Monday, 27 October 2014

So You Think You Can Dance Tour's outstanding Montreal stop; I talk to Ricky and Valerie

The Crowd Goes Wild
The  Bell Centre was rocking on October 27, as the energetic So You Think You Can Dance season 11 tour hit Montreal for a second year in a row. The show, which airs on Fox and CTV, has won 11  Primetime Emmy® Awards and sparked America’s fascination with dance. Montreal is one of an incredible 70 cities on the tour. The Season 11 tour lineup  includes winner  Ricky Ubeda, runnerup.Valerie Rockey and the other top 10 finalists Emilio Dosal, Tanisha Belnap,  Jessica Richens, Zack Everhart, Bridget Whitman, Casey Askew, Jacque LeWarne and  Rudy Abreu.

This is a magnificent presentation, with amazing numbers, multiple costume changes and  some superb props.  The show began with executive producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe shown on a giant video screen. His pre-taped message is full of pep and set the right tone for the evening. After the top 10 entered the stage –along with four extra dancers – for an opening number, the voice of Lythgoe brought them back for formal introductions and the crowd went wild.

I must say that this one remarkable show to be in the audience for. It is so fast paced and quite extraordinary to see the dancers, complete unknowns only a few months ago, treated like “idols.” The program consists of a series of group numbers, duets and solos. It is so well choreographed and ends on such a high, you just know that everyone in the crowd will be back next year if the organizers decide to grace our city.

The show took place in  a slimmed down version of the Bell Centre, with the higher levels blocked off and many other sections closed to accommodate the large stage. There were long lineups entering the arena, with security stepped up after the violent incidents in Ottawa and St. Jean last week. Some 3,500 fans were on hand, less than last year. I cannot understand why. Perhaps because it was a Monday rather than a Sunday night.

Ricky and Valerie from So You Think You Can Dance share a moment with me backstage.

Prior to the afternoon rehearsal I got to meet Emilio and Tanisha, whom I had interviewed by phone a few weeks ago. As well, I sat down with Ricky and Valerie for a private chat. Ricky had been to Montreal once before. For Valerie, this marked her first trip to Canada.

Ricky,  the 18 year old winner, was the favorite to take it all early on this season.  For winning tip honours  he  appeared on the cover of Dance Spirit magazine,  took  home  $250,000 and will  join the Broadway cast of On the Town in the spring. 

“This all feels like a dream, like I put my life on pause” Ricky said.  “Winning was like the craziest thing ever. I still don’t believe it sometimes. I am so grateful. I just graduated from high school in May. I have never lived by myself and I am going to move to New York City.”

“I’ll come visit,” chimed in Valerie, who considers Ricky like a brother.

Valerie, 20,  left her hometown in Indianapolis, Indiana a year ago to pursue a career in dance. Then she succeeded with the SYTYCD auditions, setting the stage for lots of new opportunities after the tour ends.

“I honestly have no idea what I will do next,” she said.  “I'm going to wait and see what comes my way and what opportunities are presented to me. I don't know where I'm going to be after the tour. I just want to dance. But I also want to take acting classes”

Ricky, who received a thunderous ovation after his solo, said he is enjoying the tour. “It has been awesome,” he said, “but kind of exhausting living on a bus  and doing a show almost every night. This is our 21st stop out of 77. It is a once in a lifetime experience.”

While Valerie agrees that the tour schedule is exhausting, there is a lot less pressure than the television show. “We still get to do what we did in the show, but without the pressures of voting and judges comments,” she says. “We are just having fun.”

And what about their new found fame? “It was just another audition for me,” she said. “Then one round after another I kept getting further and further. The next thing you know I am the runner up on the show. It still does not feel real. I thought it would by now, then I catch myself signing autographs. Who would have thought three and a half months ago I’d be doing this.”

“I am thrilled with the spectacular, fresh talent we have discovered this season,” stated Nigel Lythgoe, judge, executive producer and co-creator of the hit FOX series. “I believe these dancers have inspired the choreographers to create remarkable dance numbers each week. I am excited for your favorite dancers to bring their inspiration and routines to even more cities throughout the nation on this year’s tour.”

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Chris Reiser and Ted Bird "KIC" start country station

While I am not necessarily a country music fan, because of the personalities CKKI 98.9 KIC Country FM has  added to its lineup recently I have been giving it a listen every now and then.
First off we have radio veteran Chris Reiser co-hosting the morning show with the ever so charismatic Lee Haberkorn, who has been heard on Virgin Radio.
Chris Reiser

“I've been involved with CKKI 89.9 KIC Country for two years now,” says Reiser. “It's been an exciting time building a radio station from the ground up with minimal resources, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

You can also hear Reiser on CJAD, Virgin Radio and CHOM. That’s because he works for the Canadian Traffic Network, which supplies traffic reports for the stations. “They don't have a problem with my involvement with KIC,” he says.

Reiser is also very active in the Voice-Over community and typically has several sessions a week.

“I like country music,” Reiser says. “Though  the bulk of my career was in the rock and adult contemporary world, I have always been a fan of country music.”

Johnny Jordan

Johnny Jordan does lunchtime from Noon to 2 p.m.. He has worked in places like  Seattle and Honolulu in the past and of course the legendary Ted Bird can now be heard as part of a spirited drive home show Erik Gregory and Skana Deer.
Ted Bird

Dave and Dave it the air from 6 p.m. to  9 p.m. weeknights. “They are new to the industry and we are encouraged by what we've heard from these guys so far,” says Reiser.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Shabbat Project set for next weekend

Jewish Montrealers will be among thousands of Jews worldwide joining in on The Shabbat Project, a ground-breaking event aimed at uniting world Jewry in fully  observing the Shabbat custom together. In its second edition, The Shabbat Project was developed and  piloted by South Africa's Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein encouraging the Jewish community to thoroughly  keep Shabbat in unity. Approximately 75 percent of South Africa's 75,000 participated. It was such a successful  event that this year’s Shabbat affair rolled out to the rest of the world, including Montreal.

From Great Britain to Guatemala, there are more than 1,400* official partners from over 35 countries. Held on the weekend of Friday, October 24 to 25, more than 800 Montrealers are currently  registered in committing themselves to fully respecting this spiritual event. Jews of all religious levels,  origins, or professions are encouraged to take part.
In conjunction with various synagogues, "this monumental event has the potential to unite world Jewry  in a time when we really need it," said Pinny Gniwich, lead organizer of Montreal’s The Shabbat Project.
The event will officially kick-off Thursday night October 23 with Challah Bakes at Beth Zion Congregation  (7 p.m. $18) in Côte Saint-Luc and Beth Ora Congregation (7 p.m., free of charge) in St. Laurent and at Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation in  CSL, with guest speaker, Rachel Frenkel, the mother of Naftali Frenkel, one of the three Israeli Yeshiva students that was kidnapped and murdered last June.

From Montreal to the world, register today in #Keepingittogether at

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Habs-less at the Hilton in Quebec City

I just returned from a weekend conference in Quebec City. We were based at the beautiful Hilton Hotel, where most of the Members of the National Assembly stay while the government sits.  I was not able to find out whether Pierre Karl Peladeau, the  flamboyant new PQ MNA for St. Jerome and possible future leader, is one of their guests. And while he insists that he has nothing to do with his media properties, I wonder how he would have felt on Saturday night.
The fist pump that saved Canada. But what about the Hilton PKP?
I had a session starting at 8 p.m. so I made sure to eat dinner  at 6 p.m. and headed back to my room to watch the beginning of the Canadiens game against Patrick Roy's Colorado Avalanche. I turned to CBC, which actually airs the Rogers Network broadcast, only to learn that they would be showing the Maple Leafs vs. the Red Wings. City  TV had the Habs game.  As a frantically searched the dial I quickly learned that the Hilton does not carry City. I picked up Le Journal de Québec and sure enough the Canadiens contest was being shown on Peladeau's TVA Sports Network.  I went through the channels again and wouldn't you know it, the Hilton does not have that channel either! How is this possible in supposedly hockey mad Quebec City, where the Florida Panthers might land next year.

Fortunately I was able to squeeze my way into the executive lounge, where they have Bell Fibe TV (sorry Mr Peladeau) and had them put the Habs game on. I watched the first period and all was well.

With TVA Sports owning the right 22 regular season games, as well as playoff action, for the next 12 years I would suggest that the Hilton get its act together.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Talisman's "Billy" is one outstanding play

Rivière des Prairies native and present-day resident Davide Chiazzese is one busy stage actor. This week he began a run as part of the cast of Talisman Theatre's  world English-language premiere of Billy (The Days of Howling), which goes until October 25 at Theatre La Chapelle on Rue St. Dominique in the Plateau. It is written by Québecois playwright/actor Fabien Cloutier, translated by Nadine Desrochers  and directed by Emma Tibaldo. Next month, November 13 to 20, the 26 year old graduate of MichelangeloInternational Elementary School in RDP, Lester B. Pearson High School in Montreal North and the John Abbott College Theatre Program, will star in  Teesri Duniya Theatre’s Holocaust-themed play Corpus.

Chiazzese’s co-stars  in Billy are Susan Glover  (the Admin lady) and Nadia Verrucci (Alice's Mother, whose daughter is at the same daycare as Billy). The latter thinks that Billy is being mistreated and finally confronts Billy's father (Chiazzese), with tragic results. The Admin Lady finds fault with the people around her. Seemingly unrelated at first, these three characters become intertwined as the play progresses, while one’s own judgmental attitudes are questioned.
Davide Chiazzese

“We do not see the actual characters of Billy and Alice in the play,” Chiazzese says. “ In the case of Billy, he is accused of spreading lice at the daycare.  My character decides to confront the woman who made the accusation. I had to put on 25 pounds for this role. It meant eating a lot of cheetos and drinking soda.”

I attended Wednesday’s presentation, a powerful 90 minutes without any intermission.

It is tiring,” Verrucci told me after the show, “but when you have an intermission you stop and start all over again. This way we keep going straight through.”

“Yes,” added Chiazzese, “I am tired now but during the show I have a lot of adrenaline.”

The audience loved  this well written and beautifully acted play in a quaint theatre I had never been to before. There were serious and edgy moments, as well as some lines which resulted in laughs – mostly those coming from Chiazzese who had to dip into the world of profanity to make the points of his character being painted with an unfair brush. There is only so much I can write without giving away the true plot.

Verrucci is a META (Montreal English Theatre Association)  award winning actor, singer, director and choreographer, and the Artistic Director of In Your Face entertainment. She has a long list of credits on her bio. After 12 years teaching drama and dance at the high school level in Lachute, Verducci left that profession in 2008 to pursue acting full-time. “I was always doing acting on the side and it really was starting to become difficult,” she said. “I still teach part time and substitute when I can.”

Chiazzese (Billy’s father)  was introduced to the arts at a very young age as his father was involved with l'Associazione Trinacria, an organization devoted to maintaining Sicilian culture in Quebec through theatre, music and folkloric dancing. After more than 10 years of participating in these community projects, he decided to pursue a career in acting. A graduate of John Abbott in the Professional Theatre Program, in his first year he  was awarded the Carla Napier Scholarship, and later appeared on CBC's Triple Sensation, making it to the Top 100 in Eastern Canada. The experience prepared him for his most memorable role at John Abbott, playing Tevye in Joseph Stein's Fiddler on the Roof. In his final year, he was awarded the Pamela Montgomery Award and was invited to be a part of the ICTF program at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011. Since, he has worked on many productions including Daisy and the Wonder Weeds (CETM), Henry V (Persephone), Sala XVIII (Canis Tempus), and The Tin Can People (Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Davide has also worked extensively with Teesri Duniya Theatre on productions including The Poster, State of Denial, the development of Safer Ground, and assistant directed Teesri`s Letters to My Grandma directed by Lib Spry as well as being on the artistic team for Bhopal directed by Arianna Bardesono and Liz Valdez.

A scene from the show with Davide Chiazzese, Nadia Verrucci and Susan Glover. ( Maxime Côté photo)

Bravo to director Emma Tibaldo and her team.

Shows will be presented Tuesday to Saturday evenings during the run, with a matinee on Saturday October 25. 

 Info: 514-846-0402 or

Monday, 6 October 2014

TSN 690 chooses Dan Robertson as new voice of the Habs

The suspense is finally over and Maritimer Dan Roberston is the new play by play man for Montreal Canadiens radio broadcasts on TSN 690, succeeding John Bartlett who left the post to join Rogers Sportsnet. He will begin his new job when the Habs face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday evening.

TSN 690 Program Director Chris Bury would not talk about other candidates, so we do not know whether Rick Moffat actually applied for the job or not. The team was impressed with Robertson's audition for a Habs pre-season game.

"During the first 24 to 48 hours after we heard from John that he was leaving, we got a ton of applications from across the country and even the United States," Bury said. "The demo that really blew us away was Dan's. We went through a pretty transparent process internally and what I got was an across the board endorsement of Dan. I must say as a program director I really enjoyed the process."

Robertston, who is married with kids,  is getting a tour of the city today from assistant program director Matthew Wood. Once he gets his feet wet, Bury hopes to give him a lot of on air exposure outside of Habs games.

Robertson is already a polished  play caller from the Maritimes who has been behind the mic for countless university basketball, hockey and football events. He will join game analyst and Stanley Cup champion Sergio Momesso in the broadcast booth. Robertson brings more than a decade of experience calling QMJHL games, while Momesso contributes his perspective as a 13-year NHL veteran and former Habs player. TSN 690 delivers complete radio coverage of every Montreal Canadiens regular season and playoff game, with contributions from a team of reporters and analysts including Mitch Melnick, Tony Marinaro, Chris Nilan, Conor McKenna, Pat Hickey, and more.

On game days, TSN 690 also provides extensive Habs coverage with the Irish Embassy Pre-Game Show and the Delmar Post Game Show. Throughout the week, TSN 690 delivers comprehensive news and analysis of the team from the following programs:
Habs Breakfast on The Morning Show with Elliott Price, Shaun Starr, and Rick Moffat, weekdays from 6-10 a.m. ET.
Habs Lunch with Marinaro and Nilan, weekdays from 12 noon-1 p.m. ET.
Habs This Week with Simon Tsalikis and Bobby Dollas, Saturdays from 2-5 p.m. ET.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Room Service gives new meaning to home delivery of your meal

There is an entire new meaning to the words  “Room Service” in Montreal thanks to the work of  Concorda University John Molson School of Business grads Moustafa El Naggar and Mazen Nadim, Room Service  is the name of their downtown restaurant, which specializes in the home delivery of piping hot meals right to your door.

El Naggar and Nadim

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month they have launched a new strawberry milkshake called Rose Vif., with proceeds being donated to the Cure Foundation. There are also pink pumpkins in the house for Halloween.

El Naggar recently reopened Room-Service, which he launched one year ago, taking over Buns Hamburger House  (Best Burger in Montreal  by CULTMontreal 2010-2014) at 3673 St. Laurent Boulevard with the signature $5 burger buns available for delivery.  ‘‘We deliver culinary sensations to your door, just like a hotel,’’ he explains, noting that ‘‘We are now also getting calls from working people, who are stuck late at the office.’’

Matthew McKean,  now executive chef at Rosewood, Jonas’ new restaurant, developed the menu with Moustafa.

Business is growing quickly. Moustafa has already provided employment for 10 people, as well as four free-lancers. From his international business studies, El Naggar understands the need not only to be first to market, but to ‘own’ that position.  He is building the brand with comprehensive social media and tightly-targeted promotional campaigns.

Bilal arrives with my order.

‘‘I am my market,’’ El Naggar adds. ‘‘Dishes are designed with my peers in mind. We offer fusion pizza with Indian spices for example, and chicken tandoori quesadillas, as well as full meals such as Pacific salmon. I know from experience that sweets are needed, so we have developed both healthy – rice pudding – and super sinful – double chocolate cupcakes. There is a choice of soft drinks as well as comforting milkshakes.’’

Delivery to the Greater Montreal and West Island areas  is as ‘‘chic’’ as a hotel service, with  drivers like ours named Bilal arriving in branded uniforms. Food is easy to eat, delivered in micro-waveable containers with cutlery.  The most popular dishes are philly cheese steak sandwich.  

I decided to give it a try today at my office. A colleague and I each ordered a strawberry milkshake. I opted for the chicken pesto pizza while Brigida  sampled the California Cobb Salad. She gave it a big thumbs up, especially the dressing and the soft breaded slices of chicken. Regarding the milkshake, I have never actually tried the strawberry variety before, but this one was great.

Besides the  delivery option, the funky sit-down resto on very cool Saint-Laurent is open until 4 a.m. (on Fridays and Saturdays due to the huge influx of beautiful young things dancing  - and eating - the night away Other nights it is  open until 2 a.m.

For more information call 514-709-7666