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Friday, September 16, 2016

Million Dollar Production Of Historic Music Moment

 Stage West Calgary presents:

"Million Dollar Quartet"

Sept 9 - April 13, 2017

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.

I’ll post a link here when my official Calgary Herald review runs later…

Thursday, August 04, 2016

My latest humour column - discovering new fears!!

REM 
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.

Enjoy!





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 EllenDoty.com)

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....

Later!

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...

Later!

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...