Tag Archives: Canadian Opera Company

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!

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A living doll named Andriana brings down the (opera) house when Hoffman starts telling his Tales

POWER PLAY: Andriana Chuchman gets re-charged by Steven Cole

SHOCK TREATMENT: You don’t expect a lot of repressed mirth at the opera, even when the themes are tragicomic. But Toronto opera goers are howling with laughter this month at Andriana Chuchman’s diabolically funny performance in the new Canadian Opera Company production of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman. In case you’re unfamiliar with the plot, it’s all about a

CHUCHMAN: living doll

romantic poet [Hoffman] who becomes a greater and more insightful poet after he amorously pursues three enigmatic women with disastrous results. Which is where Ms. Chuchman comes in. Hoffman is sure that in the exquisite Olympia he has found the perfect woman –apparently the fact that she sleeps in a glass coffin has somehow eluded him — and vows to make her his own. Alas, Olympia is a mechanical doll, brought to life by jolts of electricity that evoke nostalgic memories of Elsa Lanchester rising to the occasion as the Bride of Frankenstein. As directed by Lee Blakely, clearly a disciple of the Mel Brooks school of drama, and as deftly executed by Winnipeg-born soprano Chuchman, Olympia is a brilliantly bawdy creation, sung with spellbinding precision and a sense of punch-line timing

SHEARER: as Olympia in 1951

worthy of Madeline Kahn. It’s a great role, of course; ballerina Moira Shearer danced it in the award-garnering 1951 screen version more than half a century ago. But the remarkable Ms. Chuchman takes it to a new and hilarious level, and the performance frequently interrupted by spontaneous applause from a most appreciative audience. Her star turn is the diamond in a show filled with gems, including Russell Thomas’ searing Hoffman, Erin Wall‘s tortured Antonia — how often do you get to sing all those great arias about how you’re not supposed to sing? — Steven Cole’s amusing posturing as all four thankless servants and John Relyea‘s tour de force performances as all four demonic villains. Tales of Hoffman is on stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts through May 14, and even with those memorable Offenbach melodies, I predict it’s Ms. Chuchman’s Olympia you’ll still be talking about long after the final curtain comes down.

ALICE & CHESHIRE CAT: her Adventures are bound for L.A.

BALLET HIGH: The National Ballet of Canada will return to L.A. this fall for the first time in 35 years. The company will bring its spectacularly successful production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to the Los Angeles’ Music Center, October 19–21. Closer to home, the National’s celebrated outreach programme YOU Dance is in Thunder Bay this week, introducing students in

BRUEGGERGOSMAN: we've got a crush on her

grades four to six to the world of dance through free workshops and performances. Now only five years old, YOU Dance has already performed free of charge for more than 48,000 students and teachers in Ontario. Hey, somebody’s doing something right …

SHARPS & FLATS: The irrepressible World Rock Symphony Orchestra is back rocking Fallsview Casino this week and next, with homegrown rocker Gowan set to play a three-night stand there on July 11-13 …  the incomparable Measha Brueggergosman serenades fans with songs from her new pop album, I’ve Got A Crush On You,  tonight  at the Markham Theatre and tomorrow night at Trinity St. Paul’s Church …  Jack de Keyzer brings his Blues

HOFFERT: Sunday salons

Revue to the lakefront this weekend with a Saturday night gig at the Riverview Room atop the Port Credit Legion … and always-in-demand music man Tom Szczesniak joins Paul Hoffert’s Sunday afternoon jazz salon at Musideum this weekend.

OUR TOWN: Super shutterbug Barbara Cole’s new photo exhibit, Two People Walking A Tightrope In An Ordinary Life Filled With Extraordinary Moments – love that title! – is now on view at the Baux-XI Photo gallery across from the AGO … Grace Restaurant on College Street celebrated its fourth birthday this week with a new chef, Kevin Gastonguay, replacing exiting rave-maker Dustin Gallagher … still in a festive mood, Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company celebrates its 30th Anniversary this week with tonight’s world premiere of Aguas/Waters at the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront. Aquas/Waters is choreographed by Artistic Director Esmeralda Enrique and Juan Ogalla, who won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Dance Performance last year.

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Patrick hits the ice in France, those wacky Women hit Vegas, and COC closes its season with Semele

OUR TOWN: Indefatigable charmer Dinah Christie hosts Chartwell’s 2011 Senior Star National Finale tonight at 9 pm on Zoomer TV (aka Vision.) “Wait ‘til you see the amazing talent of our Top 10 National Finalists,” says Dinah

CHRISTIE: hosting tonight

– “not to mention the incredible performance of our 2011 Senior Star winner, Toni Pinto.” So maybe Canada’s Seniors Got Talent too? … spotted shopping at Pusateri’s in Yorkville: Covert Affairs heartthrob Christopher Gorham, sans collapsible white cane … spotted huddling over coffee at the By The Way café: Producer Allan Novak and playwright Brad Fraser … spotted savouring the brisket at Caplansky’s: Toronto Star arts columnist Martin Knelman and better half Bernadette … and it’s official — the season closer for the Canadian Opera Company is the COC premiere of Handel’s Semele with Canadian coloratura soprano Jane Archibald in the

GORHAM: Yorkville steak-out

title role. The production will be directed by famed Chinese visual and performance artist Zhang Huan, with Italian Baroque opera specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini set to lead the COC Orchestra and Chorus. The COC’s presentation of Semele is the first opportunity for audiences to experience Zhang’s production outside Brussels, Belgium, where it premiered in 2009, and Beijing in 2010, where it was China’s first major staging of a Baroque opera.  Semele will run for only eight, count ’em, eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre starting May 9 … and yes, today’s the day when Why Men Lie, the new novel by Giller Prize-winner Linden MacIntyre (The Bishops Man,)  officially becomes available at a major bookstore near you.

MERCER: Shhh, it's a secret

APRIL IS THE COOLEST MONTH:  Okay, T.S. Eliot might not agree — but then he never met Women Fully Clothed. Fabulous foursome Robin Duke, Jayne Eastwood, Kathryn Greenwood and Teresa Pavlinek will kick off next month with their first gig in Las Vegas – at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, no less — followed by half a dozen shows in California (Thousand Oaks, Napa, Saratoga, etc.) before returning to Home Sweet Ontario for their May bookings here.

P.S.: Shhhh, it’s a secret, but Greenwood and Pavlinek both appear in the same sketch with WFC fan Rick Mercer, who incidentally made a splashy visit to Montreal yesterday,  tonight on the Rick Mercer Report. 

AND NOW, FROM THE SOUTH OF FRANCE: The 2012 World Figure Skating Championships start today in Nice, with Scott Russell hosting CBC broadcasts with Brenda Irving and Canadian figure skating legends

CHAN: He's the Man

Tracy Wilson and Kurt Browning. This year’s big story is to see what reigning World Champion Patrick Chan will do to keep his crown, and to watch as Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir attempt to reclaim the World Ice Dancing Champions title. Our Canadian contingent also includes rising star Amélie Lacoste, pairs teams Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford and Jessica Dubé & Sebastian Wolfe, men’s single skater Kevin Reynolds and ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje and Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill. It all starts today at 3 pm on CBC Television, bold and CBCSports.ca., so rev up your PVRs and get ready to root for your favourites!

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More news, more gossip, more stars, and more award show dates than you ever wanted to know

OUR TOWN: Music master Paul Hoffert and sidekick Bruce Cassidy host a jazz salon this Sunday afternoon at Musideum on Richmond Street west …

LIGHTSTONE: new showecase

30 Rock scene-stealer Tracy Morgan brings his special brand of funny to the Sony Centre tonight … Marilyn Lightstone premieres her latest art showcase, New Directions, on April 12 at Latitude 44 … more than 60 chefs will gather at the Royal Ontario Museum on June 3 to showcase their finest creations in support of Second Harvest. Tickets are $250 with a tax receipt issued for $125. You may think that sounds a bit pricey, but be warned: Tickets to last year’s Toronto Taste sold out in record time. To purchase yours, click here …  and Natalie Cole is set for this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival with a June 25 concert at the Sony Centre.

PENMANSHIP: Additional marquee bait set for the third annual Toronto Screenwriters Conference at the Ted Rogers School Of Management next weekend (March 31-April 1) include ex-Toronto types Graham Yost (Speed,

CLOONEY: Sunshine boy

Justified) and Robin Gurney (Arrested Development, Parenthood) and Skype participants Abi Morgan (Shame, The Iron Lady) and Michael Hirst (The Tudors.) Closing speaker at this year’s creative clambake will be Lee Aronsohn (Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory.) Sounds like a pretty lively weekend … say what you will about the politics of the Toronto Sun, the headline writers at the Little Paper That Grew are still the best (and consistently most irreverent) in the country. The Sun’s front page pic of George Clooney in handcuffs last Saturday was captioned You Have The Right To Remain Handsome. Now that’s funny … by the way, Sun co-founder and columnist Peter Worthington, still typing up a storm, is now 85 (!!!) And Worthington’s latest boss, Quebecor emperor Pierre Karl Péladeau, recently announced new annual Sun Media awards for his newspapers outside of Quebec. Will there be a prize for CBC-slagging? Just askin’ … and here’s one for your calendars: The 9th annual gala fundraiser for Pierre Berton’s writers’ retreat in the Klondike will celebrate the Canuck victory of 1812 with a festive June 5 bash at old Fort York. Berton House clambakes are always a blast, and this one should be no exception … and speaking of good writing, the justifiably-lauded screen version of Mordecai Richler’s Barney’s Version premieres Sunday night on CBC, and the much-anticipated fifth season of Mad Men kicks off Sunday on AMC. That is, if you can tear yourself away from Canada’s Got Talent on Citytv. And the beat goes on.

CALENDAR JOTTINGS:  Next big award show on our horizon is the 2012 Tony Awards. Nominees will be announced May 1
live on TonyAwards.com and CBS will host the three-hour 66thAnnual Tony Awards telecast on Sunday

GERVAIS: will he be back?

June 10 …  the 27th Annual Gemini Awards’ Industry Galas are set for Tuesday August 28 and Wednesday August 29. CBC will host the Broadcast Gala on Wednesday September 5, the night before the 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival begins its time-honoured 10-day movie marathon on Thursday September 6 … 2012 Emmy nominees will be announced July 29, with ABC hosting the 64th annual PrimeTime Emmy Awards on Sunday September 23 … and before you know it we do it all over again in 2013, starting with the 70th annual Golden Globes, with or without Ricky Gervais, on Sunday January 20 on NBC, the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday January 27, the Directors Guild Awards on Tuesday February 5, and the 85th annual Academy Awards, with or without Billy Crystal, on Sunday February 24 on ABC.

STREISAND: Queen of Columbia

SHARPS ‘N’ FLATS: Soprano-turned-director Catherine Malfitano and world-renowned conductor Sir Andrew Davis are joining forces for the Canadian premiere of Alexander Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy and the return of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, an extravagant double-bill opening April 26 for eight performances at the Four Seasons Centre. Since both one-act operas are set in Florence, expect some eye-catching cityscapes from set designer Wilson Chin, costume designer Terese Wadden and lighting designer David Martin Jacques… first headliners announced for the 46th edition of the

FEORE: hosting

Montreux Jazz Festival are Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds, who are now set for a July 4 gig at Auditorium Stravinski. Gallagher says he and his band will perform songs from their first CD as well as some favourites from his previous band, Oasis … when they were the fast-drivin’, rubber-burnin’ Dukes Of Hazzard, who knew they could sing? But three decades later John Schneider and Tom Wopat are still warbling and obviously not superstitious. They’re set to play Fallsview Casino showroom on Thursday April 12 and – wait for it — Friday April 13 … in celebration of the company’s 60th anniversary season, The National Ballet of

GALLAGHER: High-Flying gig

Canada Orchestra will make their concert debut at Koerner Hall on Tuesday April 3. Colm Feore will host the event, and the Orchestra will perform select works that highlight each decade in the company’s 60-year history … and how many of us made deals that last for half a century? Barbra Streisand is celebrating her upcoming 50th year with Columbia Records – her one and only label – by signing a new contract with the Sony-owned label. Only Tony Bennett has been on the label longer. Columbia will celebrate her signing by releasing a 12-set DVD which promises unprecedented access into Streisand’s professional and personal life, including never before seen footage directly from her archives. Streisand’s most recent Grammy nominated album, What Matters Most, was her 31st to reach the Top Ten.

AND NOW, THE WEEKEND WEATHER FORECAST:

Happy weekend.

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Arden has fun with 50, Bobby sings to Yamma, Alice goes to Washington and Mercer takes the plunge

NO BIZ LIKE SHOW BIZ: She may be the most celebrated centrefold in Canadian history, but Jann Arden, whose Botticelli beauty is on full display in the current issue of Zoomer magazine, says she doesn’t mind turning 50. “I

ARDEN: cover girl

don’t mind getting older one little bit,” she insists. “I don’t mind standing in the middle of the kitchen with the refrigerator door wide open thinking that I am going to buy my reading glasses sitting there on one of the glass shelves only to realize that what I was really looking for where my car keys that I swear I just had in my purse that I set down on the table beside the backdoor when my cell phone rang… What was I saying? I don’t mind one single thing about getting older. No, I don’t.” Even more delightful than Bryan Adams’ whimsical portraits of the Adored Ms. A. is the essay penned by Arden herself in her uniquely inimitable style. Buy it for the centrefold, then read the article — you’ll be glad you did … meanwhile, Ms. Arden’s pal Rick Mercer, who continues to coax her into going on hair-raising playdates with him, takes the plunge with members of our Olympic swim team in Victoria BC tonight

MERCER: in the swim of things

on his weekly Rick Mercer Report. (Is there anything funnier than watching Mercer try to keep up with Olympic-calibre athletes?) Now in his ninth (!!!) season, Mercer’s new episodes are currently being watched by close to 2 million Canadians — and that’s not counting the fans who watch him on their iPads and smartphones … some eye-popping photographs by National Ballet principal dancer Aleksandar Antonijevic, who opens here tomorrow night in The Seagull,  will be on display at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa from April 11 – 30. The exhibit will feature behind-the-scenes photographs of National Ballet dancers … and yes, you read that right —  Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey, Titanic) has signed on to write the new screen version of Gypsy with Barbra Streisand as Momma Rose.

DON’T WORRY, BE YAMMA: Watch for happy music maker Bobby McFerrin to duet with Mamma Yamma next month on Kids’ CBCLori Yates & The Nashville Rejects join Vinyl Cafe singer-songwriter Jadea

McFERRIN: Mamma's boy

Kelly at the Cameron House this Friday … Derek Christie and his band are set to heat up a Sick KIds Hospital benefit at the Hard Rock Cafe next Friday, March 30 … and Fallsview Casino is set to bring back its popular all-girl country-music salute 6 CHIX for a 10-day run June 20-30, following a two-night stand by Ringo Starr and his all-Starr band … and has any musical theatre company anywhere received the kind of response that Toronto’s Acting Up company has been generating? Its next concert show, The Long And Winding Road, is a musical tour of Beatles classics set for April 1 at Koerner Hall — and iit’s already almost all sold out. Then again, where else can you see Jackie Richardson, Graham Abbey, Michael Therriault, Steve Ross and so many more on the same stage in the same show? So maybe it’s not such a surprise after all.

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE:  Science icon Stephen Hawking recently shot a cameo for next week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory in which he meets up with Jim Parson’s awkward theoretical physicist Sheldon

PARSONS: Big Banger

Cooper. Said BBT producer Bill Prady: “We’re not exactly sure how we got him. It’s the kind of mystery that could only be understood by, say, a Stephen Hawking.” Hawking, no stranger to show biz, previously voiced himself on The Simpsons — four times!! … American tenor Russell Thomas will make his Canadian Opera Company debut as the barfly poet who spins captivating reminiscences of lost loves to his fellow drinkers when the COC opens its spring season with Jacques Offenbach’s Tales Of Hoffman April 10 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts … and ballet boosters Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan are the Gala co-chairs of the National Ballet’s June 20

KAIN: D.C.-bound

Diamond Gala, a glittering celebration to wrap up the NBOC’s 60th anniversary season with a $1.25 million fund-raising goal. Meanwhile, National Ballet fans in Washington DC who have been waiting for the return of their favourite Canadian high-steppers  — the company hasn’t played there since 2006 — will finally get their wish. NBOC chief Karen Kain will take the company’s celebrated production of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland to the Kennedy Center next January.

WHY WE VOTE, or, What I Learned Today On The Internet: We are all familiar with a Herd of cows, a Flock of chickens, a School of fish, a Gaggle of geese, a Pride of lions and, presumably because they look so wise, a Congress of owls. Now consider a group of Baboons. They are the loudest, most dangerous, most obnoxious, most viciously aggressive and least intelligent of all primates. And what is the proper collective noun for a group of baboons? Believe it or not — a Parliament. Yes. A Parliament of baboons.       Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

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Jennifer plays Winnie, Sheila plays Halifax, Rick plays Rideau Hall — and stars coax us into the cold

STARS IN OUR EYES: Grammy showstopper Jennifer Hudson continues to prove herself as an actress as well as a singer. She and Terence Howard shine as Winnie & Nelson Mandela in the fascinating biopic Winnie, one of

HUDSON & HOWARD: As Winnie and Nelson Mandela in new biopic "Winnie"

the celluloid treats selected for the 12th annual Floating Film Festival. The FFF, launched by TIFF co-founder Dusty Cohl two decades ago and now captained by filmmaker Barry Avrich, embarks on a 10-day Caribbean odyssey on Monday Feb. 27 – the day after the Oscars – on the Seabourn Sojourn. More on FFF 12 as it happens …  Rachel McAdams and her main squeeze Michael Sheen are having a lovely Valentine’s Day, thanks for asking. McAdams’ film with Channing Tatum, The Vow, is number one at the box office, and Sheen is now set to star in the Showtime pilot Masters of Sex …  triumphant trio Russell Braun, Krisztina Szabo and Erin Wall, the three great voices who spark the current,

McADAMS: Happy February

theatrically dazzling Canadian Opera Company production of Love From Afar, won’t be sitting around after the controversial extravaganza closes on Feb. 22. Ms. Szabo is already set to perform with conductor Alex Pauk at the Esprit Orchestra event Gripped By Passion at Koerner Hall on Feb. 26 .And  her co-stars Braun and Wall are set to team up again in Ottawa in a new production of Carmina Burana March 8-9 at the National Arts Centre … and dynamic duo Jay Leno & Madonna teamed up to promote his Tonight Show with a delightfully snappy SuperBowl commercial I finally caught up with yesterday. Did you miss it too? Here it is. Enjoy!

PRESENT LAUGHTER: Montreal’s phenomenal Just For Laughs comedy festival celebrates its 30th anniversary (!!!) this year July 12-29, after warming up with a six-night stand in Chicago June 12-17 … a new cartoon-for-the-mind

JOHNSTON & MERCER: Rideau Hall playdate

podcast from those wacky Illustrated Men is set in the mythical town of Monogami, Ontario.  In the first episode Sam and Ella Toad move to Monogami to make a new start; some kids out camping spot a UFO; and alien bounty hunters land. Will Sam’s car get towed by zombies? You’ll have to tune in to find out …  stand-up guy Harry Doupe hosts Everyone’s A Winner, the March 9 all-star comedy fundraiser at Second City in support of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League with smile-makers  Sean Cullen, Tim Steeves, Laurie Elliott, Pete Zedlacher and many more … Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are set to play two middle-aged guys starting over as interns at an internet company in the Shawn Levy comedy Interns … and Rick Mercer finally gets a taste of the high life he’s been missing when he hobnobs with new Governor-General David Johnston at Rideau Hall tonight on CBC’s Rick Mercer Report.

McCARTHY & NICHOLSON: on stage in Halifax

FOOTLIGHTS: Stage and screen lioness Sheila McCarthy is back on the boards at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax, garnering glowing notices in Norm Foster’s new comedy Mrs. Parliament’s Night Out with J. D. Nicholson. McCarthy is also set to co-star in  Lost In Yonkers with Linda Kash, David Eisner and Happy Days legend Marion Ross when the Neil Simon classic opens here in May   … Graham Abbey of The Border TV fame

BALABAN: Back at Theatre Passe Muraille

is also collecting kudos for his stage turn with Barry Flatman in the Canadian premiere of Enron, directed by Antoni Cimolino at Theatre Calgary … Divisadero: a performance, adapted by Michael Ondaatje from his Governor General Award-winning novel and directed by Daniel Brooks, is back at Theatre Passe Muraille for a limited run through Sunday Feb. 26. The production reunites the original cast of Liane Balaban, Maggie Huculak, Tom McCamus, Amy Rutherford and Justin Rutledge, who created music specifically for the piece …  and Allan Hawco and Philip Riccio’s ambitious Company Theatre has announced its next production. Speaking In Tongues, by Andrew Bovell, will be directed by Riccio and play the Berkeley Street Theatre Oct. 29-Nov. 24. Will Riccio load the dice with lotsa star power? Stay tuned.

TENNANT: On a MIssion

DEEP FREEZE: Some of our faviourite stars are urging us to come into the cold. And their message is definitely on point. “Come freeze your butt off on February 25, 2012 with Yonge Street Mission on the coldest night of the year! It is a 5k and 10k non-competitive walk in the frigid cold for the hurting, homeless and hungry. Sign up as an individual or a team today. If you can’t join us that night, consider donating!” Sparklies askng us to participate via a very engaging vimeo include Maria Del Mar, Peter Keleghan, Debra McGrath, Patrick McKenna, Mark McKinney, Colin Mochrie, Leah Pinsent, Veronica Tennant and, still wearing his Stephen Leacock moustache, Gordon Pinsent. To see it, just click here.

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More honours for Stephen & Andy & Denise, more about Glambert, and Don & Amber spark Sunday night viewing

BROADWAY BABY: Birthday boy Stephen Sondheim got a very special 80th birthday gift this year — a Broadway theater with his name on it. The Henry Miller Theatre will become

ZETA JONES: Sondheim salute

the Stephen Sondheim Theatre as soon as the current tenant, the Dame Edna-Michael Feinstein musical romp All About Me, concludes its run. Meanwhile, just before his birthday, Sondheim was saluted by such musical comedy sparklers as Patti Lupone, Audra McDonald, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch, David Hyde Pierce, Donna Murphy and Nathan Gunn at Avery Fisher Hall.  Now he’s set to be feted with another all-star salute, at New York City Center on April 26, with musical tributes from Angela Lansbury, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Len Cariou, Barbara Cook, Raul Esparaza, Sutton Foster, Victor Garber, Joanna Gleason, Nathan Lane and repeat saluters Donna Murphy and Bernadette Peters. For more info, click here.

KIM: Hit Parader

ROCKING  HIM GENTLY: New inductees to the Hit Parade Hall Of Fame include Louis Armstrong, Sam Cooke, Buddy Holly & the Crickets, Michael Jackson & the Jackson Five, Carole King, Little Richard, The Rolling Stones and Montreal-born Andy Kim (Rock Me Gently, Sugar Sugar.) Kim says that learning of his induction “put me back in the time when I was listening to the radio as a kid, and still today. I love all these artists, and I look at the names, and I hear their songs. I am forever grateful to be in their company.”  Next week Kim releases his first new album in two decades, Happen Again, on his own Iceworks label, and reported highlights include a song he’s written with top Barenaked Ladies tunesmith Ed Robertson. Stay tuned.

SHARPS ‘N’ FLATS: Talk about a jam session. Canadian Music Week wrapped up in T.O. with  713 bands filling 58 venues to capacity. Top-draw music makers  included Our

DONLON: more hardware

Lady Peace, Hedley, Joel Plaskett, Great Lake Swimmers, The Trews, K-OS, Bedouin Soundclash,  Arkells and too many more to mention here. Keynote speakers included superSongwriters Paul Williams and Dave Stewart; radio face Roger Ashby and Universal music guru Randy Lennox picked up Lifetime Achievement Awards; and CBC Radio chief Denise Donlon was honoured with The Rosalie Award for her impressive career in broadcasting …  piano man Chilly Gonzales, who wrapped his Ivory Tower flick here last week for first-time director Adam Traynor of Puppetmastaz notoriety, was in Berlin last night to accompany electro-pop pal Peaches as she premiered her stripped-down solo concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar … frankly fabulous Isabel Bayrakdarian is set to headline two COC operas next season, The Magic Flute with Michael Schade on Jan. 29) and the season closer, Orfeo ed Euridice, with Lawrence Zazzo on May

LAMBERT: new 'Meaning'

8 … indefatigable rocker Gowan plays Fallsview  Casino on May 7 & May 8 …  p.s. to country fans: A new version of 6 Chix, the all-girl music show that premiered at Fallsview last year, returns to the Niagara Falls casino on May 14 for one week only.

WHAT’S HOT: Currently heating up Amazon,com shipping orders: On The Meaning Of Adam Lambert, a book of essays from the web postings of two allegedly serious, mature professional women who became somewhat obsessed (obviously) with the openly gay American Idol runner-up. One reader describes it as “a train wreck with underwear showing.” Hmmmm …Chanel tattoos? Yes, ladies, you can now wear temporary tattoos of Chanel jewellery and some other intriguing designs, including a faux garter belt that could make Coco herself crack up.  Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street started selling ‘em this week – the complete set

CHERRY: nervous

for $75 – but if you want one, don’t delay. “We’ve only received 500 sets, “ a Holt’s rep said with a shrug. “They’ll be gone by Sunday.” Mon dieu! … and look for CBC Television to own this coming Sunday night.  The World Figure Skating Championship Gala starts at 3 pm EST; the much-anticipated season finale of Amber Marshall’s hit series Heartland starts at 7 pm; and the even-more-anticipated Don Cherry screen biography, Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story, starts at 8 pm.

Don says he still hasn’t seen the film, which was written by his son Tim Cherry and reportedly pulls no punches. “I’m going to watch it alone, down in my basement with my dog Blue and my goldfish, just the same as everybody else, with the commercials and the whole deal.” Is he nervous about seeing it? “Very.”

WHAT’S NOT: Leaving the lights on tomorrow night between 8:30-9:30 pm. Yes, Earth Hour is finally upon us — heck, there’s even a Blackberry app for it! So switch ’em off, people. Besides, we all look sooooo much better by candlelight.  And we, and we alone, have the power. In the words of the great Portugese-Canadian philosopher Nelly Furtado:

Turn off the light!

Turn off the light!

Happy weekend.

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