Category Archives: Television

SNEAK PREVIEW: Four stage & screen lions in their prime dare, delight & dazzle us in The Performance

Writer-director Stephen Wallis’ hypnotic new film The Performance is all about the excruciating pain and exquisite pleasure of being a working actor. And what makes it so hypnotic are the mesmerizing performances of the four working actors who bring it to life: Nicholas Campbell, Graham Greene, Art Hindle and Nick Mancuso.

All four are 40-year-veterans of stage, screen and television, still in demand, still working. All four still know how to dazzle us. And all four still know how to surprise us.

MANCUSO: astonishing tour-de-force

As the film opens, arrogant aging actor Victor Moore is preparing for what is purportedly his final stage performance. Addicted to melodrama and the deep, rich sound of his own celebrated voice, Victor is about to present his tried-and-true autobiographical theatre piece, despite the objections of Dennis, his cheerfully alcoholic director. “There’s more fantasy in this script than a Tolkien novel,” Dennis chides him. “Show the audience the truth.”

Sparked by Dennis’ goading, Victor reluctantly starts to confront the ghosts that still haunt him. Raised by parents who played the vaudeville circuit, he has never forgiven his mother for leaving him in the questionable care of his father. “Other mothers stayed, but not you!” he storms at the  30-year-old incarnation of his mother.

CAMPBELL: Spellbinding

He has never forgiven his father, Harold, either. 

Especially not his father.

After all, Harold was only a song-and-dance man. Victor was a star.

“Did you think you were better than me, son?” Harold asks him.

“I made 300 movies!” Victor spits back at him.

Harold shrugs. “Let’s not confuse fame with talent.”

Victor knows quite a bit about fame. And scandal. And why his clandestine love affair ended so badly. He could not, would not sacrifice his career; he was not willing to be banished from the screen for a youthful indiscretion.
In those days, he notes, “The movies could talk, but we could not.”

GREENE: buoyant

As the minutes fly by Victor starts to suspect that this is more intervention than rehearsal, and we start to suspect the same thing. But then his old friend Jack, another key player in his life, stops by to surprise him, and Victor remembers what fun acting used to be, when they played Hamlet together in this very theatre. It’s Jack who teases and cajoles him into finding his inner child again. And it is the nimble Jack, and only Jack, who can coax Victor to park all his theatrical baggage, albeit temporarily, to come out and play.

“Actors are actors,” Victor insists, “because they lack the ability to perform in real life.” And yet, what can he do? Victor’s greatest love, his relentless passion, his hopeless obsession, is acting.

“I have to do this!” he protests. “It’s who I am.”

HINDLE: powerful

As director Wallis’ screenplay twists and turns to take us to both familiar and unexpected places, The Performance becomes an extravagant, richly detailed love letter to actors and their craft, never quite resolving the dilemma of that choice.

It’s also a spectacular showcase for a sensational quartet of actors whose considerable talents are too often taken for granted. Nick Mancuso’s portrayal of Victor is an astonishing tour-de-force filled with bold strokes and audacious choices. As pretentious as Victor is – and he is — he takes no prisoners, and neither does Mancuso, whether he is roaring like a lion, whining like a schoolboy or whimpering like an abandoned child. This is a performance to reckon with.

(Off-screen Mancuso has been picking up a lot of hardware lately; a Best Actor award here, a Lifetime Achievement award there. It’s not hard to see why.)

As Dennis, the director with whom Victor has the time-honoured love-hate relationship, Art Hindle is a powerful sparring partner for Mancuso, conveying a potent mix of cunning and self-loathing with a haunting edge of sadness. Graham Greene is a buoyant, irrepressible Jack, bubbling with mischief, riffing on Shakespeare and salvation. And Nicholas Campbell is spellbinding as Victor’s practical, unsentimental father, reciting Dylan Thomas to his estranged son.

SHANNON: stellar

Two other performances that bring new and intriguing dimensions to Victor’s troubled reveries are especially worth noting. Polly Shannon, still as luminous and as lovely as she was when she played Margaret Trudeau 15 years ago, makes a stellar contribution as the actress assigned to play Victor’s much-maligned mother. And Sienna Guillory adds a wistful melancholy to the proceedings as Victor’s disappointed but still devoted daughter.

I don’t know if The Performance will be coming to a movie theatre near you or if Netflix will snap it up first. But if you enjoy films about show business and actors, add this one to your Must list.

Ed. note: Writer-director Stephen Wallis is clearly an actor’s director. After finishing The Performance, Wallis wrote and directed a new film, Defining Moments, with Burt Reynolds and – among others – Nicholas Campbell, Graham Greene, Sienna Guillory and Polly Shannon.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wild about WEIRDOS

weirdos_02

 

 

Bruce McDonald’s 2016 TIFF offering, Weirdos, is the kind of film that makes you glad you went to the movies.

The title is a flashback to ‘70s jargon, where ‘weirdo’ was a common expression used to describe anyone who wasn’t like everyone else.

Set in 1976 Cape Breton, the principle weirdos in this magical collaboration by McDonald and playwright Daniel MacIvor are two teenage misfits, Kit (Dylan Authors) and his girlfriend Alice (Julia Sarah Stone,) who are desperately seeking to bring some colour into their black-and-white lives. Together they hitchhike their way to the big city – in this case, Sidney, Nova Scotia – where Kit plans to live with his glamorous mother (Molly Parker.) And although at first glance Weirdos resembles a teenage road movie, Kit and Julia soon learn that sometimes the destination is the journey.

Regardless of the size of their roles, McDonald has a wonderful way of giving his actors their moments to shine. Molly Parker should be a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her tempestuous portrayal of Kit’s unstable mother. Allan Hawco offers a stellar, close-to-the-bone performance as Kit’s struggling father. Cathy Jones is heartwarming as Kit’s stiff-upper-lip grandmother. Rhys Bevan-John intrigues and entices in a high-risk cameo role that happily pays off. And thanks to McDonald’s light touch and MacIvor’s justifiably celebrated way with words, young scene-stealers Dylan Authors and Julia Sarah Stone win and keep us rooting for them from start to finish.

Given the lavish natural beauty of Cape Breton, Becky Parson’s soft black-and-white cinematography keeps us focused on story, not scenery, McDonald’s ‘70s soundtrack is a lyrical blend of rhythm and nostalgia, and all of it makes for  outstanding viewing. Weirdos is anything but weird, but it sure is fun to watch.

weirdos_01-1

 

Today’s Top Tips: Bernie & Ruby, a slapshtick night at the Opera, and where to take Mom on Sunday

I’LL TAKE ROMANCE: Just added two movies to my Must See list that I didn’t know even existed until quite recently. The first one is Bernie, a black comedy based on a true story about the ill-fated romance of a young mortician

MACLAINE & BLACK: Must See new movie

and a not-so-youthful Texas widow. Jack Black is the mortician. Shirley MacLaine is the widow. I think you’ll understand why I’m dying (you should pardon the expression) to see it after you click on this sneak preview. The second movie on my new Must list is Ruby Sparks. It’s about a young novelist (Paul Dano) struggling with both his writing and his romantic life. Then he creates a character named Ruby who inspires him. And then he finds Ruby (Zoe Kazan), in the flesh, somehow manifested by his writing, sitting on his couch. Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening and Elliot Gould are along for

DANO: Sparks f;ly

the ride, which to me strongly resembles a romantic rollercoaster. Click here for the sneak preview of that one.

SHOWSTOPPER: It’s just one of those songs/that you hear now and then/you don’t know just where/you don’t know just when …  but you sure know it when you hear it. There is a soft stirring in the audience at the Four Seasons Centre this month as soon as the first strains of Puccini’s haunting melody O mio babbino caro come soaring up from the orchestra pit during every performance of Gianni Schicchi. The surprise for some of us less well-versed in operatic endeavours is that this beautiful ballad comes right in the middle of a slapstick farce about a greedy family trying to cheat monks out of an inheritance.

THE GAMG’S ALL HERE: A family schemes as Puccini serenades

Aided and abetted by a brilliant ensemble, soprano-turned-director Catherine Malfitano displays a fearless flare for broad comedy that suggests she’s a serious fan of such screwball classics as Weekend At Bernie’s and Fire Sale, and Wilson Chin’s stylishly topsy-turvy set consistently keeps us in on the

MAYNARD: first visit here

joke. The lush musical score, sensitively and splendidly conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, makes the contrast even more appealing, and Simone Osborne’s rich vocalizing on O mio babbino caro earns every minute of the tumultuous applause she receives. Check it out at www.coc.ca.

Still not quite sure which aria it is? To watch Montserrat Caballe’s version, click here; to watch Maria Callas’ sing it to Japanese fans in Tokyo, click here. And, enjoy!

OUR TOWN: Lots of sparklies on the radar this week. New Brit pop music sensation Conor Maynard, who’s 19 if he’s a day, was on hand to co-host New.Music.Live on MuchMusic last night. This morning he’ll make live

JOHNSON: on stage this week

appearances on the KISS 92.5 Morning show at 8 a.m. and CP24 Breakfast at 8:45 a.m. So will he sing Can’t Say No? Whaddya think? …  enduring pop music siren Tabby Johnson entertains Thursday night at Maggie Cassella’s Flying Beaver Pubaret … Jayzm Bee hosts Word Jazz – “ten poets doing ten minutes each in a truly unique evening of spoken word” — with Don Francks, Robert Preist, Dale Percy, Myna Wallin, Phatt Al, Mike Schram, Chris Hercules, Amanda Hiebert, Howard “Dr. Possibility” Jerome, Mike Hanson and Bruce Hunter, Thursday night at the Now Lounge on Church Street …. also this Thursday: Betty Buckley kicks off the 15th and final We’re

COHEN: he’s Our Man

Funny That Way festival with a concert at Buddies In Bad Times that’s sure to be spellbinding …  don’t say I didn’t warn ya: This Friday’s night concert by the legendary Lighthouse rock orchestra at the Molson Canadian Studio in Hamilton is expected to go SRO … so is female illusionist Christopher Peterson’s Saturday night WFTW festival show at Buddies … also on Saturday: The Three Lennys, a special Toronto Jewish Film Festival screening of three Leonard Cohen films at the Bloor Cinema in honour of the recently-announced ninth recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize. And before Cohen receives his newest accolade next Monday at a gala evening at Massey Hall, local musicians will take to the streets to play his music all over downtown Toronto. So keep your eyes and ears open!

RICHARDSON: Sunday salon stint

SUNDAY’S SPECIAL: Looking for significant stuff to do on Mother’s Day? Look no further.  Take her to The Flying Beaver Pubaret on Parliament for a 1 pm jazz brunch with Shannon Gunn on Vocals, Reg Schrager on guitar and Rosemary Galloway on bass, or a 7 pm Mother’s Day concert by singer-songwriter Duff MacDonaldJackie Richardson joins Paul Hoffert at his weekly jazz salon at Musideum on Richmond on Sunday at 3 pm … Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie have added an extra show to their world premiere of From the House of Mirth,

THOMPSON: Glory-watcher

directed and choreographed by James Kudelka, at the Citadel — which means you now have a choice of two Sunday performances (3 pm & 8 pm) …  Judith Thompson previews her new one-woman show, Watching Glory Die, in a staged reading this Sunday at 2 pm at the Factory Theatre … just looking for something special to slip in the envelope with that Hallmark card? The National Ballet of Canada is offering a special Mother’s Day deal on its upcoming premiere of Hamlet. Buy tickets to see the high-flying Prince of Denmark on Friday June 8 and get 30% off the price of tickets, in all sections. To take full advantage of this special I Love Mom promotion, click here!

*     *     *

Wassup with those fabulous femmes on Smash? Hey now, don’t get me started! (Oops!Too late)

BROADWAY BABIES: Currently wowing them on the Great White Way in Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, veteran song-and-dance man Eric McCormack says he’d love to do another musical on Broadway, and would have

MCCORMACK: he’s the Best

played Che in the current revival of Evita if they’d asked him.  Unfortunately Ricky Martin got there ahead of him. Meanwhile, McCormack is onstage doing drama, while his Will & Grace partner Debra Messing is starring in a lavish new weekly series about building a Broadway musical. Can McCormack see himself doing a guest stint on Messing’s new series Smash? “Sure! I could go on the show in character, as Will Truman, lawyer. She could meet with me to discuss getting a divorce from her husband, Brian D’Arcy James. And then just as she’s leaving my office she could get this puzzled look on her face, as if she knows she knows me from somewhere but can’t remember where.” What happens then? “She leaves, and I get to do a big song about divorce!”

MCCORMACK & MESSING: dynamic duo

Messing, in the meantime, has been going through her own life-imitating-art-imitating-life drama. On Smash she cheats on her schoolteacher husband (the aforementioned Brian D’Arcy James) by having an affair with a Broadway leading man played by Rent star Will Chase. In real life she’s split with her hubby, screenwriter Daniel Zelman, and is spending most of her time with, ta-DAH! — Will Chase, who has also split from his wife.

HILTY: as MM in Smash

Meanwhile, Smash scene-stealer Megan Hilty, the buxom Broadway belter who desperately wants to play Marilyn Monroe in the fictional musical in the series, is actually playing the Marilyn Monroe role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes this week on Broadway (the real Broadway.) And yes, I know, Carol Channing was the first and remains the most famous Lorelei Lee. But just to cap it all, on tonight’s episode of Smash Anjelica Huston makes her much-anticipated debut as a singer – and not with just any old song. Ms Huston sings a classic ballad from a classic, 74-year-old Broadway musical, Knickerbocker Holiday.

HUSTON: … from May to December

The timeless tune she warbles is September Song, introduced to audiences in 1938 by her grandfather Walter Huston. Now that’s show business!

QUOTABLE QUOTES:Mike Nichols was the director and I had a great audition. Tommy Tune personally taught me to tap, and everyone was really happy, except Lee Gershwin, Ira Gershwin’s widow, who said, ‘Over my dead body will that whore be in the show.’ That was when it changed for me and I thought, ‘Oh, this is not going to be easy, it’s not just about talent.’ She had no idea of who I was, what I had accomplished up to that point, and all the shows I’d done. That was an ‘aha!’ moment for me.”

WILLIAMS: tale teller

The speaker? Vanessa Williams in conversation with Broadway.com, describing her failed audition for My One And Only, one of several juicy morsels in her new autobiography, YOU HAVE NO IDEA: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other), co-authored with her mom Helen Williams.

PAIGE: on with the show

SHE’S STILL HERE: After she finished her stint in the revival of Follies on Broadway – not to mention her first New York concerts ever, at Lincoln Center no less — British SuperDiva Elaine Paige treated herself to a “heavenly” holiday in Barbados. “I just lazed around, swam, read my book and caught my breath,” she reports. “Barbados was such fun and I managed to catch up with a couple of pals, Cliff Richard and Cilla Black. Both of them have places there and we went for a drink.  The next day Cilla flew home to the UK and upon arrival realized she’d left her mobile phone in Barbados – guess who became the ‘phone courier’? I safely brought it home to the UK and ensured it was returned to her.” La Paige is currently in L.A. doing Follies at the Ahmanson with Broadway cast mates Jan Maxwell, Danny Burstein and Ron Raines. (Tony Award winner Victoria Clark has replaced Bernadette Peters.) Meanwhile, Follies leads Maxwell and Burstein are both nominated for Tony Awards. And guess who’s nominated for a New York Drama Desk award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical? Ms. Elaine Paige. Which certainly won’t hurt Hollywood box office sales for Follies.

Redford channels Nia, Kudelka builds a House of Mirth in Peterborough, and TIFF chats up Ms Turner

OUR TOWN: Talk about your embarrassment of riches. Monday May 7 must hold some special showbiz magic, because that’s night that enduring stage and screen siren Kathleen Turner will be on deck for an In Conversation

TURNER: at TIFF Bell Lightbox

session at Tiff Bell Lightbox. Also set to light up the Lightbox that night is another talk-and-tell event from the Canadian Film Centre’s Test Pattern series, with Mad Men executive producers Andre & Maria Jacquemetton. And just down the street, at Oliver & Bonacini’s re-dazzled Arcadian Loft, a few dozen of our brightest sparklies will engage in fund-raising wordplay at the 8th annual Scrabble With The Stars, co-hosted by perennial favourites Jeanne Beker and Barry FlatmanAdrienne Clarkson will salute Leonard Cohen the following Monday, May 14, at

CLARKSON; kind words for a poet

Massey Hall, when he’s feted for winning the ninth Glenn Gould Prize, Musicians set to serenade include his son Adam Cohen, the Cowboy Junkies and Gordon Pinsent with his new sidekicks Greg Keelor and Travis Good … and James Kudelka is premiering his new work, House Of Mirth, in Peterborough next week before opening here at The Citadel on May 9.  Produced by Coleman Lemieux & Co., it’s based on the Edith Wharton novel of the same name. Set in the 1890s, it features four female dancers (including the iridescent Laurence Lemieux,) four male opera singers and five-piece chamber orchestra, in a setting designed to evoke a 19th-century society salon. After its run of performances here in Toronto, Kudelka may take House Of Mirth to The Mount, Wharton’s estate in Massachusetts, and possibly on to New York,

LEMIEUX: a House Of Mirth in Peterborough

REDFORD: movie lover

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: Remember I Hate Valentine’s Day, the romantic comedy written by and starring My Big Fat Greek Wedding screen-stealer Nia Vardalos? Me neither. But fans of the Sundance Channel are about to discover it for the first time, because Robert Redford has chosen Nia’s neglected rom-com for his new series, Robert Redford Presents. Set to debut tomorrow night, Redford will kick off his series with the 1996 version of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible with Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. Already the Creative director of the Sundance Channel, Redford will now curate rates and critique independent movies weekly. Also on his personal Must list: Tony Scott’s Domino with

COLLINS: on stage tonight

Kiera Knightley and Mickey Rourke, and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet with Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini (as if you didn’t know) … TV drama exec Robin Neinstein, who put his career as a director (Souvenir Of Canada) on hold six years ago when he became a CBC production exec, is exiting the Mother Corp to join the Original Programming production team at Shaw …  Marvin Dolgay, Eva Everything, Michael Hirsh, David Hoffert, Paul Hoffert, Marilyn Lightstone, Maria Topalovich and Elaine Waisglass were among the showbiz boldface who turned out for shutterbug Brenda Hoffert‘s new-and-improved Shoes exhibition at the Cecile & Harry Pearl Gallery last night …  and get ready to laugh when funny girl Carla Collins takes the stage tonight and tomorrow night at Maggie Cassella’s Flying Beaver Pubaret on Parliament.

*     *     *