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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Just Like the Movies, at Stage West Calgary...

Hollywood Hits
Stage West Calgary

Nov 18 to Feb 5

courtesy Stage West Calgary

Breaking from their more consistent tradition of pop or country music hit showcases, Stage West has taken a chance on gathering big songs from the movies as their focus on the brand new revue Hollywood Hits. The gamble pays off. You won’t go too long without recognizing most every song that creators Timothy French and Howard Pechet have included here.

That includes a wide variety of songs from an even wider variety of musical styles, Hollywood Hits brings back the backdrop of movies that became cultural icons for a variety of generations - Bond movies, Beatles movies, coming of age films, and even animated classics. 

Once again I have to hold back much of my commentary ahead of my upcoming official Calgary Herald review (link here as soon as that goes live!), but I can say that plenty of thought went into curating these soundtrack classics, many of which have gone on over the years to become standards played at weddings, or fill dance floors when djs spin those tracks. 

Many familiar faces return to the stage to bring the songs to life - David Cotton, Chelsey Duplak, Daniel Greenburg, Tara Jackson, Andrew McGillivray, Tiera Watts, and Jesse Weaver. New talent showing their chops include Élodie Dorsel, Eric da Costa, JJ Gerber and Cary Shields. As I have recently screwed up the names of various actors TWICE in various roles, I’ll stick this time around to just highlighting performances - of which there are plenty of standouts.
courtesy Stage West Calgary

Going back in time, early films are mined for songs like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Rock Around The Clock, and Hard Day’s Night. Adele’s Skyfall is bang-on, as tracks like Tina Turner’s We Don’t Need Another Hero, and a handful of Sixties-era folk rock hits.

In between these segments of songs (far too many to perform in their entirety) you’ll enjoy the over-the-top hilarity of host Andrew McGillivray, who gets a chance to portray a number of figures from the movies, and a few figures plucked from a fertile imagination. As hilarious as he gets to be as this collection of characters, when you hear his all too brief version of Bare Necessities, you’ll wish he had a few more opportunities to sing - which that man can 
do exceptionally.
courtesy Stage West Calgary

By the time this settles down though, you’ll have been walked through a smattering of disco, a trio of funkers via Prince from Purple Rain, love songs, rap and hip-hop, right up to Pharell’s Happy. Most all of those tracks brought appreciative hoots and hollers from the audience, as well as a standing ovation by the end.

If you’re a fan of memorable songs from movies, you’ll certainly enjoy Stage West’s Hollywood Hits - 5 out of 5 stars!  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Million Dollar Production Of Historic Music Moment

 Stage West Calgary presents:

"Million Dollar Quartet"

Sept 9 - Nov 13, 2016

Million Dollar Quartet

All photos courtesy Stage West Calgary / John Watson

 I will confess up front to having seen an earlier big, fancy production elsewhere of the latest show opening this week at Stage West Calgary.

I thought I was seeing it again last night - this is one flawless outing for fans of the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet! It is without question every bit as good as the Vegas version, which at the time I attended featured one of the Broadway cast members among the stars.

This version here at home starts with a terrific set. It builds with the introduction of the cast members, and follows through with great renditions of the songs and story of this one-off event in pop music.

In December 1956 three of the biggest stars in pop, country and rhythm and blues convened in the legendary Sun Studios with an brand-new up-and-comer for the Sun Records stable of recording stars, mostly by happenstance. The storyline features a number of plot lines that build to the finale, but along the way you hear some iconic music from the rockabilly era, and much more.

J. Sean Elliott moves away from his usual director’s chair to tackle the role of Sun founder Sam Phillips. In a dual role narrating the event in asides, he brings considerable skill to making Phillips believable, yet not taking anything away from his fellow actors.

Matt Cage is a young Elvis Presley, returning to where it all started for him. The story line links Presley and Phillips to a possible future collaborative reunion, kept somewhat secret from the other musicians in the impromptu gathering. Cage’s acoustic version of Peace In The Valley with a haunting chorus from fellow cast members is worth the price of admission by itself.

Tyler Check brings rockabilly pioneer Carl Perkins to life, and he also harbours a secret along with Johnny Cash (Maxwell Theodore Lebeuf) that ultimately serves to make the finale bittersweet for the group. 

Check and Lebeuf also share musical moments that sparkle, and like the Broadway version, everyone on stage is playing their own instruments.

A natural firebrand cast as the original firebrand, Gerrad Everard clearly has a blast in the role of the young Jerry Lee Lewis, caught somewhere along the fine line between religiously aware, but bawdily centred. Has it really been 8 years since he brought other musical legends to life here? Too long!

Laura Mae Nason returns to Stage West playing Elvis’ girlfriend, and she gets to perform a couple of songs herself. Again, much like the Broadway version she almost steals the show from the formidable legends gathered in the room - she can truly belt out with the best of them.

Filling out the group are Scot Carmichael (Fluke) and Zachary Knowles (Jay Perkins) as the background musicians for Perkins' session - plenty capable themselves musically. 

Directed by Alex Mustakas, with musical direction from the ever-present Konrad Pluta, there is not one misstep along the way. If you’ve seen this before, you can do no wrong by seeing it one more time.

5 out of 5 stars.

Check out my official Calgary Herald review, live online now!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

My latest humour column - discovering new fears!!

Real Estate Magazine
Humour Column

Hey, I made the front page today!

My latest column for Real Estate Magazine (REM) is live online mere moments ago, and it's all about overcoming your fears.

OK, there really isn't a lot of good advice for actually overcoming any of them, but I do introduce almost a dozen fears you may have never even heard of!

And it's the featured piece on the front page! I'm debuting at #1 :-)

As always, meant for Realtors, but generic enough for anyone.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Hey, these guys all seem a bit familiar…

"Legends of Rock 'N' Roll"
Stage West Calgary
July 1 - Sept 4, 2016

Full Cast - photo courtesy Stage West Calgary

Stage West Calgary has a brand-new show onstage, and you may recognize a few of the faces behind the iconic songs.

The 2016 version of the popular tribute show Legends of Rock “n” Roll delivers reasonable facsimiles of Buddy Holly, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones and Elvis Presley - the first presentation ran some 10 years ago.

Al Braatz as Buddy Holly - courtesy Stage West Calgary

Getting off to a rip-roaring start, Al Braatz brought the songbook of Buddy Holly out with a whole lot of authenticity. He came closest with his rendition of It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, which really captured Holly’s marriage of rock, country and strings for that particular track.
Gaelan Beatty as Neil Diamond - courtesy Stage West Calgary

Following Braatz, Gaelan Beatty relived some of Neil Diamond’s biggest fan favourites, with his closest hit to the bulls-eye being the medley including Soolaimon/Play Me. The audience kicked in most enthusiastically for Sweet Caroline, not much unlike they do for the real deal. 

Tiera Watts & Chelsey Duplak - courtesy Stage West Calgary

Backing up the actors right onstage, the house band led by Konrad Pluta did not miss a beat on these all too familiar selections, no big surprise as these musicians are always top shelf. Providing the icing on the cake the show also features a pair of background vocalists and dancers, Chelsey Duplak, and Tiera Watts - each having a few moments of their own to showcase, which they certainly did handily. 
Luke Marty as Tom Jones - courtesy Stage West Calgary
After the break, it was time for ‘Tom Jones’ to hit the stage, played by Luke Marty. Like his fellow cast members, there were moments he hit the mark near perfectly. For me, that was on Love Me Tonight, capturing more than enough of the legend’s essence on that song.
Matthew Lawrence as Elvis - courtesy Stage West Calgary
Closing the show it was time for The King, and Matthew Lawrence tackled the role of Elvis. His vocal range lent itself best for Jailhouse Rock, but he had success with American Trilogy as well - powerful stuff that track. 

Director Liz Gilroy and co-creator Konrad Pluta have done a fine job of recreating the costumes and overall feel of the artists and their eras, so if you have a connection to some of the biggest hits of all time, you’re bound to find plenty of familiar songs to sing and clap along with in this presentation.

I’ll have a link here when my official Calgary Herald review runs, with even more insight.

Legends of Rock ’n’ Roll runs to Sept 4, at Stage West Calgary.
3.5 out of 5 stars

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...


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Stage West Calgary "Suite Surrender"

Stage West Calgary
"Suite Surrender"

Directed by J. Sean Elliott

Starring Kevin Hare, Chantal Perron, and Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan

Courtesy Stage West Calgary

Michael McKeever is a prolific fellow - his website indicates some 39 plays ranging from comedies to dramas to shorts. Unless I’m seriously mistaken, my first McKeever play was last night, Stage West Calgary’s "Suite Surrender".

That is one of his comedies, and a farce at that. Having nothing else to gauge against, I’d be curious to see even more of his work. After a bit of a slow start, the cast of zany characters and the absurd plot explode into outright hilarity, moving briskly towards a conclusion that first allows for most every actor to have their own moment in the spotlight. Some more than others, admittedly.

It is the strong cast of characters and the sure hand of director J. Sean Elliott that makes this such an enjoyable outing. While I do have to hold back as usual for my official Calgary Herald review, I can say that Elliott has outdone himself with this play, his direction, and the casting - a stellar collection of actors you’ve seen before on this stage, and a few you may have not.

Courtesy Stage West Calgary

Kevin Hare is one of the returnees, and as General Manager of the Palm Beach Royale Hotel, spends more time juggling than managing - given that this is set in 1942, it would be apt to suggest that he’s juggling potential hand grenades while the assorted branches of the actual military are downstairs creating havoc of their own.   

Elizabeth Stepkowski Tarhan and Chantal Perron return as well, as the two potential hand grenades that spur the plot along as rival divas and apparent mortal enemies erroneously assigned to the same presidential suite. 

Natascha Girgis returns to Stage West this time out as the scene-stealing gossip columnist Dora del Rio, who encounters more than her fair share of the slamming doors of this farce - the after-effects being some of the strongest comedic moments of the evening.

I’m just touching on a few highlights here (again, saving morsels for my other review!), but the combined efforts of this strong cast smooth over any rough edges in the proceedings, and wring out the most from what lines they have to share with their fellow actors.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other star though, a canine actor very well-behaved given the goings-on, but omitted in the playbill. Must not be a member of the union, Mr. Boodles?

Great fun, and if you’re not all that familiar with the farce style of comedy, a great introduction!

4 out of 5 stars.

I’ll link back when the official review runs!

Friday, February 19, 2016

New Humour Column, and Getting Back To The Blog


Since I made the decision to let go the daily posting quite a few months ago, I have REALLY neglected this space.

That is going to change. I think I have FINALLY found a cohesive theme for my other projects, so I can start linking at least, to those.

For today, here's a link to my latest real estate humour column:

Finding The Perfect Listing.



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Real Estate In The Animal Kingdom

Well, I had better get back to posting some links here on my blog site!

Here's my latest real estate humour column, where I speculate on how furry Realtors might try selling homes:

Real Estate In The Animal Kingdom