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April 22, 2010

Junos last weekend - My friend and beloved Canadian musician and icon, Haydain Neale, was celebrated at this year's Juno Awards in Halifax.  Read about it under TOP STORIES and MUSIC NEWS.  Look under MUSIC NEWSfor much more Juno coverage.

And look at our
Russell Peters coming to Windsor for his only Canadian show in his Green Card Tour.

Don't forget to regularly check out my PHOTO GALLERY  for live shots of my ventures around this great city!

Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

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


Buble and K'naan Snag Junos On First Night Of Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Patch , The Canadian Press

(Apr. 17 2010) ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — There were no multiple winners as Michael Buble, K'naan and Johnny Reid claimed Juno Awards on Saturday, but for Jacksoul, one more trophy was plenty.

The Toronto R&B group won their third Juno as 32 of 39 categories were awarded at a non-televised gala. The win comes after the November death of
Haydain Neale, who was recovering from a near-fatal traffic accident and battling lung cancer during the album's conception.

The group's keyboardist Ron Lopata -- accepting the award alongside Neale's wife, Michaela -- urged the crowd to shout out Neale's name in unison.

"Haydain didn't only sing soul music, but he had a beautiful soul," Lopata said, his voice cracking. "As you all know, he had an accident a couple years ago, and I saw him fight every day in rehab and put his whole soul into that to get better for everybody.

"And then he contracted cancer, and then he had the gumption to say I'm going to go into the studio and make a soul record ... and if that doesn't deserve best fricking soul recording, I don't know what does.

"So, we miss you Haydain, we love you Haydain, and I know he would thank everybody here."

Buble, who entered the weekend with a leading six nominations, won for pop album of the year, but was beat out in the artist of the year category by Somalian-born, Toronto-raised hip-hop artist K'naan.

The 34-year-old Buble revelled in his one win, reminiscing about his first Juno, which he won in 2004 for best new artist.

"I came to this event as a pudgy, young kid full of dreams, and I've come here tonight as a middle-aged, balding man whose dream is to have hair like the Biebs," Buble said, referring to his rival in the pop album category, 16-year-old Justin Bieber.

"Honest to god, I remember winning best new artist and it meant everything to me, and it still feels the same."

K'naan's win wasn't the only surprising victory of the evening, which saw the bulk of the prizes handed out ahead of Sunday night's televised bash (CTV, check local listings).

Veteran Montreal singer Ranee Lee won vocal jazz album of the year over decorated Nanaimo, B.C., chanteuse Diana Krall (who has pocketed eight Junos over her long career) and Billy Talent triumphed over 12-time Juno winners the Tragically Hip and last year's champions Nickelback for rock album of the year.

"Hasn't Nickelback been nominated on this record for the last four years?" Billy Talent frontman Ben Kowalewicz said with a laugh backstage.

While the Saturday show is never the glitzy extravaganza that viewers soak up in the televised broadcast, this year's gala was hardly short on tender, affecting moments.

Following Jacksoul's stirring victory, Toronto double-bass maestro Joel Quarrington took the trophy for classical album of the year: solo or chamber ensemble for his "Garden Scene."

The award comes months after Quarrington lost his big brother, Paul, to cancer in January. During Quarrington's speech, he told the audience to look out for Paul Quarrington's new posthumous album, due in May.

Hometown winner

At the other end of the emotional spectrum, hometown favourite Amelia Curran -- the only St. John's local nominated at this year's show, according to organizers -- snagged the award for roots & traditional album of the year.

"Jeepers," she said as she took the stage. "There's nothing in the world I love more than my hometown, and I wanted to say: 'Welcome to St. John's."'

Many of the heavyweights still carry a bundle of nominations going into Sunday's event.

Seven awards will be announced during the televised portion of this year's show, including album of the year, single of the year and the Juno fan choice award.

Buble can still win four more awards. Likewise, all four of Toronto rapper Drake's nominations are in categories that will be settled Sunday.

Both artists will perform at Sunday's show at Mile One Centre, along with Billy Talent -- who have another three nominations -- Bieber, Classified and K'naan, each of whom still possesses two nominations.

Meanwhile, organizers said that the persistent fog and wind that have kept artists and journalists stranded at airports throughout the country for days at a time would not affect Sunday's show.

"We're all systems go," said Junos spokesperson Chris McDowall on Saturday. "Everybody will be in place for the broadcast.

"The awards will go according to plan, we're looking forward to a great show ... and a brilliant broadcast."

But it did affect Saturday's show. Jack de Keyzer won for blues album of the year but wasn't able to make it to the show due to the weather, while Andrea Lindsay won for francophone album of the year but was apparently stranded in Nova Scotia.

"Halifax International Airport, can you believe it? Fogged out," said host Seamus O'Regan of "Canada AM."

Billy Talent did manage to make the gala after suffering through a series of delays, thanks to a daring flight staff who managed to land in St. John's despite rough conditions.

"We had Maverick and Goose as our pilots," Kowalewicz said, dropping a "Top Gun" reference. "They were like, 'We're just going to give it a go.' We're like, what does that mean?

"It was terrifying, but we all made it safe and sound."

The Mane Attraction: Lion King returns to Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(April 17, 2010) Okay, Toronto, get ready to join “The Circle of Life” once more.

The Star has learned that
The Lion King will be returning to our fair city for a five-week engagement, presented by Mirvish Productions starting April 19, 2011.

That will be slightly over seven years since it closed its highly successful 1,560 performance run at the Princess of Wales Theatre in 2004, generating over $1.4 billion in spillover revenue to Canadian business.

And in a nice piece of theatrical real estate luck, the Elton John-Tim Rice musical will be playing again in that same luxurious King St. W. Theatre where it first opened in April 2000.

My calculations indicate that nearly 3 million people saw the show during its last run in Toronto, making it No. 3 among Toronto’s most-attended theatrical pieces, behind The Phantom of the Opera and Mamma Mia! (opening for a limited return run, as well, this April 29).

The worldwide success of The Lion King as a stage musical has continued non-stop since it opened on Broadway in 1997, where on April 18 it will hit 5,157 performances, making it the eighth-longest running show in North American theatre history. And, unbelievably, it’s still playing to capacity audiences and grossing $1.5 million there every week.

What’s the show’s secret ingredient? Besides the universal appeal behind the story of young Simba growing to adulthood and avenging his father death (it’s actually Hamlet on the Veldt, if you look closely), there’s the undeniable power of the John-Rice score and the magical staging of Julie Taymor.

I haven’t seen the show since 2002 and I miss seeing Taymor’s unique staging of the opening number, when the entire world of jungle creatures comes to life. If you’ve never experienced that thrilling moment when the elephant brushes right by you in the aisle, then I suggest you get your tickets now.

Hey, it’s been seven years since it played here and you might even have kids now who weren’t even born then. There’s something really powerful about multiple generations growing up experiencing the same landmark piece of theatre.

That’s my idea of “The Circle of Life.”

: The world press has certainly been kept busy this week cataloguing the future plans of Scarborough’s own Des McAnuff, artistic director of our own Stratford Festival.

In addition to his production of Faust for the English National Opera which opens this Sept. 18, his long-gestated musical based on Doctor Zhivago is expected to have its first performance in Sydney, Australia early in 2011.

Then, once the 2011 Stratford season in up and rolling, McAnuff will have to supervise the move of his British Faust to New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where it’s expected to open in 2012. He’ll at least find one collegial Canuck colleague at the Met, because Robert Lepage is spending a lot of his time there between now and 2012, mounting all the operas in Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Lepage tackles the first work in the tetralogy, Das Rheingold, on Sept. 27 this year, with the second piece, Die Walkure, opening on April 22, 2011.

The final two operas, Siegfried and Die Gotterdamerung, will open in the 2011-2012 season and the Met’s general manager Peter Gelb has announced that the entire Lepage cycle will be performed in repertory at some point in 2012.

That means a lot of work for our Canadian directors, but rumours about changing the name of the venerable institution to the Maple Leaf Opera House are more than a bit premature.

Let’s wait for that until Jennifer Tarver gets invited down to stage something there — which might be sooner than you think!

Russell Peters' Only Canadian Date in 2010!

Source: Sonya Bhatia

( April 21)  Global comedy rock-star
Russell Peters will perform a one-off Canadian date as part of his GREEN CARD TOUR at Caesars Windsor Hotel & Casino on Saturday, July 3rd at 9 pm, tickets go on-sale this Saturday, April 24th at 12 noon EST at www.ticketmaster.com with a limited pre-sale starting today (Wednesday, April 21st at noon).  The show features material from Peters 2009, 20th ANNIVERSARY TOUR plus new material.
Opening for Peters are SIRIUS Satellite Radio and Russell Peters’ Search for Canada ’s BFF (Best Funny Five) winners, comedians Kathleen McGee and Jack Dani. Launched in October 2009, the online contest set out to discover the Canadian with the funniest five-minute comedy set. Contestants were invited to upload a video of their best 5-minute set to www.sirius.ca and www.russellpetersbff.com. Website visitors voted for their top pick and Russell Peters selected the final winner from among the top 10.
In March, Peters completed the filming of the Sci-fi thriller, Source Code, directed by Duncan Jones (Moon) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright.
Peters return to touring starts this week with an unprecedented six-show run in Boston and two sold-out shows in Washington D.C. .  He leaves for Australia in May to commence the largest comedy tour in Australian history, including a show for over 12,000 at the Acer Arena in Sydney .
On April 1st Peters went on-sale for his September dates in the UK and sold over 10,000 tickets in one day for his return to London 's O2 Arena, forcing the addition of a second show.
In 2009 Peters was ranked by Forbes -- along with Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock -- as one of the top ten highest grossing stand-up comics in the U.S.   With his signature irreverent take on race, culture and all of our so-called differences, Peters has gained a devoted global following and has been packing theatres, arenas and clubs worldwide for two decades including two sold out shows at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall in January 2010 and Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre in February 2010.
For more information on Russell Peters, visit www.russellpeters.com


Save On The Bahamas And Watch Justin Bieber Raise Atlantis

Source: www.thestar.com - Kathryn Folliott

(April 20, 2010) Dolphins, sea lions and 250 other species normally get all the attention at
Atlantis, Paradise Island, the sprawling luxury Bahamas resort. That probably won’t be the case on June 12, when Stratford, Ontario’s Justin Bieber is scheduled to perform as part of the Atlantis LIVE series. And good news for Bieber fans (and their parents), the 16-year-old’s concert date falls within the travel window for Atlantis’s just released Spring Special package, offering four nights of accommodation from $497 (all figures U.S.) per person for travel May 26 to June 20 when booked by May 28. You can also visit the resort from $397 between April 25 and May 26.

The special also includes a long list of extras, normally costing up to $650 but free with the offer. This includes two dolphin activities and a round of golf at the Ocean Club Golf Course. Canadian guests are also eligible for a $300 air credit with a minimum four-night stay, provided accommodation and airfare are booked together by May 10, for travel through Dec. 22.

Fall foliage with MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises is introducing its new Canada and New England sailings with a shipboard credit deal worth up to $200 per stateroom, for cruises booked by May 30. Timed to take advantage of the fall colours, cruises depart out of New York City and Quebec City in September and October with durations ranging from six to 19 nights. One sailing, the seven-night Scenic Splendors of Fall, visits New York City, Halifax, Charlottetown, Corner Brook and Quebec with an Oct. 2 departure priced from $699 per person.

Take a Gander at Sunwing

Sunwing is offering flights to Gander and St. John’s, Newfoundland, this summer, with twice-weekly service starting June 25 and running through Sept. 7. A special introductory fare from $99 each way has no booking deadline but “quantities are limited,” says the airline. Flights run Tuesdays and Fridays on Boeing 737s.

Best Buy of the Week

Greece and the Adriatic Sea are on sale with Variety Cruises. Seven-night cruises called Aegean Odyssey, Jewels of the Cyclades and Classical Greece come with a 50 per cent discount for second passengers (based on double occupancy) and your choice of a two-night stay at an Athens hotel or $140 in shipboard credit. Another itinerary, the new Tales of the Adriatic, has a two-for-one deal where second passengers in a twin cabin sail free. All of these deals apply to select sale dates through the summer and must be booked by May 30.

Kathryn Folliott is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Prices quoted are subject to change and availability.

Picks of the Week

Sunquest: Costa Rica, air and hotel, $1,087. www.sunquest.ca

Air Canada Vacations: St. Lucia, air and hotel, $1,249. www.aircanadavacations.com

Nolitours: Varadero, air and hotel, $499. www.nolitours.com

Signature Vacations: Manzanillo de Cuba, air and hotel, $425. www.signaturevacations.com

Transat Holidays: Kissimmee, Fla., air, hotel and car, $359. www.transatholidays.com

Hola Sun Holidays: Cayo Santa Maria, air and hotel, $658. www.holasunholidays.ca

Bel Air Travel: Los Cabos, air and hotel, $687. www.belairtravel.com

Sunwing Vacations: Montego Bay, air and hotel, $925. www.sunwing.ca

Sell Off Vacations: Five-night Montreal, air and hotel, $399. www.selloffvacations.com

itravel2000: Honolulu, air and hotel, $807. www.itravel2000.com

Sears Travel: Aruba, air and hotel, $858. www.searstravel.ca

WestJet Vacations: Samana, air and hotel, $669. www.westjetvacations.com

Tour East Holidays: Nine-night China, air, hotel, sightseeing, meals, $3,999 for 2. www.toureast.com

Trafalgar Tours: California Dreamin’ hotel, some meals, transfers, touring, $1,889. www.trafalgartours.ca


Charlotte Gainsbourg Lets Loose

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Simona Rabinovitch

(April 21, 2010) Montreal —
Charlotte Gainsbourg likes to draw. She especially enjoys painting with ink, and her technique goes something like this. “You put a lot of water on the paper, then you take ink and you draw on top of that,” says the French actress and singer, whose new album IRM is a collaboration with indie visionary pop star Beck. “The ink goes the way it wants to go and you can't force it. I love the randomness.”

Surrendering control to allow discovery, finding freedom within boundaries and, ultimately, trusting life seem to be recurring themes for the 38-year-old these days.

“It is a matter of trust,” she agrees. “I [recently] realized how I love being directed because I think that's the way I find my own freedom – inside other people's barriers. If I have all the freedom I want, then I'm lost.”

Daughter of British actress Jane Birkin and late French pop icon Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte Gainsbourg grew up a star. At age 13, she released an album of her father's songs, made a movie with Catherine Deneuve and found herself embroiled in controversy over a duet with her dad called Lemon Incest. Today, with almost 40 films on her résumé, the mother of two (with partner Yvan Attal) comes across as sophisticated, smart, sweet and down-to-earth. The challenging roles she takes on reveal the strength beneath her willowy beauty: She won best actress at Cannes last year for her emotional performance in Lars von Trier's Antichrist, playing a mother grieving the loss of a child, and riskier scenes included not only nudity and hysterics, but masturbation and self-mutilation. She begins shooting von Trier's next project, Melancholia, in August.

“There was something very reassuring, very intense, that made me want to go as far as he wanted, which was very unusual,” she says about working with von Trier. “It was the will to discover things with him, letting go and trusting him. He said at the very beginning, 'Because of what I'm going to ask you, you have to trust me. I'll never put onscreen something you'll be ashamed of.' He was right. And I was right to trust him. He has a way of making you discover emotions, trying different things; it never stops. And it's very, very exhilarating.”

Just before making Antichrist and IRM – which is the French acronym for MRI (magnetic resonance imagery) – Gainsbourg had brain surgery. She'd suffered a dangerous cerebral haemorrhage in a water-skiing accident. The sounds she heard in the MRI machine during frequent scans took on a weird, metaphoric quality and were not unlike music.

Although the intensity of shooting Antichrist helped put the ordeal behind her, “I didn't want to make an album 'about' that accident, 'about' that trauma. It wasn't the idea. But I started talking to Beck about the MRI sounds I wanted to put in a song, so the ideas of memories, the brain and recollections were quite obvious, and linked to what I had experienced.”

Released in late 2009, IRM follows 5:55, Gainsbourg's 2006 collaboration with moody French pop duo Air, Jarvis Cocker and producer Nigel Godrich. This is also her first record in 20 years. She explains that save for the occasional vocal cameo, she'd been avoiding making music since her father's death in 1991. “Twenty years is a bit long,” she says with a laugh.

Though she says she gets nervous singing onstage, IRM is a lovely, captivating record. Made during a series of Los Angeles sessions peppered over a year and a half, Beck co-wrote the lyrics, wrote all the music and produced, coming up with concepts that mirrored Gainsbourg's state of being. His unpredictable, catchy songwriting and her sultry, smoky voice weave together this slinky braid of pop, folk, electronica and hints of Serge Gainsbourg's retro legacy, by which Beck is clearly inspired. (Beck’s father, composer/orchestrator David Campbell, contributed string arrangements.) Heaven Can Wait, a duet between Beck and Gainsbourg, is all tambourines and sing-a-long chorus, while the whimsical opening track, Dandelion, chugs along at a country-pop pace. Beck's eclectic beats and inspired noises drive the more electronic Greenwich Mean Time and, of course, the machine-influenced title track.

“There was a feel of real intimacy and being able to be very private,” she says of their creative chemistry. “It was amazing to watch him work, watch him invent songs and try to put myself into it.”

Another interesting ditty is Master's Hands. At the start of their collaboration, without yet knowing about Gainsbourg's accident and surgery, Beck penned the lyrics, “drill a hole in my head to let the memories out.”

“Yes, that was very strange,” Gainsbourg says. “He said, 'I'm sorry, I didn't realize that you actually had a hole in your head and that you'd been through that.' It was quite funny. But it was a strange coincidence that we can't really explain.” Which, once again, suits Gainsbourg just fine. “I like not thinking about things and just being transported into places, and then realizing how things happen. It's quite mysterious, and I like it that way. I like just the idea of letting things happen.”

Charlotte Gainsbourg performs with her band at Montreal's Olympia Theatre on Friday and Saturday.

JackSOUL's Haydain Neale Wins Posthumous Juno Award

Source: Spinner by Karen Bliss

April 18, 2010) There is a victory photo of Haydain Neale taken at the 2007 Juno Awards in Saskatoon -- and somewhere the late frontman for Toronto's jackSOUL was no doubt striking the same pose when he won R&B/Soul Recording of the Year at Saturday night's Juno awards gala for the single 'Lonesome Highway' from 2009's 'SOULmate.'

"When you talk about Best Soul Recording, I have some things to say about that," said Ron Lopata, his friend and bandmate of 12 years, accepting the award at the private Juno gala alongside Neale's widow, Michaela.

"First thing, Haydain didn't only sing soul music, but he had a beautiful soul -- anybody who knows him knows that; his sense of humour, his open-heartedness, his work ethic and his love for his family, his friends and everybody else.

Full story HERE

Fog, Mirth And A Memorial At Pre-Broadcast Junos

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(Apr. 17 2010) ST. JOHN’S, NFLD.—No clear front-runner had emerged after 32 of this year’s 39 Juno Awards were handed out in Newfoundland on Saturday night, but let’s anoint a big winner, anyway: the fog.

Yes, for the second day in a row, the elements were the big concern on everyone’s mind and everyone’s tongue as the Junos made their much-anticipated return to St. John’s, the town that hatched the roving awards ceremony’s annual exercise in taking Canadian music to the people eight years ago and which in 2010 has done its best to keep everyone out. Once again, dozens of would-be Juno attendees were delayed en route by a thick shroud of mist that made landing planes at St. John’s airport a dodgy proposition at the best of times and utterly impossible during the worst.

“We had Maverick and Goose as our pilots and they were, like, ‘We’re just gonna give it a go,’ ” said Ben Kowalewicz, frontman for Toronto hard-rock quartet Billy Talent. “I have no idea what that means and it was terrifying, but we made it safe and sound.”

Billy Talent, at least, was on hand Saturday night to accept its latest Juno, a trophy for rock album of the year for last year’s
Billy Talent III. Other winners from the pre-broadcast Juno ceremony at the St. John’s Convention Centre weren’t so lucky; host and CTV personality Seamus O’Regan had already accepted two awards — for francophone album of the year winner Andrea Lindsay and for blues album of the year winner Jack de Keyzer — for artists “hung up in Halifax” barely 20 minutes into the program.

In Halifax earlier in the day, nominees such as Alexisonfire and Howie Beck cooled their heels at the airport alongside a couple of jets’ worth of journalists and Canadian music-industry folk while Porter Air employees tried to bribe enough travellers off the flights so they could transport all the musicians’ gear to the Rock. As it turned out, my girlfriend was the final sacrificial victim, giving up a vacation flight back to her hometown so that Jim Cuddy’s wardrobe and Alexisonfire’s instruments — bound for a show in St. John’s later in the evening — could get there instead.

Alexisonfire frontman Dallas Green was also carrying a gown for his wife,
So You Think You Can Dance Canada host Leah Miller, so he was delighted to get through after spending a night in Halifax and then being forced to switch airlines at the last minute to make it in time for his gig. Even that flight was a pins-and-needles affair; our pilot warned us he might have to turn back to Halifax 10 minutes away from the runway.

“We’re so confident we’re not going to win that we booked our own show,” quipped Green, who did indeed wind up watching AoF lose to Billy Talent. “The next time we go to the gala is when Dallas Green and Wade McNeil host it. You can print that. We’re funny guys.”

Flights were trickling in as Saturday wore on nonetheless, and no announcements were being made to expect holes in the program, so the mood was generally one of cautious optimism. And of the big guns set to make an appearance on Sunday’s show, country hitmaker Johnny Reid, Toronto indie-popsters Metric and six-time nominee Michael Bublé — who was spotted at the St. John’s airport when I set foot on the ground, about half an hour after the gala’s cocktail reception had started — were all present.

Bublé dashed over before a mid-evening rehearsal at Mile One Centre to snag his first award of the weekend, a pop album of the year statuette for his
Crazy Love album. He took the opportunity to poke fun at fellow performer and multiple nominee Justin Bieber.

“I came to this event eight years ago as a pudgy young kid full of dreams and I’ve come here tonight as a balding, middle-aged man whose dream is to have hair like the Bieb’s,” said Buble, who would lose his other nomination of the night — artist of the year — to deserving Toronto rapper K’naan. “I wish he was here. I’d be, like: ‘Just do it for me, motherf---er.’ ”

On a more sombre and sobering note, former Jacksoul associate Ron Lopata came out to accept Jacksoul’s award for R&B/soul recording of the year on behalf of the band’s late frontman Haydain Neale, who passed away from cancer last year.

“On the count of three, I want everyone in the room to say ‘Haydain Neale,’ ” he said upon collecting the trophy, praising his friend’s courage in the face of hardship — when he made the record, Neale was dying of lung cancer and recovering from a car accident that had briefly left him in a coma — and choking back tears.

“It’s a bittersweet kind of thing,” he said backstage. “He’s not here with us, but he leaves us with his music.”

Seven more Junos will be awarded Sunday night on the CTV broadcast from the Mile One Centre.

Juno Picks Reveal A New Cool

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(April 18, 2010)
It’s an old refrain. Bloggers and laptop critics have accused the Juno Awards of commercial stiltedness.

They point to the music scenes in Montreal, Toronto, most every major city across Canada, and all the musicians winning praise in the hippest circles worldwide. Bands like Vancouver’s Japandroids or Montreal’s Handsome Furs. The Junos seemed to favour only the most radio-friendly acts instead, they lamented.

But wait, Japandroids and the Handsome Furs were nominated this year. And this, in fact, may be the year when the old criticism sounds exceedingly tired.

Sure, the Canadian music industry’s biggest annual self-promotional event, held this year in St. John’s, Nfld., had its usual share of major stars coming up to the podium Sunday night to collect trophies.

But the heart of the Junos – the majority of the categories that are awarded Saturday night – revealed an unusual depth, even more so this year. The nominees and winners were not only rising stars, but artists straddling multiple genres, indie artists proving their staying power and veteran artists finally getting their due.

Take Montreal jazz singer Ranee Lee. With a handful of nominations already to her credit, she didn’t attend the gala, but was performing a gig in Montreal, “doing what I do,” as she said. She only heard about her win for vocal jazz album of the year when she returned home Saturday night. Jim West, the president of the jazz label Justin Time, had left insistent phone messages.

As Ms. Lee tells the story, Mr. West was in St. John’s, sitting next to acclaimed jazz pianist Oliver Jones. The two men didn’t know what to do when Ms. Lee’s name was called. Mr. Jones had to nudge Mr. West to accept the award.

“That recognition really does give you the seal of approval,” said Ms. Lee, who has recorded many albums with Justin Time. “I don’t believe that the focus should be to win an award. … But I think the award is the proof of the acceptance of the masses. It’s the key that keeps the door unlocked.”

That acceptance also extended to Charles Spearin, a founding member of the alt-rock group Broken Social Scene, who won contemporary Jazz album of the year for his experimental disc The Happiness Project. The album melds recordings of conversations with his neighbours in downtown Toronto with snippets of jazz. The album was up against CDs by an assortment of acclaimed artists, such as Cuban bandleader Hilario Duran. Mr. Spearin has often said he was surprised his disc was even nominated in the contemporary jazz category.

Other notable winners include the modernist ensemble Bell Orchestre, which is on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts record label (and therefore shares a connection to the alt-rock scene), winning instrument album of the year. Similarly, the band Metric taking home group of the year and alternative album of the year, and Johnny Reid winning country album of the year will only add more heft to those well-touted acts already strong fan base.

So, maybe it was the fog delaying flights into St. John’s, Nfld. over the weekend. Maybe it was the cloud of Icelandic ash over Europe that prevented singer Bryan Adams from flying to this side of the Atlantic. But something new was in the air at the Juno Awards this time around.

Juno Awards Show Michael Bublé Some Love

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

April 18, 2010) The quick-witted Vancouver crooner finished the Juno Awards weekend in St. John’s Sunday night by adding three more trophies to the Pop Album of the Year honour his 2009 album Crazy Love picked up during Saturday night’s pre-broadcast gala. Crazy Love also nabbed the all-important Album of the Year award on Sunday, while Bublé was granted Single of the Year for “Haven’t Met You Yet” and the fan-voted Juno Fan Choice Award for . . . well, for just being Michael Bublé.

“This is the best one. We talk about our managers and our companies but we don’t talk about you enough,” he told the noisy, Bieber-fevered crowd at the Mile One Centre upon receiving the Fan Choice trophy. “I love ya.”

Bublé — whose songs “Haven’t Met You Yet” and “Baby (You’ve Got What It Takes)” also earned Bob Rock a Producer of the Year award on Saturday — was ushered into the press room a good hour before any of the other winners and before he’d even picked up his Album of the Year honours, so the assembled media were politely asked by talent wrangler Matt Wells not to let him in on the secret because “we don’t want to ruin the surprise.”

A visibly frantic Bublé (or “Bubble,” as he was mistakenly identified later by Olympic gold-medal skier Alexandre Bilodeau) nevertheless turned the tables on the room by letting the press in on why he was in such a hurry to get out of St. John’s: volcanic ash from Iceland was about to make flying out of the city as difficult as the thick fog that held some Juno attendees up in Halifax, Gander, Montreal and other points west for two or three days en route had made flying in.

“I spoke to a pilot just now who told me that the ash cloud would be coming here by 3 a.m. and it could be another three days before anyone can get out of here,” he said, adding that it was his fiancée Luisana Lopilato’s commitments to an Argentinian TV show forcing him to flee the city, not some personal beef with St. John’s. “I don’t want to be the guy who brings everyone down. It wouldn’t be that bad to have to stay here for another three days but for her it would.”

The seeds of panic were thus sewn amongst the Juno throng, fanning outward in a mad latticework of texts, Tweets and cell-phone calls. For once, the frenzied rush of backstage phone activity at the Junos had nothing to do with people trying to blag their way into the Universal or Warner or EMI parties; they were booking every last spot available on the red-eye flights heading out of Newfoundland.

Nevertheless, the party — a giddy rock ‘n’ roll bacchanal that since Saturday has rivalled even the original “St. John’s Junos” from 2002 in its intensity — raged on and the hardware kept coming, with the rest of the non-Bublé award distribution during CTV’s briskly paced broadcast ceremony proving quite diplomatic. A couple of winners from Saturday night’s scattered Juno gala, during which 32 Junos went to 32 different recipients, added a second trophy to their totals, while Toronto rapper Drake was officially knighted by the Canadian music industry as the Next Big Thing everyone’s kind of figured he is since he closed down the Grammy Awards with Lil’ Wayne and Eminem.

Drake, until recently just a graduate from the TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation, got the first two Junos of his young career on Sunday — Rap Recording of the Year for “So Far Gone” and New Artist of the Year — despite still being nearly two months away from officially releasing his first album.

Drake graciously extended his “new artist” award to Bieber, whom he joined onstage for an acoustic rendition of the Bieber single “Baby” early in the evening.

“You work really hard, man, and I wanna share this with you,” he said.

Backstage a bit later, Drake (ne Aubrey Graham) maintained that the Juno experience still meant much more to him than his “overwhelming” award-show baptism-by-fire mere weeks earlier at the Grammy Awards.

“I spend so much time in the States telling them how much I love Canada and telling them how much I love Toronto and how much it’s inspired my music,” he said. “So to be recognized by Canadians just lets me know I’m not doing it in vain and lets me know they support me as much as I love to support them.”

Meteorically rising rapper K’Naan, already crowned artist of the year on Saturday, got the nod as songwriter of the year for the tunes on last year’s Polaris Music Prize-nominated Troubadour album. He then closed the entire performance with an all-star gang rendition of his soon to be even more ubiquitous than it already is World Cup anthem and charity single, “Wavin’ Flag.”

Endlessly gracious, K’Naan refused to play favourites with his awards.

“They’re both pretty huge,” he said. “Artist of the year is saying so much. I guess I’m so particular about my songwriting. It’s solitary, self-imposed confinement with myself. So when other people recognize it and love it, it’s a pretty huge deal to me. So I appreciate that.”

Critically acclaimed Toronto outfit Metric also capped a performance of “Gimme Sympathy” on the Juno broadcast with its second award of the weekend, usurping Billy Talent, Blue Rodeo, Hedley and the Tragically Hip in a major upset for group of the year. The quartet’s 2009 disc Fantasies was named Alternative Album of the Year on Saturday.

The band assured the assembled media that having two Juno Awards to its name didn’t mean that one of Canada’s most beloved indie-pop outfits had suddenly gone “establishment.”

“I fear what might happen when the word ‘indie’ stops being associated with Metric,” said guitarist Jimmy Shaw.

“I think there’s no fear in our hearts that Metric is going to become an institution,” added frontwoman Emily Haines. “We’re never going to be part of the problem; we’ll always be part of the solution. We’ll always be troublemakers.”

Metric were, perhaps, notable for being the only artists who didn’t have a crack about Justin Bieber to share with the stage.

The pint-sized teen idol from Stratford, Ont., was arguably the biggest draw of a jam-packed Juno weekend, even if he didn’t actually win any awards on the final show. Bieber fans were lining New Gower Street outside the Mile One Centre for hours before the Juno broadcast kicked off with a fairly boffo performance of “Oh . . . Canada” by Halifax rapper Classified live from the thick of the action on George Street, screaming themselves hoarse at the mere sight of anyone sporting the vaguest approximation of Justin’s trademark hair.

Even Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees April Wine got in on the action.

“That blonde kid tonight, never heard of him,” said frontman Myles Goodwyn. “But he is adorable. I’m a dad and I wanna eat him up.”

Nikki Yanofsky: A Diva In The Making

Source: www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

Nikki Yanofsky

(April 19, 2010)  If you want a quick picture of
Nikki Yanofsky’s studio debut, skip to her version of On the Sunny Side of the Street.

The first thing you’ll notice about it is that it starts with the shuffling samba groove of Led Zeppelin’s Fool in the Rain. It’s an audacious turn, made doubly sweet by the fact that the Zep hook fits so neatly beneath Sunny Side’s melody. But instead of pushing the idea into Jamie Cullum territory, Yankofsky and the band switch to a double-time swing pulse before the group drops the tempo in a big, corny finish.

There, in a nutshell, is everything that’s right and wrong with this disc. On the plus side, there’s imagination and verve, a solid sense of jazz roots, and the 100-watt brilliance of Yanofsky’s voice. On the others side, there’s genre confusion, a lack of nerve, and a tendency to rely on cliché. And even though the good ultimately outweighs the bad, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed that Yanofsky hasn’t arrived fully and perfectly formed, like Aphrodite from the sea.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. Assembled over the course of two years, with Phil Ramone producing and songwriting help from Ron Sexsmith and Jesse Harris (who wrote the Norah Jones hit Don’t Know Why), the album is polished and ambitious, but also unfocussed, like a teenager who isn’t quite sure who or what she wants to be when she grows up.

Yanofsky slips some cutesy, contemporary lyrics into Take the “A” Train and offers a personal tribute to Ella Fitzgerald in First Lady, but the only real surprise in the jazz fare is that her God Bless the Child owes more to Blood, Sweat & Tears than Billie Holiday.

The pop content is more of a mixed bag. Although Never Make It on Time is a transparent attempt at another Don’t Know Why and I Believe is a soda jingle without the soda, Bienvenue dans ma vie is a minor masterpiece, a catchy, evocative slice-of-life song that exploits the richness of Yanofsky’s voice without overselling it. Likewise, Cool My Heels shows off her R&B chops without slipping into blue-eyed soul excess, while her performance of Feist’s Try Try Try succeeds succeeds succeeds.

Still, the brightest spot on the album is Over the Rainbow, a showstopper Yanofsky has been singing forever. But this version is different – quieter, sadder, more grown-up. There are depths her earlier renditions only hinted at, and a musicality that goes beyond the dazzle of her voice. Here’s hoping her next album is more like it.

Bloor st. Baritone Phillip Addis — Hear Him While He’s Home

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(April 21, 2010) In a world of opportunities,
Phillip Addis doesn’t get many chances to sing in his hometown.

On the verge of his 33rd birthday, the Canadian baritone finally has an opportunity to perform on an operatic mainstage in Toronto.

On Saturday, the curtain at the Elgin Theatre rises on Opera Atelier’s first production of Mozart’s ever-popular comic opera,
The Marriage of Figaro — performed in English rather than in the original Italian.

Besides a number of familiar names in the cast — baritone Olivier Laquerre in the title role, soprano Carla Huhtanen as love interest Susanna, and soprano Peggy Kriha Dye as the Countess — are a couple of fresh faces, including mezzo Wallis Giunta, on loan from the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio to play Cherubino, and Addis, who sings the role of the Count.

Ironically, Addis and family are moving from their home in the Ossington Ave. and Bloor St. neighbourhood shortly after
Figaro wraps up on May 1. Their belongings go to a new house in Stratford, while singer, wife Emily Hamper and young son Sebastian cross the Atlantic to Paris for his next operatic gig.

“Access to an airport is all I need, so I may as well have a bit of peace and quiet,” says Addis of the impending move. It also helps that homeownership comes at a fraction of what it would cost in Toronto.

Airports are something that the baritone has become familiar with since winning the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s Standard Life music competition in 2004. Following an apprenticeship with the Atelier Lyrique at Opéra de Montréal, Addis has enjoyed steady work in Canada, the United States and, increasingly, in Europe.

None of this was on Addis’s radar while he was growing up.

“As a teenager, I was listening to Rush and was so into 1970s progressive rock — Pink Floyd and stuff,” the affable singer explains over a pre-rehearsal lunch. “I literally plugged my ears and left the room if my Mom had on opera on PBS.”

Even so, he dutifully sang in choirs, including the Toronto Children’s Chorus, when his family moved to the city. He began his Bachelor’s degree at Queens University in Kingston as a tuba player, but admits that his heart wasn’t really in it.

All it took was one voice lesson with a member of the music faculty to change the course of his life. “I was pretty convinced right off the bat that this was something that excited me.”

For the third year of his four-year Bachelor program, he switched to voice, but also kept up playing tuba with the Queens Symphony, “because there was no one else to do it,” Addis says with a smile.

The baritone polished up his vocal technique in the two-year opera program at University of Toronto. One of his coaches there was Hamper, whom he would marry a few years later.

She is his multi-faceted muse. In public, Hamper is Addis’s recital accompanist. In private, “She coaches me and prepares me for all my roles.”

Addis admits that the arrangement is much like the relationship between baritone Russell Braun and wife Carolyn Maule. “What they make together is pretty beautiful.”

Addis describes his next big gig, at Paris’s Opéra Comique in June — singing Pélléas in Claude Debussy’s opera
Pélléas et Mélisande, under renowned conductor John Eliot Gardiner — as “a dream come true.”

He adds: “I’d love to sing it once a year until . . . Well, until I can’t.”

It happens to be a role Addis first tackled as unofficial understudy to Braun for a Vancouver Opera concert performance in 2003.

After Paris, Addis gets a few weeks off to unpack moving boxes in Stratford, before flying to Antwerp, Belgium, for an August production of
L’amour de loin (Love From Afar), by contemporary Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho.

In other words, Torontonians need to catch Addis while they can.


WHAT: The Marriage of Figaro

WHERE: Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge St.

WHEN: April 24 to May 1

TICKETS: $30-$150 at 416-872-5555 or www.ticketmaster.ca

Circa Nightclub Declares Bankruptcy

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(April 19, 2010) Circa, the mega-nightclub that was supposed to revive the entertainment district when it opened in 2007 has quietly shut its doors, informing patrons with a simple “Thank you for supporting us over the years” on its website.

“Our understanding was that it closed because a creditor petitioned the licensee into bankruptcy; so it was a business decision,” said Lisa Murray, spokesperson for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

The venue which operated under the name Arena Entertainment has been closed for four weeks, but hasn’t yet surrendered its alcohol permit, because “the receiver has applied for a temporary transfer of the liquor sales licence and we have to go through a process; in the interim, liquor cannot be served or sold on the premises,” Murray said.

If a transfer is granted, the receiver could run the club on behalf of Circa to generate funds to pay off debts, estimated at $2.1 million in November when representatives were in bankruptcy court trying to restructure.

The list of creditors includes previous employees such as Orrin Bristol, who managed the four-storey, 50,000-square-foot club at John St. and Richmond St. W. for its first nine months. Bristol, like many of the initial staff, left after Peter Gatien split, leaving operations in the hands of his partners Stephen Katmarian and Ari Kulidjian.

Gatien, a native of Cornwall, Ont., considered king of New York’s club scene in the 1980s, was the visionary behind the facility that took two years and more than $5 million to open.

Some of the delay included an 11-month wait for a liquor licence as a result of Gatien’s storied background, which included being deported from the U.S. in 2003 after serving time for tax evasion.

With capacity for 3,000, the venue had several high points, including performances by rappers 50 Cent and Kanye West, and being named best new club in the 2008 Club World Awards at the Winter Music Conference in Miami against spots in the Bahamas, Ohio, Miami and Las Vegas.

Insiders blame infighting, high-interest-rate loans and cutbacks in creativity after Gatien’s departure for Circa’s demise, rather than its design or location, which had previously housed a Palladium video game parlour and Lucid nightclub.

“When I left, we were doing about 1,400 to 1,500 on Friday and just under 2,000 people on Saturday,” Bristol said. “Even after Peter’s era, they drew 1,600 on a Saturday; it was still the busiest club in the downtown core.”

Carrie Underwood Makes History At Country Music Awards
“I think I just got makeup all over Brad Paisley,” an excited Underwood said as she went onstage to accept her trophy. “Thank you, God, praise the Lord.”

Underwood also was recognized earlier in the evening with special trophy for “triple crown” of ACM wins — entertainer of the year, top female vocalist and top newcomer — in the course of her career.

Top-selling trio Lady Antebellum was the dominant winner though, grabbing five trophies. And the trio's good friend, Miranda Lambert, won three awards.

Lady A, the top-selling trio that includes Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood, was the lead nominee, entering the show with seven. They snapped Rascal Flatts' seven-year run as best vocal group and won song and single record of the year for the crossover hit Need You Now (they got two trophies for their single record of the year win because they also produced the record, and also got two trophies for their song of the yearwin because they composed it).

“It's just wild, man,” Kelley said. “You never know where a song can take you, and tonight is probably the pinnacle of our career.”

Adding to the emotion of the night for the group was wins by good friends Lambert and Luke Bryan. The trio broke into cheers backstage when Lambert won top female vocalist. A stunned Lambert hugged Underwood as she made her way to the stage, then read off the names of the other nominees — Underwood, Swift, Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack.

“You've got to be kidding me,” she said.

She also won album of the year for Revolution, an award Lady A openly lobbied for her to win, and video of the year for White Liar.

Lady A also could help celebrate the win of one of the night's other winners, Luke Bryan, who nabbed top new artist. Lady A's Kelley and Haywood helped their good buddy write his hit, Do I.

“Everything about tonight was honestly just so fun,” Kelley said. “If we could've gone down the list and scripted it ... .”

Lambert also won top female vocalist, snapping Carrie Underwood's three-year run in that category.

Paisley, after a performance of his single Water where he fell backward into a pool of water on stage, won top male vocalist of the year for the fourth consecutive time.

And Brooks & Dunn, who are retiring after a summer tour, won best vocal duo for the 10th time in their two-decade long career.

“We are currently in therapy with Brett Favre trying to figure out how to waffle on this,” Kix Brooks joked after the win.

The show was heavy on performances. It kicked off with Underwood and Lambert, joined on stage later by Paisley, Charlie Daniels and John Fogerty, who ripped through a rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Travelin' Band.

“That's how you start a television show, son!” shouted Daniels, who recently recovered from a stroke.

Swift, who won album of the year last year, was shut out this year, despite being nominated for five awards; it might have been the first awards show since her pop superstardom where she didn't take home a trophy. But she had a big performance: She began her rendition of Change while soaring over the crowd on a platform. She ripped off her white dress and reveals a black outfit underneath, made her way through the crowd and joined the Tritones, a college a capella group on stage for a spirited chorus. She then fell backward into a crowd of fans.

The Zac Brown Band — one of eight nominees for entertainer of the year — wasn't able to make a show because of a USO tour in the Middle East. But the band sent video of a performance of Chicken Fried from overseas that included altered lyrics aimed at the military.

Toby Keith hit an emotional note with a performance of Cryin' For Me (Wayman's Song), dedicated to his late friend, jazz artist and former basketball star Wayman Tisdale, who died last May.

The show also had it's share of non-country celebrities, including LL Cool J, Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn and Las Vegas staple Cher, who goofed when she announced that Blake Shelton had already won a CMA Award — instead of an ACM — the previous evening.


Entertainer of the year: Carrie Underwood

Top male vocalist: Brad Paisley

Top female vocalist: Miranda Lambert

Top vocal group: Lady Antebellum

Top vocal duo: Brooks & Dunn

Top new artist: Luke Bryan

Top new solo vocalist: Luke Bryan

Top new vocal duo: Joey + Rory

Top new vocal group: Gloriana

Album of the year: Revolution, Miranda Lambert

Single record of the year: Need You Now, Lady Antebellum

Song of the year: Need You Now, Lady Antebellum

Video of the year: White Liar, Miranda Lambert

Vocal event of the year: Hillbilly Bone, Blake Shelton featuring Trace Adkins 

Dan Mangan’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice Year

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(April 18, 2010) The past year has brought a lot of good news
Dan Mangan’s way, but not enough that he’s blasé about his good fortune yet.

Last week, for instance, he received confirmation that he’ll be playing the John Peel Stage at the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival in June alongside fellow Canadians Broken Social Scene and Holy F---, a stroke of luck that should put the Vancouver singer/songwriter in front of 10,000 or so potential new fans. It’s a considerably better Glastonbury deal than Mangan had expected, and his enthusiasm is easily audible on a trans-Canada phone line.

“I just kind of assumed we’d be lumped into a handful of tiny, side-stage kind of things and be overlooked by the general, main-stage stuff. So to land a spot on one of those stages was a real coup,” he says, adding with a laugh: “We’ll raise the Canadian flag in the backstage area.”

Mangan has, as he puts it, “caught some very fortunate door openings along the way” since his impressively eclectic and imaginatively arranged second album, Nice, Nice, Very Nice, emerged to glowing reviews last summer.

He picked up XM Satellite Radio’s $25,000 Verge Award a matter of weeks later, while some totally unexpected commercial-radio exposure for the infectious ditty “Robots” — that’s the one with the charming “Robots need love, too” sing-along chorus — saw him playing in front of larger and larger crowds across the country as the year drew to a close. More recently, he signed a management deal with Toronto’s Social Scene-affiliated Arts & Crafts crew, a development that’s already smoothing his introduction to international audiences. U.S. and European re-releases of Nice, Nice, Very Nice are in the works via A&C, too.

“They’re so incredible. I noticed it down in Austin at the South by Southwest festival — I was able to scoop up a couple of extra showcases just from being aligned with them and people saying: ‘Oh, an Arts & Crafts artist? Sure!’ ” says Mangan, 26. “They’re really smart and they’re sweet dudes and dudettes, as well. To be honest, I didn’t really know them that well and my relationship with them came kind of beautifully and organically. I just couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with them. . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Canadian release of the next album by Arts & Crafts.”

Let’s not misrepresent Mangan — who brings a five-piece band to the Horseshoe Tavern on Thursday — as some kind of Johnny Come Lately with a horseshoe wedged up his backside, though: He’s put a lot of work in to get to this point.

Even before Nice, Nice, Very Nice caught the ears of the broader Canadian populace, Mangan had doggedly taken the formative tunes from his 2005 debut, Postcards and Daydreaming, on the road to far-flung ports of call across Canada and the States and “cafes in all these tiny, little towns throughout Europe and Australia.”

“I have this brilliant ability to go on these tours that are really enviable to my peers but where I come back having lost thousands of dollars,” he says. “So it was ambitious, that’s what it was, but it wasn’t exactly smart touring. I wasn’t grabbing onto great tours or anything like that. I was just doing what I could with what I had.”

Likewise, Mangan hit the touring trail in support of the new album so hard between last September and February that he wound up stricken by two separate, severe flus that, as he puts it, “just beat the crap out of me.” He is, thus, trying to plot his workload a bit more strategically now and take time to properly recuperate between tours — although, he concedes, “outside of Canada, it’s still a total battle and you’re always fighting from the ground up.”

Not that Mangan’s home time looks to be any more relaxing. He’s already mulling album No. 3. Maybe even fretting over it just a bit.

“I’ve got a producer in mind and I’ve relocated in Vancouver to a larger suite that’s big enough that I can put in a studio, so the immediate plan is to invest in some recording equipment,” he says. “I would still do all the really important stuff in a studio but I can bring those files home and the idea would be that I could do a lot of overdubbing and experimenting and messing around here.

“That’s the thing that drives me nuts about studios: If I want to spend seven hours messing around with, like, the sound of a clap or something, then I’m costing money and wasting everybody’s time because everyone else’s agenda is slightly different than mine. So I like the idea that I can do that at home and the only person’s time that I’m wasting is my own. That’s kind of a nice, luxurious idea.

“I realize now, too, that there’s a different pressure next time around, and I want to be really careful about it. I want to make sure it’s something that’s really great and I want to take my time with it.”

MC Guru’s Curious Letter From The Grave

Source: www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly

(April 21, 2010) In the hours following his death from cancer, the hip-hop world has been convulsed by a note purportedly sent by
MC Guru from beyond the grave.

Guru made his reputation in the early ’90s with DJ Premier under the name Gang Starr.

Guru, whose given name was Keith Elam, was a transplanted Bostonian. Premier is from Texas. However, the pair helped define the East Coast hip-hop style working out of Brooklyn.

The musical duo separated in 2003. A couple of years later, Guru began working with a second DJ/producer, Solar. The Guru/Solar tandem was greeted indifferently by fans and critics.

According to Solar himself, it was he who spent a year by Guru’s side as he succumbed to cancer and heart ailments. It was Solar who announced Guru’s death on Tuesday.

Where it gets strange is a final “note to fans” released by Solar, that he claims was written by Guru.

“I, Guru, am writing this letter my fans, friends and loved ones around the world,” the letter begins.

Many think the letter macabre. Many more think it’s a fake.

The friends and loved ones turn out to be, in the main, Solar — Guru’s “loyal best friend, brother and partner.”

In somewhat tortured prose, the afterlife Guru in the letter makes it clear that Solar, rather than DJ Premier, should be the inheritor of Guru’s musical legacy.

Solar “has been made my health proxy by myself on all matters relating to myself,” the letter reads. “Any awards or tributes should be accepted, organized (sic) approved by Solar on behalf (sic) myself and my son until he is of age to except his own.”

Peace and love aside, the letter than becomes a screed against DJ Premier.

“I do not wish my ex-DJ to have anything to do with my name likeness, events tributes etc. connected in anyway to my situation including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this.”

Despite the implicit attack, Premier posted the letter, in its entirety, on his blog.

On March 23, Solar posted a YouTube video, in which he said Guru was on the road to recovery, while also taking a swipe at unidentified haters.

Many have pointed out that Guru reportedly suffered a heart attack two months ago and never regained consciousness.

Questlove, leader of the Gang Starr inspired hip-hop act The Roots, tweeted shortly after the letter was released: “not trying to bring negativity into the situation. but i do NOT believe he wrote that letter. 1) he was in a coma. 2) HE WAS IN A COMA!”

Later, he referred to the “phony deathbed letter.”

It’s become normal practice in the hip-hop community to flood the market with unreleased cuts and studio outtakes when an artist dies. Tupac Shakur put out five albums before his 1996 slaying. He’s released 13 since.

The suspicion is that Solar may be sitting on just such a pile of Guru-related ephemera, and is seeking to capitalize on that.

On his own Twitter feed, Solar denied that accusation Tuesday night: “Guru made this statement from his own mouth and anybody saying different is insane with Hate!”

His next entry urged hip-hop DJs and radio around the world to dedicate Saturday to Guru’s legacy. The pointer inside the note made no mention of Gang Starr or Premier, but did point back to his own record label.

New ‘Grover (Washington) Live’ CD Dropping May 18

Source: www.eurweb.com

April 16, 2010) *The godfather of today’s urban contemporary jazz scene, Grover Washington Jr., was one of the most popular and influential saxophonists of the ’70s and ’80s.

And while he may have paved the way for such easy-listening artists as Kenny G, Najee, George Howard and Gerald Albright, none of those popular saxophonists play with the chops and sheer intensity that Grover demonstrated on the bandstand from night to night throughout his career, which spanned three decades.

And as the newly discovered Grover Live demonstrates, the man was clearly on top of his game well in to the ’90s. Recorded on June 7, 1997 at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill, New York, Grover Live, produced by Jason Miles (Miles Davis, Luther Vandross, Sting), captures the consummate pro in concert and at the peak of his powers, blowing with unbridled conviction and a sense of risk-taking on a collection of his tunes spanning three decades.

From familiar hits like “Winelight” and “Mr. Magic” to a medley of early numbers like “Inner City Blues,” “Black Frost” and “Just the Two of Us” to more recent offerings like “Mystical Force,” the hip-hop flavoured “Uptown” and a contemporary spin on the old school groover, “Soulful Strut,” Grover and his crew – Adam Holzman and Donald Robinson on keyboards and synthesizers, Gerald Veasley on electric bass, Richard Lee on guitar, Pablo Batista on percussion and Steven Wolf on drums – stretch out in dynamic fashion on this exhilarating live CD.

Washington sets the tone for the evening on the engaging opener, “Winelight,” which showcases his wonderfully relaxed style and big, beautiful tone on the tenor sax. This tune, and several others on Grover Live, instantly reveals Washington to be, as Gil Evans once said of Miles Davis, “a great singer of songs.” And while his mellow approach to melodic material established a school of playing that ultimately led to the smooth jazz movement, Grover can be heard wailing in pure spontaneous and aggressive fashion on a stirring cadenza, full of upper register squealing and virtuosic scalar runs that elicit wild shouts from the Peekskill crowd.

“Take Another Five” from the 1992 release Next Exit is a funkified take on Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” the jazz anthem debuted by the Dave Brubeck Quartet on 1959’s Time Out and showcases the individual band members stretching out with abandon. Again, Grover’s delivery is relaxed and imbued with soul before he unleashes his mighty chops at the 3:15 mark. “Soulful Strut,” the title track of Washington’s current Columbia CD at the time of this concert, is a contemporary remake of the instrumental hit by Young Holt Unlimited from 1969. The atmospheric “Mystical Force,” co-penned by Grover and his musical director Donald Robinson, is a smooth jazz offering with a funky edge while the slamming “Uptown,” which has Grover switching nimbly from soprano to tenor sax, features sampled rappers, churning conga from Batista and some warm, Wes Montgomery-inspired octaves work from Lee. “Sassy Stew” is a slow grooving lyrical number from 1984’s Inside Moves that gradually builds to a passionate crescendo that Washington wails over with signature abandon.

The Peekskill audience is next taken on a nostalgic trip by Grover in a well-crafted medley that travels from old school numbers like “Black Frost” (from 1974’s Mister Magic) and an instrumental version of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” (title track of Washington’s 1971 debut on Kudu) to the romantic “Strawberry Moon” (title track from his 1987 album on Columbia) and the Afro-Cuban flavoured “Inside Moves” (title track of his 1984 album on Elektra). The funky “Jamaica” (from 1989’s Time Out of Mind) is a showcase for Washington’s robust baritone sax playing while the beautiful ballad “East River Drive” (A Grover original from 1980’s Come Morning) has him playing soulfully on soprano sax. The extensive medley concludes with the chart-topper “Just the Two of Us” (sans Bill Withers on vocals), and the upbeat “Sausalito,” which features a heated timbales solo by Batista over a percolating son montuno section. They close out the set with the funky “Let it Flow” (a paean to basketball superstar Julius “Dr. J” Erving which appeared his 1980 album Winelight) that showcases Veasley on a monstrous electric bass solo. And they encore with Grover’s signature tune, “Mr. Magic,” a ’70s staple that has guitarist Lee wailing in Hendrix-like fashion and also features Washington erupting with visceral power on tenor sax.

Washington’s only other concert recording was Live at the Bijou, which documented a 1977 performance at a Philadelphia showcase venue, the Bijou Cafe. Twenty years later, he brought the same kind of intensity, improvisational daring and big-hearted soulfulness to the stage on the exciting Grover Live.

Born on December 12, 1943 in Buffalo, New York, Grover Washington was the son of a tenor sax-playing father who introduced him to the instrument when he was 10. While attending high school, he took evening classes at the Wurlitzer School of Music and for two years played baritone sax with the All City High School band. By age 14, he was sitting in at a local Buffalo nightspot called the Pine Grill. Two years later, he joined the quartet called the Four Clefs and with the full approval of his parents, left Buffalo to go on the road with the band.

In 1965, Washington was drafted into the Army. He was stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey in the 19th Army Band where he met drummer Billy Cobham. Together they spent their free time moonlighting in Philadelphia and New York jazz clubs. After being discharged from the service in 1967, Grover settled in Philadelphia with his new wife Christine and took a day job with a local record wholesaler while continuing to play in the clubs at night. One important gig he landed was with organist Charles Earland, who showcased the young tenor player on his 1970 Prestige album, Living Black. Washington appeared as a sideman that year on several more sessions, including Johnny Hammond Smith’s Breakout on CTI. That album quickly became a bestseller, establishing the saxophonist’s reputation within musician circles as a major new voice on the instrument. It also caught the attention of CTI producer Creed Taylor, who offered Grover a contract to record as a group leader on the CTI subsidiary label Kudu. His debut, Inner City Blues, garnered much critical acclaim in 1971, though at the time of its release, he was still working in the record wholesaler’s warehouse. As he recalled, “I was in the unique position of unloading records with my own name on them, but I didn’t mind. I was 28 and feeling on top of the world.”

After the release of 1974’s Mister Magic, a churning soul-jazz offering with swaggering funk overtones, Grover was well on his way to international stardom. The title track garnered huge radio play that summer of ‘75 and ultimately became Washington’s theme song throughout the rest of his career.

Grover earned his first Grammy Award for Winelight (1980), an album that eventually attained double platinum status on the strength of the popular single “Just The Two of Us” featuring singer Bill Withers. Washington subsequently signed with CBS Records in 1987 and debuted with Strawberry Moon, his 19th album as a leader. His second Columbia album, Then and Now (1988), was a return to straight ahead jazz featuring an all-star cast including pianists Tommy Flanagan and Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummers Grady Tate and Marvin “Smitty” Smith. For his follow-up with the label, he did an about-face in 1992 by releasing the hip-hop/jazz project Next Exit, asserting his interest in keeping a finger on the pulse of the streets. He followed that release with the jazz outing, All My Tomorrows in 1994. After (1997), a soothing collection of Christmas-related songs, he released Breath of Heaven: A Holiday Collection Prime Cuts, a greatest hits compilation of his Columbia years with two new cuts.

Grover died of a sudden heart attack at age 56 on December 17, 1999 while taping an appearance on CBS TV’s “The Saturday Early Show.” The posthumous Aria, an album of classic opera pieces recorded in May of 1999 with bassist Ron Carter, pianist Billy Childs and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, was issued the following year.

At the time of this recording, Grover was promoting his release, Soulful Strut (1996).

Jazz Guitarist Pat Metheny And His Orchestration

Source: www.herald.com - By Jordan Levin, McClatchy Newspapers

(April 20, 2010) MIAMI—Before he became an internationally lauded jazz musician, before he learned to play the guitar, Pat Metheny fell in love with the player piano in his grandparents’ basement in Manitowoc, Wis. At 9 years old, the multi-Grammy-winning jazz composer was fascinated by the clumping, old-fashioned wooden invention that he’d play on family visits.

“It was ancient and really old-fashioned. It even had that smell of something from the 1800s,” Metheny says. “At the same time it was like science fiction, Jules Verne, it had that quality to me. You kind of invented stories to go with it ... What is this thing, and how is it doing this?”

Almost 50 years later, Metheny has invented a 21st-century version of that player piano. He and a group of inventors have re-created a 19th-century music-making machine called an orchestration, constructing an elaborate contraption with pianos, marimba, vibraphone, guitars, bells, percussion, bottles and other sound-making devices that he plays with his guitar.

The orchestrion, which Metheny built over several years in collaboration with a far-flung group of inventors, allows him to create a more interesting musical story with a much more sophisticated version of the machinery that fascinated him as a child.

He’d never really liked the music of the player piano. “Over the years I always wondered, ‘Why does it have to play such dumb music?’” Metheny, 55, says from a West Virginia tour stop. “Why can’t it play some hip chords?”

In 2006, Metheny was inspired to take his fascination further. He had just performed Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint” at Carnegie Hall, part of a celebration of the famed composer’s 70th birthday. The piece, which Reich wrote for Metheny in the mid-‘80s, consists of 12 pre-recorded parts, over which Metheny played live.

As he stood there listening to a standing ovation, Metheny thought, “If we’re in an era where it’s cool to play in Carnegie Hall with a tape, then this is the time to do an orchestrion.”

His decades-long interest in the instrument served him well, as he brought together inventors working in various kinds of musical mechanics.

Although Metheny has been at the forefront of musical technology throughout his career—he was one of the first jazz musicians to use the synthesizer for serious composition, and has helped invent several kinds of guitars—he wanted the orchestrion to produce sound in a traditional, physical way: piano keys would play, mallets would strike marimbas and drums, and so on.

“The electronic music thing, as with so much of pop music, morphed into something that to me is slightly corny,” Metheny says. “The idea of someone sitting with a laptop onstage churning out versions of that same beat that’s dominated pop music for the last 50 years—boom chuk, boom chuk—seems really corny. My quota of that was up in 1968 anyway.”

Instead, the orchestrion let him expand what for Metheny has always been the most satisfying musical experience: playing an acoustic guitar. “I don’t really like speakers all that much,” he says. “I’ve never been as happy with that sound as when I pick up a guitar and play it in a small room. That’s fine as long as it’s just you and one or two other people in the room, but as soon as you play acoustic guitar with a drummer no one’s gonna hear a note you play and we’re back to speakers.”

Now the basic gesture of playing the guitar becomes a whole orchestra of sounds, an experience he describes as intimate and infinite at the same time.

“The thing about this whole project is its very, very personal for me,” Metheny says. “It’s built on the dream of a 9-year-old, so it’s a funny thing.”

Yo-Yo Ma, Savion Glover Highlight Conservatory Season

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(April 21, 2010) It’s not a field of dreams, but a concert hall. They built it, and the people have come.

Completed and opened amid the economic turmoil of 2009, the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Koerner Hall has exceeded the expectations of patrons, performers and programmers alike.

As its inaugural season draws to a close, Mervon Mehta, the Conservatory’s executive director of performing arts, unveiled an enticing 2010-11 season on Wednesday. It features nine months of local and international artists from a variety of genres.

There is classical, jazz, world and popular music, along with an intriguing line-up of lectures.

“I could have booked 100 shows, but we don’t want to overbook,” says Mehta. The coming season features three-dozen official Conservatory-organized concerts. “We’ll get up to about 50,” Mehta says. There are several popular-music acts to be added by the end of the summer.

The biggest classical name on the list is cellist
Yo-Yo Ma, who kicks off the season on Oct. 14. Great pianists also figure prominently on the calendar, including Alfred Brendel, who arrives for a combination lecture and recital, Simone Dinnerstein, to perform her now-famous interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and French artist Hélène Grimaud, making her Toronto début.

Soprano Adrienne Pieczonka will grace the Koerner Hall stage on May 7, 2011. There are notable violinists, ensembles and a special concert where McGill University professor Daniel “Your Brain on Music” Levitin will scientifically demonstrate the power of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, with the help of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and their music director, Edwin Outwater.

Broadway diva Barbara Cook leads the way on Oct. 22 for an eclectic line-up of singers and musicians from other genres. A broad-reaching jazz series kicks off includes five themed concerts centred on the legacy of Oscar Peterson.

Mehta’s other Broadway coup was booking contemporary tap master
Savion Glover to show off his fire on Feb. 4, 2011.

This ambitious program doesn’t include faculty and student recitals at Mazzoleni Hall, Esprit Orchestra, which is moving its full season to Koerner Hall, and one-off performances by Soundstreams, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.

Also to be announced in coming months are a number of special events that will commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Conservatory in 2011.

Mehta claims that one of his biggest challenges has been turning away this season’s artists, who have been so happy with their concert experience that they want to come back. Critics and patrons have also given their thumbs up.

“From a public standpoint, it couldn’t have gone any better,” says Mehta of the opening season. “We are at 99.6 per cent of our dollar goal and 107 per cent of our butts-in-seats goal.” And that success crosses all genres.

The three auditoriums, as well as the Koerner Hall lobby, can also be rented out for private functions.

“We’ll probably do double the rental business this year than we predicted. It’s a good thing, because it allows us to bring in artists like Gidon Kremer,” Mehta says. The violinist and his Kremerata Baltica ensemble perform on Nov. 5.

According to Mehta, the extra revenue benefits Conservatory students, as well. “It allows us to pay someone like (Toronto Symphony music director) Peter Oundjian to come in and conduct the student orchestra, and pay Yo-Yo Ma to come in and give a master class.”

Although the programmer admits that corporate sponsorships are still a hard sell, despite an improving economy, the performance division of the not-for-profit Conservatory is “in the black.”

Including events during the Luminato, jazz and Toronto Summer Music festivals, Koerner Hall has become a venue for all seasons. Its doors will only be closed for two weeks in July to allow for routine maintenance.

For full details, visit www.rcmusic.ca

4 Excellent Musicians, 3 Different Pieces, 1 Beautiful Evening

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(April 19, 2010) Some members of the
Toronto Symphony Orchestra don’t like to have any free time. And this is something the city’s lovers of chamber music should be thankful for.

On Monday night, in the fourth of the “Five Small Concerts” presented by the Associates of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre, an ad hoc string quartet presented one of the finest chamber recitals of the season.

Toronto Symphony violinists Jin Shan Dai and Peter Seminovs, associate principal viola Eric Nowlin and cellist Roberta Janzen took advantage of a short break in the symphony’s Sibelius Festival to present a short but intensely satisfying program of pieces spanning approximately a century. Each work was of a different style and mood, yet, in all three pieces, the four musicians achieved a rare stage symbiosis where they played as one. It’s a feat even long-established string quartets can’t always accomplish.

They opened the evening with one of Franz Schubert’s great-but-unfinished works, the
Quartettsatz in C minor, from 1820. It’s a brief work that straddles the Classical and Romantic worlds, demanding clarity and balance mixed with a dash of emotional verve. Within moments of the opening bars, the four players were focused and steaming forward.

Instead of a promised Beethoven quartet, the musicians offered up the
String Quartet No. 1 by Dmitri Shostakovich, already an accomplished composer of five symphonies, ballet scores and opera — and an enemy of dictator Josef Stalin — by the time he wrote it in 1938. Whatever his personal turmoil, the composer put it aside in this sunny piece, played with a light, almost sensuous lyricism on the stage.

The musicians repeated their magic, in a deeper, Romantic vein, for the 1865
String Quartet Op. 51 No. 2 by Johannes Brahms. The quality of all the interpretations made me wish this foursome could return to play every season.

Drummer of YSP! WSD! Apparently Suffered Brain Aneurysm

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Mark Hume

(April 18, 2010)
To fans, Devon Clifford,  the young musician who died after collapsing on stage this weekend, was a talented drummer whose beat helped drive the band You Say Party! We Say Die! to new heights of popularity.

But to those who worked with him on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where he cared for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country, he was a gentle soul who tried to make the world a better place.

“He was a really sweet guy,” Mark Townsend, Executive Director of the Portland Hotel Society, said yesterday. “He was really well loved in the family of staff here. He was a kind person.”

Townsend said the 31-year-old musician’s sudden death, from an apparent brain aneurysm which hit during the opening set at the Rickshaw Theatre, was “just devastating” to his family, friends and work colleagues.

When he wasn’t  with his band, which was just ending a successful North American tour and was scheduled to head for Europe next week, Clifford worked in emergency shelters for the homeless.

“He was right on the front line,” said Townsend. “He was faced with difficult situations dealing with hospitals, ambulances and police, all while trying find people housing.”

For the past three months, however, Clifford had been focusing on You Say Party! We Say Die! which was winning high praise for its most recent CD, XXXX.

Howard Redekopp, music producer, engineer and mixer on XXXX, said Clifford collapsed when the band was about six songs into its set, on the stage at the Rickshaw Theatre, on East Hastings Street.

He said the death was a staggering blow to the band and to Clifford’s friends and family.

“As a band they were going through a period of healing some inner conflict ... and he had really played an important role in that,” he said.

Redekopp said the band was just wrapping a tour that took them from Vancouver to San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Toronto and back to Vancouver - and they were gearing up for a tour of Europe.

He said he didn’t know what the band would do now.

“This is really hard for them,” he said. “I don’t know [about the tour]. They aren’t even thinking about that. Right now they just want to deal with the loss of a friend.”


With New CD Monica Is ‘Still Standing’ and Growing

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 17, 2010) *
Monica, who debuted at 15 with the multiplatinum-selling CD “Miss Thang,” wasn’t one who succumbed to celebrity pitfalls as a child star. But still, she says growing up was hard. “I experienced a lot of different hardships. The suicide of my first love, the death of my grandmother, the loss of a lot of different things that happened in the public eye that I didn’t get a chance to step away and grieve and live like your average person would,” Monica, now 29, said. That’s why on her new CD, “Still Standing,” you’ll hear a familiar refrain from the singer proclaiming how, on the verge of 30, she’s fully matured. “When I say I’m not who I used to be, I mean that some of the things that’s happened in my life, they were just consequences to my own actions, me not making great decisions, me not picking the right people to be around and keep in my company,” she explained. Keeping herself grounded not only helped her personal life – but her professional one too. “Still Standing,” her fifth album, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart last month, selling 184,000 units its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. “I was surprised to see those numbers. I had no clue,” she said. Get MORE of this AP story by Mesfin Fedaku, HERE. Watch Monica (featuring Ludacris) perform ‘Still Standing’:


Alicia Keys to Coach ‘American Idol’ Contestants

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 15, 2010) *
Alicia Keys has signed on to mentor the Top 7 “American Idol” contestants in belting “inspirational songs” — the theme for next week. She will follow up her coaching duties on Tuesday’s broadcast with a performance on Wednesday’s two-hour “Idol Gives Back,” the show’s annual charity broadcast. That bill will also include former Idol winner Carrie Underwood, Black Eyed Peas, Annie Lennox, Jeff Beck, Joss Stone, Mary J. Blige, and the All-Star Band.

Video: Mary J. Blige Rocks ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on ‘Oprah’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 19, 2010) *Led Zeppelin’s signature song “Stairway to Heaven” has long been one of those tracks considered sacred and untouchable by music aficionados. The group rarely even allows artists to cover the song – and many have tried. But R&B-rooted
Mary J. Blige was granted permission to put her spin on the anthem, and delivered a soulful rock version last week on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Watch below.


50 Cent to Trace his Ancestry for VH1

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 19, 2010) *The soon-to-be tattooless
50 Cent will trace his family roots as part of an upcoming VH1 Rock Doc titled “50’s Roots,” the network announced. The rapper, based in South Jamaica, Queens, will head to the deep south and meet with living family members en route to discovering more about his slave lineage. The “Rock Doc” is being produced in conjunction with 50 Cent and Roadside Entertainment and is part of 44 new shows VH1 unveiled today for 2010. The new programming reflects a study VH1 conducted, to gain insight into what viewers of the network actually wanted to see. “They told us that they want to connect even more with our characters, our artists and our celebrities – but in a more genuine way,” said Tom Calderone, President of VH1. “They still enjoy VH1’s signature sense of fun and irreverence, but they also want more storylines that reflect the issues and challenges they are experiencing in their own lives.” An airdate for “50’s Roots” was not announced.  Meanwhile, the rapper-turned-actor is in the process of removing his multitude of tattoos so that he can spend less time in the makeup chair on future movie sets. “It cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend in makeup covering them up,” 50 told People.com.  Still, don’t expect him to rid himself of all the ink. His arms may be tattoo free, but 50’s vowed to keep a tattoo on his back.

Jay-Z to Perform on Betty White’s ‘SNL’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 19, 2010) *
Jay-Z has been added as the musical guest for a special Mother’s Day edition of “Saturday Night Live” on May 8. The broadcast will feature America’s sweetheart Betty White – by popular demand – and a reunion of six former female cast members: Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey. This will be Jay-Z’s third appearance as a musical guest on the long-running sketch-comedy series, which airs at 11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC.

Bruce Cockburn Signs On For A Memoir

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(April 21, 2010) Canadian rock ‘n’ roll giant
Bruce Cockburn will give fans a close look at his four decades of music making in a memoir to be published by HarperCollins Canada in April 2012. HarperCollins executive editor Jim Gifford bought the book from Cockburn’s long-time manager, Bernie Finkelstein, on the premise that “his work is as relevant today as it was when he first started performing.” Cockburn said in a statement that it the idea of writing a memoir had “popped up now and then,” and that it had “always seemed too soon,” but that the project finally seems timely. The legendary performer has 30 albums to his name, most recently the studio album Life Short Call Now and the live album Slice O Life – Solo Live. He has won numerous awards, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

VIDEO: Big Boi to Put ‘Left Foot’ Down in July

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 21, 2010) *After a number of delays, the first solo album from Outkast member Big Boi, “Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty,” will finally see the light of day on July 6, reports Billboard.com. The Def Jam album features first single, “Shutterbug” [listen below], as well as 14 other tracks, including the bassy, piano-based “Turns Me On,” featuring Sleepy Brown; “Tangerine,” featuring T.I. with tambourines and guitars; and the Lil Jon-produced “Hustle Blood,” which features Jamie Foxx, reports Billboard. Big Boi said that particular track is “for the ladies.” Ten days after the release of his album, Big Boi joins the line-up at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago’s Union Park during the July 16-18 weekend. Big Boi has also revealed that a new Outkast album will be released after “Sir Lucious.”



Martin Lawrence Says ‘Bad Boys 3′ is Good to Go

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 21, 2010) *Not only has Will Smith’s return to the “Men in Black” franchise been confirmed by director Barry Sonnenfeld, but Martin Lawrence just told MTV News that he will definitely reteam with the actor for a third film in the “Bad Boys” series.

Smith’s camp had denied reports in recent weeks that he signed on for either film. But, Martin says he and Smith have already discussed a third “Bad Boys” instalment, and both actors, along with returning director Michael Bay, are just awaiting the go-ahead from producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

“Any time you can get Big Willie to come out and talk about doing a third instalment of a hot movie like ‘Bad Boys,’ you have to take notice. I met with [director] Michael Bay, and he said he’s onboard too — so it’s real… We’re just waiting on Jerry Bruckheimer to let us know when it’s really real,” said Lawrence.

Peter Craig is reportedly writing the script but production won’t likely begin until next year when Bay has finished his commitment to the third “Transformers,” reports MTV.

As previously reported, Movieline and Showbiz 411 are reporting that “Men in Black 3-D” has gotten the green light from Sony, with Smith, co-star Tommy Lee Jones and original director Sonnenfeld on board for a Memorial Day 2011 release.

Death At A Funeral: Born-Again Brit Comedy More Fun In America

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

Death at a Funeral
(out of 4)
Starring Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Zoë Saldana, Luke Wilson, Danny Glover and Peter Dinklage. Directed by Neil LaBute. 90 minutes. At major theatres. 14A

(April 15, 2010) A remake of
Death at a Funeral would seem to be the ultimate act of flogging a dead hearse.

Wonder of wonders, this revived Death doesn’t just stagger, it sprints. It’s a textbook example of how humour is all in the telling.

The 2007 British original by Frank Oz has barely begun to molder in its DVD crypt, and it wasn't all that hilarious to begin with — and neither are funerals, need it be said. Screenwriter Dean Craig's comedy of manners was a zombie march of jokes about naughty sex, reckless drug-taking and incontinent bowels.

Hopes weren't high for the Hollywood version, despite the presence of the occasionally brilliant Neil LaBute at the helm. Craig once again is credited with the script, but he worked his photocopier more than his word processor.

Plot tweaks are minimal (alas, the toilet jokes remain) and one key actor is the same: Peter Dinklage reprises the role of a surprise guest at a family funeral, who reveals plot-altering details about the dearly departed.

The changes are mostly cultural: a shift from the English countryside to California and the use of mostly African-American comedians, who are led by Chris Rock at his most restrained and acerbic.

There is method to the Pond-hopping madness. LaBute wisely cast comic actors, rather than actors attempting to be comic. Timing and delivery are paramount in comedy, all the more so when the material is as daft as this.

Rock is Aaron, eldest son of a Pasadena family that has just lost its patriarch. If it’s not enough to be mourning his dad, Aaron also has to cope with a incompetent mortician, an ovulating spouse (Regina Hall), an hysterical mother (Loretta Devine) and a showboating younger brother (Martin Lawrence). His bro Ryan is the biggest thorn in his side: Ryan is a celebrity author, while Aaron can barely pen the eulogy nobody really wants him to deliver.

A crew of cut-ups help put the fun in this funeral. Danny Glover gamely takes the role of the incontinent uncle in the wheelchair, a man of foul temper and fouler bathroom habits. Tracy Morgan once again plays the moron, this time as the hypochondriac cousin unhappily charged with minding the bad uncle. Zoë Saldana is the straight woman, niece to the deceased, demonstrating her talents outside the sci-fi of Avatar and Star Trek.

On the vanilla side of the comedy ledger, there’s James Marsden as a guest who accidentally trips on acid (he’s the movie’s welcome scene-stealer), a gone-to-seed Luke Wilson as an obnoxious ex-boyfriend and the aforementioned Dinklage, once again nimbly playing the role of the highly unwanted attendee.

In the British production, a similar parade of actors gave the movie the feel of badly staged drawing-room farce, with movements as stiff as those of the casket occupant.

LaBute’s American take busts out, giving the comics room to improvise and providing some life to the proceedings. It’s fun to watch Rock in a role originally given to an uptight Brit, while Glover, normally the serious man in his movies, gets to fly his freak flag for a change. Lawrence hits the sweet spot as an aging playboy whose isn’t as cool as he thinks he is.

The two versions of Death at a Funeral offer film students and cultural scientists an opportunity to closely compare British and American humour. The former is more cerebral and reactive, the latter more physical and in-your-face.

In this case, though, only one is really funny, and it’s the one where they don’t serve tea along with the sympathy.

Luke Wilson is subject of Richard Ouzounian’s Big Interview in the Saturday Star’s Entertainment section.  

Demjanjuk Cabaret Causes A Stir

Source: www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

(April 21, 2010)
John Demjanjuk is currently standing trial in Germany in two places at once.

In Munich, the 90-year-old Ukrainian and alleged concentration camp guard is facing 27,900 counts of accessory to murder in what is being called “the last great Nazi trial.”

Meanwhile, in Heidelberg, Demjanjuk – played by German actor Klaus Cofalka-Adami – finds himself reliving his earlier trial in Israel on similar charges in Jewish-Canadian playwright Jonathan Garfinkel’s The Trials of John Demjanjuk: A Holocaust Cabaret.

With its human portrayal of Demjanjuk and irreverent format, Garfinkel’s 2004 play is causing a stir in Europe: It has been covered extensively in the German media and even Russian and Ukrainian television stations have come to report on it.

“The press has been pretty intense,” Garfinkel says on the phone from Germany. “It is kind of amazing as a writer to have what you’ve written about suddenly become a current event.”

First staged in Toronto in 2004, The Trials of John Demjanjuk originally focused on Demjanjuk's first trial in Israel in the 1980s. Deported from Cleveland, Demjanjuk, a retired auto worker, stood accused of crimes against humanity at the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps. The prosecution alleged that he was “Ivan the Terrible,” a notorious guard who tortured Jewish prisoners on their way to the gas chambers.

Demjanjuk was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned that verdict in 1993 after doubts arose that he was in fact “Ivan the Terrible.”

But after returning to the United States, Demjanjuk was still pursued. In 2009, after years of investigation and legal processes, he was deported again – this time to Germany to stand trial for his role at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

As for Garfinkel’s play, the first pecks of interest from Germany came in 2003 when a reading was held at the National Arts Centre. But the German agent who contacted Garfinkel at the time to get a copy of the play didn’t think he could get a production mounted. “He said, ‘I like the play, but Germany isn't ready for this,’ ” Garfinkel recalls.

By the time Demjanjuk was extradited to Germany last year, however, some Germans were.

Catja Baumann, who is directing The Trials of John Demjanjuk at the Heidelberg Theatre, was attracted to the play precisely because it confronted audiences with the issues surrounding the Holocaust in an original fashion. Movies like Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds have opened the door to new ways of dealing with the subject, says Baumman, who, at 29, is of a generation ever further removed from the atrocities of the Second World War.

“In Germany, people are very careful with this topic – it's not normal to approach the topic of the Holocaust with humour, with dancing and singing,” Baumann says on the phone from her base in Stuttgart. “I don't think a German would have written this play like [Garfinkel] did.”

As a condition of the Heidelberg Theatre production, Garfinkel agreed to attend the new trial in Munich with Baumann and update his play. There, in November, he came face to face with the subject of his play for the first time.

Garfinkel describes the scene in the courtroom in the early days of the trial, which is still ongoing, as “surreal”: the then 89-year-old defendant was either in a wheelchair or hospital bed, often moaning. A pretty Ukrainian court translator whispered in his ear, while Holocausts survivors testified against him.

“As a person, he was inconsequential,” Garfinkel recalls. “He's not talking at all and nobody was addressing him. In some ways, it was anticlimactic.”

(Last week, Demjanjuk finally made his first public utterance of the trial. “It’s an injustice that Germany tries to make me, a prisoner of war, into a war criminal to try to deviate from its own war crimes,” he said in a statement read by his lawyer, Ulrich Busch. “This trial is torture for me.”)

Garfinkel left feeling that the trial of Demjanjuk – a Soviet soldier who was captured by the Nazis in 1942 and then trained as a Nazi guard, according to the current indictment – was “too little too late.”

“I don't think anybody is too old to be prosecuted for war crimes, but I do feel that the symbol of Demjanjuk has taken over the man Demjanjuk,” he says. “He was a low-rung Nazi, not the sadistic controller of the gas chambers, but the stigma of Ivan the Terrible hasn't left him.”

After discussing how to update the play with Baumann over Skype for a couple of months, Garfinkel decided to frame the original play with scenes from the Munich courtroom. In the new version, the play is enacted by a group of German cabaret performers and the focus has shifted to being about the “German sense of guilt about its past,” he says.

Since opening earlier this month, the critical and audience reaction in Heidelberg – where the play runs in repertory until next month and may return in the fall – has been positive over all. “The success of the opening night is that people laughed and then, the next moment, they were frightened that they had laughed,” says Baumann, who has only had one audience member complain to her about the tone. “Everyone who came out and talked to me was very emotional, very moved by what they saw.”

Garfinkel was approached on opening night by an old German woman whose father had been in the Gestapo. “She said he would never talk to her about the war, but this play was helpful – in her mind – for Germans to talk about their past,” he recalls. “It was quite thrilling to be part of something where the audience felt it was so important to them.”

Tasha Smith: The “My Black Is Beautiful” Interview

Source: Kam Williams

Tasha Smith and her identical twin, Sidra, were born on February 28, 1971 in Camden, New Jersey. Being raised by a single-mom in a crime and drug infested neighbourhood proved to be almost too much of a hurdle for Tasha to overcome as her life spiralled down a self-destructive path marked by promiscuity, Marijuana and cocaine addiction, chain-smoking and a stint as a stripper.

Fortunately, she eventually embraced Christianity, cleaned up her act and moved to L.A. where she tried her hand at standup comedy before settling on an acting career. The versatile scene-stealer has since appeared in such movies as Couples Retreat, The Longshots, Daddy’s Little Girls and Why Did I Get Married, to name a few.

When not working, Tasha gives back to the community, dividing her time between making motivational speeches and teaching actor’s workshops all across the country. Here, she talks about reprising the role of Angela in Why Did I Get Married Too, as well as her new TV series, My Black Is Beautiful, a reality series premiering this month on BET. (Check local listings)

Kam Williams: Hey Tasha, thanks for the time again.

Tasha Smith: Hey, Kam Williams! [Shrieks] Whassup! How ya doing?

KW: Very well, and you?

TS: I am doing awesome! I was hoping to interview with you when I was in New York for the premiere [of Why Did I Get Married Too]. 

KW: This is probably better because I’m sure you were mobbed and I would have had to elbow my way just to get a few minutes one-on-one with you.

TS: Hey, you can have as long as you need now. How’s that?

KW: Tremendous, thanks.

TS: So, what’s happening? Hi!

KW: Nothing much, how about you?

TS: I have just been s busy, and I’m so excited. I have been doing soooooo much. Speaking engagements… producing… developing a half-hour sitcom… working on a movie… leading acting workshops all over the world…and hosting My Black Is Beautiful, an empowerment TV show I’m doing on BET for women. Do you hear me, Kam?

KW: Yeah, so what’s the new TV show going to be like?

TS: We’re doing makeovers, giving financial classes, answering questions about black women’s imaging in the media, and much more. It’s so good! We encourage women to become mentors within their communities in order to teach young girls how to thrive in this society. It’s a good thing, so, I’m excited about having the platform and this opportunity because you know me, I love my folk.

KW: Let’s talk a little about Why Did I Get Married Too. You were as phenomenal as you were in the original which led me to name you the best actress of 2007. How was it seeing everybody again?

TS: Thank you. It was fun. Honestly, we are like a family. We really are. The chemistry for the sequel was even better. It almost felt like we were actually on vacation together, organically. I got to tell you, it was like a family reunion. It was like, “Hey, girl!” and we just had us a good time.

KW: You can’t beat shooting in the Bahamas.

TS: To be honest, the Bahamas wasn’t fun. [Whispers] Kam, it was horrible. Not only was the shooting schedule insane, but there were so many bugs on that island that it was nerve-wracking. It was infested with these big moths called “money bats” Imagine if every time you walked outside hundreds of them were all over the place and landing on you. It was so stressful and irritating. I’m not exaggerating. They also had these mosquitoes called “no see ‘ems” because you couldn’t see ‘em.  Those things just ate us up. We had welts and bites all over our bodies. Ugh! I could go on and on. And then there were these other bugs like flying cockroaches that made a loud buzzing sound every time we tried to shoot a scene. 

KW: Gee, that sounds very different from Couples Retreat, your previous film, which was filmed in Polynesia on Bora Bora, another exotic location.

TS: Let me tell you honey, they should have picked Bora Bora. Bora Bora was a dream! It was truly paradise.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks, who do you admire most in your profession and have you sought out that person as a mentor?

TS: Wow! Angela Bassett is a friend of mine and someone who I truly admire tremendously in terms of her work and her choices.

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks, how has your life changed as a Christian, and who in the scriptures speaks most to who you are and how you've developed spiritually? 

TS: I’d say Paul. I just love how he went from being an unbeliever persecuting Christians to one of the most powerful people in the Bible. And how has my life changed as a Christian? Once you have the light of God within you, you see things within yourself that you did not know existed. Things that were hidden in darkness are now in light. I see myself as able to forgive… to love… I even see talents in myself that I didn’t see before.

KW: Reverend Thompson also asks, how do you express the Christ you serve in the glamorous Hollywood milieu in which you work?

TS: Your atmosphere does not change you, if are rooted and grounded in who you are. I do what I believe the Lord did, and that is walk in love with all mankind, which I don’t see a lot of Christians doing. Christians can be so judgmental, that it can turn off people who are considering converting. It makes me a little embarrassed, to tell you the truth, when I hear Christians criticizing others. I have to fight against being discouraged, because I don’t want to be connected with people who are so intolerant of much of mankind like that. God loves us all. He really does. And I want to walk in love with people.

KW: I know you’re from Camden, New Jersey, and your character Angela even brags about it in the film. Have you heard of the Center for Transformation [http://camdencenterfortransformation.org/about.htm], an organization that’s doing some tremendous charity work there, including overseeing a greenhouse, community gardens, neighbourhood cleanups, a family resource clinic and other projects?

TS: No I haven’t.

KW: Their mission states “we area people called to be a Christian community and to stand on the side of life with all the struggling people of Camden and the world.”

TS: That sounds beautiful.

KW: I can get some information to you about it, if it sounds like a group you’d be interested in working with.

TS: Yeah, that would be great.

KW: I recently met someone from Camden who says he knew you as a child. Eric Lewis, the jazz pianist. I met him backstage after a concert promoting his new album.


TS: Yes, isn’t he talented? I’m so happy for him.

KW: Laz Lyles would like to know what it was like for you to revisit the character Angela.

TS: It was exciting and empowering, because although Tyler always jokes around saying, “Tasha’s just like Angela,” I’m not really. I’m loud and I communicate, but I’d never think of doing half the things Angela does. She’s an over the top character who just lives and speaks honestly without worrying about being politically correct. So, playing her, you get a sense of freedom to do whatever you want and to live vicariously through her. 

KW: Laz has a follow up question. What's the most common feedback you get from your acting workshops?

TS: People come to my workshop expecting just to learn about acting, but at the end many say they’ve learned something about life. They leave as better mothers, better wives, better husbands and better siblings.  

KW: After watching your acting studio video, [
http://www.tsaw.com/actors_workshop_video.html] Larry Greenberg wants to know whether a white guy can enrol in your acting course.

TS: Tell him “Yes!” and please bring his whole family. I’m giving a $20 discount to anyone who brings along a white person to my class. Tell him I want white people in my classes and to send an email blast to every white person he knows to come and visit me. [Laughs]

KW: Larry also says he loved your work in "Glass House: The Good Mother." He asks, “Is there any chance I could see you in another thriller?”

TS: Wow! Tell him to pray. I want to do another thriller. [Laughs]

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

TS: Hmm… I see a beautiful black woman who has overcome and who is pressing into her future and forgetting about the past.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

TS: Wow! I remember being 6 or 7 years-old and always begging my sister to act out scenes with me while we were in our bunk beds. I would be like, “Can you be Chaka Khan while I be Diana Ross? And let’s act like we’re at a party at Stevie wonder’s house and looking fabulous.” But she would always just fall asleep.

KW: How’s your twin, Sidra, doing?

TS: She’s great, thanks.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who’s you’re favourite clothes designer?

TS: I love Catherine Maladrino, Angela Dean and Nicole Miller. Catherine Maladrino designs that beautiful, high-class red carpet stuff. Nicole Miller makes beautiful dresses you can wear everyday. And when you just want to go and shut it down, you turn to Angela Dean. She made my dress for this premiere, as well as for the opening of Tyler Perry’s studio, that red sequined number. 

KW: Beautiful! If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

TS: Wow, I was just telling my boyfriend that I want to be like Solomon, and instead of asking for riches ask for wisdom and creativity.

KW: What is your favourite dish to cook?

TS: I make a garlic cracked crab that will shut everything down. First, I roast fresh garlic in olive oil. Then, I sauté onions, peppers and basil in Old Bay seasoning with butter, heavy cream, wine and beer until it gets thick. Then, I let the fresh crabs cook in that sauce for about 10 or 15 minutes before roasting them. Woooo! Believe me when I tell you that my garlic cracked crab is soooo good. It’s dynamic!     

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

TS: “Understanding Your Potential” by Myles Munroe. That book is really, really, really good, and empowers you to appreciate your full potential, and God as the source of that potential. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0768423376?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0768423376

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod? 

TS: Honey, I’m on Sade’s “Soldier of Love” right now. Loving it, loving it, and loving it! That whole album is just crazy.


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

TS: Today. [LOL] You wanna know what happened? While I was filming “My Black Is Beautiful” I had my DNA traced and found out that I’m linked genetically to the Bubi people of Bioko Island. So, I eagerly asked, “Am I descended from kings and queens?” But I was told, “Sorry, your ancestors were definitely not kings and queens, but probably gatherers in the field.” [Laughs more] That was hilarious. I just laughed so hard.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

TS: Thanks for asking. A lot of times people don’t really seem to care about that. How do I sound?

KW: Elated, and you’ve got a boyfriend since we last spoke.

TS: [Shrieks] I got a man, baby! A man! He is so absolutely wonderful. I am so in love. And I’m planning on getting married and having a bay by the end of 2011.

KW: Congratulations! Who’s the lucky guy?

TS: His name is Keith.

KW: Best of luck to you both, Tasha, and thanks for another terrific interview.

TS: Thank you. It’s so good to talk to you.

KW: Same here.

To see a trailer for My Black Is Beautiful, visit: http://myblackisbeautiful.com/tv_show/#episode3

To see a trailer for Why Did I Get Married Too, visit:



National Film Board Nets Record Five Webby Nominations

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(April 19, 2010) The
National Film Board of Canada is Webby ready. The NFB has received five nominations and four honourable mentions at the 14th Annual Webby Awards – a record number for the NFB in a single year. Called the “Internet’s highest honour” by The New York Times, the Webby is the leading international award honouring excellence on the Internet. Leading the way with four nominations, the Waterlife Interactive website, waterlife.nfb.ca/ nominated in three website categories as well as for Best Online Film and Video in the Documentary: Individual Episode category. Waterlife Interactive was inspired by the documentary Waterlife by Kevin McMahon. The NFB’s free iPhone App was nominated in the Mobile category for Best Use of Mobile Video – Mobile Web Features. Winners will be announced on May 4 and honoured at a ceremony in New York City on June 14, where they will have the opportunity to deliver one of The Webby Awards’ famous five-word speeches. The Webby Awards encourage fans to vote online http://www.webbyawards.com/


If Numbers Are What Count, CBC’s Made Prime-Time Progress

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(April 18, 2010) In the spring of 2007,
Kirstine Layfield, CBC’s general manager of English-language programming, vowed that the beleaguered public broadcaster would soon be “flying high,” and she outlined a plan to move away from high-impact miniseries to steamier dramas, feel-good sitcoms, and way more reality programming.

The shrieks of outrage were ear-piercing and immediate. And the chorus of dissent went something like this: The CBC is dumbing down. Abandoning high art. Acting like a conventional broadcaster. Chasing numbers rather than nurturing a vision as a public broadcaster.

At the time, Layfield, who was just a year into the job (and who now goes by the surname of Stewart), looked a bit nervous making the proclamation of change. But she held her ground. “The stakes are high and the needs are urgent,” she told a crowd of journalists and media buyers assembled on the cavernous 10th floor at CBC’s Toronto headquarters. Then she stuck her neck out even further: “But the rewards will be great. The love affair is just starting.”

As ratings go, at least, it turns out she was right.

 “ What people have to understand, and I think they do appreciate, is that if an audience isn’t watching the CBC – whether it’s our reality shows, sitcoms or the specials – they’re not going to be watching the dramas either. — Kirstine Stewart

As the CBC heads into the hockey playoffs – and turns its attention to what will come down the pipe this fall – it is crowing about the 2009-10 season. That season held not just the usual single Canadian-made show with more than a million weekly prime-time viewers – typically, that’s been Hockey Night in Canada. Now the network has three more: Dragons’ Den, Battle of the Blades and Rick Mercer Report. (Still, only Hockey Night ranks among the country’s Top 20 prime-time programs – the only Canadian-made show to do so – squeaking in at number 20).

The Alberta-based drama Heartland almost made the cut, with 992,000 viewers. And the two-part miniseries Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story, drew almost 1.4-million viewers its first night, and 1.3-million its second.

All round, not too shoddy given that the CBC’s benchmark of success has typically been 500,000 pairs of eyeballs.

“We strike a very good balance,” Stewart asserts. “What people have to understand, and I think they do appreciate, is that if an audience isn’t watching the CBC – whether it’s our reality shows, sitcoms or the specials – they’re not going to be watching the dramas either. Dragons’ Den almost reached the two-million mark, and it led into our new drama Republic of Doyle, which is attracting 800,000 viewers. Doyle is the highest drama launch we’ve had in quite some time. And it’s 100-per-cent Canadian owned and grown.”

What Stewart describes as “good balance” is, not surprisingly, a matter of dispute among many of this country’s independent producers, some of whom charge that, unless it’s fun and fluffy, the CBC turns most scripts away.

If you want to turn people who are funny away, there is no better way than this. — Ken Finkleman

Ken Finkleman, who has made several series for the public network, including his CBC-inspired comedy The Newsroom, says that his most recent script for a half-hour sitcom, Good Dog, was roundly rejected by the network. So he took it to pay TV’s The Movie Network/Movie Central, which has green-lit 13 episodes.

Cable and pay TV, Finkleman says, are making the best, boldest shows on television. “Forget about dark and edgy; the CBC seems to only want warm and friendly,” says Finkleman, whose new sitcom is about an older guy (played by Finkleman) living with a woman half his age, knowing full well she’s there for his money. (He’s there for the sex.)

“If you want to turn people who are funny away, there is no better way than this,” adds Finkleman. “A senior CBC executive told me that Good Dog was ‘too niche.’ I sent a note back saying I have to give you credit for not only managing to express your opinion of the show in two words, but you also did so bilingually. So you’re doing a great job.”

 “ A few years ago, I pitched them a comedy, but I was told they didn’t want humour that comes from a place of discomfort. — Adriana Maggs

Newfoundland native Adriana Maggs, a TV writer and actress whose first feature film, Grown Up Movie Star, was in competition at the year’s Sundance, agrees that the CBC’s appetite for anything “a bit out there” has waned. “A few years ago, I pitched them a comedy, but I was told they didn’t want humour that comes from a place of discomfort. I think comedy does come from discomfort. I think that’s why people laugh,” says Maggs.

“After that, I didn’t see the CBC as a place for me. I like truth and honesty. I’m not interested in replicating commercial, American-inspired production.” Maggs’s most recent writing job was on the ballsy comedy series Call Me Fitz, starring Jason Priestley and airing this summer on TMN/Movie Central.

But Laszlo Barna, the producer behind CBC’s long-running Da Vinci’s Inquest and Da Vinci’s City Hall as well as the Don Cherry movie, defends Stewart’s more populist route (which, there’s no denying, he’s done well by of late). “Don Cherry was a monster hit,” he notes. “And the CBC just picked up our new series, Men With Brooms.

“I do wish the CBC did more movies, but nobody is doing movies, because they’re hard to advertise and position,” Barna adds. “The CBC is doing what everybody is doing, and their ratings are up. I know a lot of people have trouble with Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune running on the CBC at 7 p.m., but thanks to those shows, Don Cherry had one million people on the lead-in – not 300,000 to 400,000 viewers, like there used to be.”

Stephen Waddell, national executive director of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, also sees upsides to what Stewart has done. Waddell was initially “concerned they were going to move too much toward reality shows … and away from drama and comedy.” Now, he sees “a schedule that is reasonably balanced” – and likely the best way for the CBC to survive in tough times.

Last year, the CBC laid off 800 employees, and it is currently grappling with a $170-million deficit. The corporation also recently found out it will receive $12.6-million less for TV and digital production from the Conservative government’s restructured Canada Media Fund. That cut, a CBC spokesman says, won’t have an impact this fiscal year but could affect prime-time programming down the road.

In a few weeks, Stewart will unveil the new fall season. Already, she has announced that Battle of the Blades will be back, along with a new reality series for home-improvement diva Debbie Travis (replacing Sunday-night movies). Also planned for 2010-11 is a movie based on the life of John A. Macdonald (he’ll be played by Newfoundland-born Big Love star Shawn Doyle); the comedy Insecurity (from Virginia Thompson, the Regina producer behind Corner Gas); and a steamy historical drama, Camelot, an international co-production to replace The Tudors. She hinted that the CBC is also considering a Jamie Oliver-esque food show that will try to get Canadians to eat better.

Maureen Parker, executive director of the Writers Guild of Canada, is less than thrilled with the Camelot news. “Tell me, what is Canadian about Camelot?” she asks. “Sure, they can buy and air a costume drama, but don’t dress it up as Canadian content.”

Stewart, who has weathered criticism before, just shrugs: “I don’t know what’s wrong with being considered more populist. I don’t see us crossing any lines of quality.”

All public broadcasters, she points out, are being forced to experiment. She notes that the BBC recently announced it is making a reality show called Hotter Than My Daughter. “If you compare that to Dragons’ Den and Battle of the Blades,” says Stewart, “I think we’re doing pretty good.” Further proof, if it were needed, that in an age of continuing government cuts and a push to prime-time populism, quality is a relative term.

Cloris Leachman Dishes On Her Family Affair

Source: www.thestar.com - Barbara Turnbull

(April 19, 2010)
Cloris Leachman is on the phone, talking from her bed.

She’s not unwell, it’s just where she chooses to be when not working.

“Everything I need is just right here with me,” says the actress and
Dancing With the Stars sweetheart. “I just taped the Chelsea (Lately’s late-night U.S. E!) show and I came home and jumped into bed. I have a hot water bottle, the television and the phone, magazines and newspapers and I couldn’t be happier.”

Actually, that’s not quite true. She’d be happier if she could follow her hijinks on
Dancing With the Stars in 2008 with American Idol, but it’s not to be. “We found out you have to be younger than 28,” she says, then jokes about suing for age discrimination and laughs heartily.

Leachman, who turns 84 on April 30, has projects stacked up — showcasing the talent and versatility that’s won her an Oscar and nine Emmys. She just finished a psychological thriller movie, has done a pilot for a sitcom she’s sure will be picked up for fall and is in talks to start a reality show about living with her 21-year-old granddaughter.

“Everything keeps opening up,” she says. “It’s fun.”

The perennially positive Leachman will open up her life here tonight, as the next speaker in the
Unique Lives & Experiences lecture series, sponsored in part by the Toronto Star.

“I’m excited as hell,” she says. “I can’t wait to come to Toronto, it’s one of my favourite cities.”

Though she’s worked through six decades of show business, the last couple of years have been particularly prolific — ever since her son became her manager.

“I’ve never been cared for so much and so brilliantly in all my life as he’s been caring for me,” she says about George Englund Jr. The suggestion for the match came from her ex-husband, George Englund. He wrote and directed her one-woman show —
Cloris — which morphed into a memoir they co-wrote that was published last year. “We adore each other,” she says of the man she divorced in 1979, after 27 years of marriage and five children.

Her life is a family affair, with her kids, six grandchildren and one great-grandson. “And I’m in love with all of them,” she says. “Each one as an individual is amazing.”

There is a dark chapter in her history with the loss of her oldest son, Bryan, who died of a drug overdose in 1986.

From her numerous films and TV shows in the 190s and ’60s, to her Oscar-winning turn as a disappointed housewife in
The Last Picture Show and multiple Emmy-winning performances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Malcolm in the Middle, she’s stayed current to each new generation of viewers. She came close to reprising her oft-quoted Frau Blücher character from Young Frankenstein for the current stage production, but Mel Brooks worried for her health (she had bronchitis when she auditioned).

Anyone who’s caught her antics on TV lately (a hilarious, profanity-laced roast of Bob Saget and her Jimmy Kimmel appearance a few years ago) will know she’s in great shape, something for which she credits her foray into vegetarian eating at 35.

“I’m not rigid at all ... but (I) choose things that are good,” Leachman says.

Indeed, many good things have come her way and she’s embracing the whirlwind of filming, performing and speaking engagements – whenever she isn’t hanging out in bed. “I’m doing all of that now very successfully,” she says. “I love it.”

Cloris Leachman takes the stage at Roy Thomson Hall tonight at 7:30. Tickets are still available by calling 416-872-4255.

Reach Barbara Turnbull at bturnbull@thestar.ca or @barbturnbull on Twitter.

Katherine Kelly and Antony Cotton: Coronation Street stars in Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(April 16, 2010) Katherine Kelly has barely sat down in a Toronto hotel restaurant when a stranger enthusiastically approaches. “You’re the best thing on
Coronation Street!” he tells the petite blond in black jeans and a simple orange sweater, who bears little resemblance to Becky Granger, the tarty barmaid she plays on the long-running British TV drama.

But that’s the power of Corrie, thanks to a fan base, which stretches across the Atlantic, of loyal viewers who have been joining the cast for a pint in the Rovers Return pub for nearly 50 years.

Kelly, 30, and Antony Cotton, 34, who plays fellow Rovers barkeep Sean Tully, are in Toronto this weekend for the British Isles Show at Exhibition Place, where they’ll get a chance to meet local fans of a show that follows the dramatic and often-comic tales of life on the cobbled streets of the northern town of Weatherfield.

Gossip, jealousy, sex and greed fuel most of the plotlines. “Nobody can keep a secret,” adds Cotton, who plays the first openly gay leading character in a British soap. He approached producers to let him create the character.

“It’s life with all the boring bits taken out,” adds Kelly

“And slightly more murders,” quips Cotton.

There’s a nine-month lag between episodes airing in Britain and the ones we see here on CBC, and Kelly and Cotton are coy about what’s coming for the perpetually lovelorn Sean and the brassy Becky, who missed out on marrying Rovers’ co-owner Steve McDonald (Simon Gregson) last year because she was too drunk to stand up at the ceremony.

Why has Kelly cut her long hair into a chic bob?

“I can’t tell you why that is because that’s for a storyline and that’s a year away. A change of image was required,” she says with a mysterious smile.

Will Becky and Steve finally tie the knot?

“Well, I shouldn’t tell you that either, because that’s all in the future,” she adds.

But Kelly does let it slip that Becky’s next wedding dress will be a change from the full-skirted and sequined meringue she wore for her disastrous first attempt. This one is more feathers and Vegas and very Becky.

The loudmouth barmaid with a slightly tarnished heart of gold is known for her appalling dress sense, choosing the barely there look whenever possible. “Throwaway fashion,” is how Kelly describes it and she picks most of her character’s wardrobe, which she says is inspired by Becky’s devotion to trashy Brit fashion icons.

“At first, because she was homeless, she had one outfit, a double-denim look, but as soon as she got two jobs (she also worked behind the counter at Roy’s Rolls café) she had the money to buy clothes,” says Kelly. “Amy Winehouse was her inspiration.”

Corrie cast members seem to have very close relationships with their characters; Cotton says they feel the weight of responsibility to fans to get it right.

“Sean is ever the optimist and eternally on the shelf and he’s always looking for Mr. Right and to live happily ever after,” he says. “He’s always central to his own downfall. He’s a bit of a fibber; he can’t help himself.”

They describe the shooting process on Coronation Street as “chaotic,” with three weeks’ worth of episodes — 15 shows — shot each week. A different director and a team chosen from the 20 staff writers work on each five-episode block at a time. Actors find themselves in “three different time zones, jumping from week to week,” in a day, says Cotton.

“It’s a show made out of love. You have to love it,” he adds.

“There’s a reason why people have been there for so many years,” points out Kelly.

With that kind of loyalty on the show, fans seem to see the cast as quasi-family members, with stars like William Roache, who plays Ken Barlow, marking 50 years on Corrie in December. And people were saddened when Maggie Jones, 75, who plays the acid-tongued Blanche Hunt, died last December.

“She’s irreplaceable and was universally adored by the public and also the cast and crew,” said Cotton, who read a poem at Jones’s memorial service. “She was part of the furniture.”

Blanche’s funeral was later used as a storyline on the show, “so people can say goodbye to the character,” says Kelly.

“The brilliant writers have found a very clever way of getting her voice into the episode,” she adds. We won’t see that episode here until next year. “So enjoy her while she’s still onscreen.”

The British Isles Show on April 16 to 18 at the Queen Elizabeth Building, Exhibition Place. For more info on tickets and Corrie cast appearance times go to www.britishislesshowcanada.comwww.britishislesshowcanada.comEND

The New Doctor Is In

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(April 16, 2010) Some secrets are harder to keep than others. For an ambitious young actor, being told to keep mum when you’ve just landed a major and much-coveted lead role is tough enough. But when you suddenly discover you’re about to become an internationally adored 907-year-old genre icon with two hearts and 11 consecutive distinct personalities ... it’s pretty much impossible.

“I had to keep my mouth shut for three long months,” ruefully recalls
Matt Smith, the tousled 27-year-old who has inherited the venerable role of the Doctor in the time-spanning British science-fiction institution Doctor Who, which returns to North American TV screens — here exclusively on cable’s Space channel — Saturday night at 9.

“It’s such a big deal in England,” Smith says, “I had to wait till they officially announced it. But I found out in November of 2009, and they didn’t announce it until January of 2010. I was just going mad, and it went on for weeks.

“I remember there being a lot of speculation at the time, and I was doing a lot of press for something else I was in, and they were asking every other actor in it if they were going to be the next Doctor Who ... every one but me! And I knew that I had it! And I couldn’t say a thing to anyone, except for my family.”

Karen Gillan, the Doctor’s spunky new Scottish travelling companion, had a somewhat easier time of it. “It wasn’t too agonizing for me,” she admits. “I was the last girl who auditioned. I only had to keep it a secret for a couple of weeks,” even from her family — particularly her mother, an avid long-time science-fiction fan.

“I couldn’t do that to her,” Gillan laughs. “I had to make a choice: I could either call her with this news and then tell her she can’t tell anyone, or I could wait, go home to Inverness, tell her face-to-face, and then let her talk freely about it.

“So I waited until just about an hour before it was officially announced. Needless to say, she was absolutely thrilled. Now she calls me up, ‘So, dear, how was your day?’ and I know that she’s really after a couple of spoilers. So I have to be very careful what I say.”

Mother Gillan is not alone. The good Doctor has a vast and uniquely passionate global fan base that takes its respective Whos very seriously indeed.

Much speculation preceded Smith’s casting, with rumoured Doctors from
Little Britain’s David Walliams to Trainspotting (and now Stargate) star Robert Carlysle, and even Joanna Lumley, who played a female Who for laughs in a 1999 Comic Relief spoof.

Typically, when Smith was announced, the Internet was all abuzz, equal parts anticipation and pre-emptive objection — the latter, particularly, over the actor’s unprecedented youth. Hired at the tender age of 26, Smith is the youngest Doctor yet.

Infinitely worse, worried some, was that he is also the first to have grown up in an England where there was no
Doctor Who to speak of, save the occasional rerun — from 1989 through 2005, the series’ only fallow period since its debut in 1963.

“It just wasn’t on TV,” Smith says. “I mean, you know about it, of course ... it’s passed on through the blood, somehow. I don’t know. It just is.

“But the fools took it off the air when I was a kid, which was a shame, really. I would have loved to have been 8 and watching
Doctor Who — can’t think of anything better, really.”

Smith has tried to make up for lost time, retrospectively reviewing the work of his predecessors, from the immediate and much-admired David Tennant, back through the single-season ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, and on through the fourth, the longest-running and arguably most popular Tom Baker.

“I went back and looked at David’s work, and Chris’ stuff ... I looked at Tom Baker, obviously, as well. That was just two weeks of pleasure. I got totally hooked into it. Like any great book, it just sort of draws you in.”

“I really love Patrick Troughton,” he enthuses of the series’ second star, from 1966 to 1969. “He’s one of my favourite Doctors. He just has that mad Doctor face.”

His own take on Who will be similarly eccentric. “I mean, the Doctor is always the Doctor,” he allows. “I can only say what I hope it will be. We’ll just have to wait and see. But I do think he’s quite mad. And the companion he has travelling with him is mad, which I think just adds to the particular energy of this TARDIS (as in “Time and Relative Dimensions in Space,” the Doctor’s traditional police-box time machine).

“He’s bonkers, really, this particular Doctor. He sort of takes things up to the precipice, and doesn’t realize what he’s going to do until the very last moment. He’s quite clumsy, as well, because I happen to be clumsy, so it has to become part of the show, otherwise we’d never get anything shot.

“Sometimes I think it’s intentional because that’s how he saves the day. He’s not your typical hero. I mean, in England, we also have James Bond. But I’d rather be Doctor Who any day of the week.”

And then, when he doesn’t want to be Doctor Who anymore? Smith has no worries about long-term typecasting. Tennant, for example, survived his five-year run to land the lead in a new NBC pilot,
Rex is Not Your Lawyer, and will recreate his award-winning Royal Shakespeare Company stage production of Hamlet — co-starring Patrick Stewart, a genre icon twice over himself in two successful sci-fi franchises, Star Trek and the X-Men — on PBS at the end of this month.

In the meantime, Smith says, he’s having the time of his lives.

“We’re really pleased,” he says of the early fan response back home to his new
Who. “We’re very, very proud of it. And it just gets better and better. From episodes four and five onwards, I think we really hit our stride. And I just saw 12 and 13 the other day, and they are, if I say so myself, absolutely extraordinary.”

From the Doctor we expect nothing less.


Who he is depends on who he’s with

Doctor Who companion is, so to speak, a “time-honoured” tradition, dating back to the series’ beginnings, when original Doctor William Hartnell brought his granddaughter and a couple of schoolteachers along for the ride.

As much as the companion is essentially intended to give the viewer someone “normal” to identify with, they also define their individual Doctors.

“That’s just so important,” agrees Karen Gillan, whose feisty Amy Pond brings the tag-along total close to 40.

“The first time I read with Matt, there was some sort of spark there,” she says. “But I think we were both very aware that these things need to be developed. And that’s what we were constantly doing while we were filming the series ... every day, constantly trying to make it better, trying new things, and new ways for that essential connection to manifest itself between them.”

It is one of the great geeky perks of this job that I have also been able to interview the three previous companions of the revived 21st-century
Doctor Who.

A few selected quotes:

• Billie Piper, pop singer turned companion to Eccleston and then Tennant, now the seductive star of
Secret Diary of a Call Girl:

“Before I did
Doctor Who, I wasn’t a huge sci-fi fan. We weren’t a big TV family. But I remember people talking about it a lot in school, and at times I did feel I was missing out on something special.

“What’s so great about
Doctor Who is that it celebrates life and humanity. I really missed that before. And now it’s something that I’m such a huge fan of, and advocate for Doctor Who in such a strong way. It’s topical, it’s about life and existence and how greedy and how hateful we are at times, and how we forget how wonderful things can be and how special and extraordinary life really is.”

• Freema Agyeman, the series’ first “companion of colour,” who spun off from
Who onto its sister series, Torchwood, and now co-stars in Law & Order: UK:

“The part wasn’t specified as being ‘non-white.’ ... It’s just such a reassuring and reflective sign of the times. It is so great to get this fabulous female part that isn’t synonymous with my colour. It’s not stereotypical in any way.

“It’s a massive achievement. I’m really honoured. I mean, the show is such an institution. ... I get letters from black children saying, ‘I really want to be like you.’ That is quite something. I mean, it’s nice to have a role model that all children can look up to, that non-white children can also identify with.”

• Catherine Tate, brilliantly versatile comedy character actress and star of her own, self-titled, awarding-winning sketch show:

“I don’t actually think the process is any different than doing comedy, but the results are different. What’s great about doing
Doctor Who is that it has a narrative, so it means that I can approach it more as a straight acting role. It’s just nicer to have a story arc that lasts longer than, like, four minutes.

“And it’s just the one character, and I don’t have to have the pressure of writing it. It’s a pressure and a privilege, writing. Mainly a pressure.

“But where else would I get the chance to do all these wild things, you know, and get to go home at the end of the day without getting arrested or something?”

Dancers Hoof Their Way From TV To Stage

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo

(April 20, 2010) You could say that
Ryan and Ashleigh Di Lello are leading a charmed life, but that would downplay all the hard work that goes into it.

The ballroom dancers became the first married couple to compete on the reality TV show So You Think You Can Dance last year, making it to the top 10.

That led to a contract with Burn the Floor, a live ballroom dance spectacle that opens in Toronto on Thursday.

“We’ve realized that dance is what brings joy to our hearts,” Ryan said from Vancouver, where they joined the tour last week.

“That’s really what makes us happy. It’s such an incredible opportunity for us to do it together: a married couple, doing what (we) love with the person we love the most.”

The love of dance came first.

“I don’t think I would exist without dancing,” said Ryan, 29, who began at 4, specializing in ballroom at 9.

Both sets of grandparents danced — his paternal ones were professional ballroom dancers in Italy — his parents met dancing and his mother, who’s 55, still runs a dance studio in Springville, Utah. He and Ashleigh, who live in Orem, Utah, when they’re not on the road, met at a dance studio, marrying in November, 2004.

Ashleigh, who turned 27 last Tuesday, her first night performing in Burn the Floor, began dancing at 3, first ballet, jazz, tap and hip hop, falling in love with ballroom later.

“It just fit my personality and everything I wanted to express in dancing,” Ashleigh said.

She still feels that way about ballroom.

“I can express all my fiery personality, I guess, when I get out onstage. Like Beyonce says she becomes Sasha Fierce, that’s how I feel . . .

“I also like the passion with the paso doble, the sun in my heart with the jive, the beauty and elegance that comes with the waltz and, again, the fiery (side) of the tango . . .

“You’re constantly pushed with . . . entirely different technique and movement. It’s very challenging always.”

Burn the Floor has been described as a reinvention of ballroom, taking it to new limits. The show, which premiered in the U.K. in 1999, is choreographed by former Latin and ballroom world champ Jason Gilkison, who the Di Lellos met when he guest-choreographed on SYTYCD.

Ryan remembers seeing a video of Burn the Floor when he was 18 or 19 and being blown away.

“I just knew some of the best dancers in the world were in the show . . . I saw it and thought, ‘Wow, that would be incredible to be part of that show one day.’”

Burn the Floor stocks its 20-person cast in part with competitors from popular TV shows like Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, and their equivalents around the world.

(The group visiting Toronto includes SYTYCD alumni Karen Hauer, Artem Chigyvintsev, Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev.)

And why not? The TV show is good training for the rigors of the live one.

“It’s the most physically and mentally exhausted I’ve ever been . . . on a daily basis,” Ashleigh says of SYTYCD, recalling some 15-hour days.

“I would do it all again, minus the shoulder dislocation,” she laughed.

“The great thing that show did for us was made us better dancers, not just ballroom dancers, dancers in general.”

With daily rehearsals for Burn the Floor averaging seven hours, “in a way, we feel we’re back on So You Think You Can Dance. You learn a lot and then you’re onstage,” she added.

“This show is so incredible. I’ve never seen a show with as much energy.”

Burn the Floor plays the Canon Theatre Thursday until May 1. Go to www.mirvish.com or call 416-872-1212 for tickets. Read Debra Yeo’s reality TV blog at www.thestar.blogs.com/realitycheck


Cirque Du Soleil To Produce Michael Jackson Show

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(April 20, 2010) After having already formed partnerships with the estates of Elvis Presley and members of The Beatles,
Cirque du Soleil made it a superstar trifecta on Tuesday by announcing its plans to mount a series of shows based on the music and songs of Michael Jackson.

The rock superstar, who died last June 25, remains one of the most popular figures in modern music and Cirque plans to approach his work in two formats.

An arena-style show, in which fans are expected “to experience the excitement of a Michael Jackson concert” will debut in Las Vegas in late fall 2011 for an extended run, to be presented with Cirque’s long-time partners, the MGM Mirage chain.

Then, late in 2012, a permanent Cirque show based on Jackson’s work will open at Las Vegas to be determined, while the touring arena show sets off for venues around the world.

In addition to the performance shows, certain unspecified “lifestyle” elements honouring Jackson and his work will also be created, including a Michael Jackson nightclub, also in Las Vegas.

“As a creative challenge, this project is the ultimate,” Guy Laliberté, the founder of Cirque, said Tuesday. “Through the use of cutting edge technology, we will produce a Cirque du Soleil experience not only worthy of Michael but unlike any other we have created before.”

And Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother, observed that she was “thrilled that Cirque du Soleil will pay tribute to my son in such an important way.”

Both the costs of creation and the profits from execution of any and all Cirque du Soleil/Michael Jackson projects are expected to be divided 50-50 between the two parties.

The Tears Start Flowing And Never Stop

Source: www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

Written and performed by Clare Beresford, Dominic Conway and Shamira Turner
Directed by Alexander Scott
At Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto

(April 19, 2010) Resistance is futile.
Crocosmia, an Edinburgh Fringe hit having its North American premiere in Toronto, may have moments of insufferable tweeness, but ultimately only the stoniest of audience members will fail to be moved by this tale of the fragility and resilience of children.

Crocosmia, the debut production from England’s Little Bulb theatre, concerns the tragedy of the three Brackenberg siblings: long and limber 10-year-old twins Finnley (Dominic Conway) and Sophia (Shamira Turner) and Freya (Clare Beresford), their awkward younger sister aged seven and three-quarters.

The trio have a pair of quirky and unbelievably gentle parents – also played by Conway and Turner – who somehow still find the time for romance: When they can’t afford an anniversary trip to Paris, they take an imaginary one using an overhead projector instead.

This idyllic world is shattered, however, when both parents die in a car crash. The Brackenberg children are orphaned and, as it turns out, the shambolic variety show we are watching is their way of dealing with their grief.

The three act out the story of their love and loss of their parents and subsequent adoption with an old record collection, a fish made out of a half-eaten carrot and shoes and spray bottles that turn into make-shift puppets.

Inventively directed by Alexander Scott, the show is full of garbled songs and chaotic dances, but what finally broke through the hard shell of my heart was the Brackenberg Battenberg Puppet Theatre. Here, the children revisit favourite memories of their parents with variously sized pre-packaged snack cakes – in this case, acting out a bittersweet trip Freya and her parents took to the park swings. As the cakes careen through the air and the kids take surreptitious little bites, there is something so sweet and sorrowful about it all that the tears began to flow and didn’t really stop for me for the rest of the evening.

Adults playing at being children can leave me frigid, but these fresh-faced, young actors have a physical advantage that makes them more believable than most. The twins are more cartoony, but psychologically they’re true to life – sometimes ganging up on Freya, sometimes acting as substitute parents to her.

But it was Beresford’s shy performance as the awkward Freya – her hands flapping about, constantly batting away at her runny nose – that really yanked at my heartstrings. She has a little presentation called Freya Knows Best, where she teaches the audience how to grow a plant she calls a crocosmia. It involves planting a light bulb in the earth – a mistake you could imagine a kid of her age making. When it actually blooms later, however, it’s magical and cathartic.

In some ways, Freya is the English answer to Kirsten Thomson’s much-loved Claudia of I, Claudia – which, appropriately enough, is headed to their side of the ocean this summer. There’s also an affinity with the young characters in Legoland from Victoria’s Atomic Vaudeville. Anyone who liked those Canadian shows will probably appreciate this one.

Crocosmia runs until Saturday.

La Cage Aux Folles Comes Out Of ’80s Closet In New Broadway Production

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(April 18, 2010) NEW YORK - “The best of times is now,” Douglas Hodge sings joyously in the revival of La Cage Aux Folles, which opened on Broadway on Sunday night, and one would have to agree with him.

The Jerry Herman-Harvey Fierstein musicalization of the popular French film and play about gay life on the Riviera has been through a lot of political hoops since it first opened in 1983.

Initially, it was a kind of defiant, post-Stonewall activist blast for the Reagan years, with the drag queen’s anthem “I Am What I Am” encouraging a whole generation to fling open those closet doors.

But when it was revived in 2004, it suddenly seemed very old hat and embarrassed even its once rabid supporters.

Well, surprise! Now, only six years later, a brand new production and an increased emphasis on gay marriage and genuine family values has made the show seem incredibly touching and daringly relevant.

Credit London’s Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre with this rehabilitation. This is the company that rethought Sunday in the Park With George and A Little Night Music with dazzling results that travelled to Broadway and their current London hit, Sweet Charity, which will be a part of the next Mirvish subscription season.

The Menier’s secret is to strip away layers of overdone physical production to get to the heart of a work and nowhere has their strategy been clearer than in La Cage Aux Folles.

Both previous Broadway productions had been glossy, splashy affairs, as if to say that only through glitz could the gay world come to life. But the whole message of the show is that the external frou-frou is kind of tawdry and what it represents isn’t the real essence of gay life at all.

In Terry Johnson’s low-rent, warm-hearted production, however, the club is tacky, the “girls” are a butch, frightening collective and the star drag queenZaza is a pudgy middle-aged man with some very tacky gowns.

But that doesn’t matter. Thanks to Hodge as the transvestite star and Kelsey Grammer as his devoted partner, you cut right to the core of the complexity of what makes a relationship endure for decades, be it straight or gay.

Yes, you will probably wince briefly at some of the more strident politicizations of the book, or cringe slightly at its attempts to make the gay world acceptable, but what will undoubtedly melt your heart is the relationship of Hodge and Grammer.

For much of the show, Hodge is a vain, silly old drama queen, blowing every moment out of proportion and living in a fantasyland where a good girdle can make you forget you’re well into your 50s.

But in the middle of the second act, for various convoluted plot reasons, he has to pretend to be a real, middle-aged mother and the transformation is incredible. Reality takes over, artifice falls away and pure love is allowed to shine through.

No wonder that Grammer’s dapper, continental gay boulevardier adores Hodge so much. He sees the true beauty of the man within. And when he sings the simple, touching, “Look Over There” with intense passion, you understand what it means to know a love that lasts a lifetime.

Yes, the plot creaks and some of Herman’s songs are maladroit, but in the end, the show’s giant heart wins you over. Hodge deserves all the accolades he earned in England and Grammer is totally convincing as someone better suited to be one of Frasier Crane’s patients than the man himself.

“The best of times is now” indeed, especially for La Cage Aux Folles.


Andrea Levy: She Couldn’t Remain Silent On Slavery Any Longer

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

(Apr 20 2010) London —
While Andrea Levy was researching her latest novel, she wandered around the fields of a Jamaican plantation that had once been worked by slaves, with the only the faintest traces of the slaves’ quarters still visible in the ground. She had a sudden thought: Wouldn’t it be great if the whole place were done up as a kind of Disney-esque “Plantation Experience,” where savvy modern visitors could experience the unimaginably different life their ancestors led a couple of centuries ago?

“You could stay in the Negro village, cut some cane,” says Levy, 54, musing over her plan on an unseasonably cold London day. “Obviously I wouldn’t want to be whipped and hung from a tree, but just to get a sense of what living on a plantation was like. I’d love it. It would take an enormous leap of understanding first, of course, for this shame to be gone.”

And if you’re thinking, “That’s a horrible idea!” it’s possible that Levy is at least partly joking, because she accompanies this observation with one of her great, cascading laughs. But then she laughs a lot, and I think she is serious. She has spent the past few years thinking about the complicated, barbed legacy of slavery in the Caribbean, when she would have preferred thinking about almost anything else. (The novelist was supposed to read in Toronto Wednesday, but she has been kept in London by that volcanic ash cloud, with her publisher hoping to reschedule the event in early May.)

“I really didn’t want to do a book about slavery,” Levy says, with another of those rippling laughs. That history was a silent presence in her house. Her parents, who immigrated to London from Jamaica in the late 1940s, never talked about it. Levy couldn’t bear to watch Roots when it was broadcast, and never read other black British novelists’ books about slavery.

But after four novels looking at the lives of Caribbean immigrants in Britain, including the global bestseller Small Island, she realized she was being deafened by the silence. One day at a conference in London, she witnessed a young woman asking how she could be proud of her heritage if she was the descendant of slaves. “Well,” thought Levy (and I imagine her alternately sighing and laughing here), “I can’t avoid it any more.”

The result is The Long Song, a novel about a young Jamaican girl named July, the daughter of a white overseer and a plantation worker, who witnesses, during her lifetime, the bloody uprising of the Baptist War and the abolition of slavery in Britain and its colonies. She narrates her own story, and in the great tradition of Western literature, she is not entirely trustworthy.

While July does suffer mistreatment at the hands of the plantation owners, she is also wonderfully mischievous, bitchy and resourceful – more than a punching bag, in other words. “Yes,” Levy says. “Human.”

“When I was reading about the history of slavery, it was becoming slightly mythical. They were people who could take it with wisdom. And I thought, ‘No, possibly not. They might have been a bit miffed.’ I wanted to bring that humanity into play.”

Levy sits back in her chair and sighs. “I sometimes wish I came from a different history, one that was nicer, you know?” A nicer background would have produced an entirely different writer, a fact that cannot have escaped her. We’re sitting in London’s Commonwealth Club, and while the Commonwealth itself may now be only a historical curiosity, the ghost of Britain’s colonial past has haunted Levy’s imagination: Her father was part of the famous wave of Caribbean immigrants who came to Britain in 1948 on a ship called the Empire Windrush, and her mother, longing for a university education, followed shortly after.

She interviewed her mother and other immigrants to get the voices right for her most successful novel, 2004’s Small Island, the story of a Jamaican couple trying to find their way in postwar London (she’s about to celebrate the millionth copy being shipped from her publisher’s warehouse).

The success of that novel, her fourth, came relatively late – a decade after she had begun taking creative-writing courses in her mid-30s. It won the Orange and Commonwealth book prizes, was turned into a BBC TV drama, and its success, Levy says, knocked her sideways. “When the prizes started coming, I was sort of‘’ – she makes a dubious face – “are you sure? Me? You know I failed English?”

Really? That’s quite funny.

“Is it?” she says dryly. “It didn’t seem like it at the time.”

Okay, so she didn’t technically fail – she got the weirdly British grade of “E” – but her lack of success did propel her into art school, where she was a weaver “for about 10 minutes,” then a graphic designer for much longer.

Now, she lives in London with her husband, and visits her far-flung family when she can – a brother in Vietnam, a sister in New Zealand. A recent trip to New Zealand and Australia to promote The Long Song taught her something about proudly reclaiming your family tree, whether it contains slaves or horse thieves. “In Australia, if you had a convict in the family, it used to be something to whisper about. Now, it’s, ‘Yes, we’ve got a convict!’ I hope we can change like that.”

Professor Advocates Christian Social Activism in Keynote Speech Delivered at Medieval Studies Conference

Source: by Kam Williams

What ordinarily comes to mind when one thinks of a lecture about medieval Europe is a talk a lot less relevant to present-day worldly concerns than the keynote speech recently delivered by
Professor Celia Chazelle at a conference held at University College Cork entitled “Envisioning Christ on the Cross.” Chazelle, who chairs the Department of History at The College of New Jersey, had been invited to Ireland to speak about “The Mass and the Eucharist, ‘Image’ of the Crucified Christ, in the Christianization of Early Medieval Europe.”

While the bulk of her otherwise academic address certainly explored that topic at considerable depth, she prefaced her remarks by reading a poem by her Irish-born pastor, Father Michael Doyle, about the seeming futility of the never-ending fight to eradicate the suffering evident in his midst. For 35 years now, Doyle has presided over Sacred Heart Church in Camden, the poorest city in the US, where over 90% of the population is black and Hispanic.

With the assistance of volunteers like his dedicated parishioner Celia Chazelle, Doyle’s been directly ministering to the needs of the poor via a number of Sacred Heart-based organizations, among them the church’s St. Vincent de Paul Society and affiliated Heart of Camden. These sponsor a weekly dinner, a thrift store, building and home renovations, and a variety of other social programs. Another affiliated organization, the Center for Transformation, oversees a greenhouse, community gardens, and neighbourhood cleanups, engages in environmental education and activism in the area, and is in the final stages of establishing a retreat center. All this is located right within Camden’s deteriorating exoskeleton.

Professor Chazelle made a smooth segue from a discussion of Camden to the Christianization of Europe during the early Middle Ages by pointing out the parallels between the frustrations of Father Doyle as expressed in the poem and the path of Jesus, a path marked by failure yet leading to resurrection, symbol of faith in the promise of a better tomorrow. The thrust of her ensuing thesis explored the rise of Christianity as a grassroots movement emanating from the bottom up. This incendiary idea cuts a sharp contrast with the conventional thinking of many historians who tend to focus on the conversion of kings and the rest of the aristocratic class as the seminal force.

Nonetheless, in deliberate fashion, Chazelle proceeded to mount a most persuasive case, convincingly threading the fruits of her painstakingly- researched, scholarly efforts with additional anecdotal asides about Father Doyle. Furthermore, the lecture was augmented with photographs effectively juxtaposing contemporary Camden with historical artefacts illustrating the religious rite of the Eucharist, the re-enactment of the Last Supper, as routinely practiced by the salt of the Earth a millennium ago. Ultimately, Chazelle came full circle, returning to share some final insights about her beloved Sacred Heart parish before closing with a rhetorical flourish suggesting that one might partake in the holy tradition of sharing Christ’s body and blood beyond the sacrosanct confines of church in such unlikely environs as a soup kitchen ministering to the homeless or even at the dinner table while simply breaking bread with family and friends.

The earnest, inspirational sentiments of a foot soldier in the struggle for social justice.

To make a donation or to do volunteer work at the Camden Center of

Transformation, visit:

To order a copy of Professor Chazelle’s book “The Crucified God in the Carolingian Era,” visit: HERE.

To order a copy of Professor Chazelle’s book “Paradigms and Methods in Early Medieval Studies,” visit HERE.

British Writer Ian Mcewan Happy To Be Grounded In Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner

(April 19, 2010) Esteemed U.K. novelist
Ian McEwan, not knowing when he will be able to return to London after the wrap up of a three-week North American tour to promote his new novel, Solar, was contemplating a menu of attractive alternatives at the Toronto offices of Knopf Canada Monday morning.

The choices ranged from staying put in Toronto, flying up to Quebec City or accepting the offer of a getaway home in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

“The last thing I want to do is get into a state of mind where I’m just sitting around twiddling my thumbs. Here’s this beautiful spring in Canada and we should explore some of it,” reasons McEwan, whose return flight Monday night was cancelled because of the continuing spread of volcanic ash across northern Europe.

“I completely cleared my diary of interviews and public appearances. Basically, the slate of my summer is gloriously clean. So it’s fine,” continues McEwan, who is here in the company of his wife, the writer and journalist Annalena McAfee.

“I like Toronto a lot. It’s spring. We have friends here. Holing up here is the very minimal position. At the moment, the only puzzle is which of these options to take up.”

Not surprisingly, perhaps, McEwan has already contemplated the plot potential presented by Iceland’s persistent volcanic activity.

“It could be a little MacGuffin that would keep a character in a city or a country against his will for an extended period and then whatever the consequences of that would be,” he says.

Whatever McEwan’s ultimate decision about his immediate future, it will be a working vacation. He is in the process of adapting his previous book, On Chesil Beach, for a planned movie by Sam Mendes. Although he has written for the screen before, the author of Atonement and Enduring Love swore off adapting his own work after an unhappy experience with The Innocent in 1993.

On Chesil Beach is a novella, which is the perfect form for a movie,” he says, explaining the change of heart. “Novellas and screenplays have a lot in common. Also, there was very little dialogue in that story, so there was an opportunity to reinvent the characters and give them a voice. It wouldn’t seem like tramping through familiar territory.”

It is at least a little ironic that the same sub-atmospheric layer of volcanic ash that has grounded McEwan might temporarily mitigate the effects of global warming, the subject of Solar.

The comic novel’s protagonist, Michael Beard, is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who uses concerns over global warming as a way to revive his flagging, neglected career. Beard’s interest in the subject, like much else about the man, is a fraud. His only real concern is meeting his apparently insatiable appetite for food, drink and women — pretty much in that order.

The novel opens with a citation from Rabbit is Rich by John Updike. McEwan allows that the great novelist and friend, who died last year while Solar was being written, had an influence on the book.

“Having decided to heap Michael Beard with a fair number of faults, Updike was on my mind as someone who shows you how it can be done,” McEwan says.

“We don’t want all our novels to be filled with good guys or bad guys who are gorgeously redeemed. Most people I know are the same all their lives. They might lose a bit of weight or take up archery or something but they don’t profoundly change their moral characters.

“Many American critics took against this novel because Beard is not redeemed, because he did not see the light, because he does not have a moment — as they say in Hollywood — when everything is revealed and he can go through a thorough personality change.”

McEwan points to the little progress made since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro as evidence that human behaviour generally resists reformation.

“At Rio, we were going to start taking care of the Earth’s forests, jungles, oceans and biodiversity, whereas the ’90s were probably one of the most destructive decades for habitats, clean air and clean water in human history, for all those resolutions.

“That’s what I’ve given Beard. He gets heavier through the novel, even as he makes his little resolutions to not stuff himself on a flight.

“I’ve done exactly that. I’ve sometimes got on a plane thinking, ‘I’m not going to have a drink on this flight.’ And the next thing my hand is taking the runway champagne off the tray and bringing it to my mouth, as if my hand belonged to another person.”

Kitty Kelley Dishes News On Oprah And Herself

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry Entertainment Reporter

Apr 20 2010) The queen of the tell-all is making the rounds in Toronto.

Fresh from promoting her controversial new tome about
Oprah Winfrey in “the belly of the beast” — Chicago, where the talk show maven is based — Kitty Kelley arrived in our town Tuesday to chat up Oprah: A Biography.

Winfrey has dismissed the first comprehensive book on her, as a “so-called biography,” but like previous Kelley subjects Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and Nancy Reagan, she has yet to pursue legal action.

Among the tawdry allegations Kelley culled from 850 interviews (including Winfrey’s dad) over four years are a brief romance with former Entertainment Tonight host John Tesh (since confirmed by Tesh) and that teenaged Winfrey traded sex for money.

Kelley, 68, the eldest of six children of a lawyer and homemaker, lives in Washington, D.C., with her retired physician husband. The Star spoke with her at Random House Canada’s King St. offices.

How does the writing and promotion of this book compare with your previous works?

All of them have been difficult because I chose to write — I hate the word unauthorized, but that’s what it is — not giving the subject control, or doing it according to the way they would dictate. Also Oprah, she’s got so many people under confidentiality agreement. And promoting it, there were a few national shows in the United States — Barbara Walters, Larry King — that said no. I hit a celebrity wall where celebrity friends just wanted to circle the wagons.

How will you gauge the success of this book?

If readers walk away and feel a little enlightened that would be good.

How do you feel about criticisms of the book?

Read the L.A. Times review. That’s the one I will live and die by. The book’s just been out a week, so it’s the media that’s taken out all the bits that they think are tantalizing, but that’s not the book. The book is over 500 pages of a phenomenal woman’s life. . . . I don’t set out to reveal secrets, but when you spend four years looking at someone’s life you know an awful lot about them. This is somebody I want a better understanding of, for the simple reason that she’s telling us how to live a better life; she’s telling us what causes to support; what charities to contribute to; what politicians to vote for; what medicines to take.

What is your next project?

I don’t know yet. I think I’m going to follow Oprah Winfrey’s example and quit on top and then try and think about reinventing myself. I’m not one of those writers that midway into one project knows what the next one’s going to be. I kick back after a siege like this.

What about tackling your own bio?

No! Why? My life is not half as interesting as the people I write about. Trust me.

What did you think of the unauthorized bio written about you (in 1991)?

(Laughs.) Do you know there are probably more lawyers in heaven than there are copies of that thing in circulation? So, that tells you how interesting my life is. There’s nothing I can do about that. “Tell the truth but ride a fast horse” is my motto.

What are some of your pursuits away from celebrity chronicling?

I love walking. I read. I love to be outside. I love gardening. I grow orchids.

What are some of the misconceptions about you?

I think right now dealing with the last week . . . yes, there are revelations in the book, but that depends on who is reading it. Some people think the two pecan pies (ordered by Winfrey from hotel room service and consumed in one sitting) is a big deal, the John Tesh thing was a big revelation to people, the prostitution was a big revelation, but to pull all those things out puts a neon yellow light on the book that is undeserved. You have to read the whole life story of Oprah Winfrey and not think this is just a tabloid mush. I feel like I have my doctoral thesis now on Oprah Winfrey. I could teach a course on Oprah.

What would you say to Oprah if she gave you an audience?

I wouldn’t say Oprah, and you shouldn’t either if you ever meet her: It is Ms. Winfrey to us.

I would say ‘Ms. Winfrey, here’s my book, all 500 pages, do you want to annotate any pages and make any corrections or additions?’


Young Dancers Resurrect Classics

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

Masters' Play Ballet
Kelowna Roundhouse Performance Centre In Vancouver on Saturday

(April 18, 2010)
Ballet Kelowna, under artistic director David LaHay, serves a very precise purpose. It is a six-member lean machine designed to bring quality dance to the British Columbiahinterland (with a pit stop in Vancouver).

LaHay attracts young dancers who want the intense performing experience to hone their craftand after a few years with BK, they move on to bigger fish.

For example, three ex-BK types are now members of Ballet BC.

LaHay calls this bill of short works Masters' Play. His inspiration was the Olympics, particularly the celebration of Canadian athletes. This prompted him to want to honour Canadian choreographers, so he resurrected dance classics that haven't been seen in decades.

The three historic pieces are Kay Armstrong's Etude (1949), Nesta Toumine's Gymnopédies (1951) and Brian Macdonald's Double Quartet (1978.

Armstrong and Toumine were revered dance teachers in Vancouver and Ottawa, respectively. Both works were designed for their senior students.

Armstrong's piece was performed during the National Ballet of Canada's first season, while Toumine's work is being given its first professional airing.

What is fascinating is how two women creating thousands of miles apart came up with the same neo-classical sensibility. Both Etude, set to Tchaikovsky, and Gymnopédies set to Satie, share similar economical yet elegant movement that reflects the spare simplicity of the scores.

Armstrong was concerned with creating patterns in space, while Toumine was influenced by figures on ancient Greek pottery. Both are eloquent examples of dance as living sculpture, and the young dancers did these works proud.

The company was less successful with Macdonald. The title Double Quartet refers to the music, and the linking together of string quartets by Schubert and Canadian R. Murray Schafer.

Macdonald created gentle, lyrical movement to the Schubert that portrays a young woman (Tiffany Bilodeau) and her swains (Cai Glover, Eloi Homier and Davin Luce). It could be a Greek pastorale. The gaiety falls apart in Schafer's relentless, edgy modernisms. The playful intertwining motifs of the Schubert portion, become angst-ridden entanglements in Schafer.

The young dancers certainly got through the difficulties of the piece, but only just. They are lacking the experience to make technique in the Schafer section look invisible. Instead we see the hard work that it is.

The remaining two pieces are studies in contrast. Vancouver choreographer Joe Laughlin's Butterfly Affect (2006), his first on pointe, is a delicious whirligig of movement, presumably based on the theory that the gentle flapping of a butterfly's wings may later create a storm somewhere in the world.

Donizetti Dances (2004) is another one of LeHay's attractive classical ballet pieces where he presents showy, virtuosic dance.

Because the dancers have to change costumes, LaHay takes the stage between the pieces to give backgrounders. Immediately after the concert, the dancers introduce themselves and take questions from the audience. It is all very casual and comfortable.

Ballet Kelowna ends its tour in its home city, Apr. 30 and May 1.  



Kenyan Wins Boston Marathon In Record Time

Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

April 19, 2010) BOSTON - Kenya's Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot has won the Boston Marathon and broken the course record. That record was set in 2006 by four-time winner Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot, who's not related. Cheruiyot won this time in an unofficial time of two hours five minutes 52 seconds, finishing 91 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Tekeste Kebede. Defending champion Deriba Merga was third, followed by Americans Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi. Ethiopia's Teyba Erkesso won the women's race in an unofficial time of 2:26:11, outsprinting Russia's Tatyana Pushkareva to win by three seconds in the third-closest women's finish in event history.

Herschel Walker Wants Another MMA Fight

Source: www.eurweb.com

April 19, 2010) *With one win under his belt, former NFL star Herschel Walker is hoping to continue his mixed martial arts career with a second match in the near future – but he has yet to find an opponent. “My last fight I never showed any standup,” Walker told the AP regarding his third round win against Greg Nagy in his January MMA debut. “Greg wanted to go to the ground, and I still thank Greg for giving me an opportunity to fight.” Speaking at the Strikeforce card at Bridgestone Arena over the weekend, Walker admitted that most MMA heavyweights don’t view a fight against him as a good career move. “Most of these guys in this sport have nothing to gain by fighting me. Greg did step up and give me an opportunity,” Walker said. “My next opponent, we don’t know who that is. Whoever gives me an opportunity to fight then, I’m going to thank them as well.” Walker was the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner while at Georgia and played professionally for Dallas, Philadelphia, Minnesota, the New York Giants and the USFL’s New Jersey Generals.