20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (416) 677-5883


April 29, 2010

This week brings us to the beginning of May and hopefully some more consistently warm weather. 

This past
weekend I attended the BBPA's Harry Jerome Awards in Mississauga.  I was there celebrating my friend, Michael Chambers, who was one of the award winners for excellence in Arts (www.michaelchambersphotography.com) .  Congratulations to all the worthy recipients of this prestigious award on this prestigious night.   While the night was humorously hosted by Subliminal (Sean Mauricette) and Raheim Hurlock, the night struck a sombre note with a tribute to both Haydain Neale and Washington Savage.  The night included lots of political pomp and circumstance as well as top notch entertainment.  A gala night in all in a gorgeously decorated room.  Check out the pics in the PHOTO GALLERY!

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


Sarah McLachlan - Back And High On Passion

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(April 26, 2010) When last we heard new material from Sarah McLachlan, she was working out some difficult personal issues: U Want Me 2 and Don’t Give Up On Us, the two new songs on 2008’s greatest hits release Closer, dealt with the break-up of her marriage.

With her new single, McLachlan’s heart is boldly back on her sleeve, but it appears to be all patched up, and then some. She sounds positively blissful in the upbeat, definitely-not-a-ballad Loving You Is Easy. “I’m alive and I’m on fire,” she belts out.

McLachlan says the song marks a decidedly different up-tempo mood her music has not shown before - and it is autobiographical.

“It’s been a roller coaster these last few years for sure,” McLachlan said. “A lot of emotional highs and lows. I did get a taste of finding love again, which is certainly what this song is all about. The delirious, overwhelming flush of new possibilities. That being said, I am happily single these days and better from the whole experience.”

The multi-Grammy winner performed the song publicly last September, at a star-studded fundraising concert in West Vancouver, where she lives. At the time, she called it “a happy song.”

But it addresses that dark period of her life, too: “I’ve been down a long road / I’ve become a stranger to myself,” she sings. And later: “Nothing came from wanting / And I became so small and insecure.”

Loving You Is Easy is the first single from The Laws of Illusion, McLachlan’s first full studio album of new material in seven years. The album will be released June 15, shortly before she takes her Lilith tour out on the road (after an 11-year hiatus) along with a caravan of other female musicians, and her two daughters.

“I'm facing all that is ahead with enthusiasm and certainly a bit of trepidation,” she admits, about heading full-on back into the spotlight. “I love the new songs and I'm very excited to play them live and to do Lilith again. My girls are both great travellers so this will be one big adventure to them. It's going to be a great summer.”

Drake Donates $30,000 To Build Computer Schools In Jamaica

Source: www.samaritanmag.com - By
Karen Bliss

(April 27, 2010) Drake is already doing good things with the money that has come his way since becoming one of the fastest rising hip hop artists in the music world by helping out the poverty-stricken Cassava Piece community in Kingston, Jamaica. “It’s where one of my favourite reggae artists, Mavado, and one of my closest friends is from,” Drake explains. Drake was in Cassava Piece to shoot the video for his song “Find Your Love.”

Full story HERE

A Villainous Bond Girl And Part-Time Student

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(April 22, 2010) ABC’s new mystery thriller
Happy Town, debuting on Canada’s A channel next Wednesday,is advertised as anything but cheery. And it’s precisely the perversity and the multitude of twists in the eight-part series that delights Toronto actor and dancer Sarah Gadon, who landed a leading role after sending an audition tape down to Los Angeles.

“I’m naturally drawn to characters who are complicated and difficult to figure out,” says the 23-year-old film student at the University of Toronto, who plays Georgia, a young woman with a dark past and dreary future.

Though never short of work – she’s had guest appearances in Canadian dramas such as The Border, Being Erica and Murdoch MysteriesHappy Town marks the first time Gadon has landed a regular part in a series. And the former student at the National Ballet School just boosted her career another notch when acclaimed director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot) picked her to appear in his next film Dream House, a psychological thriller starring Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz shooting in Toronto.

Gadon said she goes to the film set every day pinching herself. And she loves the fact she’s once again playing a dark, ballsy chick – this time one who gets to mess with the man who plays 007.

How did you get involved in Happy Town?

It was a year and a half ago, and my casting director in Toronto had me send a tape to L.A. So off it went into the great abyss – where you just sit back and hope someone actually watches it. A few weeks later, I got the call that I was getting an audition. So I went online, paid $20 for the script, and immersed myself in the entire concept of the character. Thankfully, it worked.

Can you tell us a little bit about the show?

There is only so much I can say since they are keeping a lot of the plot under wraps. But basically I play this small-town girl from the wrong side of the tracks, dealing with this crummy hand she’s been dealt. Her dad is a struggling drug addict, and she has no mother or siblings. She babysits for the Conroy family and they become her surrogate family in a way. The show is interesting to me because every character is struggling on some level, and they are not what they seem. I’m always drawn to shows that have more than one storyline. And I love this show because of the elements of mystery, intrigue and surprise.

You co-starred in Canadian Reginald Harkema’s Leslie, My Name is Evil, which debuted at the last Toronto International Film Festival. Did you hesitate to sign up for an incendiary film that focuses on the murder trial of Charles Manson and his followers?

I play a character based on [former Manson family member] Linda Kasabian. Sure, it’s a heavy topic, but Reg’s film is also a comedy, albeit uncomfortable at times. As a filmmaker, Reg is so down to earth, open and passionate. I had to do the film. He puts no pressure on his actors. And I view working in independent films as a great prepping ground for the frenzied pace you have to get used to in series TV.

What is it like working with a director of Sheridan’s stature as well as the dreamy James Bond star?

Well, I play a gothic punk kid who, quite simply, is not nice – not a good kid at all. And I hang around Daniel’s house, causing him nothing but trouble. Daniel is obviously an accomplished talent and he’s exceedingly generous to work with. Working with Jim Sheridan is an amazing process. He has a very specific process that he puts actors through. Jim is not at all married to the text – he likes to improvise and he encourages his actors to do so. He pushes you as an actor to get to a place that’s very honest. And it has nothing to do with words, but rather how it’s going to make you feel in that scene. He really breaks you down in a scene, and he does it to everyone, even Daniel Craig.

What are your plans after Dream House wraps the end of this month?

I’m a part-time student and a full-time actress. And I love the fact that I can do both. We’ve been shooting Dream House while I’ve been writing my school exams, so it’s been a little exhausting. But my parents have always stressed a balance between acting and school. So, for now, that balance is what I’m aiming for.

Happy Town airs on A channel and ABC at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Malcolm X Assassin Is Freed On Parole In NYC

Source: By Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press

(April 27, 2010) NEW YORK — The only man ever to admit involvement in the assassination of
Malcolm X was freed on parole Tuesday, 45 years after he helped gun down the civil rights leader.

Thomas Hagan was the last man still serving time in the 1965 killing, part of the skein of violence that wound through the cultural and political upheaval of the 1960s. He was freed from a Manhattan prison where he spent two days a week under a work-release program.

Hagan, 69, has repeatedly expressed sorrow for being one of the gunmen who fired on Malcolm X, killing one of the civil rights era’s most polarizing and compelling figures. One of the groups dedicated to Malcolm X’s memory condemned Hagan’s parole.

Hagan declined to comment after his release.

“I really haven’t had any time to gather my thoughts on anything,” he told The Associated Press by telephone.

Hagan acknowledged that he was one of three men who shot Malcolm X in front of a crowd of hundreds — including several of his young children — as the civil rights leader began a speech at Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965. Two other accomplices created a distraction in the audience, Hagan has said.

But he said the two men convicted with him were not involved. They, too, maintained their innocence and were paroled in the 1980s. No one else has ever been charged, a fact that has perpetuated debate and theories surrounding the slaying.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which prosecuted Hagan and his co-defendants, declined to comment on Hagan’s release or his account of the killing.

Hagan tried 17 times before being approved last month for parole. He had been sentenced to up to life in prison for what he described in a 2008 court filing as the deed of a young man who “acted out of rage on impulse and loyalty” to religious leaders.

The assassins gunned down Malcolm X out of anger at his split with the leadership of the Nation of Islam, the black Muslim movement for which he had once served as a prominent spokesman, said Hagan, then known as Talmadge X Hayer. Malcolm X had spoken out against its leader, Elijah Muhammad, in comments that some of Muhammad’s followers denounced as slander.

At the time, “I thought I was fighting for truth and right,” Hagan said in a 1977 sworn statement that aimed, unsuccessfully, to get his co-defendants’ convictions overturned.

Over the years since the assassination, “I’ve had a lot of time, a heck of a lot of time, to think about it,” Hagan told a parole board last month, according to a transcript of the interview.

“I understand a lot better the dynamics of movements and what can happen inside movements, and conflicts that can come up, but I have deep regrets about my participation in that,” said Hagan, adding that he had earned a master’s degree in sociology since his conviction. He said he was still a Muslim but no longer a Nation of Islam member.

The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, an organization founded by the civil rights leader’s late widow, hasn’t taken a position on Hagan’s parole, board chairman Zead Ramadan said.

“We just don’t think it’s ours to decide the fate of this man. We allowed the laws of this nation to develop that,” Ramadan said.

Members of the Shabazz family didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment made through the center.

Another group, the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, decried Hagan’s parole at a press conference earlier this month, saying the crime was too serious to allow for his release.

“(Malcolm X) was and still is an enormous international figure and revolutionary hero,” spokesman Zayid Muhammad said in a release. The committee holds essay contests and other events in his memory.

Malcolm X rose to fame as an uncompromising voice for black empowerment who urged African-Americans to claim civil rights “by any means necessary” and called white people “blue-eyed devils.” But after breaking with the Nation of Islam in 1964 and making an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, he began renouncing racial separatism.

After he was killed at 39, a New York Times editorial called him a “twisted man;” Time magazine described him as a demagogue whose “gospel was hatred.” But his stature grew after his death with sales of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” written with Alex Haley, and later with Spike Lee’s 1992 film “Malcolm X,” said Manning Marable, the director of Columbia University’s Center for Contemporary Black History and the author of a forthcoming biography of Malcolm X.

By 1999, Malcolm X was on a postage stamp.

Hagan was initially scheduled for release Wednesday, but the date was moved up because his paperwork was completed, state Department of Correctional Services spokeswoman Linda Foglia said.

Hagan was on work release for nearly 22 years. He spent five days a week working in settings that included a homeless shelter; he spent those nights at his Brooklyn home with his family. He told the parole board he hopes to become a substance abuse counsellor.

Glee Is Music To Songwriters' Ears

Source: latimes.com - By Scott Collins and Denise Martin, Los Angeles Times

(April 27, 2010) Steve Perry was sceptical when the producers of a television pilot about a high school glee club sought permission to use his band's signature song in their show; the former frontman for the classic rock group Journey is protective of his legacy. "I want to be able to put these songs somewhere with good conscience that they're not going to be abused," Perry said in a recent interview. "I don't want to see that happen."

He needn't have worried. Perry overcame his doubts, agreed to license the song to the producers of "
Glee," and a year later "Don't Stop Believin' " has reached a new generation of music fans.

As many younger viewers seem to be losing interest in the once invulnerable " American Idol," "Glee" looks poised to be pop's new tastemaker. Much like "Idol," "Glee" is helping alter the dynamic between music and television, showing ways that both media can help prop up each other in a world beset by multichannel and Internet competition.

Returning from a four-month hiatus earlier this month, the first-season comedy about nerdy glee club members hit a new ratings peak following "American Idol," with 13.6 million total viewers; it actually beat "Idol" among the key demographic of adults aged 18 to 34, according to the Nielsen Co.

It's music that drives the show, and the show in turn drives music sales. On Monday, the three cast albums were numbers 1, 7 and 10 on Apple's iTunes album chart and together have sold more than 1 million units, according to SoundScan. Sales of the cast's singles, which typically are released shortly after an episode airs, have logged online sales of 4.1 million. The show's covers also are sending the original recordings back up the charts. Perhaps most crucially, "Glee," like "Idol," is bridging the gap between classic rock favoured by boomers and hip-hop popular with their kids.

Perry said he loves the "Glee" version of "Don't Stop Believin.'" "They really worked hard to make it their own," he said. What's more, "it's actually brought people's attention to go check out the original. … It's something I never thought I'd see in my lifetime."

"The travails of the music business are well documented, but the truth is, a good idea can cut through that," said Rob Stringer, the chairman of Sony Music Label Group, which releases the "Glee" cast music. "I think ‘Glee's' an example."

Creator Ryan Murphy claims to be guided by instinct — not to mention his own musical nostalgia — in picking songs that run the gamut — '70s balladeer Eric Carmen, R&B diva Jill Scott and show tunes from "Cabaret" and " Wicked."

"At the beginning, everyone kept asking if this was like ‘High School Musical' — no one says that anymore," Murphy said in an interview. "You would never think the Rolling Stones and Barbra Streisand would go together in an episode, but I love them both and there they are."

Songwriters' affection for the series is understandable, given the bump in sales that inevitably results for the tunes that Murphy and his team choose. But "Glee," which airs on Tuesday nights, also can deliver big boosts to songs that got away. After a September episode featured a cover of Jazmine Sullivan's "Bust Your Windows," a Latin-flavoured vamp that peaked at No. 31 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 2008, sales of the original record shot up to 2,945 units the following week, up 231% from 891 the week before.

Classics have benefited as well. Murphy said that Neil Diamond was initially "very resistant to license" the rights to his 1969 hit "Sweet Caroline," now a pop standard. But after the song was featured in an October episode, sales more than tripled from 3,038 the week before to 10,160 the week after. Diamond wrote on Twitter that he "loved" the cover version.

It's an unlikely trajectory for a series that initially looked at best like a long shot. Murphy was best known for creating " Nip/Tuck," a dark comedy about plastic surgeons that wrapped its six-season run in March on cable outlet FX. For his next gig, Murphy, along with writing partners Ian Brennan and Brad Falchuk, wanted to try pitching a more family-friendly comedy. But the music for "Glee" posed some big problems: Rights to popular tunes tend to be expensive.

And scripted shows in which the characters break into song have a "pretty spotty track record" on television, said Gary Newman, chairman of 20th Century Fox Television, the studio that makes "Glee" as well as "The Simpsons" and ABC's new comedy "Modern Family." Previous musical bombs include "Viva Laughlin" and "Cop Rock."

Murphy assured nervous executives that the 14 songs heard in the pilot were merely a lure to get viewers hooked; the music would be trimmed back once the series got rolling.

"But what we discovered very quickly is that people responded like crazy to the music," Newman said. "The music really has taken on a life of its own." Songwriters have proven so eager to get their tunes on the show that they've agreed to cut their usual license fees, Newman said. The Madonna episode used nine of the pop star's songs, including "Vogue," "4 Minutes" and "Like a Prayer."

Not everyone is so smitten. While critics have generally been kind to the series, the music has drawn some naysayers. That includes rock bible Rolling Stone, which offered a tepid review of the first cast album, sniping that the choir-type reworkings had turned hit songs into "karaoke fodder." And even some songwriters won't play along; requests to use Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" and Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" were turned down.

Adam Anders, the show's music producer, says he works to keep the songs from crossing over into what he calls "Velveeta land."

One of the first songs recorded was Amy Winehouse's retro-soul hit "Rehab." "Mostly it sounded just like monks," Anders said of the first attempts.

Even the show's most experienced singers needed some adjustments. Lea Michele who plays budding starlet and high-school naif Rachel Berry, for instance, has worked in professional theatre since she was 8. "She was a Broadway singer, not like a Kelly Clarkson or a Rihanna," Anders explained. "To get her to wrap her brain around singing in a completely new way she never had before, it took some adjustment."

Amber Riley, who plays diva-in-training Mercedes, has sung Dionne Warwick and the Rolling Stones on the show but felt overwhelmed only when the producers asked her to sing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," the torch song from "Dreamgirls."

"That's a song that every singer aspires to be able to sing, and when they told me I was going to be singing it I had no confidence at all," Riley said during a recent break taping the season finale.

Murphy says there is no science to the music selections: "I don't really understand how I choose the songs. It's a very mysterious process and my only rule is I have to have loved the song or have been moved by it myself.

"It's a very strange thing," he continued. "There are a lot of songs I have a connection to from my childhood. The show's weird blend and melange of R&B and '70s and funk and show tunes and ... Madonna. It sounds weird, but it's sort of the soundtrack of my life."


$79 For a N.Y. Hotel Room? It’s True

Source: www.thestar.com - Reb Stevenson

(April 22, 2010) NEW YORK — Who trusts those gaunt monkeys you usually see tethered to toothless organ grinders? Not me, that’s who.

There is one perched above the front desk at The Jane Hotel. And despite the fact that he obviously had some work done by a taxidermist well before I was born, his devious grin suggests he’d love to ensure my stay at
The Jane is somewhat unsettling.

Incidentally, The Jane’s owner/designer is backing him up.

It’s not that Sean MacPherson is against comfort. He just wants guests to be “10 per cent removed from reality,” when they stay at his 146-room masterpiece.

How about 90 per cent removed from reality? That’s how I feel when I meet The Jane’s price list. Even though the hotel is situated in Manhattan’s desirable West Village neighbourhood, my room goes for just $79 (U.S.) per night.

What’s even more stunning when you consider that figure is the fact that this place has ties to the world’s most macabre cash cow: the sinking of the Titanic.

The Jane sprang up beside the Hudson River in 1908 as a lodging for sailors. Back then, it was called The American Seaman’s Friend Society Sailors’ Home and Institute, which was actually a fitting moniker given the designer’s last name: Boring.

In 1912, a large group of Titanic survivors stayed there while they waited for the inquest into the sinking to wrap up. They held a memorial service in what is now the ballroom.

MacPherson, who owns three other Manhattan hotels (The Maritime, The Bowery and Lafayette House, bought The Jane in 2008. More of a flophouse than anything, it wasn’t exactly sparkling like the Heart of the Ocean at that point.

“It was the last stop for a lot of people,” he says.

Instead of whitewashing the iconic building, MacPherson deep-sixed his initial plan to convert it into a more traditional hotel.

“It struck me that I should try to make more of what it is rather than turn it into something else,” he says.

So, working around the 46 tenants who have permanent rights to continue living at The Jane, he whipped up a hotel that would appeal to “a 19-year-old runaway from Nebraska.”

The standard cabins aren’t much larger than a sleeping bag on the sidewalk, but they’ve got style in spades. Throughout The Jane, there’s a vague, nautical feel, as though it shares some of Titanic’s DNA.

Within my five-by-seven-foot room, I’ve got a single bed, flat-screen TV, iPod dock, fan, towel, slippers, storage cubbyholes, hooks and even a window. Yes, it’s rather snug, but since I’m not a scarecrow I can cope.

There is no Edwardian chamber pot in the cabin. And thank God for that.

Instead, guests must brave shared coed washrooms down the hall.

Gregor McGehee, an artist from London, is splitting the cost of an even more compact room: the standard cabin with bunk beds. But space isn’t his primary concern — it’s germs.

“The bathrooms are spotless. If you’re going to live in a communal environment, you must have that,” he declares.

Don’t care to witness a stranger playing “Oh Susannah” on his teeth with a strand of floss? You can upgrade to one of The Jane’s fancier captain’s cabins. They’re spacious, lovingly restored according to the period, and feature large private washrooms.

But even if your wallet sentences you to steerage, you can escape to several public spaces within the hotel.

The restaurant, Café Gitane, is a funky French/Moroccan eatery where nothing on the menu commands more than $14. Popular offerings include avocado toast (avocado, lemon juice and chili flakes on seven-grain toast), a mountain of couscous and the best darned chicken sandwich I’ve ever tasted.

The lobby is luxurious but faded — not quite as rotten as the Titanic, but definitely a decaying remnant of former glory.

Male staff (including the 24-hour elevator operator), sport retro, burgundy-hued bellboy costumes. If you’re a fan of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure you’ll be transported right back to his big-screen debut.

There is also a grandiose ballroom that taps into what looks like a Victorian obsession with Persia, complete with oriental rugs, potted palm trees and textures galore. It is closed for the time being due to permit issues, but MacPherson hopes to have it up and running shortly.

In the meantime, there’s always the Lobby Bar, also lush and mysterious in decor. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without its own evil gaunt monkey.

Truth: to stay at a whimsical hotel in Manhattan for just $79, I’d cuddle that monkey like a teddy bear all night long if I had to.

Reb Stevenson is a Toronto-based writer. She can be reached through her website at www.rebstevenson.com. Her trip was subsidized by The Jane Hotel.


The Jane is located in the West Village at 113 Jane and the Hudson River.

Nightly rates are: $79-$99 (U.S.) standard cabin, $125 (U.S.), standard cabin with two bunk beds and $209-$250 U.S. (captain’s cabin).

For more information, visit www.thejanenyc.com or call 212-924-6700.


Multimedia Retrospective Traces the Life and Career of Musical Icon Miles Davis

Source: Karen Sundell, Rogers & Cowan, KSundell@rogersandcowan.com

*From April 30 to August 29, 2010, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is innovating once again with the presentation of the first major North American multimedia retrospective dedicated to jazz legend Miles Davis (1926-1991).

We Want Miles”: Miles Davis vs.Jazz will combine image and sound to offer visitors a sensory experience inspired by Miles Davis himself: “A painting is music you can see, and music is a painting you can hear.”

This exhibition was designed and organized by the Cité de la musique, Paris, with the support of Miles Davis Properties, LLC, in collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The exhibition-performance, which ran in France until last January, is divided into eight thematic and chronological periods, each covering in the life and work of Miles Davis and highlighting his strong influence on other art forms.

Each period, from his birth to his last major concert in Paris shortly before his death in 1991, is presented by a wide array of forms: previously unscreened or rare film footage, handwritten scores, instruments, original documents relating to his records, costumes and vintage pressings of his records. In addition, twenty listening stations will permit visitors to immerse themselves, as though in a recording studio, in the multiple musical currents reinvented by Miles Davis: jazz, funk, rock, bebop, etc.

Many photographs taken by the big names in photography will be shown publicly for the first time, along with drawings and paintings by Miles Davis and works by painters Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mati Klarwein and sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle. Lastly, exclusive pieces provided by the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (FIJM) will evoke the artist’s memorable concerts. The FIJM is also an important partner in this event.

“As demonstrated with Warhol Live and Imagine, we wish to present retrospectives such as these, which explore the connections between the visual arts and music,” explained Museum Director Nathalie Bondil. “With ‘We Want Miles’, art lovers and music fans alike will be fascinated by the universe of this legendary figure who transcends time.”

“‘We Want Miles’,” adds André Ménard, co-founder of the FIJM and author of one of the exhibition catalogue’s forewords, “is, in a manner of speaking, the unexpected return to our city of one of the major artistic figures of the twentieth century for those who, like me, got off on his music and on
seeing him on stage. This magical exhibition will definitely bring those precious moments alive, as well as revealing a thousand and one things about the world of Miles Davis.”  

The exhibition “We Want Miles” is presented by Sun Life Financial in collaboration with Sony Music Entertainment.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: http://www.mmfa.qc.ca/en/index.html

Nas, Damian Marley Combine Forces On Album, Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Pat Meschino

(April 22, 2010) NEW YORK (Billboard) - When rapper Nas and reggae star Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley first collaborated -- on "Road to Zion" from Marley's 2005 album "Welcome to Jamrock" -- the pair knew it was inevitable they would come back for more.

Sure enough, they are preparing to release a full-length rap-reggae collision, "Distant Relatives," on May 18 though Universal Republic. The album is a seamless collaboration -- a world away from some of the forced dancehall/hip-hop couplings previously used by major labels to try and cross over reggae singles to the R&B mainstream.

"Many of those records were made solely from business decisions," says Marley, seated alongside Nas at New York's Quad Studios. "Some of those artists didn't know each other's work until they made the records, whereas I (was) a fan of Nas years before we did 'Road to Zion.'"

Combined, the two also bring some serious sales firepower. "Welcome to Jamrock" peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and has moved 764,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while Nas' latest record, 2008's "Untitled," hit No. 1 and has sold 463,000 units.

The record is being introduced by three different tracks:

- "As We Enter," a vibrant blend of Marley's thick Jamaican patois and Nas' New York-accented rhymes, has so far peaked at No. 18 on Billboard's Rap Digital Songs chart and No. 23 on R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs, selling 33,000 units;

- the darker "Strong Will Continue" -- which the duo debuted February 5 on BET's "Help for Haiti" telethon -- hit download stores April 13, although it's not being pushed at radio;

- "Land of Promise" was released as an embeddable widget that offers a free download of the track and pushes news updates on "Distant Relatives."

Guests on the album include Lil Wayne on "My Generation," Somalia-born K'naan rapping about his homeland on "Africa Must Wake Up," Marley's older brother Stephen and even the late Dennis Brown, who's sampled on a revamped version of his reggae repatriation anthem "The Promised Land."

The duo is booked on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" May 19 and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" May 24, while the U.S. Distant Relatives tour -- on which both artists will perform separately and together -- kicks off May 21 at the Community Center in Arcata, Calif. European shows begin June 27 at Belgium's Couleur Cafe Festival with pending dates for Africa and the Caribbean.

New M.I.A. Video Banned By YouTube

www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(April 27, 2010) If her latest video is any indication, motherhood has not softened
M.I.A.’s outlook.

“Born Free”, which premiered on the best-selling rapper’s web site this week, contains violent scenes of beatings and executions. The nine-minute video depicts riot police with American flag decals on their uniforms rounding up red-headed males in their teens and twenties. They are taken by bus to a desert area and made to run, then blown up by bombs or caught and beaten. It appears to reflect historic ethnic cleansings, while citing the U.S. for intolerance and bullying.

When the video was dropped from YouTube shortly after being posted, M.I.A. blamed her record label Universal Music Group.

“F--- UMG who won’t show it on YouTube! For the U.S.” she tweeted, redirecting fans to her web site (warning, graphic content). Four minutes later she recanted: “Ok not UMG fault!”

According to the BBC, a YouTube spokesperson said, “On YouTube the rules prohibit content like pornography or gratuitous violence. If the content breaks our terms then we remove it and if a user repeatedly breaks the rules we disable their account.”

Since her 2005 debut with Arular, the British-born, Sri Lankan-raised M.I.A. has gained a reputation for incendiary lyrics that often reflect her socio-political experience (her father was a member of the Sri Lankan secessionist rebels the Tamil Tigers).

“Born Free”, which is the first salvo from her third album due this summer, is an aggressive punk number with the refrain “I was born free;” however, the song’s graphic video, in which M.I.A. doesn’t appear, makes the music seem incidental.

M.I.A., who delivered her first child three days after a scene-stealing performance at the 2009 Grammys, is the latest female entertainer getting notice from extended video treatments.

R&B singer Erykah Badu received a citation for disorderly conduct after stripping naked for the “Window Seat” music video filmed in the Dallas site where John F. Kennedy was assassinated, while the Lady Gaga and Beyonce video for “Telephone” depicts the pop pair as a homicidal couple in a racy, Thelma and Louise styled romp.

16-Year-Old Jazz Guitarist Gives Tribute to Wes Montgomery

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 25, 2010) *With hip hop dominating the airwaves it’s easy to assume that our young people have completely forgotten all about the legacy of jazz music.

Fortunately that doesn’t even remotely apply to 16-year-old jazz guitarist

What makes her story even more inspiring is that she had no formal training; she is self-taught and is an honour student in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), a district with no arts budget.

But in spite of the lack of arts and music programs, Giavanna was determined to master jazz. She learned to play by ear, listening to the radio and CDs. It seems she’s a science whiz by day and a jazz guitarist with the older cats by night.

Grammy producer Bobby Martin (Patti LaBelle, The Ojays, theme song to Soul Train, Lou Rawls, etc.) heard her play last year and is now mentoring her.

That leads us to her show-stopping appearance at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood this past week. With Giavanna out front on guitar, she was backed up by Rick Olson (pianist with Herbie Hancock), Quentin Dennard (drums) and Michael Saucier (bass). And with April being Jazz Appreciation month, she gave a special tribute to the legendary Wes Montgomery.

In an interview with Hub City news, she tells of being inspired by Montgomery at the age of 7:

“The first time I heard Wes Mongtgomery I was listening to (jazz station) 88.1 and I heard ‘The Thumb.’ I was blown away because he made the guitar sound like it was talking to me and listeners. He was a genius”

At the show, Bobby Martin attended along with legendary blues singer, Linda Hopkins, Platters singer Kris Lamans, and Pamela Hasselhoff and other celebs and educational reps.

Check out more photos (by Ian Foxx) from the event:

Courtney Shows Herself A Hole Lotta Love

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Dave McGinn

(April 24, 2010) Courtney Love has a personal-hygiene problem. “My pits stink and I need a bath,” she says over the phone from the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles. She also has a music problem, thanks to a metal-loving roadie who recently got hold of her iPod. “I’ve got live bootleg Whitesnake on my shuffle,” she says. “It’s so bad.”

But these are trifles compared to the mess that has been life for the 45-year-old musician in the 12 years since her band, Hole, released its last record. In that time, Love has spent time in rehab; released a flop of a solo album, 2004’s America’s Sweetheart; had countless public spats carried out on Twitter; lost millions through what she alleges is embezzlement; and, most recently, once again lost custody of her teenage daughter.

Now, though, Love says she has got a grip on the “monster” – her word – she can sometimes be. More importantly, she has a new Hole record, Nobody’s Daughter. Being released on Tuesday, it may just be her best shot at reforming her image and her life. “I’m extremely happy with the album. It’s a very, very dignified, very classy, very high-end, very cool record. And no one can take that away from me,” she says.

Courtney Love on songwriting and her guitar skills

Download (.mp3)

Yet, however much she hopes people start paying attention to Courtney Love the musician and not Courtney Love the train wreck, she knows it will not come easy. Some people are always going to hate her, a fact she has come to embrace. “I even got a tattoo that just says ‘Let It Bleed.’ I don’t even like the song, I just like the title. It means let it go. It also means stab me more, motherfuckers. Let’s see if I can take it,” she says.

In doing publicity for her band’s new album, Love has Googled herself a handful of times. What she has found has been a welcome change from what similar searches might have turned up just a few months ago. “To just see music there, and not personal bullshit and clown nonsense and Kafka-esque going to court 37 times for absolutely no fucking reason I can tell you, is very, very nice,” she says.

While there’s a hefty amount of grunge nostalgia on Nobody’s Daughter, the production is much more polished than America’s Sweetheart, which Love refers to as “le désastre” (it was produced in France). And while Love’s intensity runs throughout the majority of the album’s 11 songs, there is also a sense of reflection that enriches the whole.

“I never wanted to be the person you see. Can you tell me who I am?” Love sings on the song Letter to God, the album’s most personal tune.

Courtney Love on Neil Young and Leonard Cohen

Download (.mp3)

Some Hole fans may not be happy about Love releasing Nobody’s Daughter under the Hole name, given that she is the only original member on the new album. The new incarnation of the band consists of Love, Micko Larkin on guitar, Shawn Dailey on bass and Stuart Fisher on drums.

Former band mates have certainly taken Love to task for using the Hole name. Last year, former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson told Spin.com that any reconstituted band couldn’t be considered “the real Hole.” Added Erlandson, “The way I look at it, there is no Hole without me.”

Earlier this year, Montreal native and former Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur said she was “surprised and disappointed” by Love’s decision to record a Hole album without her or other earlier members of the band. “Honestly, I’m a little surprised by this turn of events,” she said. “I am disappointed that they are going to jeopardize a real Hole reunion, which I think would be great for fans and fun for us, the band.”

Courtney Love on song titles and Billy Corgan

Download (.mp3)

To such critics, Love has this to say: “Suck it, suck it, suck it, suck it, weasels, because it’s my band.”

Conflicts over naming aren’t the only problems to have emerged during the production of Nobody’s Daughter. In an interview in the March issue of Rolling Stone, Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan took issue with Love releasing three songs that the two had worked on together. “It would be a real big problem, because I haven’t given my permission,” he said. “I have no interest in supporting her in any way, shape or form. You can’t throw enough things down the abyss with a person like that.”

But instead of lashing out with another rant on Twitter, Love posted a heartfelt sorry to Corgan on Facebook. “I hope you will take my sincerest apologies for all the thousand ways I sometimes offend you, because I know you are a king, a prince, and my beautiful noble boy,” she wrote. It was a departure, to say the least, from the way Love has handled spats in the past.

Courtney Love on the name Hole

Download (.mp3)

Which brings us to the C.L. Monster, Love’s term for the unhinged, unfiltered, unbecoming persona she has presented not only to concert audiences but to family-court judges, paparazzi and the public.

“I’ve sent the C.L. Monster up to upstate New York into a socialization and media-training camp … so she should come back pretty reformed because I’m really sick of her. But we need her. We need her for performing. We need her to write lyrics,” Love says. “When I leave the stage, the C.L. Monster needs to go back upstate. So that’s the new mantra for my life: I don’t like living it all the time.”

Love says she can cringe looking back on the person she has been. “I’m mortified by some of it, of course I am,” she says.

Courtney Love on dressing her age

Download (.mp3)

But much of that persona has been magnified by the media, Love says. “The way you guys depict me as so outrageously different from what I am, it’s become almost funny,” she says. “Most people, once they meet me, think I’m incredibly adorable.”

Still, Love is the first to admit that her life, or at the very least her public image, has taken a severe beating in the years since her last record. But with Nobody’s Daughter, she has something she can be genuinely proud of.

The album, and the tour to promote it, says Love, is a chance for her to put the C.L. Monster back in its cage and return to being a singer-songwriter rather than a walking disaster. “Hopefully,” she adds, “I can just be a rock musician and get on with my life.”

El Sistema Saves At-Risk Venezuelan Kids Through Music

Source: www.thestar.com

(April 23, 2010) Caracas, Venezuela - Schools in Caracas often have security fences and guards to protect the “inmates.” They seem like oases of a kind to a visitor from Toronto, airlifted from a city of relative safety and order into a violence-prone megalopolis whose teeming slums crawl up the slopes of the surrounding mountainsides. And when the school day ends, El Sistema begins.

The voluntary program is the brainchild of Jose Antonio Abreu. “The System” nurtures personal development and talent through free music tutorials and instruments, keeping children from being drawn into gangs and crushed by the brute force of poverty in the slums.

Abreu is by no means unknown in Toronto, having been awarded the prestigious $50,000 Glenn Gould Prize last October for his founding of El Sistema, which Mayor David Miller characterized as a program that “has brought the transformative power of music and learning to more than one million children across Latin America and produced exciting and inspiring musicians and ensembles, most notably the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela.”

Thanks to the good offices of the Glenn Gould Foundation, that very Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra interrupted its return from a European tour to help celebrate Abreu’s award, spending a week in Toronto visiting schools, participating in workshops and giving performances, including a wildly acclaimed gala concert at the Four Seasons Centre conducted by El Sistema’s most famous alumnus, the winner of the City of Toronto’s Glenn Gould Protege Prize, 28-year-old Gustavo Dudamel.

Dudamel frankly admits that he wouldn’t be where he is today, leading both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Sweden’s Gothenberg Symphony Orchestra and guest conducting around the world, had it not been for El Sistema. “The System” has other champions as well, including those in St. John, N.B., and Ottawa, who have established youth orchestra programs inspired by what has happened in Venezuela.

Not bad progress for a movement that began in 1975 with 11 children gathered together to make music in a Caracas parking garage and now involves more than 15,000 music teachers and 350,000 children in Venezuela alone.

But how does El Sistema actually work on the ground? It was in quest of an answer to this question that I joined a small group from the Glenn Gould Foundation for a few days, visiting schools of the Caracas region, observing classes, attending performances and talking with participants.

While Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has embraced the program, even providing funding for it, not every parent has valued this comparatively risk-free environment. One teacher told me of the time a mother turned up at his school with a machete, demanding the surrender of a child who was now old enough to be a street peddler. The frightened child hid under a desk rather than give up his music.

Another teacher told of a talented oboist missing from class for a few days until he was discovered lying in the street with a bullet hole in his head. Even going to and coming from school can be dangerous.

And yet, others told of the respect children carrying instrument cases often receive from their contemporaries. There are reportedly more children now involved in organized music than organized athletics.

As a teacher myself, at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, I was particularly impressed by the excitement about learning that I witnessed in the classrooms, from preschoolers to pre-professionals.

The apex of the educational pyramid is a new 11-storey building called the Centre for Social Action through Music, bordering one of Caracas’s handsomest parks, where 1,200- and 400-seat concert halls showcase a level of achievement impressive by international standards and where musicians of the calibre of superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma regularly give master classes.

But in some ways, even more impressive and certainly more moving was the grassroots work I witnessed in ordinary schools, in classrooms with peeling paint, with students using instruments made specially for them in a neighbouring factory by alumni of the system and instruction given them by other alumni.

Less than 10 per cent of these students become professional musicians. That is not the main purpose of the exercise. What they learn, through music, is a range of life skills, including self-discipline and respect for others.

Several years ago a study of European educational systems ranked tiny Finland’s at the top of the list, largely because of the priority given musical education and its role in developing creativity, discipline and focus in the young. The same role has been activated in Venezuela through El Sistema, which is why Caracas has become a pilgrimage destination for educational authorities from thousands of miles away. Representatives from Ottawa’s National Arts Centre are there this week.

When he was in Toronto receiving the Glenn Gould Prize, Abreu floated the idea of a Venezuelan-Canadian Youth Orchestra and the Glenn Gould Foundation has been working on the idea ever since. It is not that we in Canada face comparable social conditions to those of our South American neighbour. But as Abreu argues, music feeds our better selves, regardless of income level, and this is a lesson Canada’s music-starved schools surely need to learn.

Hitclub Entertainment Presents New Smooth R&B Artist Joonie

Source: Judy Klein, judy.klein@hitclubentertainment.com; Irving Der, irving.der@hitclubentertainment

(April 23, 2010) *Hitclub Entertainment presents its latest artist,
Joonie and his freshman album, “ACOUSTIC LOVE,” available on April 27, 2010 as announced today by Kenny Bereal, founder and CEO.

“ACOUSTIC LOVE” features 12 silky smooth tracks that highlight and expresses Joonie’s feelings on love and relationships through true musicianship.

Joonie, writes, arranges, produces and performs his own songs, a rarity in today’s music space. “So Fly” is the first single released from the album and can be previewed and purchased at www.jooniezone.com along with additional information, videos and photos.

Calvin “Joonie” Gary, Jr. is a musical talent that can do it all…literally. Joonie sings, writes, arranges, and plays his own instruments. Paying his dues, Joonie has spent time working along side of some of the top names in music including, Warren G., Mos Def, Angie Stone, Nappy Roots and two ‘American Idol’ superstars, Rubben Studdard and most recently with Elliot Yamin. Soul, R&B and Pop are the genres that suit Joonie best, but his love of music came early on from the church through gospel music. Joonie’s vocals are clean, strong and most of all real. There are no production tricks or music gimmicks, in his music just pure heart and soul.

HitClub Entertainment is a music management, marketing, production and consulting company founded by Kenny Bereal, Joonie’s music is simply raw and real,” said Bereal, “His voice is powerful and touches listeners like few others. I am proud to finally bring his music to all of his fans.”

“Acoustic Love” Track Listing:

01. So Fly 02. Fresh 03. Delilah 04. You Got Me 05. Acoustic Love 06. Love You More 07. Always 08. Just the Way You Are 09. Smile 10. Make It Last 11. Lay It Down 12. Stalker

For more information please visit:

Follow Joonie online:

Listen to Irresistible You (ft. Angie Stone):

ABOUT HITCLUB Established in 2001, Hitclub Entertainment is an innovative management, marketing and multi-media organization, providing quality high-level entertainment in the music, film, and television industries. Hitclub distinguishes itself through the commitment it undertakes with each of its clients. The strength of Hitclub’s exceptional management team is derived from their blend of experience, creativity, practical understanding and business savvy. Hitclub’s management team has produced, marketed and promoted highly successful projects throughout their careers. These projects have been used by major record, film and televisions companies such as Universal, Capitol, Warner Bro’s, Sony BMG, BET, MTV, NBC, VH1 and other well know entertainment companies. A variety of projects involving Hitclub’s management team have earned industry recognition through Grammy, Billboard, Stellar Awards and Emmy Awards. The Hitclub team is dedicated and prepared to continue Hitclub’s success through their commitment to excellence and integrity in business. Visit us at www.hitclubentertainment.com.


Exclusive: Christopher ‘Kid’ Reid: Kid ‘n Play Reuniting for Summer Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Chris Richburg

(April 21, 2010) *Good news for fans of the high-top fade and the funky Charleston.
Kid and Play have reunited with plans on resurrecting hip-hop’s golden era party vibe at a concert venue near you.

The re-teaming of Christopher “Kid” Reid and Christopher “Play” Martin comes more than a decade since the duo rode a wave of popularity in the late ’80s and early ’90s with rap classics such as “Rollin’ with Kid ‘n Play,” “Gettin’ Funky,” “Do This My Way,” “Funhouse,” and “Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody.”

In addition to music, the Kid ‘n Play found success with their own on the big and small screen with the “House Party” movie trilogy, the film “Class Act” and the NBC Saturday morning cartoon series, “Kid ‘n Play.” A brief alliance with Marvel Comics resulted in a comic book based on the animated show in 1992.

Despite the long hiatus, Reid feels the timing couldn’t be better for Kid ‘n Play to reintroduce themselves to old fans while garnering new fans.

“We actually jumpin’ back out there, my old partner Play and myself,” the entertainer shared with EURweb’s Lee Bailey at a recent party for LisaRaye’s new TV One reality series. “…we kind of felt that it was the right time and we like the energy out there. The public kind of let us know that they might be receptive to something like this. So we’re gonna go and have fun.”

Kid ‘n Play fans will be able to see the pair live when they hit the road for an upcoming tour this summer. The outing is slated to kick off June 25 in Detroit and continue with performances scheduled throughout July and August.

“We’re doing a bunch of touring dates this summer. We’ll be joined by groups like Full Force, Lisa Lisa, Montell Jordan,” Reid revealed. “Right now, they’re up to at least 20 and I think they’re trying to go 30 and beyond. It’s actually been encouraging. It seems to be kind of picking up momentum. We got some dates back East. I know we got one in Connecticut. And then we’re gonna do that Tom Joyner cruise. So that will be one of the kick off joints.”

The Kid ‘n Play reunion tour comes as a natural development after blazing individual paths outside the rap arena. Reid established a second career as an actor and stand-up comedian, while Martin ventured into the world of holy hip-hop after becoming a born-again Christian and moving to North Carolina, where he became a professor at North Carolina Central University and founded the multimedia company, HP4 Digital Works and online magazine, Brand Newz.

With their own lives firmly in place, thoughts of a reunion were not high on the list for Martin and Reid, who offered his own theory regarding the delay in hooking back up with Martin.

“I think there’s been various times when either one of us might not have been down for varying reasons. I don’t think it was anything personal. I think it was maybe just where we were at individually in life,” the entertainer said. “And I think we always trusted in the fact that we’d know when it was time to kinda get together. The cosmos would tell us. And so it feels right now. So you know we’re gettin’ the band back together. We’re loadin’ up the Ben Gay and Grecian formula and we’re gonna git ‘er done. [Laughs]“

 “It’s just cool. We’ve been appearing at places together and hangin’ out. We’ve been having a blast,” continued Reid, who confessed that being back with Martin “feels very comfortable.” “It feels very natural and it feels like a lot of fun to this point.”

The Kid ‘n Play reunion isn’t the only high point for Reid and Martin. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the first “House Party” movie. The movie not only launched Kid ‘n Play’s foray into film but also featured comedian Martin Lawrence and actress Tisha Campbell-Martin before they became household names on Lawrence’s hit sitcom, “Martin.”

One of the reasons behind the success of “House Party,” Reid believes, was the genuine relationship between him and his rhyme partner Martin and how their real-life personas translated onscreen.

“We grew up around the corner from each other. We came already packaged. I tell people we sold a million records before we ever made a movie…We were already like that. We danced like that. I looked like that. And that’s the thing. I think that’s was one of the reasons why the movie was successful,” Reid explained. “I think people kind of felt like it was organic, like these guys weren’t put together because we go way back.”

With the upcoming tour, the big question is whether or not Kid ‘n Play can still hit the moves they’re known for.

“Well this is what we gonna find out. This is why we running around the street like “Rocky” now tryin’ to get back into shape,” Reid stated while singing part of the theme from “Rocky” and referencing Sammy Davis Jr.’s knack for performing his trademark routines without a hint of stage rust. “We fashion a very high standard for ourselves over the years. We respect our audience enough and our standard is such that we’re not gonna come out there if it’s not gonna be hot. It’s gonna be hot.”

Dance moves aside, fans craving total nostalgia from Kid ‘n Play may also wonder if Reid will bring back his hi-top fade for the trek. After all, the hairstyle took on a life of its own, as it became the choice cut for many guys back in the day.

“Well that’s a whole ‘nother story. I hope ain’t nobody got their hearts set on that. We will be selling memorabilia Kid ‘n Play wigs at the merchandising table and Pajama Jammy Jam jammies and things of that nature,” a joking Reid said as he broke down the tour’s potential for success. “It’s one of those things. It’s very hard to compete with a younger version of yourself, but I just think that there’s a vibe out there right now with our audience that wants to kind of hearken back to, you know, that time when we was just having a lot more fun and maybe didn’t have as many responsibilities.

“So we’re very pleased with what’s been goin’ on to this point, the people that have been putting it together,” the entertainer added about his group’s desire to deliver a quality experience for concertgoers. “As long as it feels comfortable and it feels like we’re being creative and it’s something positive, then we’ll mess with it.”

Flashback: Check out Kid ‘N Play and the cast of “House Party” gettin’ their dance groove on:

Steve Reich: A Beacon Of Hipness In Classical World

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Colin Eatock

(April 28, 2010) 
American composer Steve Reich has received many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for Music, a Polar Music Prize and a Grammy, but one honour that speaks volumes is the high praise he has received in the Village Voice. When the trendy New York weekly declares someone “America’s greatest living composer,” you can be sure that the composer in question isn’t just a remarkable musician, but also a pretty cool guy.

With his trademark baseball cap and his plain-speaking ways, Reich, now 73, remains a beacon of hipness in the classical music world. As such, he is an apt choice for Soundstreams Canada to invite to its Cool Drummings Festival, which wraps up Thursday night at Toronto’s Koerner Hall with a retrospective concert of his music.

Reich is often called a “minimalist” – one of a generation of composers that emerged in the 1960s and 70s that also included Philip Glass and John Adams. All adopted a style of music that was often highly repetitive and busy-sounding on its surface, yet built on slow, gradual changes in structure.

However, Reich has mixed feelings about the “minimalism” label. “I mean, you know, it’s okay for journalists to use,” he says from his home in New York. “But to me, it’s absurd – I prefer just ‘music composer.’ ”

As Reich explains it, the minimalists developed a distinctive American style – a clear and deliberate break with the dissonant, angular sound of European modernism.

“I was not in step with Boulez, Stockhausen or Cage,” he says, distancing himself from two prominent Europeans and also the United States’ high priest of the avant-garde. “That was a kind of music that we, as a group, didn’t like. We were listening to jazz, Motown and the Beatles – and also to West African music, Indian music and Indonesian gamelan from Bali. This is what was in the air, and this is what composers who had their ears open were hearing. If these things hadn’t been in the air, our music wouldn’t have happened. And that’s why it happened in America.”

Aft first, the minimalists had an uphill battle: Their music sounded strikingly different than the way contemporary classical works were “supposed” to sound. One critic (Samuel Lipman) scornfully dismissed it all as “pop music for intellectuals.”

Yet Reich felt strongly that he knew where new music was going – so strongly that he penned a little essay called Some Optimistic Predictions (1970) About the Future of Music. Impressively, 40 years after he wrote it, much of what he predicted has come true. Especially striking is his claim that “the pulse and the concept of clear tonal centre will re-emerge as basic sources of new music.” This was heresy in 1970, but barely raises eyebrows in new-music circles today.

Reich is clearly proud of his prescience, but he bristles at the suggestion that Optimistic Predictions was intended as marching orders for the minimalist movement. “I wasn’t trying to write a manifesto!” he protests. “Manifestos have had a bad history, and have done a lot of harm in the world. I was just taking note of what was interesting to me at the time. My hunch was that these things were going to carry on.”

Does he care to make any more predictions about the future of music? No, he doesn’t.

One thing Reich didn’t propose in 1970 was that minimalism would eventually be embraced by the classical music establishment. It was his colleagues, Glass and Adams, who were largely responsible for this trend, composing big operas and symphonic works that have been presented by New York’s Metropolitan Opera and prestigious orchestras around the world.

Such plush musical environments don’t appeal much to Reich. Throughout his career, he has rarely strayed far from his small-is-beautiful roots, preferring to write for chamber ensembles, often with a strong percussive edge. He wrote much of his music for his own Steve Reich Ensemble, a group of dedicated musicians that toured extensively in the 1970s and 80s, but is now inactive.

It’s the small-scale Reich who will be celebrated Thursday night at Koerner Hall. The program will include Clapping Music (1972), a piece for two musicians using nothing but their bare hands as instruments. (Reich himself will be one of the hand-clappers.) There’s also Music for Pieces of Wood (1973), which, as the title suggests, is all about striking small wooden sticks, called claves, together.

Also on the program will be two pieces written just last year. One is 2x5, scored for a five-piece rock group and a second, prerecorded, five-piece rock group. The other is Mallet Quartet, to be played by the Toronto percussion group Nexus.

Reich points out that three musicians in Nexus – Russell Hartenberger, Bob Becker and Garry Kvistad – are veterans of the Steve Reich Ensemble. “If these guys can’t play my music,” he says confidently, “nobody can.”

Steve Reich Live! takes place 8 p.m. Thursday at Toronto’s Koerner Hall.

Special to The Globe and Mail


Michael Kaeshammer Big Winner At Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(April 26, 2010) Singer-pianist Michael Kaeshammer was the big winner at Friday’s Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards, taking two of his three nominations: Keyboardist/Pianist of the Year, and Best Original Composition for “Isabelle.”  Show host, flautist and Wave 94.7 FM’s Alexander Zonjic also picked up two prizes: Broadcaster of the Year and Album of the Year for Doin’ the D. The sixth annual event was held at Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre. The black-tie affair featured performances by Kaeshammer, as well as Four80East, saxists Darren Rahn and David Sanborn. Sandorn is recipient of the George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award. Determined by online voters, other winners included Carol Welsman (Female Vocalist), Michael Bublé (Male Vocalist), Carson Freeman (Wind Instrumentalist), Robert Tardik (Guitarist), Groove Kings (Group/Duo) and Tony Grace (Drummer). International awards went to George Benson (Instrumentalist), Norah Jones (Vocalist) and Pieces of a Dream (Group).

Rock Star Bret Michaels In Critical Condition With Brain Hemorrhage

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(April 23, 2010) Los Angeles, Calif.—Bret Michaels is in critical condition suffering from a brain hemorrhage. Michael’s publicist, Joann Mignano, confirmed a report on People magazine’s website Friday that said Michaels was rushed to intensive care late Thursday following a severe headache, and that doctors discovered bleeding at the base of his brain stem. Mignano said tests are being conducted and no further information was available. The 47-year-old reality TV star and former frontman for the ’80s rock band Poison had an emergency appendectomy last week. He said on his website that although the surgery “has taken its toll,” doctors expected him to make a full recovery.

West Coast’s DJ Hideo Dies of Cancer at 42

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 26, 2010) *The hip hop world has lost another respected artist to cancer.
DJ Hideo, who worked with several radio stations and opened for such West coast acts as Xzibit and Coolio , died of colon cancer on Saturday (April 24) at Mission Hospital in Orange County, California. He was 42. Hideo launched a Web site shortly after his diagnosis in February to document his battle with the disease. “My story begins on the day of February 03, 2009 when I admitted myself to emergency at the Mission hospital in Mission Viejo, Ca.,” he wrote in a posting dated Feb. 14. “Within a few hours after checking in and performing several tests, I underwent a CT scan. The results were stage four colon cancer, the last thing I could have ever imagined. Since the cancer is metastasized, I was told that the cancer has also spread to my liver. I was admitted to the hospital soon after and scheduled for a colonoscopy the next day.” In his last posting, dated April 25, he wrote: “Hi everyone! Wanted to let everybody know that I check in back @ Mission hospital last week because of the weakness that I’ve been feeling for the past week. My vitals are stable and now need the assistance of a ventilator to breathe. I’m very aware of my condition and communicate in writing. Right now, the one thing I really do miss is drinking a nice ice cold soda.” Rapper Talib Kweli was among the first to pay tribute. In a post on his Twitter page, he wrote: “RIP to my homie DJ Hideo. You will be missed my man. One love.” Last week, Gang Starr rapper Guru died of cancer at age 43.

B.o.B.’s ‘Nothin’ On You’ Dethrones Rihanna on Billboard

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 22, 2010) *Atlanta rapper
B.o.B has knocked Rihanna from the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart to be released today. B.o.B’s “Nothin’ On You,” featuring Bruno Mars, will rise one place to No. 1, swapping places with Rihanna’s “Rude Boy,” which had led the pack for five weeks. [Watch video below.] The rapper, whose real name is Bobby Simmons, also has the Hot 100’s top new entry with the No. 12 bow of “Airplanes,” featuring Hayley Williams of the rock group Paramore. [Listen below.] His debut album “B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray” goes on sale next Tuesday.


Common Previews Upcoming CD The Believer

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 28, 2010) *
Common is reuniting with producer Kanye West for his upcoming album, tentatively titled “The Believer.” While promoting his new film “Just Wright” opposite Queen Latifah, the rapper described the project as “soulful hip hop.” “It’s ‘good’ music,” he told Billboard. “The themes are street music and elevation, things that I feel like I always embody when I rap. But here there’s new situations, new solutions.” In addition to West, the album will also feature production from No I.D., both of which have produced tracks on his previous albums “Be” and “Finding Forever,” “I’m striving to get it out in the fall,” he said, adding that fans can expect a single by late summer or early fall. In the meantime, Common and Latifah recorded a song for the “Just Wright” soundtrack entitled “The Next Time,” produced by Karriem Riggins, that will be featured over its closing credits.


Town Almost A Character In Canadian Western Gunless

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(April 22, 2010) Gunless — a wily Canadian western comedy starring Paul Gross that opens next Friday — might never have made it to the screen had its co-producer, Niv Fichman, the Toronto filmmaker renowned for such high-toned movies as Passchendaele, The Red Violin, Ravel’s Brain and Silk, not stumbled into a mountain-ringed valley during a wine tour of B.C.’s Okanagan region with fellow connoisseurs du vin, former Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, and writer John Ralston Saul.

“It was beautiful country . . . it looked like a desert surrounded by snow-capped mountains, with lots of dust, and even sagebrush blowing around,” Fichman told the Star.

“I couldn’t believe we were in Canada, in this wonderful restaurant in B.C. wine country. There was something authentically western about it — big blue skies, lots of sunshine. I promised myself that if I ever made a western, this would be the perfect location.”

As it turned out, Fichman soon found himself working on a script with Vancouver writer-director Bill Phillips and co-producer Steve Hedges, about an American outlaw, the Montana Kid (Gross), who inadvertently winds up in a tiny hamlet, Barclay’s Brush (pop. 17), on the northern side of the U.S.-Canada border in the late 1800s, a place where handguns are illegal and gunslingers have no cachet.

“Everyone was thinking we should shoot in Alberta, till I remembered this little valley in B.C.,” Fichman said. “When the others saw it, there was no doubt about where Barclay’s Brush would be built.”

The best westerns — Shane, Deadwood, Unforgiven — are notable for their town sets, and the creators of Gunless were determined to make Barclay’s Brush as memorable as the movie’s main characters, even working within the constraints of a Canadian budget.

As envisioned by Phillips and production designer Matthew Budgeon, Barclay’s Brush was constructed by a local crew from aged, cast-off wood from nearby sawmills, and furnished with objects from Okanagan antique stores, museums and flea markets.

It ended up consuming a million of the movie’s $8.5-million allotment, Fichman said.

“That’s totally disproportionate. But the location was perfect, and the topography of the town, with facades and roof-lines that reflected the angles of the mountains in the distance, made it worthwhile.

“It meant we had to shoot the movie in five weeks instead of six, but there was a built-in efficiency in creating the set from scratch. We saved and money by not having to move crews from one site to another, and every detail, right down to the nails, was authentic. The town became an integral part of the movie experience.”

Creating a movie town from the ground up, even one with just six or seven buildings, is daunting, said Budgeon on the phone from his home in Vancouver. Phillips, Fichman and Hedges all give him credit for something truly unique, a set that measures up to the highest cinematic western standards.

“It’s a huge responsibility,” Budgeon said. “Westerns are the cornerstone of modern cinema. We looked at lots of historical and movie references, but in the end we had to create something that had never been done before, a Canadian western town that reflected what was going on in Canada at the time — the immigration routes, the railroad, ties to the British Empire. We weren’t making a documentary, but we had to be true to the time and place.”

The western town design that most appealed to Budgeon was in the opening moments of Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

“Classic western towns have buildings on both sides of the main street, but that town was built on one side, perched on the edge of a slope,” he said. “That suited our location perfectly, and it provided a sense of impermanence. Barclay’s Brush was meant to be a town that never quite made it.”

Because western towns grew willy-nilly, with no sense of design, no municipal or building codes, Budgeon gave Barclay’s Brush’s six buildings — a general store/saloon, a school house, a church, a blacksmith’s shop, a laundry and a doctor’s house, as well as a nearby farm, also built from scratch — a kind of random structural form by using unplanned lumber, twisted planks, new timber mixed old, minimal period furnishings and paint colours selected from a Victorian catalogue.

“I wanted Barclay’s Brush to stand on its own, like a character with a sense of itself,” Budgeon added.

The dust that impressed Fichman appealed to Phillips as well, though there were times when mini-dust storms made shooting impossible.

“Authentic western towns are dusty or muddy . . . and we had plenty of dust, as well as a spectacular mountain backdrop,” the director said.

“But Canadian references were also important in the design of Barclay’s Brush — the occasional portrait of Queen Victoria, a bit of flag action, flashes of deep Canadian red. We didn’t want to hammer it . . . just enough small design features to make Barclay’s Brush genuinely Canadian.”

Most sets are torn down after final wrap, but Barclay’s Brush, built on private property, is still standing.

“We had money set aside for the tear-down, but the ranch owner wouldn’t let us. He said he wanted to keep it for his grandchildren to play in, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see our town on the big screen again sometime soon.”

A Star Who’s Proudly From The Rock

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

(April 26, 2010) Krystin Pellerin's face has become familiar to Canadians across the country of late due to her role as Constable – recently promoted to Sergeant – Leslie Bennett on the popular CBC detective series Republic of Doyle. Regular attendees of Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre Company, however, have known the Newfoundland actress since she first appeared there in 2006 opposite Albert Schultz and Megan Follows in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing.

That was Pellerin's first professional theatre gig straight out of National Theatre School, and the actress has been a regular presence since. This week, she's back on the boards in Waiting for the Parade, John Murrell's 1977 play about five Calgary women on the home front during the Second World War. The Globe and Mail spoke with the 26-year-old during a lunch break from rehearsal about her theatrical homecoming now that she's all famous.

Waiting for the Parade is one of many successful Canadian plays – Les Belles-Soeurs, Da Kink in My Hair – to have an all-female cast. Have you ever been in one before?

No, and I love it. It's nice to be surrounded by such lovely women – and to have no boys allowed is pretty sweet. They're incredibly talented and you just learn so much from watching them. We have so much fun and we laugh like nothing else.

I imagine it's a somewhat more macho on the set of Republic of Doyle. Last time I tuned in, detective Jake Doyle and his brother were wrestling and broke a coffee table.

There's definitely a more masculine feel to the show, but the girls on the show have really stuck together and we feel very strong within that. But yeah, it's a totally different dynamic.

One of the great things for me about watching Republic of Doyle is seeing all these Toronto stage actors appear. Star Allan Hawco and you, of course, but in, just the season finale, there are David Ferry, Gord Rand, Liisa Repo-Martell….

And Jonathan Goad [of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival], too! It's a treat to work with people who know how to work in the theatre as well, because you feel a real camaraderie. You just have a common way of working – I can tell the difference and I really like it.

How did you move so quickly from National Theatre School to Soulpepper Theatre Company? You were suddenly starring next to Megan Follows and Albert Schultz.

That was my first professional play. I hadn't seen any Soulpepper productions. It's kind of amazing – all these great artists with so much integrity in one place. There's a great sense of family.

You're not actually in Follows's family, are you? You look a bit like her when she was younger.

I've got that ever since I was 18 years old. When I went to National Theatre School, they did an article in the Telegram in St. John's and said that. She was like a big sister to me on The Real Thing, but no.

Did you expect when you left Newfoundland that you'd get to play so may Newfoundlanders? In addition to Sgt. Bennett, you were Mary in David French's Salt-Water Moon a couple seasons ago at Soulpepper.

It's funny, because moving to the mainland I felt a pressure to become like everybody else, to blend in order to be cast; you learn how to adjust your dialect and stuff like that. It's pretty ironic that I get to come home for the biggest role on television I've ever had.

Bit of a cliffhanger there in the season finale. Leslie compromised an investigation for Jake, then nearly got back together with him. What's going to happen?

She's got herself in a sticky situation, professionally and personally. Her judgment's pretty clouded. I haven't been told anything by the producers. I know I'm back for 12 episodes but I don't know what's going to happen.

Twelve episodes – so it's not going to turn into The Wire and characters will start dying suddenly and unexpectedly. Though I suppose you could start appearing as a ghost.

I hope not. I'd rather not be a ghost.

Waiting for the Parade plays at Toronto’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts May 1 to 22.

Nova Scotia Filmmaker Wants To Get The Ball Rolling With Documentary

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(April 25, 2010) A young Nova Scotia-born filmmaker and photographer is preparing for an epic personal journey across North America, pushing a 2-metre-wide rubber ball ahead of him to bring attention to testicular cancer.

“I’ve always had big ideas and been kind of out there,” said
Thomas Cantley, who got the diagnosis last year that would make most men cringe.

“Everyone’s always told me I was ballsy even before I got this,” he said following recent surgeries to remove his left testicle and several lymph nodes.

Cantley, who now calls New York City home, plans to create a documentary called Ballsy out of his travels, interviewing health-care professionals and cancer survivors along the way.

“I’m 27. I never even had a cavity. I’ve always been healthy, then I’m told I have testicular cancer,” he said. “It didn’t really even hit me at first.”

Cantley said he’d been in pain for months before he decided to seek medical help last fall.

“I want to create a movement for men’s health because men just don’t go to the doctor as often as they should.”

His testicle was removed in New York but the lymph node surgery was done when he returned home to Nova Scotia.

The Vancouver Film School graduate said he wanted something therapeutic to keep him focused through the ordeal so he decided to shoot his surgery.

The idea for the Ballsy project began taking shape as he lay in recovery and had a chance to talk to a 17-year-old boy who was just about to undergo the same surgery.

“I had no idea. He just really impacted me. Before I got testicular cancer I had no idea about this. It turned into a personal project to create awareness,” he said.

Back in New York, Cantley was able to hook up with a producer and they started brainstorming ideas to create a thread for his documentary. They came up with the idea of pushing a giant ball from Los Angeles to New York and then from Toronto to Halifax.

Planning is underway as Cantley seeks corporate sponsors, works out his travel itinerary and logistical support and awaits the arrival of his eight-kilogram, giant white ball from the manufacturer in Italy.
Cantley said he hasn’t set a start date yet but he wants to take advantage of good summer weather and has begun working out with a personal trainer in New York to improve his stamina.

Al Pacino cheats ‘Dr. Death’ Kervorkian

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(April 23, 2010) The question from the outset, and all the way through, and even more so after, is “Why?”

If, as the title
You Don’t Know Jack would suggest, you do not know the infamous assisted-suicide advocate, Jack (Dr. Death) Kevorkian — and, aside from some 20-year-old headlines and punchlines, chances are you don’t — it also assumes there’s a good reason you’d want to.

That’s the first why.

The second is why three noted Academy Award winners, namely Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon and director Barry Levinson, would so heartily commit to such a dubious endeavour, and why HBO would want to fund, air and promote it.

And, most significantly, why any potential viewer would want to endure a 2½ -hour palliative parade of the desperate and terminally ill, suffering so unspeakably that they see suicide as their only recourse . . . and then to watch them being loaded into the back of a van and hooked up to Kevorkian’s cobbled-together mad-scientist invention, the “Mercitron.” And then die — albeit (with one botched exception) peacefully.

Now that’s entertainment.

The final why, only superficially addressed in the cable biopic debuting Saturday night on HBO Canada, has to do with Kevorkian’s essential motivations for championing such a hotly debated, passionately divisive issue, and the controversial medical ethics involved.

But since this is what cost the contentious physician his licence, and eventually sent him to prison for eight years, we’re not going to go there.

Except to say that what explanation there is in You Don’t Know Jack is, at least in part, disturbing.

On the one hand, as it is revealed partway through the movie, both Kevorkian and his most avid supporter, Hemlock Society spokeswoman Janet Good (played by Sarandon), had to stand by helplessly while their parents suffered through prolonged and agonizing deaths.

But far more significant, I feel, is a scene earlier on, in which an already discredited Kevorkian, seeking some sort of redemptive notoriety, suggests to his sister (played by Brenda Vaccaro) that physician-assisted euthanasia “could be my thing.”

This epiphany was the culmination of years of Frankensteinian eccentricity, advocating radical experimentation on death-row inmates, and then, failing that, using the blood of the dead to treat the living.

The telefilm also contains, entirely out of context, several uncomfortably, oddly familiar moments, where Kevorkian’s increasingly eccentric courtroom appearances begin to echo earlier others — for example, his dressing up in colonial garb, powdered wig and all, to protest outdated legal precedent, recalling Woody Harrelson’s onscreen antics in The People Vs. Larry Flynt.

But mostly there is the irresistible urge to compare the scenes of Pacino-as-Kevorkian berating the bench to his iconic “You’re out of order” speech in the 1979 movie . . . And Justice for All — a film, perhaps coincidentally, co-written by Jack director Levinson.

Of course, that Al Pacino is not this Al Pacino, and indeed, if anything can answer any of those persistent “whys,” it is the now considerably older actor’s nonetheless uncanny metamorphosis into a creepy, ill-tempered, anti-social, essentially unreadable, appropriately cadaverous old man.

“You really don’t know Jack,” Pacino affirmed at the mid-season TV critics’ previews — almost equally unrecognizable in person, hiding behind dark sunglasses beneath an unruly, gravity-defying vertical tuft of jet-black hair.

“When you see the image that was portrayed of Jack Kevorkian during his time, you get a sense of someone quite different than the personality that I got to know,” the actor explains. “Not that I got to know him personally, mind you, but just to the research I did and the work I did, in order to get closer to who I could sort of interpret.”

Unlike previous real-life portrayals, Pacino chose not to meet Kevorkian in person.

“Sometimes, for some reason, I don't take access to that, and sometimes I do,” he says. “There are characters you do it with, and it works, and there’s some characters you just you back away from doing. I don't know why.

“With Frank Serpico . . . I studied and went with Serpico everywhere. I got to know him, (got him) to go back into the past. Anyone who saw that movie, it was him that I got to know.

“With Dog Day Afternoon, I didn't feel like I wanted to know that guy for the role and my interpretation. Now, I may have made a mistake. I don't know. I still to this day think I did.

“And with this, who knows? I probably did here, too. If you have the opportunity to meet someone as an actor, it's just great fodder for you. It’s wonderful source stuff that we die for. And so that I didn’t take access to it, you know, is a question, and I don't know why I didn’t.”

You see? Not even Pacino himself can answer all the whys.

“The title is apt,” he allows, “because you really don't know this guy. And hopefully, in the movie, you still don't.”

I rest my case.

TV columnist Rob Salem neglected to mention that Jack Kevorkian is also an accomplished painter and jazz musician. Bet you didn’t know that. rsalem@thestar.ca

DVD Reviews: It’s Complicated and Grown Up Movie Star

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

It’s Complicated
(out of 4)

(April 26, 2010) Only an actress of Meryl Streep’s calibre could bring some heft — and real laughs — to something as featherweight as
It’s Complicated, writer/director Nancy Meyers’ latest glossy excursion into the travails of the rich and idle.

Streep is Jane, the type of woman who would have been referred to as a wealthy divorcée in movies of an earlier era. She runs an upscale bakery that seems to make money by magic and lives in a Santa Barbara garden home that couldn’t be more fabulous — but that doesn’t stop her from planning an expensive makeover regardless.

Jane is well past the mourning stage of her failed marriage to the philandering Jake (Alec Baldwin). The last of her grown-up kids is leaving the nest. She’s free to build the kitchen and bedroom of her dreams, to consider cosmetic surgery and to flirt with her architect, a mild gent named Adam (Steve Martin).

But then Jake bumbles back into her life and boudoir, and suddenly things get, um, complicated.

Streep’s gift for comedy and her magnetic screen presence make this an easy watch and a much more entertaining movie than it might otherwise be. She’s well matched with Baldwin and Martin, who are considerably funnier here than they were as co-hosts of the most recent Academy Awards.

A scene where Streep and Martin sample ultra-strong weed at a party is worth the price of admission, reminding us of Martin in his “wild and crazy guy” phase from the 1970s.

John Krasinski plays straight man as a future son-in-law who is shocked and apoplectic over the marital misadventures he accidentally witnesses. He’s so much better in a supporting role than a leading one.

If all else fails, there’s always the lifestyle porn to gawk at. In Meyers’ world, everybody has big bucks, new cars and problems that can be solved in under two hours.

Extras aren’t complicated at all: just a commentary by Meyers (with a few assists from her production team), plus a making-of featurette.

Peter Howell

Grown Up Movie Star (Mongrel Media)

A Canadian film likely to do well at next year’s Genie Awards, Grown Up Movie Star has the virtue of authenticity, plus a Sundance-winning breakout performance by Tatiana Maslany.

The movie is set in Newfoundland, but there’s nary a squid-jigger or Screech tippler amongst the characters, whom writer/director Adriana Maggs keeps well grounded — only their dreams fly high.

Maslany is teenaged virgin Ruby, whose parents can barely manage their own affairs, much less worry about her and Rose (Julia Kennedy), her younger sister.

Dad Ray (Shawn Doyle) is a failed NHL player whose petty crime habits and sexual disorientation have kept him off the ice and in the penalty box. Mom Lillian (Sherry White) is determined to pursue her long-delayed dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress, even if that means dumping her two daughters into Ray’s haphazard care in Corner Brook.

Too often a movie like this becomes a series of semi-comic escapades by clichéd figures. That’s happily not the case here. The cast assembled by the talented Maggs even manages to use a wheelchair-bound character (Jonny Harris), who is more than just a good intention.

Grown Up Movie Star feels refreshingly real, with drama born of throttled ambition: nobody is really going anywhere or getting what they want. Maslany’s Ruby, a child forced to grow up too soon, manages to radiate both innocence and worldliness.

The DVD has no extras, but none are needed.


Hollywood Sign Saved With A Little Help From The Hef

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Jeff Wilson, The Associated Press

(April 26, 2010) Developers won't be building anything behind the landmark Hollywood sign.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday a final $900,000 (U.S.) donation by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner completed the $12.5-million fundraising drive to protect the 138 acres behind the famous sign.

The Governor praised the public and private partnership in raising the money to keep the property out of hands of developers. The Trust for Public Land conservation group raised $6.7-million in private funds, the state raised $3.1-million and local funds provided $2.7-million.

Mr. Hefner, who calls the sign “Hollywood's Eiffel Tower,” put the effort over the top.

Mr. Schwarzenegger called it “the Hollywood ending we hoped for.”

“It's a symbol of dreams and opportunity,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said of the sign. “The Hollywood sign will welcome dreamers, artists and Austrian bodybuilders for generations to come.”

The Governor praised the conservation effort and public/private partnership, borrowing from his Hollywood days: “I did what the 'Terminator' was supposed to do, and that was to jump into action.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger noted private donations were given by all 50 states, 10 foreign countries and individuals, including J. Paul Getty heir Aileen Getty, Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanksand Hefner.

Aileen Getty and The Tiffany and Co. Foundation contributed $1-million.

“My childhood dreams and fantasies came from the movies, and the images created in Hollywood had a major influence on my life and Playboy,” Hefner said.

Wildlife Conservation Board executive director John Donnelly says the permanent protection of Cahuenga Peak is a significant addition to Griffith Park and that it will “enhance wildlife corridors throughout the region.”

The land was originally purchased in 1940 by industrialist Howard Hughes, who wanted to build a home for then-girlfriend Ginger Rogers. But the relationship ended and the Hughes estate later sold the property in 2002 to a group of Chicago investors.

The property, zoned for four luxury homes, was put on the market two years ago for $22-million. 

The Back-Up Plan: Jennifer Lopez Delivers, But It’s Labourious

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

The Back-up Plan
(out of 4)
Starring Jennifer Lopez, Alex O’Loughlin, Michaela Watkins and Robert Kline. Directed by Alan Poul. 99 minutes. At major theatres. PG

(April 22, 2010) The excruciating hours of labour and delivery fade with the joy of new life. But the dull pain of cutie-pie pregnancy rom-com
The Back-up Plan makes us suffer needlessly.

Formulaic and often crude (who says guy flicks should get all the gross scenes?) The Back-up Plan marks the return of Jennifer Lopez to the big screen after an extended maternity leave. It shows us Jenny from the Block is still flawlessly beautiful, while proving the theory that Hollywood is working on its last and only idea in the romantic-comedy genre.

It’s not to say Lopez isn’t skilled as a laugh-getter. She gamely throws herself into a variety of situations and does often-pleasing physical schtick with enthusiasm, although not always with success. (The fakest orgasm in the history of fakes will conjure new admiration for Meg Ryan’s skills.)

Lopez plays Zoe, a pet store owner who has decided to go it alone on the road to parenthood in the absence of meeting Mr. Right — her back-up plan to replace marriage/baby carriage Plan A. Turns out Mr. Right isn’t absent, he’s just running late. Zoe meets him in the old “that’s my cab” trope on a rainy Manhattan street on the day she’s inseminated at her doctor’s office, which tells us all we need to know about where the movie is going. But it’s how it beats this dead horse in order to eke out a 99-minute movie is where the discomfort begins.

Do we really need to see a grinning gynecologist (Robert Klein) show us a blood-smeared glove after removing it from Zoe’s nethers? Just in case you didn’t get it the first time, look! Here’s a bloody sonogram wand.

The single mothers’ group has some amusing bits, but relies on the old chestnuts about men being useless lugheads amid drum-beating, sisterhood-power affirmations and graphic predictions about what birth does to one’s lady bits. A very long scene involving a woman giving birth at home in a wading pool while making Exorcist sounds just goes too far and shows way too much.

On the upside, Zoe’s disabled bug-eyed dog-in-a-wheelie cart steals every scene he’s in.

Aussie actor Alex O’Loughlin has the thankless task of playing second banana to Zoe, morphing from selfish cab grabber to caring and nurturing partner-to-be in a New York minute. Trouble is, he’s not terribly engaging in either role. His next gig is starring in the TV reboot of Hawaii Five-O, which appears a better fit.

As Stan, he’s a farmer who peddles his goat cheese at an outdoor city market (you know he’s sweet on Zoe because he names a cheese after her) with a tendency to doff his shirt, showing off an extraordinarily buff physique. A dairy farmer who looks like he never touches dairy — if there was ever any doubt that The Back-Up Plan is a chick flick, this puts an end to it.

Director Alan Poul (Six Feet Under, Big Love) gets his first feature-film credit with The Back-up Plan and provides some romantic eye candy with candle-lit scenes while wisely keeping his camera trained on J.Lo as much as possible.

Toronto music fans will cheerily bop along to the k-os hit “Crabbuckit,” which plays as heavily pregnant Zoe tries various techniques to haul herself into a cab, while boomers will feel ancient when they see the obvious miles on ’70s TV stars Linda Lavin (Alice) and Tom Bosley (Happy Days). But console yourselves with a long look at dewy La Lopez, who at 40 looks more radiant than ever. Perhaps she has a back-up plan to middle age. 

Money Can’t Buy Demi Moore Love

Source: www.thestar.com - Amy Longsdorf

(April 23, 2010) Demi Moore isn’t ashamed to admit that as a child growing up poor in Roswell, New Mexico, she longed for the shiny, new toys her friends possessed. Beset with vision problems as well as a dysfunctioning kidney and raised by parents who drank heavily, the actress developed an obsession with a particular bicycle that was all the rage in her neighbourhood.

“I wanted this banana-seat bike so badly,” she recalls of the Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle which was popular in the ’60s and ’70s. “When I’d see one, I’d be, like, ‘Wow.’ This particular bike had a little (backrest), a pole, which we called ‘the sissy bar.’ That was a big deal to me.”

Moore never did get the bike of her dreams but what seemed like a curse back in Roswell became a blessing on the set of
The Joneses, a movie that examines the role materialism plays in our society. The film is playing in limited theatres in the U.S. It does not have a release date for Canada. As soon as Moore read the script, she instantly related to the notion of trying to buy your way to happiness.

“There’s really nothing wrong with having a desire, or wanting, or even having nice things,” she says during an interview with a select group of journalists. “It’s when we use (those things) as a measure of the value of ourselves that everything goes askew, or, in the case of the film, it gets to the point where (people) leverage their entire lives (for material possessions).”

Set in an upscale Atlanta suburb, The Joneses stars Moore and David Duchovny as a seemingly perfect couple who, along with their equally stunning offspring (Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth), have more cool stuff than any other family in town. From sparkling new Audis in the driveway to the hippest electronic gadgets, the Joneses have it all — and everyone in the neighbourhood wants what they have.

But there’s a catch. The Joneses aren’t a family at all. They’re individual employees of a stealth marketing organization that hires them to spark interest in a handful of trendy products.

Moore says that being the recipient, through the years, of thousands of free designer dresses, shoes and accessories allowed her to grasp what it feels like to be a walking, talking billboard.

“It was very relatable,” she says of director Derrick Borte’s screenplay. “(Companies) send things to (celebrities) in hopes that we’ll get photographed wearing them. And that is, in fact, stealth marketing.”

Some of Moore’s other marketing ventures are a bit more up front. She is, after all, the long time face of Helena Rubinstein cosmetics, and a woman who cheerfully admits she interrupted her honeymoon to third — and current — husband Ashton Kutcher to shoot a commercial for Friexennet, a Spanish wine.

Despite owning three mansions and a vast and very valuable doll collection, Moore maintains that she’s always taught her three daughters (by second husband Bruce Willis) that material possessions aren’t the answer to life’s problems.

“As far as my kids are concerned . . . I’ve tried to keep a positive perspective on what’s valuable, and I’ve tried to stress the importance of restricting immediate gratification. And I’ve always taught my kids that who you are isn’t the stuff you own.”

Since Moore’s marriage to Kutcher, she’s become almost as famous for being one of the most-followed celebrities on Twitter than she is for her acting career. Moore counts 2.6 million subscribers on the social networking site. Recently, she was credited with helping save the life of a San Jose, Calif., woman who was threatening suicide. The actress re-posted the suicide note she received, which prompted other Twitter users to call police.

“To say that I saved a life is pretty huge, but I feel that although it’s in the virtual world, my response was just a human response,” she notes. “What’s amazing to me about the use of social media is. . . people’s desire to care.

“It really does show that we have a collective consciousness.

(Twitter) is a powerful tool . . . a way to connect with one another.”

Moore has been connecting with moviegoers for years via a string of enduring films, including About Last Night, St. Elmo’s Fire, Ghost, A Few Good Men, Indecent Proposal and the underrated Mortal Thoughts, co-starring Willis. She’s also anchored more than a few flops (The Butcher’s Wife, Striptease, The Scarlet Letter) during her days as one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actresses.

“If you’re fortunate enough to have a career that spans a long time, there’s gonna be some crap mixed in with the good stuff,” she says.

“So, you just hope that overall, you’ve been true to yourself. At the end of the day, I hope that what I leave behind has been authentic and honest and, in some way, that I can keep trying to give back more than I’ve been given.”

Moore famously took a break from acting in the late 1990s and re-emerged in 2003 with Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle, which netted her some of the worst reviews of her career. Since then, she’s opted to appear primarily in independent movies, including the well-received Flawless with Michael Caine, Bobby with former beau Emilio Estevez and Mr. Brooks with Kevin Costner.

Upcoming for Moore are a number of other lower-budgeted features — Happy Tears co-starring Parker Posey and Bunraku with Indecent Proposal co-star Woody Harrelson — as well as a return to the mainstream with LOL, in which Moore will play mother to Miley Cyrus.

“I’m really excited about it,” says Moore. “You can really see that Miley is extremely talented, and this role is going to be really good for her. . . . She clearly comes from a really solid family, which really shows.”

These days, Moore says the size of her role isn’t as important as a film’s overall quality. “I just want to find good material,” she notes. “I’m very proud of The Joneses because from the moment I read the script, I knew it would be smart and thought-provoking and relevant and entertaining.

“I want scripts to be good, smart, funny. That’s it. And hopefully I get to work with people I can have a great time with. Because at the end of our lives, what we’re going to remember is the experiences we share with other people.”

Moore admits she still gets stopped by fans who tell her how much they’ve loved her movies, particularly Ghost, which is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Fans also tell Moore that, at 47, she seemingly hasn’t aged a day since shooting the otherworldly romance.

Although she recently admitted to having plastic surgery, Moore insists that “there’s no particular secret (to looking young) but . . . laughter and smiling are the best antidotes to aging that you could possibly have. In general I pretty much think of myself as still being about 5 years old. Maybe that’s why my Twitter picture is of me at 5 because that’s how I feel inside.

“I’m honoured if I could inspire anyone at all, because I’m just still trying to figure it all out myself. “

Summer On The Big Screen

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

(April 23, 2010) If, like many of this summer’s movie heroes, you are a rogue undercover secret operative seeking to smoke out your adversaries, kick butt and clear your name, please read the following top-secret manual, which has been prepared for your eyes only. Your assignation point is the multiplex. Your code name is Popcorn. Your mission is to survive until September. What follows is a guide to the major summer suspects in your vicinity, according to our latest intel. Important: There is no need to eat this document, as the contents will combust on the following dates.


Robin Hood(May 14)
Basics: Robin Hood (Russell Crowe) returns from war to find Nottingham suffering from high taxes and political corruption, meets Maid Marion (Cate Blanchett) and leads a rebellion.
Buzz: Ridley Scott directs Crowe in what promises to be Gladiator in jerkins.
Critic’s take: Early reaction is positive in what looks like a Dark Knight/Casino Royale-style serious reboot, with not much merriness from the merry men.

Iron Man 2 (May 7)
After his identity is revealed, Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), is besieged by the U.S. military and a trio of foes – played by Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Mickey Rourke.
Buzz: This is the big blockbuster of the summer, which may even overtake The Dark Knight’s record-setting $158-million (U.S.) first weekend.
Critic’s take: With irony man Robert Downey starring, and Jon Favreau back as director, this promises to be another smart action film, though three villains raises the worry of sequel bloat.

Salt (July 23)
A CIA agent, Evelyn Salt, is accused of being a sleeper spy for the Russians and goes on the run to clear her name.
Buzz: When Tom Cruise bailed from the project, Angelina Joliegot the call to launch what’s hoped to be a new Bourne-style franchise.
Critic’s take: Russian bad guys? How retro. Luckily, director Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) is an old-school espionage vet.


Dinner for Schmucks (July 23)
Basics: Executives play a game in which each tries to bring the biggest idiot to dinner each month. Paul Rudd’s choice is a loser (Steve Carell) who likes to put mice in costumes.
Buzz: A long-waited Hollywood remake of this French farce, it does have Carell, an expert idiot.
Critic’s take: American remakes of Francis Veber’s French comedies include Fathers’ Day, Jungle 2 Jungle, Pure Luck and The Toy, all of which did poorly. The exception was a script he co-wrote, La Cage Aux Folles.

Get Him to the Greek (June 4)
In a loose sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a record-company intern (Jonah Hill) is in charge of getting an out-of-control rock star (Russell Brand) to L.A.’s Greek Theater for an anniversary concert.
Buzz: A handful of real-life pop stars will appear, including Puff Daddy, Kate Perry, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lars Ulrich and Dee Snider.
Critic’s Take: Turn that devil’s-horn sign into fingers crossed. Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s writer-star Jason Segal isn’t involved, and this is director Nick Stoller’s first effort.

Cyrus (July 7)
Basics: A man (John C. Reilly) meets the woman of his dreams (Marisa Tomei) but has to contend with her hostile, possessive 21-year-old son (Jonah Hill).
Buzz: A favourite at this year’s Sundance, where the film was praised for mixing humour with an undertone of creepiness.
Critic’s take: Advance reviews are uniformly positive for the writing-directing team of Jay and Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair) and for the performances.


Shrek Forever After (May 21)
Basics: Shrek finds himself in an alternate universe where donkey, Puss in Boots, and Fiona are all transformed for the worse, thanks to the villainous Rumpelstiltskin.
Buzz: Reportedly the last Shrek movie.
Critic’s take: There’s been a progressive decline from the first Shrek in 2001 to 2007’s Shrek the Third. Maybe it can go out on a high note.

Marmaduke (June 4)
Basics: In this mixture of live action and computer-generated imagery, the cartoon strip Great Dane (voiced by Owen Wilson) moves to a new California home and adjusts to life among new four-legged friends.
Buzz: Big dog obliviously destroys stuff. What’s not to like?
Critic’s take: See above.

Toy Story 3 (June 18)
Basics: Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen), Woody (Tom Hanks) and the other toys are accidentally donated to a daycare and have to escape.
Buzz: It’s been 15 years since the first Toy Story, a milestone in animation; and 11 since Toy Story 2. Saying there is pent-up interest would be an understatement.
Critic’s take: Pixar’s track record consists of nine out of 10 excellent films (the questionable entry was 2006’s Cars) and there’s no reason to believe this one will disappoint.

Despicable Me (July 9)
Basics: Animated 3-D film about an evil genius named Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) whose plans to steal the moon are challenged by three orphan girls.
Buzz: Odd, Roald Dahl-like story is the first release from Universal’s new animation division, written by the screenwriters of College Road Trip and Horton Hears a Who!
Critic’s take: This sounds sound unendearing and off-kilter enough to pique interest, and almost unpleasant enough to be good.


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Aug. 13)
Basics: Rock bassist Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must defeat his girlfriend’s seven previous evil boyfriends.
Buzz: Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) directs Bryan O’Malley’s Toronto-set graphic-novel series.
Critic’s take: Looks as though it captures a generational buzz, with Juno's Jason Reitman dubbing it “the first all-encompassing film of the joystick generation.”

Splice (June 4)
Basics: Two scientists (Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody) splice animal and human DNA to create a beautiful and dangerous new creature.
Buzz: Somewhat mixed reviews greeted this at Sundance, with director and co-writer Vincenzo Natali following a path reminiscent of fellow-Canadian David Cronenberg in this mixture of ideas made alarming flesh.
Critic’s take: Intelligent genre fare with sexy mutant possibilities.

Inception (July 16)
Basics: In a future world, a gang of thieves (including Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page) steals dreams and sells them for profit.
Buzz: Director Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento) has kept details under wraps for this brain twister of a story in a $160-million globe-hopping horror-thriller package.
Critic’s take: Iron Man 2 might just rule the box office, but this looks like the critical favourite of the summer with an ace cast that also includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Michael Caine.


A Nightmare on Elm Street (April 30)
Basics: In the ninth film in the series, suburban teenagers are once again terrified by disfigured, scissor-fingered killer Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), who haunts their dreams.
Buzz: Producer Michael Bay and director Samuel Bayer promise to “reboot” the series with a remake of Wes Craven’s imaginative 1984 horror film, which featured a then-unknown Johnny Depp.
Critic’s take: Other horror reboots (notably Friday the 13th) have come up flat, but Haley (Little Children, Watchmen) is watchable in anything.

Predators (July 9)
Basics: A group of elite mercenaries led by a man named Royce (Adrien Brody) find themselves on a distant planet and realize they have been brought there as prey.
Buzz: Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), who wrote a Predator script in the nineties, produces this outing; Nimrod Antal (Kontroll, Vacancy) directs. Once again, the operative word is “reboot,” referring to the 1987 Schwarzenegger thriller.
Critic’s take: Get your head around Brody and Topher Grace as hardened mercenaries. Are the predators pussycats?

Piranha: 3D (Aug. 27)
Basics: An earthquake releases prehistoric piranhas into a lake during spring break.
Buzz: The original 1978 mini-Jaws-like feature classic (in 2-D) helped finance co-screenwriter John Sayles’s career. Haute Tension director Alexandre Aja directs.
Critic’s take: Come on in – the water’s warm … and sticky.


Eat, Pray, Love (Aug. 13)
Julia Roberts stars as Elizabeth, who decides to go on a journey of self-discovery around the world after her divorce.
Buzz: Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Oprah-endorsed memoir, directed by Glee’s Ryan Murphy and starring Roberts opposite an array of hunks, including James Franco, Billy Crudup and eventual love interest Javier Bardem.
Critic’s take: Try to avoid confusing with the male version, Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

Sex and the City 2 (May 27)
Basics: Newly married Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her girlfriends go on an all-expenses-paid vacation to Abu Dhabi.
Buzz: Should be even bigger than the first Sex and the City movie, which became a social phenomenon in spite of horrendous reviews.
Critic’s take: Same sex, different city.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (June 30)
Basics: Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) graduates from school and proceeds with marriage plans, while werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) join forces to thwart a new vampire threat.
Buzz: Another blockbuster about virgins perpetually on the verge thanks to sinister supernatural forces.
Critic’s take: Impressive the lengths some people will go to promote teen sexual abstinence.  


Amitabh Bachchan’s Illness Stuns Indian Fans

Source: www.thestar.com

(April 25, 2010) Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, 67, has written on his blog that he’s suffering from cirrhosis of the liver after contracting hepatitis from a blood transfusion, reports London’s Times online. Bachchan spent months critically ill in hospital after he ruptured his spleen while shooting a fight scene for the film Coolie in 1982. Thousands of fans held vigils outside his hospital and made offerings at temples as they prayed for his recovery. On Friday the actor, wrote on his blog that 25 per cent of his liver had been destroyed after receiving tainted blood. Bachchan sought to calm distraught fans. “I am alarmed that you are alarmed at my condition,” he wrote on his blog. He added that he was aware that any disclosure about his health sparked widespread concern across India.  “Now since the liver and any ailment associated with it is extremely sensitive, I have to be under constant vigil and monitoring,” he wrote. He added that cirrhosis was only one small part of his health issues.  “Some of them are at an extreme stage of repair and I may have to go under the knife sooner rather than later,” he wrote.

A Little Bit of Soul for Sex and the City 2

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 23, 2010) *An all star line up of R&B divas will be blessing the ears of ‘Sex and the City’ fans on the movie’s second go round soundtrack, set to hit stores May 25, two days before the movie debut.  
Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, and soulstress Erykah Badu along with British pop sensation Leona Lewis. Key’s “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down” will be on the track.  Hudson, who played a role in the first movie, will collaborate with Lewis for their song entitled “Love is Your Color.” And we can’t forget about entertainment’s favourite controversial artist, Erykah Badu. Her song, “Window Seat” will also be on the album.  Sex and the City 2 will premiere on May 27.

Roots Nab John Legend, Jim James for ‘How I Got Over’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 23, 2010) *The Roots have recruited
John Legend and My Morning Jacket front man Jim James to appear on their upcoming album “How I Got Over,” reports Billboard. The Philly rap group has been recording the project between in serving as the house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and serving as the backing band on new albums for John Legend and soul legend Booker T. And contrary to reports, the Roots have not recorded with singer Joanna Newsom, but rather sampled her 2004 track “Book of Right-On” for a song on the new album. [Listen to the original song below.] Jim James appears on a re-make of Monsters of Folk’s “Dear God,” a song he recorded with his side project with Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes and M. Ward. [Watch the video below.] No release date has been announced for “How I Got Over,” but the album is expected to come out in 2010.


Let’s Hear It For The Dancing With The Stars Band

Source: www.thestar.com - Sandy Cohen

(April 21, 2010) Los Angeles—Three hours until showtime. The Dancing With the Stars ballroom is empty except for the hosts, the dancers and the band.

The professional dancers and their celebrity partners — already in costumes and makeup — have been rehearsing their routines for almost a week. The 18-member orchestra, on the other hand, just saw the night’s music. And in just a few hours, they’ll be playing the music for the first time in front of millions.

On today’s playlist? Lady Gaga, Louis Armstrong, The Bangles, Cole Porter, a song in Spanish and a show tune from Chicago.

Musical director
Harold Wheeler is in his trailer, just outside the studio. “We don’t rehearse until (show day),” he says. “That’s why it’s a great orchestra.”

Wheeler, a Broadway veteran, has been playing with the same group of musicians for more than a decade. The 66-year-old composer and conductor brings them along on his various gigs, which include movie and TV soundtracks and, this year, performing at the Academy Awards. When they’re not working with Wheeler, all are studio musicians for hire. The same goes for the singers.

“They’re on many, many recordings everywhere,” Wheeler says, “but on Mondays and Tuesdays, they’re mine.”

The show’s producers pick the songs the professional dancers and their celebrity partners dance to each week, choosing from every genre to appeal to all demographics.

“A lot of the hip-hop stuff and so forth is to try and draw those younger people,” Wheeler says. But there’s nothing — not even the rare Portuguese, country or “hillbilly” tracks — the band can’t handle.

“I can’t think of a lot of musicians who could come in and do what we do,” he says.

The dancers approve the selected songs on Monday. Wheeler gets the track list Tuesday and arranges the tunes for his orchestra, giving each what he calls “the Dancing With the Stars sound.”

Basically, he makes them bigger, tapping into the shiny brass power of his band’s horn section.

“The horns really create the Dancing With the Stars sound, but it never washes out the original flavour of the recording,” Wheeler says, adding that the big music matches the glamour and dazzle of the show itself. “The costumes are lavish, the lighting and everything, so everything is just upgraded.”

He assigns his singers their parts on Tuesdays, too, so they can listen to the originals for almost a week before singing them live on the show.

“Their job is much more difficult because they have to really be chameleons,” Wheeler says. “When we do a Ray Charles number, they sound like Ray Charles. We do a Lady Gaga number, they sound like her. They’re so wonderfully versatile. All the comments we’ve ever had say that, except for the one Simon just made.”

He is referring to Simon Cowell, who took a swipe at Dancing With the Stars during a recent episode of American Idol.

“If you listen to one of those dancing shows, they always have a singer murdering a song on it,” Cowell said.

Dancing executive producer Conrad Green says Cowell’s comments were “a bit uncalled for.”

“Our band is as good as it gets,” Green says. “They’re fantastic professionals. Every week I’m continually amazed at how they’re able to turn these things around so quickly. It’s awe-inspiring.”

Idol and Dancing compete for viewers on Tuesdays, each drawing an audience of around 20 million, according to Nielsen Co. While Idol has dominated the ratings for years, Dancing was the top-rated show in the U.S. last week, after the NCAA basketball championship.

Singers on Dancing With the Stars get to rehearse for an extra hour with Wheeler before the band comes in. Then the whole group runs through each of night’s songs together four times before the big live show.

“We never really get to digest the songs because it’s our first time with them,” says singer Carmen Carter. “The first time I’m really singing it is on that Monday. That’s the first time you’re hearing yourself on the mike.”

The main challenge, besides playing the songs on live TV with little rehearsal, is replicating the sound of the original tracks the dancers have been using for practice — especially because the dancers and band spend just 10 minutes together before showtime.

“Sometimes, the tempo can be a little different from what you’ve heard with the recording you’ve been listening to,” says dancing pro Kym Johnson, who won the show’s mirror ball trophy last season with partner Donny Osmond. “But all in all, I think performing to a live band is much better than to a recording.”

Despite the last-minute nature of the show’s musical preparations, Wheeler says the band has only gone wrong once in six years and nearly 1,000 songs.

“Half the orchestra misinterpreted a cue and the band was playing two different things for about eight seconds,” he says, but he’s pretty sure no one noticed.

Green says the big sound of Wheeler’s orchestra “makes the show feel special.”

“It gives it a real sense of occasion and uniqueness,” he says. “You’ll never hear those songs that way again.”

Even Wheeler can see the effect his music has on the dancers.

“It adds to their performance,” he says. “They come in with that little kick that they didn’t have in their original rehearsals.”

And that’s a good thing, since it’s already showtime.


Gravity Treats Suicide Survivors With Levity And Respect

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan

(April 23, 2010) Imagine the pitch meeting for the new series
Gravity (Monday, The Movie Network at 9:30 p.m.). Every character on the edgy cable drama is someone who has tried to commit suicide, and is very likely to try again. Try selling that idea to a boardroom of broadcast executives.

“Some of them were a bit shocked, frankly,” said co-executive producer Eric Schaefer, while promoting Gravity on the TV critics tour in California earlier this year. “But as we laid out the broader strokes, they began to realize we were treating the topic of suicide with respect, and some humour. With severe depression, levity is always vital to the recovery process.”

The laughs are few and far between in Gravity, but such is life. Fortuitously, Schaefer (who also plays one of the lost souls in the series) and co-creator Jill Franklyn took the show to the right network.

Gravity comes from the upstart U.S. channel known as Starz, which airs in more than 50 million American homes. Adhering to the AMC business model, Starz runs old movies and the occasional original short-run series.

Most recently, the Starz profile spiked upward with buzz over the fantastically gory series Spartacus, which set new standards for TV violence on basic cable. There are no blood and guts spilled on Gravity, but the fact that the subject of suicide, failed or otherwise, figures into every scenario could have some viewers wincing.

“The world isn't always such a happy place, you know,” said Schaefer, who previously mined the miseries of eating disorders in the short-lived F/X series Starved. “Everybody deals with some degree of depression at some point in their life. Not everybody tries to kill themselves, but it's still a very identifiable landscape.”

For the record, Gravity has genuinely dark origins. Franklyn conceived the series amid the great TV writers strike of 2007, and during particularly low personal ebb.

“My dog was dying,” she said. “So in my creative writer's mind I started thinking about ways of offing myself, not that I would. And with each random way, all of a sudden, these characters became real, each with his or her own unique method and personal story. The original title was Suicide for Dummies.”

Franklyn took the original concept to Schaefer, who filtered it through his own history of personal demons.

“I have a dark past with alcohol and drugs, which is certainly some kind of slow attempt to kill oneself,” he admitted. “Anyone who smokes is trying to kill themselves. I used to smoke.”

Filmed in New York – the Big Apple has rarely looked so bleak – Gravity's stripped-down premise brings together an eclectic group of players forced into a court-ordered outpatient program for suicide survivors. In various ways, each one is taught to hope, cope and get on with his or her life.

“It's inherently a show about a group of people who now have to live the life that they never thought they wanted,” said Schaefer. “It's almost a punishment for most of them.”

The sharpest focus falls on the clinically depressed twentysomething Lily (Breaking Bad's Krysten Ritter) and the young widower Robert, played by Ivan Sergei, who becomes an unintentional global celebrity when video of his comically failed suicide attempt goes viral on the Internet.

“In his absolute darkest hour, Robert failed miserably,” said Sergei, a former regular on the WB series Charmed. “The fact his personal pain is suddenly made public knowledge is probably the worst thing that can happen to a truly depressed person.”

The support cast of Gravity includes Ving Rhames as the brusque Dogg, the group's leader and a major-league baseball player now confined to a wheelchair. The former supermodel Rachel Hunter also plays, surprise, a former supermodel named Shawna, who has not chosen to deal with the aging process graciously.

“Certainly she's a character based in reality,” said Hunter, the ex-wife of rocker Rod Stewart. “When Shawna realized she was reaching her forties, her response was to kill herself. In her self-driven world, it's not about how she sees herself, it's about how the rest of the world sees her.”

The wild card appears to be Schaefer as the sullen New York detective named Miller, who says very little at the meetings. “Since he says very little, the other members assume he tried to kill himself because of some major tragedy connected to his job,” said Schaefer. “As the show goes on, it's revealed that his suicide attempt was much more complicated.”

Booked for a 10-week run, Gravity provides telling snapshots into each character's life. Each episode explores one character's background and tells the story of how and why they tried to end it all. In a nod to traditional TV drama, the format does allow for moments of true romance; the coupling of Lily and Robert seems almost inevitable by the end of the first show.

“It's a love story for all the characters trying to fall back in love with life, but it's a love story for these two characters that we haven't seen on TV before,” said Franklyn.

But keep in mind this is a show about suicide, so viewers are advised not to get overly attached to any particular character. “It would be inorganic to have a show about suicide where nobody ended up dying,” said Schaefer. “Obviously, there's a percentage of people that attempt suicide and succeed at it… such is life, I suppose.”

Check local listings.

CanWest Lands Deal For Canadian Top Chef

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Susan Krashinsky

(April 22, 2010) From bruléed lemon curd to cactus jelly doughnuts, the culinary competitors on the hit reality show Top Chef count on innovation to get ahead. But for the TV executives who bring such shows to the airwaves, sometimes an old recipe makes the most appetizing dish.

CanWest GlobalCommunications Corp. announced Wednesday it has signed a deal with NBC Universal to produce a Canadian version of Top Chef, which will début in spring of 2011 on its specialty channel, Food Network Canada.

While broadcasters and specialty networks commonly buy the rights to broadcast popular American shows in Canada, it's the first time NBC has licensed a local version of one of its shows to be produced here.

Reconstituted television shows have become “very, very hot over the last five or six years,” said John Brunton, president of Toronto-based Insight Productions, which will develop the show for CanWest. His company also worked on the now-defunct Canadian Idol , which aired on CTV for six seasons, and other adaptations of popular American shows, such as Deal or No Deal Canada and Project Runway Canada .

For Canadian media companies, it's a chance to capitalize on established success. Food Network Canada has aired six seasons of Top Chef and two seasons of its spinoff, Top Chef Masters. The premiere of the latest Top Chef brought in the biggest ratings Food Network Canada has seen in its history. The channel will run the Canadian version in between seasons of the American show, as a way to attract fans hankering for new episodes. Food Network Canada also regularly airs reruns of the show, which will be replete with promotions for the Canadian version.

“The show is so hot in the States, it raises awareness in Canada,” said Karen Gelbart, senior vice president of content for CanWest's Lifestyle Channels. “It would be a tremendous promotional vehicle. We could use it to promote our casting calls, we could use it to promote our local version.”

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. However, because the Top Chef franchise demands high production values, the show represents the largest financial investment the Food Network has ever made.

“It's a big show, it's a very big show. So just because of that, it's going to be a bigger commitment,” said Leslie Merklinger, Director of Original Production at Food Network Canada.

But if the ratings match up to expectations, it could be worth the cost. A popular show can be used to cross-promote other offerings on the network, and feature lesser-known personalities, Ms. Gelbart said. Advertising deals are still in the works.

For NBC Universal, such local format agreements are attractive because they offer the opportunity to profit more widely from a popular show, while the cost of production is carried by the local producers.

A Top Chef for Brazil could theoretically stay on the air for years once its original is finished, and continue making money for its creators. The French version of the show saw great success in its first season, and NBC has done similar deals to format Top Chef for Greece, India, Mexico, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, and Australia.

In most cases, especially in Europe, local productions outpace imported ones in ratings most of the time, said Yvonne Pilkington, executive vice president of international format sales for NBC Universal.

“It's very appealing,” she said.

Of course, it's unusual for a Canadian production to outperform a U.S. program, but Ms. Pilkington said Canada's distinct culture means there is an appetite for local versions of Top Chef – and possibly other NBC productions in the future.

“We're really excited,” she said. “If it hits, it can only open the door for more.”


Anne Mroczkowski To Co-Host Global News Hour

Source: www.thestar.com -
Rob Salem

(April 27, 2010) Anne Mroczkowski, the veteran Citytv news anchor unceremoniously axed in January by current owners Rogers, will be back on the air June 1, co-hosting the 6 o’clock Global News Hour with Leslie Roberts. The offer, she says, “just came out of left field. It’s a wonderful surprise.” Mroczkowski was as shocked as anyone when she was told to vacate the City anchor desk she had occupied for more than two decades. “There were a couple of tough days,” she says. “I was understandably upset. And then I just figured, ‘That part of your life is over. Time to look forward.’ “But it wasn’t just me,” she stresses. “Thirty-five other fine, talented people lost their jobs as well. A lot of us are going through this now. Suddenly, after years in the business, to be told that your experience, your work ethic, your passion and dedication are no longer valued . . . “It’s a real vindication . . . to be moving to a place where my experience is not only valued, but welcomed and appreciated.”

Bravo Casting Reality Show about Aspiring Songwriters

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 27, 2010) *The reality show machine that is Bravo is currently casting for a new reality series for aspiring songwriters. “Hitmakers” will feature guidance from the hit songwriting team “The Writing Camp,” who has penned hits for Beyonce (“Halo”) and Brandy (“Right Here (Departed)”) among others. Formed in 2007, the collective consists of Evan “Kidd” Bogart, Erika Nuri, and David “DQ” Quiñones. Open casting calls will be held in cities across the country beginning this weekend. Information is listed below: LOS ANGELES Sunday, April 25th 8:00am – 6:00pm MUSICIAN’S INSTITUTE 6752 Hollywood Blvd Hollywood, CA, 90028 ATLANTA Sunday, May 2nd 8:00am – 6:00pm STUDIO DIONNE 524 Plasters Avenue Atlanta, GA 30324 NASHVILLE Sunday, May 9th 8:00am – 6:00pm DAVE & BUSTERS NASHVILLE 540 Opry Mills Drive Nashville, TN 37214 NEW YORK CITY Sunday, May 16th 8:00am – 6:00pm AMDA (THE AMERICAN MUSICAL AND DRAMATIC ACADEMY) 211 West 61st Street NY, NY 10023 Additional casting information for “Hitmakers” is available at www.Hitmakerscasting.com.

Betty White's SNL Hosting Gig Video Goes Viral

www.thestar.com - Curt Wagner

(April 27, 2010) Thanks to the Internet, we're getting a little taste of what
Betty White's first hosting gig of "Saturday Night Live" might be like. NBC introduced a promo with the legendary comedian during Gabourey Sidibe's episode over the weekend. It's now going viral on the Web, thanks to White's ageless popularity. In it, the golden girl denies reports that she is dating a younger man. White will host the May 8 "SNL" with musical guest Jay-Z—maybe they will rap together—and guests Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch. With that group around, White's debut should be better than Sidibe's. Are you looking forward to Betty White's appearance? Do you think she'll lift the struggling sketch show out of its funk for one episode? And why is Betty White so damn awesome?



Girlfriend’s Jill Marie Jones Lands TBS Micro-Series

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 28, 2010) *Actress
Jill Marie Jones has been cast as the lead in a new TBS “micro-series” titled “Gillian in Georgia.” The former “Girlfriends” star will play Gillian Green, a single, New York fashionista who visits her sister Alicia (played by “Napoleon Dynamite” actresses Shondrella Avery) in small town Georgia, only to be met with more than a few surprises. Not only is her big sister laid up with an injury, she expects Gillian to help her with her two rambunctious kids until she gets back on her feet. Never one to back down from a challenge, Gillian jumps in to help, but not without some resistance from Alicia’s husband, Cedric. Eventually, Gillian stops feeling like a fish out of water as she connects with her family – and a handsome local, played by Darrin Henson. But just as Gillian begins to consider giving up city life for small town living, she gets a phone call that could change everything. The micro-series, sponsored entirely by Chevy Malibu, debuts tonight during the commercial breaks of “Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns” at 8 p.m. Two new episodes will debut each Wednesday within the “Browns” commercial segments for five consecutive weeks.

Michael Ealy Headed to Showtime’s Californication

Source: www.eurweb.com

(April 28, 2010)
Michael Ealy will appear in a five-episode arc on the upcoming fourth season of Showtime’s “Californication.” The actor, most recently seen in ABC’s “FlashForward, will play the love interest for Natascha McElhone’s character Karen van der Beek, the on and off girlfriend of show star David Duchovny. Showtime also announced Monday that Rob Lowe will guest-star during “Californication’s” fourth season as an actor who wants to play Duchovny’s character Hank Moody in a feature film. Duchovny has said previously that next season will show Moody trying to undo the hot mess he got himself into last season, when he ended up behind bars.


Brian Friel’s Faith Healer: Mortality Tale

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(April 28, 2010) Can faith move mountains? Can faith heal the sick? Or is it enough to hope that faith might be enough to save one solitary soul from damnation?

These are the kind of questions troubling the sleep of
Stuart Hughes these evenings as he grapples with playing the character of Frank Hardy, the title character of Brian Friel’s play Faith Healer, which begins performance Thursday in a new Soulpepper Theatre production.

Hardy is a faith healer by profession, surely as ephemeral a trade as there is. Some incidents in the play would seem to indicate his gift is real, but in the dark night of the soul that increasingly haunts him, Hardy wonders whether or not he’s a sham.

“I recognize the darker aspects of the character for sure,” insists Hughes on a recent morning before the start of rehearsal. “I have some experience there, I think.” A bit of a twinkle in his sadder-but-wiser eyes allows for the acceptance of a youth spent raising a bit of hell, along with some stunning performances around the country.

Hughes turned 50 last year and although he still possesses the rugged good looks that made him a leading man for more than two decades, he’s the first to admit to “an awareness of mortality, even though I still feel like a 15-year-old in my skull sometimes.”

The play is a series of monologues, each one shining the light on a different aspect of Hardy’s character. Sometimes he’s the speaker, but at other moments, the baton is passed to his wife and his manager.

It’s Citizen Kane, in a way, with the varying witnesses trying to figure out the mystery of “Rosebud,” or “Shamrockbud,” in this case, allowing for its Irish origins.

Hughes’ co-stars are Brenda Robins and Diego Matamoros and his face lights up as he boasts of “knowing them for 30 years! To see my peers, the people I love, kicking it out of the park is pure joy.”

This is the kind of play where depth is everything and the readiness, as Hamlet would insist, is all.

In this case, the dark gift of preparedness was given to Hughes just a month before rehearsals started, when “my Mom passed away suddenly, so suddenly. Someone is lying there, holding your hand and then it’s all over.”

But it’s not sentimentality that colours Hughes’ voice, but a deeper sort of realization, one in perfect synch with Friel’s dark mortality.

“The rapidity with which my mother died made me aware that there’s no passport required to go to the other side. You don’t even have to pack a small bag.”

Hughes looks off at the sunlight streaming through the window. “What does one glean from that knowledge? How little we need in life! I think of (Alberto) Giacometti’s sculptures, how sparse they are, yet so essential, so rendered down.

“What do I need in my life? Do I need to hang onto the mementoes, the clippings, the banners, the things that I think give me identification? Well, if I don’t have to have any of those things, then it will make liftoff a lot easier when it happens.”

The heart of Friel’s dramaturgy, at its most unvarnished in Faith Healer, is in storytelling, which Hughes sees as an act of purest sharing.

“When I was young, I was on the road much of the time and there would be a lot of carousing on Saturday nights. So on Sundays, I would wake up hung-over and go to various churches, to various services, looking for community, looking for something to give me meaning, searching for a spiritual healing in the telling of stories.”

His character, Frank Hardy, is a man capable of good and evil, the light and the dark, but Hughes insists that “We need both in order to be whole. If we deny either, they’ll erupt somehow and destroy us.”

With so much talk of mortality on the table, Hughes must have some beliefs about what is waiting for us after our final breath.

“What do I think is on the other side? I think there’s ease and forgiveness. A balm that takes away all the doubts, anxieties, questions. And I think we survive by being malleable enough to go with the gentle wind and yet have a strong enough bone structure to stay upright.”


WHAT: Faith Healer

WHEN: Thursday to June 4

WHERE: Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Distillery District

TICKETS: $29 to $70 at 416-866-8666 or youngcentre.ca

Kelsey Grammer’s Return To The Great White Way

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(April 24, 2010)  Broadway received an amazing lesson last week in resiliency, style and grace.

I guess you could call it a Grammer lesson. A
Kelsey Grammer lesson, in fact.

The man who made Dr. Frasier Crane a household name during 464 episodes of Cheers and Frasier has come back in triumph to the Great White Way, where he had crashed and burned spectacularly a decade before.

What makes his critically acclaimed performance as Georges in the musical La Cage Aux Folles so sweet today is the memory of the drubbing he took in June 2000 when he played the title role in a universally disliked production of Macbeth.

Ask most actors about such a low point in their careers and they will quickly switch the topic, but Grammer isn’t most actors. The 55-year-old performer has been through so many ups and downs in his life that he once quipped, “You’d have to hire an elevator operator to write my biography.”

On this particular morning, he’s ready to discuss just why he brought a show that had already been roasted in no uncertain terms on the road in to face certain destruction in New York.

“I had one very simple reason,” he says from his Manhattan apartment. “I had promised the cast we were going to Broadway. There were a lot of very young people in that company and I felt I couldn’t disappoint them. That was, quite simply, the decent way to do this thing.”

So Grammer took the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” in his stride and returned to California, where he was earning a reported $700,000 an episode to continue as Frasier.

But he wanted to succeed in the theatre. “To tell you the truth, that was the only real dream I ever had growing up. Movies? Television? They never crossed my radar.”

And as he admits, “I was a very fortunate young man at the start of my career.”

After finishing his studies at the prestigious Juilliard School of Drama, he landed positions at two of America’s finest classical companies, the Old Globe in San Diego, Calif., and the Guthrie in Minneapolis, Minn.

From there, in 1981 he went to New York’s Lincoln Center, where he was cast in Macbeth. (“That play has haunted me all my life!” he laughs.) He was originally supposed to be playing a minor role and understudying the actor playing Macbeth.

But when that actor received appalling notices, he melted down.

“The second performance after the opening, he left the stage at intermission and refused to continue,” Grammer recalls. “They asked me if I was ready and I actually said that hoary old cliché, ‘Well, the show must go on.’ They put a guy with a prompt script inside the witch’s cauldron and somehow we got through it all.”

The next year found Grammer playing Cassio opposite Christopher Plummer’s Iago and James Earl Jones’s Othello, also on Broadway.

“Oh my God,” roars Grammer, “that one was ‘hold on fast and fly!’ Chris is a brilliant hurricane and working with him, you’re always on the edge where the winds are the wildest. He’s a wild, exciting, challenging actor and I’m sure he’ll be a brilliant Prospero at Stratford this summer.”

But by this point, Grammer was a father as well and came to realize, “Once you have a child to support, the theatre isn’t always such a welcoming place.”

He was struggling along when his former Juilliard classmate, Mandy Patinkin, suggested him for a small continuing role on the hit sitcom Cheers.

“It was only supposed to be for seven weeks,” Grammer sighs, “and it lasted for 20 years.”

The part was Dr. Frasier Crane, an arrogant psychiatrist hopelessly in love with Shelley Long’s character, Diane Chambers.

“From the first reading, the part fit me like a glove. I felt so comfortable playing Frasier and I never changed my mind about him.”

But despite his affectations and snobbery, audiences loved Frasier and Grammer thinks about it for a moment before answering why.

“I felt the most important thing about the character was how deeply he loved. First Diane, then Lilith, then his brother, his father, the people he worked with. That was the one characteristic which kept him going.

“Yes, he was a buffoon, yes, he was self-deluded, but somehow his sincerity always grounded him.”

Grammer’s two subsequent sitcoms, Back to You and Hank, failed to generate much fire, but Grammer feels that the former “could have had a shot, except things went wrong between the creators and Fox. The premise was a good one. If it had clicked, we could have been on the air for years.”

It was while Hank was in its death throes last year that the producers of La Cage Aux Folles asked Grammer to see it in London and consider playing Georges, the “straighter” of the two men in the gay marriage at the heart of the show.

Always understood was the fact that Douglas Hodge would be recreating his West End success as the flamboyant drag queen Albin.

“When I first saw the show, I was so blown away by Doug’s performance that I couldn’t see anything else. He was a genius. I agreed to do it just to work with him. But once I started rehearsing, I realized what a terrific part it is.

“He’s the one with the son whose impending marriage to a girl drives the whole show forward. He has to rediscover what love really means to him, so he can pass the message on to his son. It’s a beautiful role.”

Grammer is a known Republican with many prominent political friends who oppose gay marriage, so one wonders how he deals with their reaction to his performance in the show.

“I encourage them to be patient and to open up their minds on an issue that I hope won’t be a problem in another 10 years. It’s a gentle persuasion.”

The now-tranquil Grammer admits that his near-death experience from a heart attack in Hawaii in 2008 “has shifted my perspective on life. I’ve learned, very simply, that the work I love doing is what brings me joy.”

And he clearly loves performing in La Cage Aux Folles. “On opening night, during the curtain call, I hugged (composer) Jerry Herman and told him that his Hello, Dolly! was the first show I saw on Broadway when I was 8 years old.

“Is it any wonder this is an experience that has been beyond my wildest dreams?”

TV stars who have found success on Broadway

The journey from sitcom land to Broadway that Grammer has made is not uncommon. Some actors begin on stage, move to TV, then head back to the boards. Others use their television fame to launch them into a legitimate career. Here are some of the more interesting examples:


Eric McCormack: All four of the leads in the long-run TV series Will & Grace made various forms of the journey from Los Angeles to New York City. McCormack started at Stratford, went into Will & Grace, then returned to Broadway in The Music Man in 2001. He will be appearing in Vancouver in Glengarry Glen Ross this summer.

Debra Messing: Received her early training in theatre, and made her off-Broadway debut in Collected Stories in 1998, only months before Will & Grace hit the airwaves.

Megan Mullaly: Appeared on Broadway in Grease and How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying before Will & Grace and in Young Frankenstein afterwards.

Sean Hayes: Studied music and theatre in college, did work for Second City and other smaller Chicago theatres before Will & Grace. Makes his Broadway debut Sunday night in Promises, Promises.

Phylicia Rashad: Began on Broadway as a Munchkin in The Wiz in 1978. After her years on The Cosby Show, she returned to more dramatic roles on stage and became the first African-American woman to win a Tony as Best Leading Actress in a Play for 2004’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Elisabeth Moss: The popular Peggy Olson on Mad Men had never done any theatre when she stepped into the Broadway production of David Mamet’s Speed the Plow in 2008.

(line space)

And some more of Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier friends:

David Hyde Pierce: Played small roles on Broadway since 1982. After Frasier ended, he came back in Spamalot, Curtains and other hit shows.

John Maloney: The veteran member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre was seen on Broadway in the 2007 show Prelude to a Kiss.

Jane Leeves: Frasier’s flirtatious Daphne showed up on Broadway as one of the numerous Sally Bowles in the Sam Mendes production of Cabaret.

Mamma Mia! Here She Goes Again

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(April 23, 2010) What do you say to a woman who had one brilliant idea that has translated so far into $2 billion in earnings on stage and $602 million on screen?

You say, “Brava, Judy Craymer!” and the Godmother of
Mamma Mia! is likely to smile right back at you and lift a glass of champagne in a toast, especially when she’s returning to town on April 28 to celebrate two things: the 10th anniversary of the hit show’s Toronto debut and the first time it’s returned here on tour in five years.

Come to think of it, every time I’ve seen Craymer she’s had a flute of bubbly in her hand. Of course, the fact that we usually meet on opening night might have something to do with it, but I can’t help but think that this is a lady who was born to be surrounded by Mumm.

The story of how Craymer came to Toronto and how her British hit became an international phenomenon is the kind of near-legendary fable she thrives on.

When she first got the idea of mounting an ABBA musical, she was working on the fringes of British show business and “didn’t have the proverbial pot to tinkle in, darling.”

It took six years, but Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, the gruff but genial bearded Swedish giants who guarded the gates to ABBA-land, finally gave in to Craymer’s dreams.

“I honestly think it was more out of exhaustion than anything else,” laughs Craymer, “But once they said yes, it was full steam ahead.” She put together her team: director Phyllida Lloyd and author Catherine Russell — all women, who like Craymer were on the cusp of 40 and bursting with ambition.

The show opened in London in April 1999 to smashing reviews and wildly enthusiastic audience response. Craymer was thrilled and wasn’t really thinking about her next move.

“There was never really any thought at first about taking it to North America. I was producing it for London and that was it.

“But then Mr. David Mirvish came along and was incredibly charming and persuasive and convinced me we should just take it to his wonderful theatre, the Royal Alexandra, for 26 weeks.”

But once the previews started, the theatre was selling out and the Mirvishes wanted to extend the run. But that meant hiring a new to replace the original company, led by Louise Pitre, Tina Maddigan and Adam Brazier, which was going on to tour North America.

“I remember having a discussion and thinking crikey! This bloody thing has taken on a life of its own,” says Craymer.

“We broke all boundaries with that,” Craymer sighs. “And nowadays people talk about ‘the Mamma Mia! strategy’ in touring North America, but we had no strategy. We had a show that a lot of people wanted to see and we were trying to get it to them as rapidly as possible!”

The tour gradually made its way across North America and Craymer blessed Pitre and Maddigan by asking them to open the show on Broadway. But then fate intervened.

“We were supposed to open on Oct. 18, 2001. But first, along came 9/11.”

Everyone in the industry was divided. “At first I thought our show was frivolous and silly and we shouldn’t being it into that market,” feared Craymer, but a lot of the old-timers said we had a duty to help Broadway.

“And then I thought, ‘Well, we won’t have a party, but the late, great Gerry Schoenfeld came to me and said, ‘Judy, you cannot open a show like this and not have a party. You must carry on.’ And so we did.”

Making the movie was another rush for Craymer. “If you don’t think having Meryl Streep in my movie wasn’t the greatest thrill of my life, than you are absolutely rolling bonkers!,” she roars.

But despite the atmosphere of fun, Craymer admits that “it was bloody hard work, keeping that budget in line, keeping all those stars in line. How did we do it? Phyllida and I knew one thing and that was Mamma Mia! We were the original architects and we knew how to make it work.

“All the actresses in the film always kept asking people who I was supposed to be and Phyllida would jokingly say, ‘Oh, Judy is Tanya. So much luggage, so little time!’ But the more I looked at it, I realized that I’m Donna. Why? Because just like her, I worked damn hard and I did it on my own.”

So what’s ahead for this human dynamo? There are rumours floating around about a sequel, to be made strictly for the screen. And Craymer carefully chooses her words when she says, “I won’t deny it hasn’t been talked about or taken seriously.

“But we won’t call it a sequel or even a prequel — if that’s what it turns out to be,” she says, dropping an enormous clue. “I think we’ll just call it Mamma Mia 2.

“Benny and Bjorn’s concern is if there are enough songs left, but I tell them not to worry. We just have to give them characters to fall in love with.”

And does she have a time frame? Of course, she does.

“If I could do a master plan, I’d like to open the next film for the 15th anniversary of the stage show in London.”

That’s April 4, 2014. I’d mark that date in my calendar if I were you.

Five faves Women

Meryl Streep

She has to be one of the greatest actresses of our lifetime. Her commitment to her work and ambitions for everyone she works with are an inspiration. She is huge fun and enjoys martinis with the girls.

Queen Elizabeth II

I think this is self explanatory. I admire her on so many levels — her grace, her dedication and dignity. I think she is fabulous.

Anna Wintour

Inspirational leader of fashion and incredible magazine editor. She seems to stand by her choices and isn’t afraid of making a commercial decision. I think she has been an incredible influence to women in the last 20 years. You don’t have to dress like a man to be taken seriously.

Tina Fey

Brilliant comedian, writer, producer. I think she is hilarious and a genius.

Evelyn Lauder

For what Evelyn has done for breast cancer awareness. Formalizing the pink ribbon campaign and establishing the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which has raised millions of dollars. She is incredibly organized, incredibly generous and a woman on a mission.


After 30 Years In Business, Multilingual Book Store To Close

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(April 22, 2010) Vancouver — Another independent book store is closing its doors in Vancouver. Sophia Books, which has been operating since 1975, will close up shop at the end of May, when its lease expires.

“ February was catastrophic because of the Olympics. None of our regular customers came downtown. ”— Owner Marc Fournier

The proprietor of the multilingual book store cites a hefty rent increase and the general state of the book industry for the root causes of the closure of the West Hastings store.

“I have no choice,” says owner Marc Fournier. “We’ve had two so-so years and February was catastrophic because of the Olympics. None of our regular customers came downtown. Unless you were selling beers , mittens or pizza, [February] was not a good month for retail - or restaurants for that matter. So all of that put together and a big [rent] increase and you say ‘that’s it.’”

Mr. Fournier will continue to operate the company as an on-line seller and a supplier of multilingual books to schools and libraries, which constitutes more than a third of his business.

Founded in 1975 as a Japanese bookstore by his father-in-law, the business was taken over by Mr. Fournier in 1999, who re-located the store, re-named it and expanded its offerings.

Earlier this year, Duthie Books in Kitsilano closed its doors and Once Upon a Huckleberry Bush, a children’s bookstore on Main Street, recently closed as well.  

Culture’s Weekend In The Sun

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(April 26, 2010) In the ultimate playoff between sports and culture, how do the athletes always seize the populist beer-drinkers’ turf, while artists are consigned to some isolated patch set aside for the creative class?

When will Canada grant equal status to those whose hearts are more likely to be set aflutter by the sound of great music in a concert hall than by the sight of goons on skates smashing one another into the boards?

I have a dream, a personal feel-good movie, in which the crowds roar their approval as the artist team rallies and the scoreboard flashes Hockey Night in Canada 4, Cultural Weekend 6.

In late September, for one weekend, Canadians across the country will get a chance to take part in the first of an annual event called Culture Days. It’s an imaginative and ambitious undertaking designed to inspire millions of ordinary citizens to savour the arts by becoming directly engaged in the creative process.

But this is not about buying tickets to a play or looking at the paintings hanging on the wall of a museum. It’s an event that dares to use catch phrases like “interactive,” “grassroots” and “hands-on.”

Those words might set off your mental alarm. Is this just promotional spin? But happily, Culture Days represents something more interesting — a sweeping attempt to close the gap between artists and the public.

The idea is to inspire broad participation not just in downtown Toronto but in communities large and small. All the events are free, and instead of being passive spectators, participants get a chance to become involved with the artistic process and break down the barrier between the creators and the public.

In Winnipeg, a team of performers and artists will travel around the city persuading people to share their stories and collaborate in the process of mythologizing the city’s history.

In St. John’s, seasoned professionals will help aspiring playwrights write, recite and record short plays about certain locations. Anyone interested in tuning in can take a self-guided walking tour and, with the help of a cellphone, listen to a play while standing in the area it concerns.

For the kickoff in the fall of 2010, most of the country will experience Culture Days on the weekend of Sept. 24-26. Alberta, which has had something called Alberta Art Days for several years, will have its Culture Days the previous weekend. Dates have yet to be announced for Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

How did Culture Days come into being? Certain arts leaders, including Peter Herrndorf of the National Arts Centre and Piers Handling of the Toronto International Film Festival, have been hatching the idea for several years. But it’s really a national version of something Quebec has been doing annually since 1997. Journees de la Culture draws 300,000 participants in more than 300 towns and cities.

One important feature attractive to government cultural ministries is that the entire enterprise requires a budget of only $1 million or so. It is almost entirely driven by volunteers among both artists and organizers.

Finally, there’s at least one event that offers good news for those who can’t face a weekend without their sports fix. In Regina, the Dunlop Art Gallery will have an exhibit highlighting 100 years of Saskatchewan Roughriders history. And during Culture Days, those on hand to engage with the public will include not only artists but some former Roughrider players.

Who could ask for anything more?


Final Fight: Double Impact - Like Being Back At The Old Arcade

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Final Fight: Double Impact
(out of 4)
XBox Live Arcade download
800 MS points (~$10), available for PS3 at the PlayStation store for $9.99
Rated T

(April 23, 2010) It might have been the approach of May, triggering those old final-semester, let’s-skip-chem-and-go-to-the-arcade reflexes, but when
Final Fight: Double Impact hit the XBox Live Arcade, I grabbed it with zero hesitation.

Final Fight and Magic Sword might seem like a weird combo to package, but those two cabinets were right beside each other at my teenage Wizard’s Castle; this isn’t nostalgia, but full-on time travel. And what’s another 10 2010 dollars, considering the 100-odd 1990 dollars I’d already sunk into these games?

You are familiar with Final Fight. Even if you’ve never played it — or any video game—you must feel its presence in the cultural matrix, being as it is the Platonic Ideal of the beat-‘em-up arcade game. Many such games came before it — and continue today — but few so perfectly express the strange combination of monotony and visceral pleasure that defines the genre. You punch, kick, shoulder throw and body slam a screen full of clone thugs until they’ve all let out their guttural death-groan. You move on to the next screen and repeat until there are no more thugs and The Girl is rescued. Every so often, you’ll destroy a phone booth with your bare hands and pick a life-giving roast turkey out of the rubble.

If that sounds boring on paper, just wait — it gets worse. Final Fight is also a very slow game, the thugs and heroes of Metro City shuffling around at a cautious walking pace. The frantic chaos of modern brawler is still a decade away. And yet it works. It’s fun!

Something in the methodical pace turns each screen of Final Fight into a kind of donnybrook chess problem; you’ve got time to think, to plan, to decide whether to pick up that lead pipe or bust out a pile driver, to risk a throw, or buy some breathing room with your special attack. And any game that features a tough-on-crime wrestler/mayor taking on Axl, Slash and Andre the Giant armed only with kayfabe moves and an epic moustache is tops in my book.

Magic Sword, the B-side of the Double Impact package, isn’t quite as important or well-remembered as Final Fight. A “heroic fantasy” side-scroller — this used to be a crowded niche, packed with the likes of Rastan and the immortal Black Tiger — it earned my quarters back in the day by unashamedly offering two things dear to the heart of a teenage nerd: magic, and swords. A good ole action-packed time, battling through the skeletons, dragons and deadly traps of some generic Evil Tower, the gimmick of Magic Sword’s adventure is that it’s also a prison break. Release prisoners from the tower’s dungeons and they’ll fight alongside you. There are wizards and clerics, barbarians and archers, and even a wicked ninja — though why a ninja needs help getting out of jail is beyond me.

The two games are presented with a few modern bells and whistles, the coolest of which is an “arcade cabinet” mode that uses the mighty graphics power of today’s home consoles to simulate the curve and glare of an old-school arcade CRT on your modern HDTV. And thanks to 21st-century online gaming technology, yet another aspect of those shopping-mall amusement palaces may be simulated: some random dude dropping in his quarter and joining you on the Player Two controls, getting in your way and stealing all the power-ups. The only things missing from the experience are the fat weirdo dispensing change and the suppertime parental conversations: “I got a call from your chemistry teacher today. . . ” 


Lakers Pull Ahead 3-2 In Series With Thunder

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Beacham

(April 28, 2010) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—Pau Gasol had 25 points and 11 rebounds, Andrew Bynum added 21 points and the Los Angeles Lakers vigorously rebounded from back-to-back losses with a 111-87 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, taking a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Kobe Bryant had 13 points and seven assists in three quarters of work as the defending NBA champions coolly shook off the eighth-seeded Thunder’s series-tying blowout win in Game 4 with a comprehensive thrashing of the post-season newcomers.

With their offence purring and their defence throttling Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Lakers led by 21 points at halftime and went ahead by 32 late in the third quarter of their third home victory in the series.

Game 6 is Friday night in Oklahoma City, where the top-seeded Lakers will attempt to reach the Western Conference semi-finals for the third straight year.

Durant scored 17 points and Westbrook had 15 on combined 9-for-27 shooting for Oklahoma City, which never recovered after missing its first 13 shots.

While the Thunder are still learning about the demands of playoff basketball, the Lakers already have an advanced degree — and they showed off what they’ve learned during two straight trips to the NBA finals.

Los Angeles jumped to a 10-0 lead before the Thunder’s first point on Westbrook’s free throw nearly 4 ½ minutes in, and Oklahoma City couldn’t hit a field goal until Durant’s jumper with 5:49 left.

Bynum scored eight straight points underneath the basket as the Lakers finally turned their superior height into an advantage, rather than the anchor it became in Oklahoma City. Bynum had 11 rebounds and hit his career playoff high with 8-for-10 shooting, while Gasol scored 15 points in the third quarter to put away the win.

Los Angeles also got 14 points in a resurgent effort from Ron Artest, whose shooting woes had overshadowed his defensive efforts against Durant in the series’ first four games. The mercurial forward clearly is done playing around as he chases his first championship ring: He even shaved off his platinum-blond dyed hair from late in the regular season.

After Los Angeles won the first two games, Oklahoma City evened the series and gained a wealth of confidence with back-to-back wins. The Thunder embarrassed the Lakers in Game 4, going ahead by 29 points and holding Bryant to 12 after the former MVP didn’t take a shot in the first quarter.

The Staples Center crowd had a palpable unease before the game, with fans rising and cheering anxiously before the opening tip in a blatant violation of the usual rules of Hollywood cool. Los Angeles clearly was paying attention to the rowdy crowds in Oklahoma City.

Yet the Lakers also brought their best game, playing heady defence from the opening tip — including Bryant’s move to guarding Westbrook, the speedy former UCLA point guard whose dribble penetration leads to much of the Thunder offence.

Los Angeles led 31-16 after one quarter and steadily pushed the advantage heading into halftime, going up 55-34 on Bryant’s jumper with 7.7 seconds left. The Lakers made nearly 65 per cent of their first-half shots while holding Oklahoma City to 26-per cent shooting, including Westbrook’s 2-for-8 effort on a variety of wild drives to the hoop.

The Thunder fast breaks that shredded the Lakers in Oklahoma City were almost non-existent, with just two first-half points on the break.

NOTES: The Lakers slightly improved their troublesome free-throw shooting, going 22 for 31 after a 17-for-28 effort in Game 4. Bryant, who took just two free throws in the past two games, went 5 for 7. ... After coach Phil Jackson asked Artest not to shoot so many THREE-pointers from the sides of the court, Artest took two in the first three quarters — but made both. ... Fans included Leonardo DiCaprio and Bar Rafaeli, Will Ferrell, Joel McHale, Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy, Dustin Hoffman, Barry Bonds, singer Seal, David Arquette and UCLA coach Ben Howland, while Hugh Hefner watched from a luxury box.

With Money To Spend, Knicks Eye Bosh, Lebron And Wade

Source: www.thestar.com - Julian Linden

(April 22, 2010) They have New York, and all it entails, plus as countless players call it, the “Mecca of basketball”—Madison Square Garden.

Even nine straight losing seasons (all but two of them with at least 49 losses) won’t deter the
Knicks from the one word that describes their free agent game plan this summer:


Which, of course, doesn’t guarantee they won’t strike out.

Yet with a sales pitch built around New York, the Madison Square Garden, salary-cap room to sign two max players and the premise that one or two such players can make them instant contenders, they’re aiming as high as they can, starting with these top four targets:


Toronto’s late-season collapse has him asking for help from a franchise that has trouble getting it from anywhere but Europe. Thus, he’s considered the most likely big-ticket free agent to leave.

WHY HE’D COME: The Knicks’ two-max-contract salary-cap room means he could play the sidekick role for which he’s better suited, with a sign-and-trade involving David Lee considered possible.

WHY HE WON’T: He could be Wade’s sidekick just by signing with Miami and there’s even talk that Oklahoma City (close to his Dallas home) will make a run to pair him with Kevin Durant.


No such player has been on the market since Shaquille O’Neal left Orlando for the Lakers in 1996 (when the Knicks last went serious free agent shopping). By himself, he’d make the franchise matter again, plus tell other players, “I plan to win rings here. You with me?”

WHY HE’D COME: Why wouldn’t the biggest player not want to play in the NBA’s biggest city for one of its premier franchises—especially if he could enhance his legacy by winning its first championship since 11 years before he was born?

WHY HE WON’T: Cleveland is close to home (Akron) and he has a comfort level there with a franchise that, today, offers a far better chance of winning multiple championships than the Knicks. And even if he re-ups for three more years (beyond next season’s option), he could still come to New York before his 30th birthday.


He’s proved that, virtually by himself, he can carry a team in Miami, not that its indifferent fan base notices. But other than LeBron, he’s the only other free agent who’d geek New York.

WHY HE’D COME: He needs help to win big with the Heat (see Shaq, 2006 championship), who have one-max-plus cap room, and although Pat Riley has pledged it, he’s heard that song before and if he thinks he won’t get it, buh-bye.

WHY HE WON’T: South Beach and Chicago. He’s said often that weather matters, but if he decides he has a better chance to win in his native Windy City, he’ll buy some coats.


He fit Mike D’Antoni’s offense in Phoenix, loves the Knicks’ coach and has a low-key mien much like Allan Houston—who survived quite fine in the New York glare.

WHY HE’D COME: Atlanta is and always will be a football town that hasn’t embraced Johnson or the Hawks, who haven’t extended coach Mike Woodson’s contract. So although he’s said, “There is nothing to this New York thing,” ultimately Johnson may question the franchise’s commitment.

WHY HE WON’T: His under-the-radar personality fits the market: “My main attraction is here in Atlanta,” he said, and with the Celtics faltering and LeBron possibly moving, perhaps his best chance to play for an East beast is the ATL.

Tiger Woods’ First Public Appearance Goes Swimmingly

Source: www.thestar.com - Julian Linden

(April 28, 2010) CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The paparazzi are still camped outside the gates of his home and helicopters still follow him each time he gets behind the wheel of one of his cars.

But life for
Tiger Woods is starting to get back to normal.

The fascination about his personal life is starting to fade and the focus is returning to his golf game.

When Woods made his comeback at the U.S. Masters earlier this month, the cynics sneered that the tournament was so heavily policed that spectators and media were bound to be on their best behaviour.

His critics and supporters agreed that the real test for Woods would come at his first appearance at a regular tour stop, which he confirmed would be this week’s Quail Hollow championship in North Carolina.

The galleries were bigger than normal when Woods turned out for Wednesday’s pre-championship pro-am on a crisp spring morning and the media were on hand to record his every move.

But if his first real public appearance was anything to go by, the American may have already won his biggest battle.

There was no animosity whatsoever and crowds welcomed him back with open arms. He responded by graciously acknowledging them and engaging them with almost slapstick comedy, something he had neglected to do in the past.

He shook hands, signed a few autographs and even posed for a photograph with a young boy. Woods then trotted off to the media centre to face his inquisitors with the confident swagger of a man who knew he was already winning one of his biggest battles.

“I’ll tell you what,” he told a packed news conference eagerly scribbling down his every word. “I think it’ll be another great week.”

He defended himself over criticism he received for attending a pop concert during the fortnight since the Masters and provided another assurance he would not repeat his infidelities.

“Not after what I’ve been through,” he said.

The expected grilling from the media never occurred and the questions quickly turned to the state of his golf game.

Woods revealed he was still having trouble with his swing and while he was still not happy with his fourth place finish at the Masters, he was learning how to deal with failure.

“I think it went as well as it could have possibly gone,” he said.

“Obviously I didn’t do what I needed to do on the weekend, but overall after not playing for that long and coming back and finishing fourth, I think that’s pretty reasonable.

“I didn’t quite have that approach when I was a kid. Things used to be thrown, things used to be broken around the house, in my room.

“I took losing very hard at the time. Very, very hard.”

The world No. 1 won the Quail Hollow championship in 2007 but was not making any bold predictions about winning again this year, despite already feeling better about his game a fortnight after his comeback.

“I have to say this feels a heck of a lot more normal than the Masters did. I just need to go out there and do a little bit of practice session this afternoon, gym work this afternoon, as well, to get ready for tomorrow, and back into tournament mode again,” he said.

“Two weeks in a row competing... I’ll have a better barometer of what normal really feels like because I haven’t done that in a while.”