash "Lollipop." His Grammys include last year's best rap solo performance award, for "A Milli.''

A rapper since he was a teen, Lil Wayne exploded in popularity thanks to his voluminous output on the mixtape circuit and collaborations with other artists. He currently has the No. 1 song in the country with Jay Sean, "Down.''

While his lyrics sometimes are laced with violence, he's more known for clever wordplay and risqué material.

The relationship between chronicling crime and living it has long been an issue in rap. Some of the genre's big names – including Tupac Shakur, Lil' Kim, Beanie Sigel, Shyne, Mystikal and C-Murder – have done a few months to several years behind bars for crimes committed after they became famous.

T.I., another of rap's top sellers, reported to a federal prison in May for his conviction on weapons charges. He's expected to serve a year and a day.

While some rappers haven't regained their chart status after prison or jail, Shakur became even more popular, and T.I. remains popular on the radio.

Police pulled over Lil Wayne's tour bus shortly after it left a concert venue, saying they had seen and smelled marijuana smoke wafting out the door when it was parked.

After ordering roughly a dozen or so other people off the bus, police found a freshly showered Lil Wayne in his boxer shorts in a bedroom at the back of the bus. Police said that as an officer approached, the rapper tossed away a Louis Vuitton bag containing the gun.

The Miami-based rapper wasn't licensed to carry a gun in New York, prosecutors said.

The Manhattan District Attorney's office said small amounts of DNA found on the gun connected it to Lil Wayne. Defence lawyer Stacey Richman had raised questions about the relatively new technique, used to derive the results from DNA samples that can consist of fewer than roughly 16 human cells.

A hearing on the method's level of scientific acceptance started Wednesday and had been expected to continue for days. After Lil Wayne's guilty plea, both prosecutors and Richman stressed that they stood by their contrasting positions on the technique.

But, Solomon said, "The issue is not going to be decided in this courtroom, in this case.''

Meanwhile, another platinum-selling rapper, Ja Rule, still faces gun-possession charges stemming from his separate arrest after playing the same July 2007 show as Lil Wayne. Ja Rule, known to the court as Jeff Atkins, has pleaded not guilty. He has a court date next month.

Rock Musical Coming To Toronto - And You Can Audition

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bruce DeMara

(October 22, 2009) Canadian rockers, warm up your pipes.

An open call will be held next Thursday to begin casting the Broadway musical Rock of Ages, with performances slated to begin on April 27, 2010 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre on King St. W.

As reported in the Star last week, Rock of Ages will have its international debut in Toronto.

The casting call will be held at Estonian House at 958 Broadview Ave., starting at 10 a.m. and it's open to all, including non-professionals.

"Even if you've not been in professional theatre but you're a singer and you sing rock `n' roll, you probably have a better shot than anybody," said David Mirvish of Mirvish Productions, which is co-producing.

The musical opened on Broadway in April and has received five Tony nominations – including Best Musical. It features 30 songs from 80s bands Journey, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Twisted Sister and others.

Landing the musical, which is playing to near-capacity houses in New York City, is a major coup, Mirvish agreed, adding the competition to land the first production outside the U.S. was fierce.

"The people who produce this show are not from the theatre originally... they come from the movie world and they come from L.A. They didn't know us and we had to go in and show them why we would be the right place to come to," Mirvish said.

"I'm glad that Toronto is the place where they're making their first step (outside the U.S.) because unquestionably, this show is going to end up in London, it's going to end up in other cities. They're selling out on Broadway," Mirvish added.

But it was producers Matthew Weaver, Carl Levin and Jeff Davis, who seemed to be wowed about the prospect of bringing their show to the venerable century-old Royal Alex.

"Everyone from Al Jolson to Laurence Olivier has played here and I was like, `oh s---, maybe they didn't see our show.' I started to get really nervous," Weaver said.

"Honestly, we're so excited to be here. You know, we had a lot of options obviously because of the success in New York, so this second production – the first international production – was just super super important and it was just a no-brainer to do it in Toronto and do it with the Mirvishes," he added.

The announcement Thursday, before an audience of Mirvish subscribers, included performances by REO Speedwagon lead singer Kevin Cronin and the Night Rangers and emceeing duties by Twister Sister lead singer Dee Snider.

"The first time I heard that there was a show... dedicated to the music and memories of the 80s, I was actually quite humbled and moved. No, I wasn't. I thought it was about fricking time that somebody recognized the great music and great times of the 80s," said Snider.

"I was really impressed that they not only captured the attitude and the... sex, drugs and rock `n' roll of the 80s but they got that it was fun," Snider added.

Levin said a four-word online review captures the show's spirit: "Mamma Mia for dudes."

"If I did a four-word review, it would be `big dreams, big hair.' I think that's really what I think Rock of Ages is about," Levin said.

Rod Stewart's Saved His Soul For Now

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(October 27, 2009) “I wanted to sound as black as I could,” says the blue-eyed soul singer. “I'd copy guys like Jackie Wilson or James Brown, get a sore throat, come back and start again. In the end, I developed me own style.”

Rod Stewart, yes, you have your own style – American soul singers rarely use the objective personal pronoun “me” in place of the possessive “my.” And now, to go along with his inimitable manner, the 64-year-old song interpreter has his own album of classic soul covers, Soulbook .

“ Once I heard Sam Cooke and Otis, then I said ‘That's what I'm going to do for a living.' ”

In the mid-1960s, the teenaged Stewart – “all mouth and trousers” – could be seen walking about London with a small transistor radio pressed to his ear, listening to the great southern soul stars, whose pleading and bleeding were heard from Radio Luxembourg and the offshore Radio Caroline. The Sam Cookes and Otis Reddings and Motown artists were his gods. He danced to them, romanced to them and cried to them.

But to be one of them, that was a different matter. Speaking about his long-held reluctance to record a full-on soul collection, the pop star talks about the “right set of circumstances” and a record company that believed he could pull it off. But the one who needed convincing was the man who would be pouring his honeyed rasps into the microphone. “My own [lack of] self-confidence, I suppose,” Stewart says from Los Angeles, when asked what was holding him back.

“These were the guys who were quite instrumental in getting me started.” In those days, Stewart was also into blues (Chicago's Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf were idols), but the soul singers were elevated. “Once I heard Sam Cooke and Otis, then I said ‘That's what I'm going to do for a living.'”

Who's Gonna Save Soul Now?

Perhaps the most devastating soul-music performance of this century belongs to the Georgia singer Cee-Lo Green, vocalist half of Gnarls Barkley, whose doleful, desperate 2008 single Who's Gonna Save My Soul concerns the passing of James Brown. “Made me feel like somebody, like somebody else,” Cee-Lo confesses and eulogizes, “Although he was imitated often, it felt like I was bein' myself.” Another line refers to a younger singer's identification with an idol (“all this time, I've lived vicariously”) and the isolation and self-questioning when that hero declines and eventually dies: “Who's gonna save my soul now, how will my story be told now?”

James Brown once called Stewart the greatest white soul singer alive, no small praise from no small judge. If the whole “blue-eyed soul” thing is seen by some to be a back-handed compliment, the recipient of the praise disagrees. “I didn't mind it at all,” says Stewart, whose eyes are in fact brown. “I'll take any compliment wherever I can get it.”

Stewart's blistering vocal on the Jeff Beck Group's Shape of Things in 1968 was a landmark soul-rock performance; his version of Man of Constant Sorrow with Ronnie Wood on 1970's The Rod Stewart Album was hailed by Rolling Stone's Greil Marcus as the “very definition of English soul”; his acclaimed album Every Picture Tells a Story from 1971, which included his breakthrough hit Maggie May, also featured a convincing psychedelic version of the Temptations hit (I Know) I'm Losing You .

Those recordings were initial (giant) steps of an artist who struggled to find his own voice. “When I first started out, I was singing folk music,” says Stewart, whose four late-career Great American Songbook albums of pop and jazz standards have sold more than 19 million copies: “I was listening to Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Woody Guthrie and [banjo player] Derroll Adams.” Eventually he moved away from that, singing Chicago blues, and, later, developed into a storytelling singer-songwriter. His progression was piecemeal, cribbing from (without imitating) the singers he looked up to. “I learned from all the black singers and I picked up a little from [the Who's] Roger Daltrey,” explains Stewart, inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame in 1994. “A little here, a little there.”

Stewart knows about adulation from both directions. He wrestled early on with the impulse to copy his heroes – “I tried to sound like them and dress like them. I wanted to be them” – and he's seen generations of younger singers emulating his own style. “I don't think I want to be quoted as saying who they are,” he says, gentlemanly. “But it's okay. We all learn from somewhere, especially in this business. It's all part of the game.”

The best singers find their own voice, either gradually as Stewart did, or, sometimes, more abruptly. Cee-Lo's Who's Gonna Save My Soul is not all despair. The death of the titan Brown relieved his worshipper of dependence: “Got some bad news this morning, which in turn made my day.” Cee-Lo's freeing realization was that he could be his own hero, that he could save his own soul.

The Same Old Songs

The material of Soulbook covers the pop end of the soul-music spectrum, from Philly-soul ballads ( If You Don't Know Me By Now ), to upbeat love songs (Stevie Wonder's My Cherie Amour , featuring Wonder on harmonica), to duets (with Mary J. Blige on the Stylistics' You Make Me Feel Brand New and, touchingly, Let It Be Me with Jennifer Hudson), to rallying idealist numbers (Cooke's Wonderful World and the O'Jays Love Train ) to early Motown favourites ( It's the Same Old Song ).

Some of the covers are faithful, such as his take on Jimmy Ruffin's brilliantly cheerless What Becomes of the Broken Hearted – “ that one wouldn't bend” – while others ( Tracks of My Tears ) were arranged quite differently than the originals.

Stewart, who doesn't record his own material any longer (his previous album was Still the Same … Great Rock Classics of Our Time ), says he's still learning new tricks. One is heard on (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher , which has the singer lifting his voice higher and higher than ever before. “It's something that's crept into my act in the last year,” chuckles the gruff-voiced Stewart about his unlikely falsetto peaks in the song. “I've always wanted to do it, and I've never been comfortable with it. But it's become natural. It's an improvement.”

And, after all these years, it feels good – just like he knew that it would.

Halloween Channel May Leave You Afraid Of Radio

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Greg Quill

(October 26, 2009) Indulgent parents and Halloween freaksters used to have their work cut out for them around this time of year, rummaging through old recordings and music download sites for appropriately spooky material with which to delight – and horrify – friends, neighbours and tiny trick-or-treaters.

But starting at 10 Monday morning, satellite radio system Sirius Canada is taking the muss and fuss out of compiling Halloween audio accompaniment by launching a specialty
Halloween Radio channel, which will run 24/7 through Nov. 1 at 6 a.m.

Channel 126 will air favourite holiday stories and memories from Sirius hosts Martha Stewart, Cousin Brucie, Jane Pratt, Jay Thomas, Judith Regan and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, among others, as well as classic scary stories, Halloween music, listener comments, stories and fright night memories.

For an extra scare, there will be a special appearance by comedian, actress and commentator Rosie O'Donnell, whose daily morning show premieres on Sirius later this fall.

The creepy atmospherics will be ramped up, Sirius programmers say, Oct.30 from 5 p.m., with dramatically orchestrated sound effects – such as creaking doors, baying wolves, sinister footsteps, bubbling potions, a fog horn, breaking glass, howling wind, eerie screams and a thumping heartbeat – with which to add tone to home and office parties, or the long, chilly walk through a stranger's front yard.

Sirius, available for $14.95 a month plus the cost of a receiver ($100-$130), is featuring Halloween-themed fare on many of its regular channels as well.

If satellite radio is too steep an investment, there's plenty of free specialty Halloween stuff on Internet radio stations, including Boogeyman Radio (horror scores, rock, punk, psychobilly and metal); The NeverEndingWonderHalloween Radio (Halloween novelty songs, old radio shows and comedy); SomaFM Doomed (scary music); AOL Halloween Radio; Halloween Radio; Haunted Radio and Musique Macabre.

Good Sounds Come In Trios

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(October 23, 2009) The Women's Musical Club of Toronto started off its 112th season of five Thursday afternoon concerts with a kick. Here was a stirring musical example of good things coming in threes: Holland's Storioni Trio – violinist Wouter Vossen, brother Marc on cello and Bart van de Roer at the piano – interpreting three great works of the chamber music repertoire.

The three men, who founded their little ensemble in 1995, played with brio and panache, while carefully establishing a clear style for each piece of music they tackled.

They started with a crisply articulated rendition of the G Major Piano Trio No. 6 (KV. 564) by Mozart. Published in 1790, it is one of the prime examples of early chamber music, where each instrument in the ensemble gets equal weight. The Storionis took this to heart, drawing clear lines from instrument to instrument in elegant arcs.

The Op. 70 "Ghost" Trio by Beethoven, which came along 18 years later, is a study in contrasting moods. Here, the Dutch musicians focused on depth rather than on highlighting the technical challenges in the music. The lugubrious second movement was a highlight, as the trio slowly drew out small rays of sunshine from the shadows. They did it with such deliberation that, at times, the music, and time, stood still in the recital hall.

The performance at the University of Toronto's Walter Hall closed with the wafts and waves of Maurice Ravel's voluptuous A minor Piano Trio, which dates from 1914. Although there were probably more wrong notes than usual from the piano, the overall effect was magical. It proved yet again that being note-perfect doesn't count for everything in the emotional impact of a live performance.

The Women's Musical Club, whose concerts are usually sold out in advance, has a long history of picking up great talents in chamber music that Torontonians may not have heard before. Thursday's outing was a prime example.

Like Toronto's Gryphon Trio, the Storioni Trio, named after Wouter Vossen's priceless 1794 violin, runs a chamber music festival at home and champions new music. It would be great to have them back in town sometime soon so we can appreciate even more of their wide-ranging talents.

A Triumphant Opener For Mendelssohn Choir

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(October 26, 2009) The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's season has begun the same way the first one did 115 years ago: by singing in a brand new venue. It's hard to imagine that its Massey Hall debut could have been any better than its performance of George Frideric Handel's oratorio Israel in Egypt at Koerner Hall on Saturday night.

It was an odd combination of forces: a small, Baroque-size modern orchestra of 29 backing up the massive, Victorian-size choir of more than 150. But music director Noel Edison succeeded in teasing out the full texture of the instrumental score, balancing it perfectly against the impeccably prepared voices.

There isn't much work for soloists to do in this unusual oratorio, but what we did hear was up to the same high standard, thanks to sopranos Suzie LeBlanc and Sheila Dietrich, countertenor David Trudgen, tenor James McLennan and bass-baritones Thomas Goertz and Neil Aronoff.

Handel's setting of the Old Testament tribulations and salvation of the Israelites has pain, pathos and gratitude flowing from every note and is a masterpiece of musical drama. But it wasn't born that way. The first performance of Israel in Egypt, in 1739, was a flop. The London audience was used to opera, and didn't know what to make of the work. The composer, who wrote Messiah two years later, made several cuts and changes, including adding extra arias for soloists. Handel eventually gave up on the oratorio, but the final, short-and-snappy version we heard Saturday is a showcase of everything he could do.

By the end of the 19th century, Israel in Egypt was almost as popular as Messiah. And the Mendelssohn Choir gave it – and the Royal Conservatory's magnificent new concert hall – its full due.


U2 returns to Toronto July 3

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Marc Saltzman

(October 26, 2009) More U2 shows are on the horizon for North American fans. With their current tour set to wrap up on Wednesday in Vancouver, the Irish rockers have announced another stadium trek in 2010. The band will hit Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium on June 23 and Toronto's Rogers Centre on July 3. U2 will also perform in Montreal on July 16, with the venue still to be determined. The band is touring in support of "No Line on the Horizon," which has been certified double platinum in Canada since its February release. Tickets go on sale for the shows in Toronto and Edmonton on Nov. 2.

Corinne Bailey Rae Sets Album Release Date

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 23, 2009) *
Corinne Bailey Rae is looking to move on from recent tragedy with the release of her new album "The Sea" on Feb. 2, it was announced Thursday.    The British singer, 30, whose husband Jason was found dead in March 2008, has spoken of how she has channelled her grief into some of the new songs.    "I hope you guys will like it and be into it," she says in a video on her Web site. The artist also says she co-produced the new record and promises "some hints" of the new work and behind-the-scenes footage will be posted to the site.    Prior to the February release of her album, she will perform some new shows in the U.S., as well as a Nov. 23 London concert, People reported.

Madonna Launches Girls School In Malawi

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 26, 2009)  *Taking a page right out of Oprah Winfrey's handbook,
Madonna has returned to the African country of her two of adopted children to oversee the launch of a girls school she is building through her African charity.   An official for Madonna's Raising Malawi organization says the star arrived Sunday afternoon in the tiny impoverished country accompanied by all four of her children — her daughters Lourdes and Mercy, and sons Rocco and David.  The Material Girl adopted the Malawian-born Mercy this year after she adopted David in 2008.    The official said Madonna would take part in a groundbreaking ceremony for the girls school on Monday, according to the Associated Press.    Madonna's Raising Malawi charity helps care for some of the country's 1 million orphans.  Winfrey, in January 2007, opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.


There Was A Method To This Director's Madness

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Geoff Pevere

(October 24, 2009) The figure who took the stage at the 1999 Academy Awards, to receive a lifetime achievement award wasn't about to say he was sorry.

And he never did. When director
Elia Kazan died six years ago at age 94, he took with him whatever regrets he might have had about naming names before the House Committee on Un-American activities.

If people wanted to know how he really felt about identifying some of his "fellow travellers" in the American Communist Party, they would have to look elsewhere.

A good start might be his movies – director of On the Waterfront, East of Eden, A Face in the Crowd and Splendor in the Grass – one of the most contentious yet formidable bodies of work in American film.

Throughout a career spanning four decades, that boldly straddled theatre and novels as well as cinema and almost single-handedly embedded the acting style commonly called "The Method" as the defining American performance mode, Kazan addressed one subject more than any other: the conflicted soul.

If he could have made a movie about his own paradox, only Kazan might have been able to reconcile the kind of question asked by David Thomson in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film: "Is Kazan an original author of films or a great director of actors who manages to disguise conventional material and commonplace attitudes?"

Not that the director would have satisfactorily answered the question. But only he might have found a suitably dramatic form for the struggle.

For the man who saw in the young Marlon Brando sufficient inner turmoil to re-engineer Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire so that it became the vehicle for the actor's volcanic eruptions, the struggle was the drama.

In his notes for the current Cinematheque Ontario retrospective of Kazan's work, critic Kent Jones makes the case that nothing has interfered with the due appreciation of this singular talent than the man himself.

Kazan, who was born in Istanbul and educated at Yale, revolutionized American theatre after co-founding the Brando-launching Actors Studio in the 1940s.

He was a person of such immense personal and professional density that his films always seemed somewhat incidental to what his typically rich and elusive 1988 autobiography simply called, A Life.

"Kazan's enemies have spent years insisting that we make an exception of him," Jones writes, "that we train ourselves to listen past the work for the voice of the whispering scoundrel, attempting to cloak the sin he committed on April 1, 1952, in the finery of artistic splendour. And yet, the exception will not be made, because the work just won't stop speaking for itself."

And what does his body of work say? Among other things, that the past just won't let go. You are what you've done.

Even in his earlier movies, made when the director's reputation as a groundbreaking maverick of the American stage (All My Sons, Death of A Salesman, Streetcar, etc.) had just reached boiling point, Kazan was drawn to characters whose existence always seemed to push at the edge of the screen.

But it wasn't just the boundaries of the frame that the protagonists of Boomerang, Panic in the Streets and Pinky seemed to exist beyond, it was the depths below the surface.

As would eventually become so startlingly clear in the Kazan-directed performances of Brando in Waterfront, James Dean in East of Eden, Montgomery Clift in Wild River and Warren Beatty in Splendor, Kazan had a near-transcendent knack for teasing out performances that percolated with submerged currents. Words and feelings collided and crashed, action and intentions locked in a kind of psychodramatic conflict.

No matter what role it might have played in the director's life, guilt was an issue of pressing dramatic concern in his movies. But so was sexual desire, especially as it rose up and flooded prevailing moral breakwaters of the 1950s: think of Brando lunging after Vivien Leigh in Streetcar, Carroll Baker lolling seductively in Baby Doll's crib, or the combustible passion of Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood in Splendor.

Kazan's movies, and the acting style they ushered into the mainstream, cannot be extricated from the general American cultural flow of the period toward inner psychic self-excavation – Arthur Miller and Williams, bebop, Kerouac, Mailer, Brando, Dean, Jackson Pollock, etc. But they also can't be written off to fleeting cultural tempers, either.

What they opened up was the admission of pain as a defining experience, the stuff of the American Dream. The surface of things was only that: the outward form of inner forces, a screen.

Movies, like people, contained unseen depths.

American Outsider: The Films of Elia Kazan runs until Nov. 23. For further info call 416 968-FILM.

Deadpan Comedian Eugene Levy Grows Animated

Source: www.thestar.com -
Jason Anderson

(October 22, 2009) Giving voices to a nervous robot or a plucky porcupine may not be how some thespians want to spend their careers, but Eugene Levy knows there's no reason for anyone in his line of work to look down on animated movies.

"In my mind, the best comedies that are out today are animated movies," says Levy in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where the Hamilton-bred and Toronto-based actor has a second home. "They are usually really well-written, the quality of humour is usually very high and the quality of the projects is quite amazing."

Contemporary movie comedies "generally don't measure up" in the eyes of this SCTV veteran and star of the mockumentaries of Christopher Guest (as well as the American Pie franchise, in which Levy is about to make his seventh appearance as Mr. Levenstein).

"They let the bar drop a little bit and it seems to me in animated movies, they try to keep the bar relatively high," Levy says. "It's a tough way to go because you want to make kids laugh but you want to make the parents laugh, too."

An American revamp of the pioneering Japanese anime science-fiction series that arrives in theatres Friday, Astro Boy features Levy's latest contribution to the world of 'toons.

While his history with the animated genre stretches back to his part in 1981's Heavy Metal (which also included contributions by fellow SCTV cast members John Candy, Joe Flaherty and Harold Ramis), it's become a bigger part of his career in recent years. In 2006, he did double duty as Lou the porcupine in DreamWorks' hit Over the Hedge and Clovis the inventor in Disney's Curious George. The 62-year-old actor could also be heard as a set of Albert Einstein bobbleheads in last summer's Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

In Astro Boy, he gives a spirited performance as Orrin, a skittish, accident-prone robotic helpmate to the movie's young hero – imagine a droid who's one part C3PO to two-parts Jerry Lewis.

"This is a guy – I should say this is a robot – whose nerves are pretty much shot because of all the abuse he's taken from this kid," Levy says. "He's the sort of guy who will, if you come up and tap him on the shoulder ..." Levy gives a panicky yelp to illustrate.

It's only a small part, but as Levy explains, it can take many sessions for an actor to provide all the pieces filmmakers may require when putting together an animated feature. It also demands a different skill set from film acting.

"You really have to be wide open for direction," he says. "I've mostly done comedies and I usually have a pretty good idea how I can make a scene better. I've always been able to approach a director and say, `Instead of doing it that way, can we try it this way?' And usually they're very amenable to it.

"The only time I didn't do that was when I was working with Ang Lee last year," Levy adds, referring to his memorable turn as Max Yasgur in Taking Woodstock.

"Outside of working on these animated movies, that was the only time that when the director tells you to do something, you just do and try and give him what he wants. I didn't question one thing that Ang Lee wanted me to do. It's the same for these animated movies; these guys know exactly what they're looking for and they have an incredible ear."

Performing in such a precise fashion is certainly novel for a comedic actor revered for his improvisational skills. Yet Levy calls it an "an incredible way to work" and typically the opportunity to lend his vocal talents to movies he considers some of the best projects out there.

"I usually jump at the chance because you're working with really good people," he says. "And you know the end result is going to be a quality product."

Concerts On Film Catch Decisive Moments

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell

(October 24, 2009) The untimeliness of Michael Jackson's death at age 50 in June heightened the pathos of his passing.

The timing couldn't be better, however, for Wednesday's release of Michael Jackson: This Is It, the film chronicle of the rehearsals for what was supposed to be a career-reviving concert series by the King of Pop.

There's something about watching a performance in the rear-view mirror that enhances the legend and drama of an event, especially if it marks the end of an era, the dissolution of a group or the retirement of a performer.

The Beatles at Shea Stadium (1966): They played just 12 songs and could barely hear what they were doing amid the roar of 55,000 screaming fans in New York's fabled ballpark. John Lennon grew so frustrated, he began banging the keyboards with his elbows. But this made-for-TV documentary of their 1965 Shea performance, released the year the Beatles abandoned touring and not long before their final split, is the most complete portrait of the band performing at the height of Beatlemania.

Woodstock (1970): The Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in 1973 drew 600,000 people, more than Woodstock four years earlier. Yet Woodstock remains the musical festival to beat all festivals, largely because of Michael Wadleigh's Oscar-winning documentary, which brought the event to millions. Career-peak performances by The Who, Joe Cocker, Ten Years After and Sly and the Family Stone made the doc a must-see for those who attended and the many who wish they had, cementing the fest's enduring mythos as the last chance for 1960s flower children to go "back to the garden."

The Last Waltz (1978): The members of The Band, the American/Canadian root rockers who had memorably backed Bob Dylan and Ronnie Hawkins, had thoroughly tired of the road and each other by the time Martin Scorsese's cameras caught up with them. They decided to disband in style, with an elegant staged performance of their classic hits and musical tributes from kindred spirits Dylan, Hawkins, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Muddy Waters. Few concert films before or since have been so heartfelt or highbrow: The Band actually does play a waltz at one point.

D.O.A. (1980): Not strictly a concert film per se, but it's the best way to see the Sex Pistols at full punk roar on the eve of their self-destruction. Lech Kowalski's do-it-yourself documentary follows the Pistols on their one and only American tour in early 1978, watching as Johnny Rotten taunts the audience, Sid Vicious cuts himself up and the whole screaming mess slides south. Additional performances by Generation X (with Billy Idol), the Dead Boys, X-Ray Spex and other punk stalwarts add to the feeling of a door being noisily slammed shut. But you can't beat the energy, or Kowalski's hilarious use of singalong lyrics onscreen because the audio was so bad.

Stop Making Sense (1984): All you really need is the music. That was the philosophy behind this presentation of Talking Heads in their early 1980s prime at Hollywood's Pantages Theatre, before raging egos brought these polyrhythmic New Yorkers to a grinding halt. The show starts slowly, with front man David Byrne's lone guitar-and-boombox take on "Psycho Killer" gradually building into a full-band funk-rock assault. The Heads play so well together, you hardly notice that this show has production values on the level of a high school band recital, a minimalist aesthetic that director Jonathan Demme would later transpose to filming Neil Young concerts, with similar success.


Writer Found For 'Stomp The Yard' Sequel

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 23, 2009) *Writer-director
Rob Hardy, an executive producer on the 2007 film "Stomp the Yard," will sit in the director's chair for the sequel "Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming" for his Rainforest Films banner.   Columbus Short, who starred in the original Sony Screen Gems release, will serve as a producer on the project along with Will Packer ("Obsessed"). Short is also in negotiations to reprise his role as DJ, a master street dancer. The sequel is set to shoot early next month in Atlanta.   Hardy is a partner in Rainforest ("Obsessed," "This Christmas") and an exec producer on the comedies "Act Like a Lady Think Like a Man" and "The Black Phantom," both at Screen Gems. He wrote and directed the features "The Gospel" and "Trois" and has directed episodes of "Criminal Minds" and "ER."   Short recently appeared in "Whiteout" and "Cadillac Records." He next stars in the heist thriller "Armored," which Screen Gems will release in December. 

Steve Harvey's Tearful Testimony (Video)

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(October 23, 2009) *
Steve Harvey took a moment with Donnie McClurkin on the religious channel TBN, recently to express himself and give his testimony. It was obvious that he is going through a personal ordeal that he needed to try to make an attempt to share.  But, of course, he could not be specific. It appears that he is trying to convey that while he's a celebrity, he is still quite human and he is hurting. Click over and watch out his moving testimony.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(20th Century Fox)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)

(October 27, 2009) This third trip to the
Ice Age cooler is a Jurassic lark. It should delight families with its amusing new dino buddies, even as it risks terrifying tots with its marauding Tyrannosaurus rex. It's arguably the franchise's best, directed once again by Carlos Saldanha, who also helmed second chapter Ice Age: The Meltdown. Family values turn to tribal trauma after woolly mammoths Manny (voiced by Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) announce to their prehistoric pack that they're expecting a bouncing bundle of fur. Sabre-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) takes this as his cue to go solo (no way is he babysitting), while nutso sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) has the opposite reaction, regretting his childlessness. Both find immediate relief as Diego splits while Sid sits upon three dino eggs he happens upon. But trouble ensues when the mother dinosaur comes looking for her brood, leading the Ice Age crew into an underground world that time forgot – and which palaeontologists must forgive. The expanded family dynamics extend to Scrat (Chris Wedge), the acorn-chasing squirrel whose slapstick antics also enlivened the first two Ice Age movies. He now has both a love interest and a competitor in female squirrel Scratté (Karen Disher), their frolics goofily set to a Lou Rawls tune.  The DVDs come in regular and dino-sized packages, and include all manner of games, featurettes, deleted scenes and commentaries.


Minorities Still Scarce On Prime Time TV

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 26, 2009) *Minorities, seniors and female actors have achieved few gains in recent years in the number of film and TV roles they receive, according to casting stats released by the
Screen Actors Guild, reports Variety. 

 “The diverse and multicultural world we live in today is still not accurately reflected in the portrayals we see on the screen,” SAG president Ken Howard said in a statement. “We will continue to work with producers, hiring executives and industry professionals in accurately portraying the American scene by ensuring equal access to employment opportunities for all of our members.” 

 The latest statistics, released Friday, showed minority performers reached a high mark in 2007, with 29.3% of total roles, and then declined last year to 27.5%.  The breakdown of film and TV roles for 2008 was 72.5% Caucasian, 13.3% African-American, 6.4% Latino-Hispanic, 3.8 Asian-Pacific Islander, 0.3% Native American and 3.8% other-unknown. 

 SAG noted in its report that U.S. Census data from 2000 showed that the nation's population was 73.4% Caucasian, 11.5% African-American, 10.6% Latino-Hispanic, 3.7% Asian-Pacific Islander and 0.8% Native American. SAG also said that Asian-Pacific actors were the only minority group to gain from 2007 to 2008, increasing from 3.4% to 3.8%, thanks to gains in TV.

 Producers who are signatory to SAG contracts are required to submit hiring data to the in order to examine the trends of “traditionally underemployed and disenfranchised members.” 

 SAG also noted that people with disabilities remain “virtually invisible” in casting even though 20% of the U.S. population has a disability. Wheelchair bound actor Darryl "Chill" Mitchell of the new Fox sitcom "Brothers," is one of the few disabled actors starring in prime time.

Pay-Television Pioneer HBO Has Last Laugh

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Media Reporter

(October 22, 2009) Everyone told HBO its idea wouldn't work. People would never pay a premium for television - and a network without commercials would eventually go bankrupt.

Nearly four decades later, HBO is having the last laugh.

Amid the deepest decline in advertising revenuethe broadcasting sector has ever seen, the channel that pioneered the idea of premium pay-television in North America has managed something few TV networks can claim: It hasn't lost a single dollar of ad revenue.

Of course, that boast can only be made because HBO doesn't air commercials and instead relies on subscriber dollars and DVD sales from shows it produces, including The Sopranos, True Blood and Entourage, to drive profits.

But those revenues have proven far more resilient in a recession than the fickle ad dollars that have sent the big conventional networks in Canada and the U.S. reeling as they dried up over the past year.

"We've been very resilient, fortunately," HBO co-president Richard Plepler said in Toronto yesterday during meetings with Astral Media Inc. executives to mark the one-year anniversary of HBO Canada's launch.

"We are very grateful that even in this economy, we have managed to continue to do very well," he said.

Back when HBO launched in 1972, the idea of charging a subscription fee each month (about $15 in the U.S. today) was unheard of. So was the idea of producing a show like True Blood, securing all the ownership rights and then selling 100 million copies of DVDs around the world.

But with past hits like Sex and the City, the channel evolved into the mainstream. In Canada, HBO is shown on Astral's pay service, The Movie Network, and Corus Entertainment Inc.'s Movie Central.

Revenue has either increased slightly or remained flat for HBO in this recession, helped out by DVD sales and relatively stable subscriber numbers. Financial figures aren't broken out separately by parent Time Warner Inc., but the network believes people are retaining their subscriptions as a less-expensive entertainment alternative, rather than going outside their home.

"We like our business modela lot. We have a pretty hard and fast rule that we like to own everything that we make, so that we can sell it across platforms and across the world," Mr. Plepler said. DVD sales and syndication fees have helped Time Warner.

HBO is now capitalizing on the problems of network TV, which has been cutting costsand moving increasingly to reality shows in recent years to drive ratings.

That has allowed HBO, which has long since dropped its Home Box Office moniker, to lure sought-after show creators. It is currently producing Boardwalk Empire, a show about Atlantic City during the prohibition era that is directed by Martin Scorsese. That is something cash-strapped networks can't necessarily do.

"Our brand is one that is differentiated from the rest of the television landscape. We're very proud of that," he said.

But the rise of HBO has opened the network to competition. Rivals such as Showtime and AMC have started developing their own dramatic series, some of which are now receiving as much attention and acclaim as HBO's strongest titles.

Showtime produces Californication, while AMC, a cable channel based in New York, is behind Emmy award winner Mad Men.

To its dismay, HBO passed on Mad Men, a period drama about the advertising industry in the 1960s. Mr. Plepler has stated publicly it's one of the network's bigger blunders in recent years. But he welcomes other premium networks getting into the business of making dramas.

"Other people are going to do good work. It's not a zero sum game," Mr. Plepler said. "Mad Men is a great show. There can be other good shows on television."


Close: $31.25 (U.S.), down 11¢

Robert Townsend: Shuffle Goes Beyond Hollywood

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

(October 23, 2009) “It’s kind of like ‘Twilight Zone’ or ‘Hitchcock’ because I was a fan of those shows as a kid, and I’m acting as a Rod Sterling type character where I introduce the different vignettes,”
Townsend continued. “They will make you laugh, they will make you cry, and they will give you hope. The format is totally different. It’s never been done, but I’ve always been kind of in a zone by myself anyway, for me to pioneer a new concept of gospel music; a celebration.”

*Actor/director/producer Robert Townsend has been doing the “Hollywood Shuffle” since he debuted the film of the same name in 1987.

More than two decades, several film projects, a four-year reign heading up the Black Family Channel, and more later, Townsend has teamed up to form Bell Town Productions with Bishop Eddie Long among comedy and drama projects.

 “I came to Atlanta and he held a premiere of a web series that I directed called ‘Diary of a Single Mom’ that I did with Monica Calhoun, Billy D. Williams, Richard Roundtree, and Leon. He  had the premiere at his church; 5,000 people showed up. I had never met Bishop Eddie Long before, but I was really blown away by him as a man of God.”

Townsend told EUR’s Lee Bailey that Long started talking about the negative images on TV and how faith-based community needs to step up and do something.

“He and I just hit it off,” Townsend said. “He said, ‘Why don’t we create something where we can do a partnership and I’ll talk to the community and you’ll create the content?’ It made sense to me. I love the Lord, I love Church, so it made sense,” he continued. “That’s how we got together.”

The two formed Bell Town Productions – a moniker made up of Long’s initials, Bishop Eddie L. Long, and the first half of Townsend.

“The first idea I came up with was called ’The Musical Theater of Hope.’ It’s kind of a gospel version of ‘The Twilight Zone.’ It’s stories with twists and turns and it’s acting and singing,” Townsend described.

The project is made up of three stories, and was created for the web. The Gospel Music Channel, which incidentally bought the Black Family Channel, bought the series concept and will premiere the show this Sunday, October 25.

“It’s kind of like ‘Twilight Zone’ or ‘Hitchcock’ because I was a fan of those shows as a kid, and I’m acting as a Rod Sterling type character where I introduce the different vignettes,” Townsend continued. “They will make you laugh, they will make you cry, and they will give you hope. The format is totally different. It’s never been done, but I’ve always been kind of in a zone by myself anyway, for me to pioneer a new concept of gospel music; a celebration.”

 In addition to the laughter and the tears of the stories, Townsend contends that the show weaves in “the best musical numbers he’s done since his acclaimed “The Five Heartbeats.”

Townsend shot “The Musical Theater of Hope” in Atlanta, what’s quickly becoming competition for Tinsel town.

“It’s a very highly artistic community,” Townsend said of the Atlanta scene. “You’ve got all these music producers and then you’ve got an acting community down there, too. Especially with Tyler Perry; he’s the biggest man in Hollywood that’s not in Hollywood. I like Atlanta a lot, too. I see what he sees as well.”

With the new show premiering this weekend, Townsend has another project on the horizon.

“I want people to tune in and watch the show, but I’m pretty proud of my web series ‘Diary of a Single Mom.’ We just shot another eight webisodes that will launch in November. It’s really entertaining,” he said.

“And I’ve got a good 2010 coming up. I did a documentary called ‘Why We Laugh’ on the history of African American comedians. That’s with Bill Cosby, Chris Rock, and the Wayans Brothers. The film will premiere in February on Showtime. It’s really good. It’s a who’s who of comedy.”

“And I directed Ving Rhames in the Sunny Liston story. That will be coming out straight to DVD in April. I just love the story. It’s with Rhames, Nick Turturro, and Stacy Dash. It’s a dark movie. Sunny Liston had a tragic life. I just loved the story and it’s really compelling.”

“And I did a drama that I’m acting in with Angela Bassett. I produced it. Warner Brothers. is releasing that on DVD on Father’s Day.”


“I’ve been busy. I’m tired,” Townsend said, “but I’m having fun; to be free, to be able to do what you want to do. I’ve always been able to make my way. I’m excited that I get to touch so many different things. I go form gospel music, to ‘Diary of a Single Mom,’ to comedy-in-your-face.”

Look for "The Musical Theater of Hope” this weekend on the Gospel Music Channel and check out free webisodes of “Diary of a Single Mom” at Pic.tv.

Canada's Top Dancer Beats Nerves, Nausea And Dislocated Ribs

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Rob Salem

(October 26, 2009) A small-city girl from Alberta turned heads across Canada to win the title of Canada's Favourite Dancer Sunday night.

Tara-Jean Popowich, 20, of Lethbridge, became the first woman to win So You Think You Can Dance Canada, the reality competition in its second season on CTV.

She took the highest number of the nearly three million votes that were cast after the top four finalists performed for the final time last Tuesday. But men from Quebec still held sway, with Vincent Desjardins, 20, of Trois-Rivières, Que., taking second place. The winner of the show's debut season, Nico Archambault, is also from Quebec.

Popowich claimed a $100,000 prize along with the title, while both she and Desjardins won Mazda 3 Sport cars.

The other finalists were Jayme Rae Dailey, 21, of Montreal and Everett Smith, 25, of Glen Morris, Ont.

Popowich, a contemporary dancer, could barely speak for crying after her victory was announced.

"Thank you, I love you guys more than the world," she said, addressing the audience as well as the judges and her fellow dancers.

The bubbly 20-year-old had regained her composure – enough at least to fight back the tears – when she was brought out to meet the assembled press an hour after her win, flashing that sunny smile.

There was no trace, either, of the pre-show nerves that, according to SYTYCDC producer Sandra Faire, had the poor girl bent over a bucket backstage before the taping.

She was clearly still somewhat numb and genuinely surprised to have won. "It was a shocker," she confessed. "I just couldn't believe it.

"I never really thought of it as a competition. I was just going out there onstage and giving it all I had, because I love what I do. And I just got rewarded at the end of it.

"The whole process, the whole journey ... we all just feel so lucky to be here."

The $100,000 prize, she says, will pay off her mom's house and her brother's tuition, and finance the dance school she's always dreamed of. The car is being shipped back to Lethbridge, where she looks forward to tooling around in it, loaded with friends. Lethbridge is about 10 kilometres west of Coaldale, home town of Canadian Idol winner Theo Tams.

After that, there's the Top 10 national tour (which stops at the Air Canada Centre on Dec. 10) with her "new family," and perhaps, following in the dance steps of last season's winners, a chance to choreograph for the show next year.

But first, some rest. "I go home Wednesday and I'm going to sleep for a week straight, lie in the bathtub and get my body back to normal."

Popowich was one of the dancers injured during the season, having dislocated ribs. Smith injured his shoulders, two ribs and a couple of neck vertebrae. And Emanuel Sandhu broke two fingers.

But dancers weren't the only ones getting injured.

Host Leah Miller announced Sunday that Mia Michaels, an Emmy-winning choreographer who has worked on both the Canadian and U.S. versions of the dance show, had severely injured her back choreographing a number for the Canadian top 10.

She was admitted to Toronto Western Hospital Saturday night and released Sunday morning.

Going into the finale, the judges had declared that the competition was anybody's to win. But there had been hints last Tuesday that Popowich was a front-runner.

"You have something very important you need to win. It's called star quality and, baby, you have it," judge Blake McGrath told her.

Auditions for the show's third season kick off in Toronto on Nov. 14.

With files from The Canadian Press


Daneyko, Higgins Lose Their Battle

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(October 27, 2009) Jodeyne Higgins and ex-NHLer Ken Daneyko were the fourth pair iced on the
Battle of the Blades. Christine Hough-Sweeney and Tie Domi were saved Monday night, joining the three remaining pairs on the CBC TV show, for a chance to win $100,000 for the charity of their choice. The two pairs with the fewest votes in the fourth week of competition were Higgins and Daneyko, who skated to James Brown's ``I Got You," and Hough-Sweeney and Domi, who performed their routine to Robin Thicke's "Superman." Both pairs performed before regular judges Sandra Bezic, Dick Button and guest judge Lanny McDonald for a final chance to remain on the show, which is aired live Sundays and Mondays from Maple Leaf Gardens. McDonald is known for his years with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames. Higgins and Daneyko's Canadian charity, Foundation Fighting Blindness, will receive a $25,000 donation. The other pairs returning to compete next Sunday are: Shae-Lynn Bourne and Claude Lemieux, Marie-France Dubreuil and Stéphane Richer, and Jamie Sale and Craig Simpson. Kristi Yamaguchi, the Olympic gold medallist, and her husband Bret Hedican, who won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes, will be guest judges.


Sonja Smits Puts On A Good Face

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 24, 2009) Sonja Smits is full of surprises.

The star best known for the sleek sophisticates she played on three long-running Canadian TV series (Street Legal, Traders and The Eleventh Hour) was raised on a small Ontario dairy farm.

The woman constantly radiating an air of Mary Tyler Moore-ish openness is the first to admit "Sonja inside and Sonja outside have always been pretty different."

And the actor who became famous for portraying people who had it all together is about to fall apart before our eyes.

On Thursday night, Smits opens in the Nightwood Theatre production of That Face at the Berkeley St. Theatre, as the kickoff to that company's 4X4 Festival.

The powerful 2007 drama by young British author Polly Stenham deals with an upscale mother addicted to alcohol and drugs whose controlling ways and lethal indulgences wind up poisoning her children's lives.

What's a nice girl like her doing in a play like this?

"There are so few parts that are challenging or interesting and, at this point in my life and in my career, I wanted to do something that's a bit scary. And this is it."

It's early morning and Smits is sipping a coffee down on Berkeley St. before the start of rehearsals.

The 51-year-old performer still looks as fresh as she did more than 20 years ago when Street Legal made her a household name in Canada, but she wants to warn audiences they're about to see a side of her they've never witnessed before.

"It's horrible and funny at the same time but I think a lot of people are going to have to relate to it, " she says of the cross-addicted scenario in That Face that destroys her as well as her children.

"Even in the nicest families, a lot of really nasty stuff goes on that nobody ever wants to admit."

At first, Smits makes it clear she's not talking about her long-running happy marriage to producer Seaton McLean or the lives of her two children, Avalon, 19, and Lian, 14, but then she relaxes a bit.

"I'm not worried about image at this point in my life and that's liberating.

"As I've gotten older, I feel a lot freer. I've gained more openness. I'm less worried about what people are going to think or say about me."

It took Smits a long time before she could feel that way.

She started out as a fairly carefree farm girl, working on her Dutch parents' dairy farm outside of Ottawa. She laughs at the memories.

"Oh, I did it all, walked out to the fields at dawn, wet with dew, brought the cows in, helped with the milking.

"But when all the chores were done, there was nothing to do. We didn't have TV until I was 12. You had to use your imagination, make up things, create your own fantasy world.

"I guess that's when the whole acting bug kicked in for me."

That imaginary life helped Smits in her adolescence, when she dealt with the pain of her parents' separation.

"I was really pretty miserable back then but I guess I tried to keep a brave front up all of the time.

"Still, I didn't realize how far things had gone until one day I overheard a friend say, `Wow, if Sonja's not smiling, then something's really wrong.'"

Smits sits quietly for a moment, staring into the distance at her past and then looking right into my eyes.

"I thought, `If there's such a difference between my inside and my outside, I'd better figure out what I'm really like.'"

She smiles. "In case you haven't guessed yet, I don't wear my heart on my sleeve a lot."

After graduating high school, Smits went to Ryerson Theatre School, where she bonded closely with classmates such as Mary Walsh (see sidebar). She also was directed by a very young Des McAnuff (now artistic director of the Stratford Festival), who was already rebelling against the school rules.

The school didn't want students in their early years presenting non-academic productions, but McAnuff had written a play he was burning to put on and Smits wanted to act in it.

"So Des decided we could circumvent the rules by staging the play inside the scenery workshop – and that's just what we did."

She really wasn't in the right frame of mind to go to theatre school, Smits now realizes.

"I was stubborn and impatient, so I showed it by being a fighter."

She quit school and worked for a new theatre company Ken Livingston had started in London, Ont. For the next while, she acted across the country but then, while starring opposite Kate Trotter in the Manitoba Theatre Centre's A Midsummer Night's Dream, she had a revelation.

"I watched Kate do a big open gesture as she said `...and back to Athens,' and I wondered if I was in the right place.

"Whenever I performed in big theatres, I always felt some people in the back weren't getting their money's worth from me."

So she switched to television, making a strong impression in CBC's War Brides and then moving to Los Angeles for a few years.

She did well enough there, with featured roles on several shows, "but I wanted to come back to Canada. I just felt I belonged here."

Soon after her return, she stepped into one of the leading parts on a new series called Street Legal and never looked back. Traders and The Eleventh Hour followed, as well as heavier projects like The Diviners.

And then there was her marriage to McLean.

"It wasn't love at first sight from my end," she says candidly. "He had to work on me.

"You see, when I was younger, I was a sucker for a pretty face. If there were 80 guys in a room and 79 were right for me, I'd pick the one who would be trouble.

"I guess I finally decided to go for character instead," she chuckles with a twinkle in her eye.

Smits seems centred as she enters her 50s, with a simple game plan: "I want to keep living my life the best I can. Part as an actor, part as a mother, part as a wife, part as a woman.

"That should be enough to keep me busy for the rest of my days."

Bawdy Worlds: When Debbie Met Hedwig

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 22, 2009) He can't say yes and she can't say no; they're a perfect pair.

I'm talking about the leading characters in
Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Debbie Does Dallas the Musical, two musicals being performed on the same night in the same theatre starting Friday at The Theatre Centre.

They're the very bold, very striking and very ambitious calling card of the city's newest theatre company, Ghost Light Projects.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the more famous of the duo, an edgy 1998 piece by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask that follows the life and hard times of a transgendered East German rock singer.

Debbie Does Dallas the Musical is a 2002 song-and-dance version of the infamous 1978 porn movie that featured Bambi Woods giving her all – in every sense of the word – as a Texas cheerleader.

Hedwig has been seen here several times before, most notably in a 2001 mounting (if you'll excuse the word) that starred Ted Dysktra, while Debbie's track record in this town is, er, virginal.

Who has the bravado to present both of these radically different works in what is aptly called "Toronto's raunchiest double bill?"

Meet Randie Parliament, artistic producer of this fledgling who describe themselves as "a new collective of Toronto artists, committed to creating employment opportunities for artists, both behind the scenes and on stage. They are devoted to enriching the community and giving back whenever possible."

Parliament grew up in rural Alberta, studied in Edmonton and then moved to Vancouver in 2001. The actor/playwright found he had trouble getting work, but unlike many young people in a similar situation, he took matters into his hands.

"I started a company. I figured if you want to work, don't bitch about it, just create it," he says, on a short break from getting the shows ready for Friday's opening.

But after five years of running Pickle Productions, Parliament was feeling burned out, until he came upon Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

"Every song is about heartache and hope and dreams and sexuality and just breaks my heart," Parliament says.

So, in the summer of 2007, he produced it in Vancouver and discovered real success. Rave reviews, sold-out houses, hundreds of people waiting to get in every night.

Most people would have built on that and stayed, but Parliament realized he had dreams that could never come true in Vancouver.

"It's easy to get started there, but it's so hard to get to the next level," he explains. "I'm one of those weird people who dreamed about Toronto all my life. That makes you an oddball in Vancouver."

Vancouver's loss, Toronto's gain. Yet when he moved to this city in 2008 "I landed right on my ass. I got the slap of reality from finances."

After a year of waiting on tables, he was ready to remount Hedwig and add Debbie to the mix.

"When you combine the two shows, you get the complete cycle of living the dream and then watching it crumble," he explains.

Audiences can choose to buy either show on a given night, but Parliament urges them to see both.

"It's an uproarious good time. It's tits and ass and botched sex changes. It's a full evening of excitement and camp and fellatio and fun."

Lest you think Parliament's plans for the future are tame, he reveals that next up, he'd like to produce his own play, Mamma's Boy.

"Here's the tag line: Growing up gay wasn't easy. Murder was."

The Toxic Avenger: Louise Pitre Goes Toxic

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 25, 2009) Oh Louise, ma petite Pitre, what have they done to you?

The woman who broke our hearts in Piaf, melted them in Mamma Mia! and shot right through them in Annie Get Your Gun is now about to dump those hurtin' organs into a vat of noxious goo.

Louise Pitre has gone toxic.

By which I mean, she's part of the cast of The Toxic Avenger, the hit off-Broadway musical which has its premiere on Halloween night at the Danforth Music Hall as the latest show from Dancap Productions.

It's a wildly satiric cautionary tale set in Tromaville, the largest toxic waste site in New Jersey (if that's not being redundant) and the hero is an idealistic nerd who is turned into the title character by a combination of greed and green slime.

So don't come to the theatre expecting to hear Pitre moan through an Aznavour chanson or belt out an Abba anthem.

The music and lyrics this time are by David Bryan. Yeah, that David Bryan. And Pitre is just as surprised as you.

"If someone had told me that when I was in my 50s, I'd be doing a show with a score by the guy from Bon Jovi, I would have had them committed," she barks on a recent break from rehearsals.

"It's heavy duty rock 'n' roll, which is not something I might choose to be doing at this point in my life, but hell, I'm sort of an old rocker at heart from my high school days. It's like going back to that time, except now I know how to do it."

But just as Pitre and we are getting used to that shock, along comes another. She's playing not one, not two, but three roles.

First up is the town's mendacious meanie of a mayor, the show's real villain, and Pitre is the first one to admit that "I don't often play nasty, bitchy characters. Like never.

"But it's fun to be tough and nasty. She's like Cruella de Ville for grownups, only worse."

While you’re wrapping your head around that, how about taking in the notion that Pitre also plays Ma Ferd, the hero's ditzy old mother.

"Oh boy, is she a naggy old woman," laughs Pitre. "Everybody in the show tells me I look like Sophia from The Golden Girls. I think I look my great aunt Alice."

Then toss in a cameo appearance as a nun, make note of the fact that Pitre's big showstopper is a number called "Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore" and you'll understand why so many heads are shaking up and down the Danforth that Greektown is expecting a seismic eruption any moment.

So what made Toronto's musical theatre darling decide to go gonzo?

"They said John Rando was coming to direct it and that's why I said yes," is the typical, play-it-as-it-lays Pitre answer.

It's not surprising because Rando became an icon to a lot of people after he served as director of the original production of that other wacky meta-musical success, Urinetown, and later repeated the assignment up here for the Canadian Stage company, earning a whole bunch of new fans in the process.

Pitre pronounces herself totally pleased with her choice.

"It's been like it should be. It's concise, it's fun, it's tough going and it's smart. (Rando) understands comedy, but he understands reality, too, and he never makes you go to that stupid place where you lose track of your integrity."

After a long, long time as the leading lady (including her Broadway stint in Mamma Mia! which earned her a Tony nomination), Pitre sighs with relief when she says that "it's refreshing not to have the weight of the whole show on my shoulders. But it's getting to another part of my body, because I am working my ass off."

The constant rapid costume changes in Act II, some of them, according to Pitre, taking "only three or four seconds!" justify her saying that "I'm earning my pennies."

But nobody has ever accused Pitre of resting on her considerable laurels. When there hasn't been a big musical for her to star in, she's played the smaller theatres of the country with the World War II romance her husband Joe Matheson wrote in collaboration with her and Diane Leah called Could You Wait?

Or she's gone out in concert with everything from a piano to a symphony orchestra, "just happy to be making music."

She currently has her first TV series on Bravo, called Star Portraits, in which she serves as the interviewer instead of the interviewee for once.

And best of all, she made her Carnegie Hall debut in September at the personal invitation of ABBA's Benny Andersson to perform in the concert staging of Kristina, the musical epic that he and Bjorn Ulvaeus had written.

Even stage-savvy Pitre was impressed by the experience.

"I stepped on the stage for the first time in rehearsal and before I could walk up to my microphone, I had to sit down and cry for a bit.

"Maybe I was standing at the very spot where Judy Garland stood when she did her famous concert. How great is that?"

But the best thing about Pitre is that whether she's being toxic on the Danforth or celebrated at Carnegie Hall, she keeps her priorities straight. "A show is a show is a show. There will always be another one," she notes wisely. "But the person in your life, they're unique. That's what you hold onto."


Ubi Montreal Blurs Lines Between Game And Film

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Marc Saltzman

(October 24, 2009) Gamers who played through Ubisoft Montreal's groundbreaking Assassin's Creed – the 2007 interactive adventure that has sold more than 8 million copies to date – have more than Assassin's Creed II to look forward to when the sequel launches next month.

Oh sure, this follow-up video game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 will no doubt impress when it debuts on Nov. 17 – in fact, more than 250 developers have been tirelessly toiling on it – but Ubisoft has an extra treat up its sleeve related to the Assassin's Creed world.

Assassin's Creed: Lineage is a series of short films that expand the fiction even further, and reveal the characters and events that lead up to Assassin's Creed II – primarily involving the father of the game's protagonist, Ezio, during the Italian Renaissance.

The first of the three 12- to 14-minute episodes will debut on YouTube's home page in eight countries (including Canada) on Tuesday, for a period of 24 hours. Plus, the first episode will also ship on the Assassin's Creed II game disc.

For a closer look, The Game Guy took a trip to Hybride Technologies, the Ubisoft-owned facility best known for creating special effects in movies, television and advertising. Nestled in the Laurentians town of Piedmont, Que., this unassuming studio (which looks like a house from the outside) is responsible for visual effects in such Hollywood blockbuster films as 300, Sin City, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Snakes on a Plane.

Sitting in a cozy theatre room, we watched an uncut version of the first Lineage episode, which introduces Ezio's father, Giovanni Auditore da Firenze, as well as other family members and key characters (such as Lorenzo de' Medici, the Italian statesman and de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic during this period). The acting, story and pacing were all quite impressive, and certainly help you get a sense of the backdrop to the anticipated game sequel.

To create a complementary look between the games and films, the visual effects studio combined live action and CGI, including motion-capture ("mo-cap") technology performed at Ubisoft's Montreal studio, where actors are suited up with body sensors and special cameras that import their fluid movements into a computer.

"The Lineage film series is for both Assassin's Creed fans as well as non-gamers – if not more for the latter group because we already have Assassin's Creed II for gamers," Yves Guillemot, chief executive officer of Ubisoft, told the Toronto Star.

"Just as Apple sees iPods or iPhones as a gateway to Mac computers, we hope Lineage will wow non-gamers and get them interested in Assassin's Creed games," he says. "We're confident the Lineage films will serve as a window to a universe non-gamers might not consider otherwise."

Brütal Legend: Saving the world with Heavy Metal

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Darren Zenko

Brütal Legend
3.5 stars (out of 4)
Platform: PS3/360
Price $69.99
Rated: M for Mature

(October 24, 2009)
Brütal Legend, the latest game from Tim Schafer, is everything I've come to love about heavy metal music: loud, proud, epic, erotic, glorying in its badass syncretic symbology, fan-focused, conscious of itself, earnestly committed to virtuosity ... and still, somehow, pretty funny.

One of games' greatest writers, responsible for Grim Fandango and the unbelievable Psychonauts, Schafer puts everything he's got into his tale of Eddie Riggs (Jack Black), the world's greatest rock roadie, transported by the power of demon-god Ormagöden to a world where darkest fantasies of the gnarliest metal album covers and the most lurid airbrushed boogie-van paintings are everyday reality.

All the good evil stuff, that is, save for one essential ingredient. The world of Brütal Legend is missing its animating spirit: it's a metal world without heavy metal. In comes Riggs with his rock n' roll soul and roadie's ethos, inspiring the downtrodden and enchained to rise up as a metal army against demonic tyranny and reclaim their rocking birthright. It is awesome.

Schafer's writing walks confidently along a dangerous line between reverence and irony. The result – brought to life by a voice cast that includes a real-life metal gods (Lemmy, Ozzy, Lita Ford, Rob Halford) along with Black and Tim Curry, and wonderfully expressive digital puppetry – is an adventure that can leave you breathless.

Brütal Legend is a third-person brawler with the upgrade elements of an RPG, set within the context of a Grand Theft Auto-style open-world action-adventure with heavy exploration and discovery elements, in which the battles – and the story's major theses – are expressed through a hybrid of arcade brawling and real-time squad tactics and resource management.

But rather than knock it for occasionally leaving me confused and frustrated, I'm going to praise it for confusing and frustrating me less than it ought to, given that Schafer's asking me to play three video games at once. Are you metal enough?

Video games: DJ Hero Impresses A DJ Pro

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(October 27, 2009) With a name like
DJ Hero, the premise is obvious. Activision's latest music game launches Tuesday, so we decided to get one of Toronto's local DJ heroes to give its plastic turntable a spin.

Our choice: Hans Edquist, a.k.a. Barletta, who up until very recently was one-half of Mansion, the boy girl production/DJ duo that has been tearing up local club dance floors for the past two years.

The group called it quits soon after releasing its single, "Gasaida," in September – amicably, Edquist says, so they could focus on solo work.

Edquist recently released the Whisper EP, showcasing what he calls his new, more mature sound. Just last week, his latest blog fodder, a re-edit of The Cardigans' 1990s track "Lovefool," hovered in the top 10 of the Hype Machine, an MP3 aggregator that tracks music blogs.

Despite being immersed in future-forward music-making – Edquist has switched from vinyl and CDs to Ableton, a popular audio production software – he doesn't play video games much but is intrigued by DJ Hero.

His first impression of the turntable controller? "The weight feels really good," he says, moving it in its scratching motion.

In fact, the striking thing about DJ Hero is what a solid and polished package it is.

It's obvious that Activision has distilled what made Guitar Hero great and imported it to its new turntable-based controller game. If you are a fan of electronic music or hip hop, or have ever dreamed of being the guy rocking a sweaty nightclub behind two turntables and a microphone, then this game will provide hours of enjoyment, even with the price tag ($129 retail, with controller).

With 93 mixed songs featuring the backing (or at least music) of heavy hitters like Jay-Z, Eminem, Grandmaster Flash (who voices the tutorial), DJ Shadow and Daft Punk, the musician pedigree is unimpeachable. Each playable song is actually two tracks mixed together, a mash-up, and most work beautifully. Featuring everything from Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer to Kid Cudi's "Day 'N' Nite" and M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," it's a great mix of old and new school.

At first glance, the game looks easy, with only three buttons, but it can get pretty hard pretty quickly with the addition of the turntable (which you have to move back and forth to scratch) and the cross-fader (which moves side to side to move between the tracks). Add the effects knobs with which you can drop in samples – like Flavor Flav's legendary "Yeah boyee" – and the game ramps up pretty quickly.

On Edquist's first try, his experience shows: he's better than me right away. After playing for a little more than an hour, he's hooked.

"The mash-ups are surprisingly good," he says. "Like I didn't think that Jackson 5 and Third Eye Blind mix would go together, but you can tell they put in a lot of time to make them work, because we've all heard bad mash-ups in a club," he says. "It really is all in the cross-fader. You can't be overzealous with it or you get dinged."

For non-DJs, coordinating the movement of two hands will take getting used to. But after some practice, it becomes natural. Despite the difficulty, I had a tonne of fun. The other nice thing is that you can't fail a song in this game. It's built to move you onward and upward, but it does get very complex as you progress, with directional and cross-fading scratches.

One quibble: You can plug in a Guitar Hero controller and do a turntable/guitar duet or play head to head online, but the game seems geared toward the solo experience, although the fun music should be enough to please most onlookers. As Edquist says, there is more to being a DJ than just hitting play. "It's like waves. Or it's like sex: you're bringing the crowd up to a peak and then there are declines. You need to know when to drop the hits, when to drop the cheese. And you better have good taste in music, because (audiences in town) can sniff the bad stuff right away."

Thankfully, at least in this game, the crowd will never boo you off the stage.

Google To Launch Music Service

Source: www.thestar.com -
Lesley Ciarula Taylor

(October 22, 2009) The Facebook gift shop has just started offering music, the Facebook blog reported Thursday morning. And two news sources said Google is also about to join the music business.

The New York Times and the Associated Press said tech reporters have received invitations to an announcement in Hollywood on Oct. 28 organized by music providers iLike and LaLa.

The new service, said TechCrunch.com, will be incorporated into the Google search.

At Facebook, users can buy songs as "gifts" for their friends, the blog announced – but only in the United States. LaLa is the provider behind that service, offering more than 8 million songs. People given a song – which will cost one Facebook credit or 10 cents (U.S.) – can play it on their Facebook News Feed or wall as often as they like, the blog said. For full price, or nine credits, the song is fully downloadable to an MP3 player, iTunes or the Windows Media Player.

The Google service, according to the Times, would run through LaLa, Imeem and iLike (a division of MySpace), accessible through a pop-up box.

The Associated Press reported the Google search pages will package links to news, lyrics, videos and song previews with pictures, similar to its financial news service.

Facebook "sees the gift store as a way to obtain the credit card numbers of more customers and develop a one-click payment mechanism that third-party developers can later use to sell virtual goods," the Times reported.

Apple's iTunes is currently the leading provider of song downloads.


Bill Cosby To Pick Up Nation's Top Humour Prize

Source: www.eurweb.com

(October 26, 2009) *In a ceremony tonight at the Kennedy Center in Washington,
Bill Cosby is scheduled to receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humour, the nation's highest honour for comedy.

 Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Sinbad and other top entertainers will be on hand to salute the legendary funnyman, reports the Associated Press. The program will air nationwide Nov. 4 on PBS.

 Cosby, 72, has turned down the prize twice before because he said he was disgusted with profanity and N-words thrown around by performers honouring Richard Pryor, who was the first recipient in 1998.

 "I told them flat out no because I will not be used, nor will Mark Twain be used, in that way," he told The AP from his home in New York.

 But a conversation with Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser this year at Sen. Edward Kennedy's birthday celebration changed the Cos's mind. 

 "What I wanted was to associate my work with why I do what I do," Cosby said.

 So Cosby rolled up his sleeves to help produce Monday's program, which reflects his philanthropic efforts toward childhood education and in telling stories that teach something in the process. He's planned a special nod to his beloved Central High School in Philadelphia, with fellow alumnus James DePreist conducting their alma mater.

 The line-up also includes Carl Reiner, Wynton Marsalis, and "Cosby" co-stars Phylicia Rashad and Malcolm-Jamal Warner. 

 Explaining the profanity-laced Pryor tribute, co-executive producer Cappy McGarr said that special aired for a different audience on Comedy Central and wasn't meant to be offensive, but the show has aired on PBS ever since.

 McGarr said he is thrilled that Cosby has accepted the Mark Twain honour this year.  "He is a comic genius," McGarr said. "He just has a wonderful reflection of funny ... and is an absolute master at taking an ordinary human condition and giving his take on it. …He makes us laugh with us, not at us."

Saturday Night Live's Most Charitable Comic

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 26, 2009) In the world of Saturday Night Live, where outsized egos come with the territory and self-indulgent meltdowns can be looked on as a fashion accessory, Seth Meyers is definitely the odd man out.

Don't tell anybody, but he's actually a nice guy. Sure, he can sneeringly fling off sarcastic zingers on "Weekend Update," looking like the Eddie Haskell of the 21st century, but once the red light on the camera goes out, he switches gears and does things like coming up to Toronto, where he's hosting Stand Up For Kids at the Winter Garden Theatre on Tuesday night. The 8 p.m. event is a fundraiser for a group of youth-based charities: Covenant House, Dixon Hall and the Robin Barhydt Rocks On Fund at the SickKids Foundation.

I know that hosting one benefit doesn't automatically qualify someone as a Mother Teresa wannabe, but talking to Meyers from the SNL offices in Manhattan only confirms his nice-guy status.

You know how some people lower their voice when they're about to dish the dirt on someone? Well Meyers works from the opposite perspective. Every time he wanted to say something nice about an SNL colleague, he went into whisper mode, as if he was embarrassed about being caught sending out positive vibes.

And instead of attributing his comic skills to a miserable childhood (as is far too common these days), Meyers is the first to praise his parents' sense of humour.

"I've been pretty lucky. They're very funny people. So is my brother," he said. "You had to be sharp to get a laugh at our dinner table. Much tougher than many comedy clubs I've been in."

Home was Bedford, N.H., where Meyers was born on Dec.28, 1973, making him 35 at a point when SNL is in its 35th season.

"That's something I don't think about too much. It would make me either feel really young or really old and either way I think I'd go crazy."

Yes, he recalls watching SNL as a kid, with his favourites including "Jon Lovitz as Tommy Flanagan the Pathological Liar, Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon as Hans and Franz and, of course, Mike Myers and Dana in Wayne's World."

When told that Jimmy Fallon's parents used to tape the show and edit out sequences they didn't want him to see, Meyers dryly retorts: "How strange. That's just what me and my brother did to my parents."

Meyers has frequently gone back to visit the New Hampshire schools of his youth, always telling everyone what a great time he had back then.

"And it's true," he insists. "I had a lot of fun, a lot of freedom and everyone believed in me. `You're going to be on Saturday Night Live one day,' they'd all say. I was the only one who had my doubts."

When he hit Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Meyers started to feel a bit more confident, especially once he made it into the popular improv group Mee-Ow and then went on to join Improv Olympic Theatre in Chicago.

Asked about why so many successful comics today seem to have gotten started in the Windy City, he ponders a bit and concludes, "I don't think it's anything in the water. The people there are just a good audience for comedy and I guess if you can succeed as a comedian in the middle of the country, you can succeed anywhere."

But first, Meyers took a little detour to Amsterdam and spent time honing his craft at Boom Chicago, an English-language comedy company there.

"Yeah, there were a lot of stoners coming through, especially in the summertime, and I would like to demolish the myth that they're a good audience for comedy. Wrong! They'll start giggling at a funny hat you're wearing and ruin all the carefully crafted laugh lines you've been working on."

By 2001, Meyers got to SNL, where he's worked his way up to being head writer as well as anchoring the "Weekend Update" segment of the show.

"I love doing what I'm doing right now," he says. "I never thought I was very good at imitations or doing sketches. Okay, maybe my John Kerry was okay, but you can forget most of the rest.

"Before I came to SNL, 98 per cent of my comedy was being myself and that's what I get to do on `Weekend Update.' I also love the pace of it all. If you don't like the first joke, don't worry: another one's coming.

"I consider myself a good sketch writer and I think I'm being good when I'm being Seth Meyers. But you don't learn new skills at SNL; you get better at the ones you already had."

After all this time, Meyers no longer minds the relentless pressure of the show. "Either I've gotten used to it, or it's a really severe case of Stockholm Syndrome."

Surely there must be something that makes Meyers unhappy?

"Yes, there is," he confesses. "There's one gag I've been trying to get on the show for years, but they'll never let me use it.

"Here it is: 'What do you get for a man who has everything? A second penis.' "

Seth Meyers hosts Stand Up For Kids at the Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge St. on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Tickets at Ticketmaster.

Comedian Soupy Sales Dies At 83

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com -
David N. Goodman, Associated Press

(October 26, 2009) Detroit —Soupy Sales, the rubber-faced comedian whose anything-for-a-chuckle career was built on 20,000 pies to the face and 5,000 live TV appearances across a half-century of laughs, died Thursday. He was 83.

Sales died at Calvary Hospice in the Bronx, N.Y., said his former manager and long-time friend, Dave Usher. Sales had many health problems and entered the hospice last week, Usher said.

At the peak of his fame in the 1950s and ‘60s, Sales was one of the best-known faces in the United States, Usher said.

“If President Eisenhower would have walked down the street, no one would have recognized him as much as Soupy,” said Usher. At the same time, Sales retained an openness to fans that turned every restaurant meal into an endless autograph-signing session.

“He was just good to people,” said Usher, a former jazz music producer who managed Sales in the 1950s.

Sales began his TV career in Cincinnati and Cleveland, then moved to Detroit, where he drew a large audience on WXYZ-TV. He moved to Los Angeles in 1961.

The comic's pie-throwing schtick became his trademark, and celebrities queued up to take one on the chin alongside Sales. During the early 1960s, Stars like Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis and Shirley MacLaine received their just desserts side-by-side with the comedian on his television show.

“I'll probably be remembered for the pies, and that's all right,” he said in a 1985 interview. “That's fine and dandy.”

Sales was born Milton Supman on Jan. 8, 1926, in Franklinton, N.C., where his was the only Jewish family in town. His parents, owners of a dry-goods store, sold sheets to the Ku Klux Klan. The family later moved to Huntington, W.Va.

His greatest success came in New York with The Soupy Sales Show – an ostensible children's show that had little to do with Captain Kangaroo and other kiddie fare. Sales' manic, improvisational style also attracted an older audience that responded to his envelope-pushing antics.

Sales, who was typically clad in a black sweater and oversized bow-tie, was once suspended for a week after telling his legion of tiny listeners to empty mommy's purse and mail him all the pieces of green paper bearing pictures of the presidents.

The cast of Saturday Night Live cast later paid homage by asking their audience to send in their joints – a particularly apt move, given that Sales' career was forged in live television. His influence was also obvious in the Pee-Wee Herman character created by Paul Reubens.

Sales returned from the Navy after the Second World War and became a $20-a-week reporter at a West Virginia radio station. He jumped to a DJ gig, changed his name to Soupy Heinz and headed for Ohio.

His first pie to the face came in 1951, when the newly christened Soupy Sales was hosting a children’s show in Cleveland. In Detroit, Sales’ show garnered a national reputation as he honed his act — a barrage of sketches, gags and bad puns that played in the Motor City for seven years.

After moving to Los Angeles, he eventually became a fill-in host on The Tonight Show.

He moved to New York in 1964 and debuted The Soupy Sales Show, with co-star puppets White Fang (the meanest dog in the United States) and Black Tooth (the nicest dog in the United States). By the time his Big Apple run ended two years later, Sales had appeared on 5,370 live television programs — the most in the medium’s history, he boasted. He had a pair of albums that hit the Billboard Top 10 in 1965; Do the Mouse sold 250,000 copies in New York alone.

Sales remained a familiar television face, first as a regular from 1968-75 on the game show What’s My Line? and later appearing on everything from The Mike Douglas Show to The Love Boat. He played himself in the 1998 movie Holy Man, which starred Eddie Murphy.

He joined WNBC-AM as a disc jockey in 1985, a stint best remembered because Sales filled the hours between shock jocks Don Imus and Howard Stern.

Sales is survived by his wife Trudy and two sons, Hunt and Tony, a pair of well-known musicians who backed David Bowie in the band Tin Machine.

The 51-year-old celebrity arrived in the impoverished southern African country on Sunday. She was accompanied by her four children – daughters Lourdes and Mercy, and sons Rocco and David.

Madonna adopted Mercy from Malawi earlier this year and adopted David from the country in 2008.

Madonna's Raising Malawi, a charity founded in 2006, helps feed, educate and provide medical care for some of Malawi's orphans.


Penguin Executive David Davidar On Publishing

Source: www.globeandmail.com - John Barber

(October 27, 2009) Since coming here six years ago to lead Penguin Canada, India-born
David Davidar has emerged as one of the country's leading publishers, presiding over a renaissance in the brand's presence in the literary marketplace.

On his watch, the Canadian division doubled its revenues, won a Giller Prize for Joseph Boyden's Through Black Spruce, and earned two nominations this year for its new Hamish Hamilton Canada imprint. Meanwhile, the 51-year-old's own first novel, The House of Blue Mangoes, was an international bestseller published in 15 languages.

Last week, Penguin Group chairman John Makinson appointed Davidar CEO of a new division, called Penguin International, aimed at expanding the company's presence in emerging global markets. The Globe and Mail interviewed Davidar at his Toronto office.

What is the mandate of Penguin International?

It's a new way of looking at the world, really. The idea is that you take every established market and give them additional responsibility for high-growth markets that are attached to their division. So for example Penguin USA will have additional responsibility to develop the business in Latin America and Central America. Penguin UK will have responsibility for Russia and Eastern Europe, Penguin Australia will have responsibility for the Far East and I will have responsibility for Africa, the Middle East and India in addition to my responsibilities for the Canadian company.

This sounds similar to what many English publishers attempted in the postcolonial era.

I think the world is very different from what it was in the fifties and sixties. If you look at it, all the markets outside the U.S. and U.K., whether it was Australia or Canada, were initially export markets. Then they started publishing as well, thereby getting closer to the consumer in those markets, becoming a venue that authors could come to.

There are very big literate populations around the world who we need to get closer to, both in terms of publishing their writers and capturing new readership. The English language has penetrated faster and further than ever before. At the same time, there is the second level opportunity to publish in languages other than English. For instance, in India we publish in three or four languages other than English. So that again is an opportunity we are taking very seriously.

How's business at home?

Oddly, all the publishers I've talked to seem to be doing quite well in the teeth of a recession. Obviously there is a huge pressure on costs, we've had to keep our costs under control. There are concerns about the market in general. But I think you would find that most publishers would report they have had a pretty good year this year.

What was your mandate at Penguin Canada?

We had always been very strong non-fiction publishers but our fiction needed ramping up. We needed to be buying a lot more of the “bigger books” to try to win the big awards and obviously to increase sales. … The results speak for themselves.

What does the reader want?

The Canadian reader is very adventurous. The Canadian reader reads widely. This is a very literary market.

Tell us about your experience with Penguin India.

It was the first publishing job I ever had. I was sent to England for a while to learn the ropes, then went to Delhi, a city I had never been to before. Penguin's investment in Penguin India at that point was $10,000, including my salary. It worked. Today Penguin India is Asia's largest English-language publishing company, with revenues in the millions of dollars.

What's the next India?

At this point I have not done any study of the regions that have come under my control except for India, so that is going to be a fairly steep learning curve. But certainly there are countries in the Middle East that offer opportunities. The Arab world wants to propagate its cultural heritage in a wider way.

In South Africa there's room to grow. But also there's Nigeria, maybe Kenya. If we came up with one or two ideas a year we'd be way ahead of the game.

Arts Booster Marcello Cabezas' Chance To Take A Bow

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(October 28, 2009) It's always nice when the good guys win and they don't come much better than Marcello Cabezas.

The show business jack-of-all-trades, master-of-most, is being honoured on Thursday night by national business association Business for the Arts at its annual awards gala.

He's getting the second ever "Arnold" Award, named in honour of the late and much-missed supporter of the arts, Arnold Edinborough, given to "young business leaders in Canada who dedicate a tremendous amount of time and energy volunteering for the arts while busy building a career."

Whenever I get a text, email or call from the energetic 30-something Cabezas, I know he's going to give me an enthusiastic pitch for some new project involving another young artist whose work he's discovered. With Cabezas doing the pitching, you may wind up rubbing elbows with Hollywood stars downtown or sitting in a drafty loft in Trinity Bellwoods. The only thing you can predict is that you won't be wasting your time.

In recent years, his workload has been amazing. One of the gang who started MacIDeas production company, he acted in This Is Our Youth, helped to produce Matt and Ben, has worked extensively with the Youth Film and Media Training Network and is currently focusing his energies on the Free the Children charity in collaboration with Artbound. As if all this wasn't enough, he also writes Fringe shows, gets projects off the ground for Bravo!Fact and has been one of the people who helped make the Drake Hotel action central for the happening arts scene in Toronto.

Cabezas was asked why he thought he was tapped for the honour and his reply was typically clear-sighted.

"At the end of the day, where my career has gone is very much about someone who is not just an artist, but a cultural and business connector who celebrates and likes to nurture other artists as well."

He finds the looseness and randomness of the way he pursues things is what makes it all so attractive and possible.

"It's that artist you meet at a coffee shop. You chat about what they're doing and you like it. So you make a call to a gallery that could wind up selling their pictures and changing their lives. But if you never stopped to have that coffee, nothing would have happened."

Cabezas says his goal is to "infuse culture into the average person's everyday world" and he's been doing a pretty good job of it so far.

GET READY FOR THE CHANGE: Here's a hot flash for you!

The Star has learned that 513 performances from 2006-2008 weren't enough to cool the fervour of its local fans and so Menopause the Musical is coming back to the Winter Garden for three weeks in 2010, starting in February.

As Marc Zimmerman, director of marketing and operations, puts it, "Vancouver may be getting the Winter Olympics, but Toronto has Menopause!"

ADAM HAD 'EM: Montreal producer Adam Blanshay has been flying in a triangle between New York, Montreal and Toronto.

On one side, he's trying to see if he can get a production of his Manhattan hit, Daniel MacIvor's His Greatness, happening here; on the other, he's working with longtime associate Steve Galluccio on finding further life for his latest play, In Piazza San Domenico, once it concludes its multiple held-over run at Montreal's Centaur Theatre.

The critics haven't all been kind, but then they weren't to Galluccio's last script, Mambo Italiano, either and that one went on to box office platinum in several cities.


Toronto Artist Shary Boyle Wins $25,000 Prize

Source: www.thestar.com

(October 27, 2009) Toronto artist
Shary Boyle, who has projected her drawings onstage atconcerts for musicians including Feist and Peaches, has won this year's $25,000 Gershon Iskowitz Prize. The multidisciplinary artist will receive the honour, established 20 years ago by the late by Canadian painter Gershon Iskowitz, at a reception on Dec. 1. Boyle's work, which has been exhibited around the world and also includes paintings and sculptures, will go on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario next year. Boyle became recognized for what she calls "live-drawing projected light shows" in the late 1990s. Other musicians she's done them for include Jens Lekman and Christine Fellows. Jury members for the prize called her work "singularly bold and original." The prize is sponsored by the AGO and the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation. A commemorative book celebrating its 20th anniversary will be released on Dec. 1 at the AGO. Francoise Sullivan of Montreal won the prize last year and will see his work be exhibited at the AGO in February. The AGO is also home to the archives of Iskowitz, who died in 1988.


Old Friends Lee And Sabathia Set To Square Off In World Series Opener

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(October 28, 2009) ‘NEW YORK — The first time they met was seven years ago. Cliff Lee was a September call-up with a cocksure attitude, and his new teammate was immediately impressed.

“He was the Cliff that he is now. He went out and pounded both sides of the plate, attacking, real aggressive in the strike zone,” CC Sabathia said Tuesday. “He goes right after you.”

Lee lost his major league debut that day for Cleveland, despite pitching well against Minnesota. The two pitchers soon struck up a friendship, however, and it’s still going strong.

Now, the left-handed aces are set to square off in the World Series opener Wednesday night. Both traded by the Indians within the past two years, Lee will start for the Philadelphia Phillies against Sabathia and the New York Yankees.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Sabathia said.

Teammates only 16 months ago, Lee and Sabathia have more in common than their Cleveland history and potent left arms. Their families are friendly, and they still text each other often.

“I think we made each other better,” Lee said. “We helped each other out as far as how we thought we should approach certain teams and just what’s the best frame of mind to have on the mound and stuff.”

Sabathia won the 2007 AL Cy Young Award with the Indians, then Lee took home the trophy last year. They’ve both been dominant throughout this post-season, leading their new teams onto baseball’s biggest stage. And they’ve already faced each other in a similar setting.

Lee pitched the Indians to a 10-2 victory on April 16 in the first game at the new Yankee Stadium. Sabathia started for New York but did not get a decision.

“I guess it was a chaotic atmosphere,” Lee said.

Even though the Yankees lost, Sabathia has fond memories.

“That was pretty cool. It’s just weird because a couple years ago we were talking about maybe pitching in a World Series together. Now we’re in different clubhouses,” Sabathia said. “We’re close. You know, we always have been. We came up together.”

And after that game, Lee had dinner at Sabathia’s house.

“My wife cooked, and he came over and hung out. That’s just how we are,” Sabathia said. “We never talk about baseball. ... Just two regular guys talking about whatever.”

New York’s home opener certainly drew plenty of attention, but it won’t compare to Wednesday night.

“This matchup couldn’t have been better,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, the skipper in Cleveland for Sabathia’s first 11/2 years in the majors from 2001-02. “This is a big, premier game. I’m looking forward to it.”

Both clubs are thrilled to open the Series with a well-rested No. 1 starter on the mound.

Sabathia, traded from Cleveland to Milwaukee last season, signed a US$161-million, seven-year contract with the Yankees as a free agent last winter. He’s been worth every penny.

The six-foot-seven, 290-pound workhorse won 19 games during the regular season, then raised his game in the playoffs. He went 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA and 20 strikeouts in three starts, earning MVP honours in the AL championship series.

“CC has been an enormous, enormous pickup for us. I mean, he’s doing exactly what we brought him here to do,” Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez said. “CC’s an amazing human being. He’s fit into our clubhouse extremely well and I think he has the perfect makeup and personality for New York.”

The defending champion Phillies have had some success against Sabathia, though. He is 1-2 with a 5.55 ERA in four career starts against them, including a playoff loss with the Brewers last year.

Pitching on three days’ rest for the fourth straight start, Sabathia lasted only 3 2-3 innings in that one. He allowed five runs, four walks and six hits, including a grand slam by Shane Victorino.

Lee, a fast worker with pinpoint control, has been just as effective as Sabathia this October. Acquired from Cleveland in a July trade, he is 2-0 with a 0.74 ERA in his first post-season. He has thrown 24 1-3 innings in three starts.

“When he’s on the mound, he wants to be perfect,” Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said.

Of course, while the Lee-Sabathia matchup figures to intrigue most fans, it will probably be painful to watch for those in Cleveland.

With both star pitchers approaching big paydays, the cost-conscious Indians dealt them away for packages of prospects.

“They can’t be feeling too good about it,” Lee said with a smile. “I’m going to do everything I can to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Dolph Ziggler Reserves His Bragging Rights


(October 23, 2009) Dolph Ziggler could have been an unhappy camper. In a surprise move, he was recently dropped from the Team Smackdown vs. Team Raw tag-team match-up at this Sunday's Bragging Rights pay-per-view, but the Smackdown star in a straight-to-the-point interview with SLAM! Wrestling remains unnerved and will in fact be at the show. And if the past few weeks are any indication, anything can happen in the WWE, even at a pay-per-view.

After the television taping on Tuesday, it has widely circulated that the main event for Bragging Rights changes tonight on Smackdown. Instead of the Raw team of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Big Show, Mark Henry, Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger, and Kofi Kingston facing SmackDown's Chris Jericho, Kane, Dolph Ziggler, Cryme Tyme’s Shad & JTG, Eric Escobar and Drew McIntyre, the Friday night team will be made up of Matt Hardy, Fit Finlay, R-Truth, David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd.

Ziggler has moved on. "Either way, I'm going to be at the pay-per-view at Bragging Rights, because it's something all the brands are involved in," he said matter-of-factly. "One way or another, I'm going to try and get in there, and make my presence felt."

It's not like the WWE hasn't had its share of shockers lately.

Smackdown announcer Jim Ross recently revealed that he will not be able to call Bragging Rights due to a recent bout with Bell's Palsy. "I heard for some reason he had some kind of a medical issue, he wasn't in top shape, but our thoughts always go out to him," Ziggler said. "He's the best announcer to ever call wrestling, that's what they always say. We've got to keep them in good shape."

As well, Ziggler revealed his thoughts on the sudden resignation of WWE Executive Vice-President of Global Media Shane McMahon, tendered October 16 and effective January 1, 2010. He also talked about the recent passing of Captain Lou Albano.

"It was a shock to most of us. He's [Shane] been a really great guy all the times I came in contact with him. An awesome guy. He was always trying to go above and beyond for our product, so I'm sure whatever he's moving on to, he's going to be great at it and blow it out for the water," he said.

"One of the first memories I've had of MTV was watching the old wrestling cartoon [Hulk Hogan's Rock ‘n' Wrestling]. I remember Captain Lou Albano being in the music video with Cyndi Lauper. He was loved by everybody and no one's ever said a bad thing about that guy.

"That's always unfortunate, you know."

One event that was not a shock to many fans was Triple H's victory over John Cena on this past Monday's Raw. Asked to assess the match, Ziggler pondered carefully before revealing his thoughts.

"Well, it's two of the top guys in the business and it's something everyone wants to see," he began. "I think a huge part of that entire match was showing that John Cena can go in a long match with one of the best in the entire business. I think that match really showed two stars that stood out in terms of guys that can go, and it seemed like a warm-up for that 60-minute Iron Man match [between Cena and Randy Orton at Bragging Rights]. I think it was actually a really good move. It established those two top guys that they can go, if they have to go for a while."

EDITOR'S NOTE: We'll have more from the SLAM! Wrestling interview with Dolph Ziggler in the coming weeks, including who he has some unfinished business with in the Smackdown squared circle, and his choice for Raw guest host.

Blake Griffin Breaks Kneecap, Out Six Weeks

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(October 27, 2009) LOS ANGELES –
Blake Griffin's NBA debut has been pushed back indefinitely after the Los Angeles Clippers revealed late Monday night that their No. 1 overall draft pick has a broken left kneecap.

The stress fracture could sideline the Oklahoma star for six weeks, the team announced, promising further information Tuesday.

Griffin, who averaged 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game during the pre-season, won't be in the Clippers' line-up when they face the Lakers in their opener Tuesday night, and he could be out much longer. The Clippers play 20 games in their first six weeks of the regular season.

Griffin apparently broke his kneecap during the Clippers' final exhibition game against New Orleans last Friday, perhaps after a dunk that left the power forward wincing in pain. The team initially said Griffin only had a sore left knee, making him questionable for the opener, before revealing the break.

Griffin was the consensus college player of the year with 22.7 points and an NCAA-best 14.4 rebounds per game last season for the Sooners.

After the Clippers won the draft lottery and selected him, Griffin strained his right shoulder during a summer league game in July. The team brought him back cautiously, and Griffin said he was totally healthy in the pre-season.

His latest injury is a sadly unsurprising setback for the star-crossed Clippers, who won just 19 games last year in an injury-plagued season. Los Angeles has just two winning in the last 30 years and just one playoff series victory since moving to town in 1984.

Los Angeles was mostly healthy going into this fall, with point guard Baron Davis and centre Chris Kaman both ready to play after missing chunks of last season. The Clippers actually have solid frontcourt talent with Marcus Camby, Al Thornton and Rasual Butler alongside Griffin.

Figure Skating May Gain Appreciation From Battle Of The Blades

Source: www.thestar.com -
Neil Stevens

(October 22, 2009) TORONTO–The figure skating community is getting a hoot out of "Battle of the Blades."

Liz Manley has been tuning into the Sunday and Monday evening instalments of the elimination-style pairs competitions teaming former NHL players with accomplished figure skaters.

"The show has been a riot to watch," says the Olympic figure skating silver medallist. "I have always been a huge hockey fan so it's fun to watch them try to do figure skating moves."

Manley coaches at the Ottawa-region Gloucester Skating Club and says she'd have jumped at the chance to participate in CBC's ``Battle of the Blades."

"Being married to a (former OHL) hockey player, I would have loved to have done it with him," she says.

Canadian champion Patrick Chan of Toronto has been training in Florida so uses his laptop to check out the show.

"I don't get CBC on TV but the day after the premiere I went on YouTube to check it out," Chan said during a visit home to Toronto. "I watched Tie Domi skate and I've never been so nervous watching other people skate.

"The hockey players looked so funny but I'm happy to see a show like this happen. Maybe viewers will have a greater appreciation for figure skating and understand how challenging it is."

National women's champ Joannie Rochette has watched some of the shows.

"I was really impressed with what they could do, especially the lifts with Marie-France (Dubreuil and Stephane Richer)," Rochette said after practice in the Montreal region. "That must be difficult to learn for a hockey player.

"I'll have to watch more."

Debbi Wilkes, an Olympic pairs silver medallist and now director of marketing and communications for Skate Canada, will certainly be watching more. She was in Maple Leaf Gardens for the premiere and has returned for another live show.

"I am absolutely loving the show," says Wilkes. "After all these years of figure skating and hockey competing against each other for ice time and attention, we've come together at last to show how skating can be celebrated as a lifelong achievement."

With the exception of Dubreuil and Shae-Lynn Bourne, the other participants have been out of competition for years and "it takes real courage to skate back into the spotlight, particularly for the hockey guys who've never had to perform like this – no team, and to music."

"My respect for them is off the charts," says Wilkes.

The brief performances on "Battle of the Blades" are shorter than those at top-level competitions and the technical aspects are vastly inferior to those exhibited by national-level pairs skaters and not even remotely approaching the talents needed to enter the world-class realm of the International Skating Union, which is understandable given the short time the retired hockey players have had to dabble in pairs skating in preparing for the TV show.

"The level of skating is nothing close to ISU competition," says long-time Montreal-region pairs coach Richard Gauthier. "You have the girls who are very good but most of the partners are really bad skaters.

"I feel sorry for all those girls. They have to pull them around, hold them, so they don't fall."

Gauthier sounds as if he'll be pulling the plug on "Battle of the Blades."

"I don't really enjoy watching this show," he says. "It would have been okay for one show but I can't watch this every week."

Wilkes can, and gladly.

"Of course the difficulty of elements is not as great as what we'll see in eligible competition today but that doesn't take away from the quality of the basic skating – how the bodies move with ease, the edge work, the ability to power up, the control," she points out.

"The figure skaters are clearly showing their superior skills at figure skating and all that entails but I'm not so sure our girls would be so stunningly good if the cultures were reversed and they had to prove their hockey skills.

"Okay, Barb Underhill would probably by an MVP but she's an exception. All in all, I'd have to say that there's never been a better opportunity for the Canadian public to understand what it takes to be a great skater.

"The comparison of hockey to figure has shown without a doubt that learning to skate well is a special skill that takes good coaching, top notch programs, special dedication and real talent, whether it's to score artistic and technical point or goals."

Five of the eight couples who began Battle of the Blades remain in contention for the $100,000 grand prize that'll go to charities of the winners' choice. First to go were Bob Probert and Kristina Lenko. Glenn Anderson and Isabelle Brasseur followed and, most recently, Underhill and Ron Duguay were iced.

Former world champion Don Jackson will be at the Gardens on Nov. 1. He knows the figure skaters and he's also met some of the hockey players through his between-periods exhibitions during NHL Legends charity hockey games over the years.

"I really have to give these guys credit for taking on something so different," says Jackson, who coaches at Ottawa's Minto club. "They're very good sports to try figure skates, which are very different."

The picks on the toes of figure skating boots are mainly for jumping and can trip up even experienced figure skaters. Hockey players on "Battle of the Blades" who've tried using figure skates certainly gained an added dose of respect for figure skaters as they picked themselves up off the ice.

"That's good for our sport and especially for men that take up figure skating," said Jackson. "On the other side of the coin, it is good for young hockey players to be able to see their idols skate without a hockey stick and to see what good skaters they really area. This series has been good for both sports and I find it is very entertaining."

A big test for the hockey players will be trying lifts while turning and changing feet like real figure skaters do, says Jackson.

"I think they could do it from the way they have improved as the series has gone on," he says.

Runner Modification Kills Michelle Kelly's Olympic Dream

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman

(October 28, 2009) Former world champion Michelle Kelly's 2010 Winter Olympic dream is dashed and her career possibly over after she was left off the Canadian skeleton team for manipulating her runners in a recent selection race.

Kelly, who turns 35 on Nov. 7, was regarded as the No. 2 slider on the women's skeleton team behind Olympic bronze medallist Mellisa Hollingsworth and a potential medallist for next February's Winter Games in Vancouver, but won't be on the team being announced in Calgary today.

"I think everyone understands she's a very talented athlete and this is not an easy decision," Don Wilson, CEO of Bobsleigh Skeleton Canada, said last night.

Kelly was too distraught to talk about the situation. She is expected to appeal.

"I don't think I want to say anything for a few days," she said.

Kelly was second in the first phase of selection races in Whistler a week ago, but it was discovered during the sled and runner check afterward that she had manipulated her runners and was disqualified.

Wilson said Kelly broke rule 14.8 of the international governing body's (FIBT) guidelines, which states the markings on a runner cannot be altered in any way. He said the markings, which the FIBT stamps on the uniform steel sold to make runners, were reduced and/or missing on Kelly's runners.

Wilson said it doesn't matter if it was on purpose or not.

"When one manipulates runners ... it's deemed to be for a competitive advantage," he said.

The disqualification put Kelly 11th and last in the selection races. There is a sixth spot on the national team that can be awarded under coaches' discretion, but they decided not to give it to Kelly.

"Traditionally, that type of situation is for if a bear jumps out and grabs somebody on the track," said Wilson. "They are for unfortunate circumstances that perhaps someone has no control over."


Safina, Williams To Settle No. 1 Ranking This Week

Excerpt from www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(October 26, 2009) DOHA, Qatar – After months of debate about who is more deserving of the No. 1 ranking, Serena Williams and Dinara Safina will settle the issue on the court at the WTA Tour's season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships. Safina recaptured the top ranking from Williams this week, but the player who performs better at this week's lucrative tournament in Doha will end the year at No. 1. Safina has held the top spot for 26 weeks this year but has faced questions about whether she's worthy of the title without having won a Grand Slam tournament. Williams won her 11th major title at Wimbledon this year, and also won the Australian Open. Williams said Monday that ending 2009 as No. 1 "would be really cool." The eight-player tournament starts Tuesday.


The 7 Deadly Workout Sins

By Raphael Calzadilla, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

"Your PURPOSE explains WHAT you are doing with your life. Your VISION explains how you are living your PURPOSE. Your GOALS enable you to realize your VISION."

-- Bob Proctor, Author and Speaker

(October 09, 2009) Exercise is the best thing for your health regardless of your age, level of fitness or goals. However, it can also be dangerous if you don't avoid some common mistakes and take the proper precautions. Engaging in an exercise program with little foresight and planning can lead to burnout, frustration and possible injury.

If you want to maximize your workout and look your best, it's going to take a combination of motivation and the correct information. eDiets will always help provide the motivation you need and all the necessary information to make you the healthiest and fittest you can be.

Let's take a look at my version of the seven deadly workout sins:

1. Skipping the warm-up. Doing too much too quickly will send your heart rate soaring and put unprepared muscles and joints at a high risk for injury. For beginners, rapid increases in heart rates can lead to light-headedness, nausea, dizziness, fainting or even heart attacks and stroke. Muscles need time to adjust to the demands placed on them during exercise. Before hitting the weight room or jumping into your regular cardio workout, you should take a few minutes to gently prepare the body for heavier activity -- walking slowly is one example.

2. Jumping into the sauna or hot tub immediately following a workout. The temperatures of saunas and hot tubs can be detrimental to a body that already has elevated temperatures and blood vessels that are dilated from activity. Your body needs to dissipate heat in order to bring your heart rate back to a resting zone and re-circulate blood back to your organs. High temperatures in hot tubs and saunas will cause light-headedness, dizziness, fatigue, nausea or worse: heat exhaustion, heat stroke and heart attacks. Instead, try a cool shower or allow your heart rate to return to resting levels before getting into the saunas and tubs.

3. Holding your breath while lifting weights. Breath holding, also known as the valsalva manoeuvre, during weightlifting increases blood pressure significantly, leading to light-headedness, dizziness, nausea, hernia, heart attack or stroke. To avoid creating high internal pressures, inhale and exhale with each exercise phase of a repetition and breathe naturally during cardiovascular activity.

4. Not having a physical prior to beginning an exercise program. You want to have the most benefit with the least amount of risk and it would never be wrong for you to get a complete check-up prior to beginning activity -- especially if you are over 45 or have other risk factors like smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol or obesity. If you meet two of the above criteria, you are considered to be at risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. While exercise is the best thing for your condition, beginning a program without the proper guidelines can do you more harm than good.

5. Exercising above your determined heart rate range. Continually pushing your heart rates to the maximal limits during your cardiovascular workouts is overstressing your heart and lungs unnecessarily. When your heart rate is up to maximal loads, there is a greater chance for irregular heart rhythms. You don't need to place such high demands on your heart to see cardiovascular benefits or to burn fat. If you are apparently healthy, the recommended range is 55-85 percent of your maximal heart rate.

6. Using hand or ankle weights while walking or during aerobic classes. Many fitness guidelines indicate that the use of hand weights during the aerobic portion of step training produces little, if any, increase in energy expenditure or muscle strength. The risk of injury to shoulder joints is significantly increased when weights are rapidly moved through a larger range of motion. It's recommended that hand weights be reserved for strength training, where speed of the movement can be controlled.

7. Not listening to your body. Abnormal heart beats, pain, chest pressure, dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, prolonged fatigue or insomnia following intensive exercise are signs of an over-trained body that may be at high risk for a heart attack or injury. Take a hint, and slow the down the pace or reduce the number of routines. It would be advisable to have a medical professional assess your condition if you experience any of the major warning signs of cardiac distress during an exercise session. If any symptoms persist during or following an exercise session, have your signs evaluated.


Motivational Note

"Never be afraid to sit awhile and think."

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com — Lorraine Hansberry