Monday, 27 July 2015

Neil Patrick Harris adds true star power to Just For Laughs galas

I caught the first of four Just For Laughs galas Monday night at the Place des Arts, hosted by superstar Neil Patrick Harris. He was essentially the ringmaster for what was called Circus Awesomeaus. Once again the folks at JFL came up with a pretty novel way to close out another successful celebration of comedy.
The star of the show, NPH.

Harris has hosted 10 televised awards shows over the past few years. Only a few months ago he was front and centre in Hollywood at the Academy Awards. Fast forward to Montreal, a city where he has shot a number of movies, and he did not disappoint as the common thread for a variety show which included a singing clown, a sword swallower, a magician/illusionist, an acrobat, a “little person” stand up comic and a female comic who would be better suited for the Nasty Show.

Local comic Ryan Willner opened things up with a great cross promotion for sponsor Air Canada.  Two spectators, Phillip and Carolina, were upgraded from their balcony seats to front row centre. They each got $250 AC gift cards and a chance to go back stage after the show. Following a short highlight reel of previous gala shows, Puddles the Clown made his way into the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, walked down a few rows and introduced Neil Patrick Harris.  This was one of those “feel good” moments as the capacity crowd of some 3,000 rose to their feet and gave him a loud and lengthy standing ovation. Since this was being taped for airing on a future CBC broadcast,  it made for a great TV moment.

“Montreal is my favorite city in all of Canada,” he said, “and I’ve been to Edmonton.”

Harris spoke about how exciting this past year has been for him. “I played a flamboyant transgender punk rocker in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, then I did something rash and I hosted the Oscars…then I got married,” he said.

Harris made several jokes related  to his sexual orientation, first praising Canada for marking the 10th anniversary since legislation was adopted legalizing same sex marriage. The United States only followed suit recently.  “America’s future is looking more like Canada’s past,” he said.

A funny bit had Harris promising to read the minds  of some audience members. Two pretty women came on stage with a large case. Inside were sealed envelopes.  His first question was to a man near the front, asking if they had ever met before. The man said “no.” Harris then showcased a small board with the word “no,” on it. He then asked a woman in the crowd who her favorite actor ever was. Her response was Red Skelton. Harris promptly displayed the photo of a baby. “Red Skelton at nine months old,” he quipped.

This might not have been up there with his performances at the Tonys or the Oscars, but I got the feeling that just about everyone in the room was so excited to see him live and in person he could just as well have sat there playing solitaire. 

Sammy J and Randy were the first acts to perform. Sammy (Sam McMillan) is an Australian musical comedian and writer who embraces a variety of media in his comedy, including the use of video and self-composed music. Randy is a purple puppet voiced by  Heath McIvor. They were quite funny.

Harris then brought someone out in a wheelchair, outfitted in a straightjacket. It was sword swallower and self confessed professional weird person Brett Loudermilk, who made everyone feel just a little bit uncomfortable.

Next came the true hit of the night – little person Brad Williams,  whom I would go back and see solo any day of the week.  A California native, he started doing stand-up at age 19 and has been touring ever since. He has appeared on numerous TV shows including Legit, Deadbeat, Dave Attell’s Comedy Underground, Sam and Cat, Live at Gotham, the Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Mind Of Mencia, and Pitboss. The late Robin Williams called him “Prozac with a head.” Brad’s ability to make humorous observations on disability, relationships, sex, and race are winning over audiences and proving that anyone can overcome their shortcomings. He joked about walking into a children’s hospital. A young kid ran up to him and said, “don’t worry, they will fix you.” One of his funniest lines was about the looks he gets at the grocery store when he buys Lucky Charms cereal (known  for their leprechauns).

Magician/illusionist Ed Alonzo got some giggles with his bit – swallowing a balloon, followed by some funny sound effects and then having it come out of his rear end. According to what I read on the web, Harris referred to Alonzo as his “best friend” during a 2008 interview on the Craig Ferguson Show. Harris asked for volunteers, as he was told by Alonzo to saw a woman in half. One lady obliged. When the deed was done, her upper torso was transported off stage to which Harris asked “What am I supposed to do with the bottom half of a woman?”   

Someone introduced only as Beardyman came on stage. He created some impressive sound effects with his mouth, from music to a baby talking. Harris then came forward with a fish bowl. Inside people made up the titles for some songs such as “My second boyfriend left me,” to “How did my daughter get lice again?” The bearded man turned these words into pretty good songs.

Acrobat Hugo Desmarais was not only impressive in his aerial cage, but when he seemed to have finished his act he signalled to Harris to come forward and together they flew through the air- a pretty impressive, but risky move for the very successful and wealthy Harris. One bad move and his career would have been mush. Referring to the handsome Desmarais, Harris shouted out, “I love my husband David! I love my husband David!”

What would a circus be like without a juggler. Nicolas Fontaine fulfilled that role

I am not sure anyone in the audience was ready for profanity laced Bridget Everett, a singer, comedian, actor and writer who performs regularly in New York City.   A plus size woman wearing an outfit which showed a lot of her anatomy, she went into the audience and actually convinced some men and women to repeat some very racy language.  Check her out in the new Amy Schumer movie Trainwreck

As the show drew to a close, Harris finally consented to give Puddles  The Clown the stage. Puddles belted out a pretty good rendition of the theme song from Titanic. As he concluded, a makeshift boat with the name “Titanic” written on the side containing Harris and  the evening’s performers appeared on stage. No question about it. This ended things off on a high.
The Titanic finale.

There are still some tickets left for the Tuesday, July 28 shows. Go to to do so.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Soleil d'Espagne – Vies et poésies de Lorca to kick off Laval cultural festival August 1

August will be an exciting month in Laval as Quebec’s third largest city marks its 50th anniversary.

On August 1, the Maison des arts de Laval (1395 Concord Boulevard West) will kick off a unique array of summer programming under the theme Suburbs vs. The World. The former is actually a visual arts exhibition where multiple artists will express their views on the suburbs while the latter will be composed of a series of world music concerts, offered for free on the terrasse of the Maison des arts. Many artists from around the world will be performing traditional music on every Thursday and Sunday in August.  Opening night will feature Soleil d’Espagne - vies et poésies de Lorca (pictured above), with well known singer Richard Desjardins, vi violinist Alexandre Da Costa and guitar player Alexandre Éthier.

For The Suburbs programming, guest artists will include Gwenael Bélanger, Stephanie Beaulieu, Andrée-Anne Carrier, Stéphanie Chalut, Kim Dorland, Hillerbrand & Magsamen, Emmanuelle Jacques, Labspace studio, Lagrange Emmanuel Paquet, Eric Lamontagne, Pierre Laroche, Laurent Lévesque, Anna Jane McIntyre, OBV, Jacinthe Robillard  and Michel Saulnier,  Invited authors are Simon Boulerice, Sébastien Dulude, Stéphane Larue, Bertrand Laverdure, Stuart Ross, Hector Ruiz and  Marie-Hélène Buckwheat.

 As for the music, eight free concerts are scheduled in a 5 a 7 format for Thursdays and Sunday afternoons in the privacy of an urban garden. Popular Quebec actress and singer Geneviève Néron, will serve as emcee. Guest artists slated to appear are Bomata Paul Deslauriers and Khurshid Anwar, Kabakuwo Ismail Fencioglu and Fenci's Ensemble, Kumbia Gypsy Orchestra, and Habana Café and Willie Rios,   In case of rain, concerts will be moved  indoors.

Log on to for more information. The Maison des arts de Laval is accessible via the Montmorency Metro. 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Montrealers Nic and Sabrina continue to thrive on Amazing Race Canada

Montreal couple Nic La Monaca, 22, of Anjou and Sabrina Mercuri, 32, of Lachine had another strong showing on  CTV's The Amazing Race Canada this week while Vancouver co-workers Susan Hayre and Sharnjit Gill became the second team eliminated.

Engaged couple Hamilton and Michaelia used their Express Pass to win the leg in Santiago, Chile, earning them premium economy tickets from Air Canada to Delhi, India, plus six months of free gas from Petro-Canada. Nic and Sabrina used their multilingual talents and ability to converse in Spanish to their advantage and came in fourth place.

For  Susan and Sharnjit, the most recent episode was an emotional one. The Vancouver-based correctional officers quickly found themselves in last place after losing their bearings during a mural road block in Santiago, Chile. They became the second team eliminated at the Pit Stop at one of the best views of the city, beautiful Cerro San Cristobal.

“This was the most amazing experience ever,” said Susan. “Today was just a day that we will take back home and never forget.” 

“I just hope we made our kids proud,” added Sharnjit. “I want our kids to look at this and say ‘yep, that’s my mom’ and ‘yep, that’s my aunt – and they did it.’” 

From the Pit Start in Toronto, 11 teams travelled more than 8,600 km to Santiago, Chile in hopes of winning two Express Passes. Once in Chile, teams travelled to the Geoaventura Parque for their first Road Block, a paragliding challenge. Teams then made their way to the San Miguel borough, where they took selfies in front of five murals spread throughout the neighbourhood. For the second part of the challenge, teams helped local children paint a mural. Hamilton and Michaelia successfully found a dancing couple in the Bellavista neighbourhood, earning them two Express Passes. Then, at the Detour, teams chose between learning a difficult dance routine or memorizing and reciting verses of a Spanish poem. Hamilton and Michaelia decided to use their Express Pass early, skipping the Detour, and ultimately winning the leg. Host Jon Montgomery greeted them at the Pit Stop in Cerro San Cristobal with their leg prize – premium economy tickets from Air Canada to Delhi, India, plus six months of free gas from Petro Canada™.

Next week teams race to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where racers begin at the Plaza Canada Totem Pole, before getting tripped up on the field in a game of blind soccer. That just happens to be Nic's sport. He has played professional in Italy and currently coaches an elite soccer club in Laval. Of course he does all this with his eyes wide open.

The episode will encore this Saturday, July 18 at 7 p.m. ET/PT and Sunday, July 19 at 5 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO – and is also now available on demand at CTV GO. All-new episodes  air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CTV and CTV GO. CraveTV™ subscribers can stream new Season 3 episodes a week after the broadcast premiere. Previous seasons are also currently streaming on CraveTV.
Nic and Sabrina in the heat of the action.

Besides Nic and Sabrina and Hamilton and Michaelia from Centreville, NS, the 10 remaining teams competing for the biggest grand prize in Canadian television history are:

Brent and Sean – Brothers –       Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S.
Brian and Cynthia – Married – Winnipeg
Dana and Amanda – Co-workers – St. John’s, N.L.
Dujean and Leilani – Exes – Toronto and Halifax, N.S.
Gino and Jesse – Brothers – Hamilton  
Neil and Kristin – Father and daughter – Burlington, Ont.
Nick and Matt – Wrestling Teammates – Newmarket, Ont. and Stouffville, Ont. 
Simi and Ope – Father and daughter – Burnaby, B.C. 

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Cheryl Besner to spice up Just For Laughs Relationship Show

In the early years of the Just For Laughs Festival I always had the Relationship Show on my radar screen. It was just one of the innovative themes Andy Nulman, Bruce Hills and their team thought up to go with the Nasty Show, the Bar Mitzvah Show, later the Ethnic Show and much more.
The 2015 edition takes place on July 21 and 22 at Metropolis with story tellers  Brent Morin, Orny Adams, Debra DiGiovanni, Tom Papa and host Jim Breuer banding together to recount everything from their most cringe-worthy dating experiences, to the highs and woes of marriage, to the inevitably hilarious moments that come with raising a family.  

Now enter Cheryl Besner and her popular weekly "relationship" show on CJAD called Solo in the City. On July 21 at the Quartier des Spectacles next to Place des Arts and close by Metropolis. Solo in the City and Just for Laughs will take the Relationship Show to the next level, with a night of schmoozing, speed-dating and laughter.
Cheryl Besner

JFL and Solo, along with many of Montreal’s matchmaking and dating companies, will welcome solos (and couples too!) to a 5à7 featuring a meet-and-greet with Relationship Show comedians, a round of live speed-dating featuring some of those comedians and a host of fun activities to tickle your funny bones, and maybe some other bones too.Some lucky audience members will even land a date with an eligible comedian – but they’ll have to let everyone in the Quartier de Spectacles VIP tent watch!

Guests will also be part of a Solo in the City Radio taping and will weigh in on the issue of the week during a round table discussion: Why laughter is an essential part of any relationship. Solo in the City takes a multifaceted approach to meeting new friends and potential partners. Besner, one of Montreal’s top socialists, a certified dating coach and motivational speaker, aims to take the pressure out of awkward blind dates by simply connecting Montrealers on a human level first, through events or designated meetup locations across the city.

Besner's motto is simple:  encourage singles to be, above all, sociable in order to  maximize their chances of making new friends and eventually finding love. The platform features weekly event listings, a dating app, blogs and content geared toward Montrealers looking for love. Solo in the City Radio airs on CJAD 800 on Saturdays at 10 pm and episodes are available on as a podcast. 

Guests will  receive a 15 percent discount for The Relationship Shows by using a custom promo code for each dating company to help promote the community of Montreal to… Get up, Get out and Get Social!

For ticket information on the Relationship Show and others go to

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Nic and Sabrina survive week one in The Amazing Race Canada

Dating Couple Max and Elias were the first team eliminated in the Season 3 premiere of CTV’s  The Amazing Race Canada, seen by more than two million viewers.

It did not look good at the beginning for the only Montreal  team, couple  Nic La Monaca, 22, of Anjou and Sabrina Mercuri, 32, of Lachine. The 12 teams gathered at the foot of the historic Château Frontenac Hotel in Québec City. After heading to Quay 22 in Québec’s harbour for their first clue, teams had to search through hundreds of bikes to find the one that their combination unlocked, and take a ferry across the St. Lawrence River to the town of Lévis, before departing for Toronto.  Nic and Sabrina were virtually last in this competition. But they caught up with the rest of the gang as the teams headed towards Toronto on two separate flights.

Teams encountered a word scramble challenge inside the St. Lawrence Market, tested their broadcasting chops with TSN’s James Duthie on the set of Sports Centre , and then made their way to Ontario Place where they competed in a three-part water obstacle course.  Sabrina was a little hesitant on that one.

Brothers Gino and Jesse Montani arrived first at the Air Canada Centre, winning the first leg of Season three.  Nic and Sabrina ended up second. 

Host Jon Montgomery greeted them at the Pit Stop with their leg prize – two round-trip tickets from Air Canada to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and 2.5 million Petro-Points each from Petro-Canada, redeemable for six months of free gas.  Next Wednesday, July 15, teams break out their passports and race to exotic Santiago, Chile, where tensions run high and communication with the locals proves to be a challenge.

"It's as amazing as it looks!" Nic and Sabrina tweeted @Nic_SabrinaTARC. "And 1000x more stressful than 1 can imagine!"

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

All-day breakfast and more at Kitchen 73's four locations and counting

I finally made my way out to eat at Kitchen73 (, which is quietly growing into a chain.
A submarine sandwich and salad.
There are locations on Boulevard de L’Avenir in Laval, as of this week St.Martin Boulevard in Laval, Brunswick Boulevard in Dollard des Ormeaux and the Vieux Port in Old Montreal. They also have a very successful food truck operation.

Carmine Anoia and Alex Amato.
I met my good friend Wayne Bews at the Brunswick Avenue location, where we were greeted by owner Carmine Anoia and manager Alex Amato. 

The first thing I need to comment on is the menu. Wow!!! I advise you to take a look at it online first for there are so many choices. Openly daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., this place is known for its breakfast options: eggs served with up to five choices; selections like the Cardiac Arrest (breakfast poutine with potatoes, bacon, mozzarella cheese topped with creamy hollandaise sauce and a choice of egg) or the Avalanche  (three eggs, bacon, sauce, ham. Crepes, French toast, baked beans and six ounce sirloin steak). There is a separate “Healthy Menu” containing items such as  a  St. Viateur bagel with cream cheese and fresh fruits or a three egg white omelette with rapinis, asparagus, spinach, onions and mozzarella. There are a wide array of  salads,pasta dishes, pizza, burgers, submarine sandwichs  and signature dishes served with homemade soup daily such as  teriyaki chicken, angus short ribs and  grilled Atlantic salmon. A kids menu is available. There is even a poutine with braised beef that comes highly recommended. For dessert check out the cherry cheesecake.
The Avalanche.

Anoia notes that more expansion is planned, with NDG possibly next on the horizon.Every morning, bread, sausages and sauces are freshly made on site,” he notes. “We believe that freshness is largely responsible for our success. We welcome our guests with open arms and treat it as always.”  

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Star of ABC's Nashville and Broadway Shows Kyle Dean Massey Montreal-bound

Kyle Dean Massey was making his way through a McDonald’s at Times Square getting a drink for his mom when I reached him by phone Tuesday afternoon.  I wanted to ask him about his plans to be in Montreal this Saturday, July 11 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to give an exclusive masterclass for local performers. During the workshop, participants will learn all the tricks of auditioning for musical theatre productions, on-camera technique and how to book the job. Enrollment is extremely limited and open to participants who will each have one-on-one time with Massey, as well as auditors who can observe and learn from the audience.  
Kyle Dean Massey

Kyle, 33, has plenty to share. Known for his work on Broadway in top running shows such as Pippin, Next to Normal, Wicked, Xanadu & Altar Boyz, he has called New York City home for 13 years. He also has a recurring role in the smash ABC hit Nashville where he plays songwriter Kevin Bicks who not only pens tunes for character Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) but becomes romantically involved with the very much in the closet country heartthrob.

“I am heading back to Nashville in about 10 day to start filming for the next season,” said Massey. “I was a fan of the show from the beginning. The way that they found these beautiful songs that they've integrated so well into the show is really appealing. I love how music can enhance emotion and a storyline. It's like those slideshows that they do at award shows for the people that have passed away. They add the music to it and suddenly you're crying and you don't know any of these people.  Music obviously has a very strong effect on our emotions. You get a good lyric in there, and it can tell the story better than any written dialogue can."

Massey says he was contacted by Noelle Hannibal from In the Wings Promotions to come to Montreal. “I love the city first of all,” he said, “and I am always happy to come do some private coaching. Becoming a perfect actor takes years of practice. In a masterclass I am providing some tricks of the trade.”

Massey was raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a town 60 miles northwest of Memphis.  He started taking dance classes at age six after seeing his older sister perform in a local production of The Nutcracker. Although he spent almost all of his adolescent years singing in school choirs and studying the piano, it was not until his sophomore year of high school that he did his first musical. He has now performed in over 60 productions. In addition to his stage work, he has been seen on the screen in Up All Night (NBC), Hart of Dixie (CW), Cupid (ABC), Sex and the City 2 (HBO Films) and the upcoming film The Contest. He has also performed on Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, Regis & Kelly and the 62nd Annual Tony Awards.  

Having the lead role of Pippin on Broadway and in a number of touring productions was a grueling experience. Pippin tells the story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. It's a show full of circus acts creates  by Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based circus company Les 7 doigts de la main (also known as 7 Fingers).

The participation fee for the masterclass is $185 (taxes included) while it is $75 (taxes included) to observe. It all takes place at Studio CETM (2205 rue Parthenais) near Old Montreal  

You can email Make sure to  in the subject line "Kyle Dean Massey Masterclass – Participant"  and specify if you wish to focus on a musical theatre or on-camera Technique. A picture and resume is also necessary. For those  interested in observing, reservations can bemade on a first come, first serve basis via the same email address.  In this case include in the subject line "Kyle Dean Massey Masterclass – Observer." Full payment will need to be made upon confirmation of reservation.  Those selected for Musical Theatre Technique will need to prepare two contrasting 32 bar cuts and bring their book. Full payment will need to be made by upon confirmation of participation. Those selected for On-Camera Technique do not need to prepare anything. Massey will select and provide sides for you. An accompanist will be provided. Space is limited.

In The Wings Promotions provides public relations for theatre companies and events in and around Montreal. They also actively contribute to the Montreal theatre community by producing special theatrical events along with a masterclass series. It was founded by Hannibal in 2011. Recent masterclasses included Seth Rudetsky and Natalie Weiss. In The Wings will present The Who’s Tommy November 19 to 21 at the Rialto Theatre.