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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Stage West Calgary's Young Frankenstein - Blog Review

Young Frankenstein cast - courtesy Stage West Calgary

The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein
Stage West Calgary
So many elements from the film version of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein peek out in the stage version that for anyone familiar enough with the source material, there is great anticipation for their own favourite movie moments.

The puns, the sight gags, the quirky cast of characters are certainly in both versions, along with iconic comedic moments from the movie version that have remained iconic decades after the hit movie appeared in theatres.  

So, why was I not taken as much with the stage version as I was with the original production?

It sure wasn’t due to a lack of talent. The cast and crew of Stage West Calgary’s The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein are often outstanding. 

It wasn’t even due to the limitations of a wide variety of settings that appear and disappear behind the longest motorized curtain I’ve ever seen - that worked fine also.

I think the Broadway musical itself just feels overall like a stretch. Which can still be funny enough, but the timing of the humour is impeded to some degree by musical numbers that showcase the talents of the actors, but really just most often come as fillers to accommodate the scene changes. 

Young Frankenstein cast - courtesy Stage West Calgary

When this play surrenders to the absurdity of the source material, and allows the actors to horse around with the great lines from the movie version, it picks up steam and gets a great reaction from the audience. The Broadway-ization (that’s a thing, I think??) of the piece itself allows for nice dance numbers and lively choruses that might have humour in them somewhere, but slow the pace of the laughs too much to allow the tongue in cheek dialogue to resonate.

Again, that could be my own failure to let the movie version go, and just follow along...

I have to leave something here for my official Calgary Herald review (link here when that goes live!), but  just a few quick notes:

-GREAT, talented cast! Kevin Dennis as Frederick Frankenstein gets to live in the character made famous by Gene Wilder, and to his credit, you don’t often think about that once you’ve met his version of the character. 

Powerhouse vocalists Adrienne Merrell (Elizabeth), Amanda Struthmann (Inga) and Jayne Lewis (Frau Blucher - NEIGH!! NEIGH!!) are flawless, some deep talent among those three…

Gregory Pember’s Igor is perhaps the closest to the film version, and that gentleman can ring a bell when he gets started on both his character and the songs in the repertoire.

-Direction and choreography (J. Sean Elliott and Phil Nero respectively) is brisk and bright - there are a whole whack of characters and numbers to work through, and that all moves along just swell under their guidance. 

-Adam Stevenson as The Monster is a visual miracle, standing atop lift shoes that are almost as tall as Tom Cruise. And he dances in those suckers! Egads!

More to follow in more detail for my Herald review, but if you love comedy, and have even a sliver of a fond memory from the movie version, you’ll definitely want to see what Brooks has done with the stage version.

Young Frankenstein cast - courtesy Stage West Calgary 

Stage West Calgary’s The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein runs to June 26

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Getting back to more frequency than famous comets...

(Ellen Doty - courtesy

I can't believe how much I have left this blog space in the lurch. 

There's bugs and spiderwebs in lurches!!

Anyhow, I am getting back to posting, and in this case, steering you to yet ANOTHER neglected site of mine, which brags a bit about launching yet ANOTHER site I hope not to abandon anytime soon:

I really need to gather all these things together - but one step at a time....


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Blog Anniversary, and my latest REM column!

Where does the time go?

Today is the 10th anniversary of this blog space, but it seems a bit watered down, given that I have moved much of my online publishing efforts elsewhere. 

I really need to get back here more often than I have been as of late.

To make amends, here a link to a random column from this day in time:

Picking that out of thin air, how did I last 10 years DOING what I was doing?

Well, to atone for THAT travesty of your time, here's a link to my latest humour column in REM, with a link to a reading I did of the piece live:

Hopefully that works a little better for you...


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Life Is Surreal To Say The Least...

You really can't make this up.

As it happens, two of my current writing efforts that circle back to my time spent with Okanagan writer, friend and mentor Dona Sturmanis are out (or will be out) directly around the time of her passing this week. 

That photo is just a snapshot of an old publication she stewarded out of Melvyn's Living Room in Westbank (now West Kelowna), where I started to take courses and generally loiter about as often as I was able to.

A piece that I first read at an event years back in her Peachland home is going to come out shortly in my national real estate column - for the second time.

She howled at that one, and it went on to be my most widely published piece.

The piece comes out shortly in REM (Real Estate Magazine).

As it happens, a gentle and hilarious soul that I came to know there also figures in to a recent piece of mine.

I did a feature on Kelowna author, poet and humour writer Sterling Haynes, which happens to be in the most current issue of Freefall Magazine. 

She may have recently left us, but her work supporting writers continues to bear fruit...

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Discover Dona

Discover: Dona Sturmanis

An award-winning poet, journalist, and feature writer - but above and beyond her own stellar writing career, Dona Sturmanis was a mentor for more writers than I can count - myself included.

Very much dismayed to read this morning that she had passed away, but her son Leif, a chip off the old block to say the least, wrote a magnificent post on Facebook for her world of friends, family and fans.

I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today without having met Dona. She was the creative spark that continues to burn to this day...

I'm flying out the door to work, but here's a link to a piece that I posted from a reading she organized - I think at Lois Lane in Kelowna.

Don't let God overwhelm you with assignments Dona....relax a bit now.


Sunday, March 06, 2016

Frank Turner, Northcote and Mo Kenney - Some kind Of Wonderful!

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
Mo Kenney

MacEwan Hall, Saturday March 6, 2016

Well, unfortunately the pics I snapped for this event didn't turn out sharp enough for formatting into my online Calgary Herald space, so I'll post them here regardless along with a few comments about the show. Great night of outstanding music from Canadian's Mo Kenney, Northcote, and English folkster Frank Turner And The Sleeping Souls.

First off, apologies to all the artists for the low quality images, which do not speak at all to the quality of the work they did onstage last night - what a great blend or music, and the crowd jammed the place to capacity for the gig...

Mo Kenney

Opener Mo Kenney clearly had fans in place as she went through her set - from where we were standing at that point, you could hear folks singing along, and it was a great introduction for anyone not familiar with her catalogue. 

Just a few highlights for me had to have been the wonderful In My Dreams, Sucker For Your Face, and The Happy Song, which she prefaced as a balm for all the sad songs she tends to write. 

Sad maybe, but catch-your-ears for sure lyrically. Her co-write with Joel Plaskett Déjà vu was another  great piece, and her pair of covers (Bowie's Five Years, and Tom Petty's Yer So Bad, which she came out to perform with Northcote) make it no surprise at all to see all the recognition she has garnered.

Matt Goud - Northcote 

Speaking of Northcote, I've been a bit out of the rock scene as of late given my current focus on folk roots and blues, but these fellas sure brought back memories with their bright, no-nonsense set. 

I saw acts like these back when I was the age of most of this audience (to avoid getting carded at the beer garden, I pointed to my hair...), and Northcote doesn't miss with how they do it. This is a group poised for a breakthrough as evidenced by the production team on their latest album, and the demand the group has seen - over 160 shows in 2014!

In particular, songs like the sturdy anthem Hope Is Made Of Steel, A Thousand Nights, and Counting Down The Days all point to these gentleman making a mark, and having legs while they're at it. 

Frank Turner

And your headliner? Well, sweet Maggie on a rock, this Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls act is a special kind of incendiary... 

There was a Celtic band out of Kelowna (Kinship) that I used to think was high energy and in your face. 

Great Big Sea was known to be a bit raucous on occasion.

Frank Turner makes any preconceived notion of "explosive", "volatile", or "combustible" quaint by comparison. The Celtic roots are evident, but the exquisite combinations of buzz, punk and power folk were the catalyst to set this crowd on fire. 

By the time he switched to an electric guitar, it was already clear he could have rocked the house with a ukulele, but the faux track the band apparently works into recent shows featured that aforementioned buzz, and the electric guitar was the appropriate instrument to bring that segment of the show forward.

Frank Turner and (at least one of) The Sleeping Souls

Mandatory sing-a-longs that really required no prompting,  energy that appeared unabated by the time I had to leave, this was the capper on a great evening of folk-based music. 

Certainly not your Grandpa's folk music...




Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What have I done???

INSTAGRAM: danst.yves

OK friends and folks - I have overcome 4 or 5 years of hesitation, and have decided to forge ahead with an Instagram presence -  mercy on us all..

I just took a few minutes to connect with a few familiar faces after getting past the endless parade of Kardashians and Jenners. I'll do more of that as I track you all down.

If you're on Instagram, and you'd like me to follow your site, I will happily do so. I will even have pictures posted soon, as I hope this will be one more place that I can bring awareness to the amazing acts that I get to connect with, see live, and review - so expect a LOT of live music pics!

Go ahead, don't be shy.

Don't make me have to connect with JLo or Miley, for the love of everything sacred!!!!

Be gentle, but don't be afraid! I'm honestly far more clueless than I look...