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

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Bob Babinski resurfaces as part of City/Sportsnet NHL coverage

One of the really nice guys in the sports television business has resurfaced in a new/old role as Rogers gets set to launch it $5.2 million, 12 year deal of covering the National Hockey League. We are talking about Bob Babinski, who left his post last summer as executive producer for City TV's year old Montreal station. He has signed on as a content producer with Rogers and will be heavily involved with the much anticipated Hometown Hockey Community Celebration with Ron MacLean each Sunday night on City as well as the traditional Hockey Day  in Canada in  February.

Babinski was recruited for this role last summer, but chose now to go public with it. His sudden departure from City Montreal and Breakfast Television stunned his adoring staff, but he believes it was the right decision. "I am very proud of what I accomplished there," Babinski says. "My main job was completed and that was the selection of a staff and getting things going."

Babinski did indeed choose well. The fact the same on air staff remains intact is positive to begin with. Alex Despatie, Joanne Vrakas, Catherine Verdon Diamond, Laura Casella, Wilder Weir and Elias Makos are supported by an outstanding team behind the camera. Ratings for local morning TV have never been strong here. But with NHL games now about to air on City that should allow for more Breakfast TV commercials to be showcased. Ditto for the weekly sports magazine show, hosted by Weir. Chantal Desjardins has joined Sportsnet as a local correspondent while John Bartlett will handle play by play for Rogers regional broadcasts of the Canadiens - two more high profile individuals City could benefit from.
Babinski, Chantal Desjardins and PJ Stock

"I still watch Breakfast TV," says Babinski. "I am really proud of the team I assembled. They are all developing very well."

Back to his new job, Babinski says he is returning to his first love. Following a number of years as a sportscaster for CBC Montreal, from 1994 to 2000, he enjoyed great success as a freelance producer for many special events such as the Vancouver Olympics, the FIFA World Cup and Hockey Day in Canada.

"I already know Ron MacLean from  my previous experience with Hockey Day in Canada, so that makes the move easier," Babinski says. "Right now I am really busy travelling back and forth to Toronto and working on the content we will use for Hometown Hockey where we will visit a different community in Canada every Sunday. We'll be on at 6:30 p.m. leading up to the Sunday game of the week and then have additional hits during the intermission. Ron is totally engaged with this format."

Babinski was recently in Toronto, hopping a plane with colleagues Desjardins and PJ Stock, for the Rogers NHL Summit. "This was a series of meetings to introduce ourselves and get set for the rest of the season," he says.

Stock, the former NHL tough guy, was outstanding on Hockey Night in Canada and I am happy to see him part of the Rogers team.

Hockey Day in Canada will be broadcast live from Halifax on February 14 and Babinski says work is well underway for the 13 hour program.

Away from the rink, Babinski has also launched a business whereby he serves as a performance trainer for clients who want to express themselves more effectively - either in front of a camera, at a conference, or in a boardroom. "My training program is called 'Babinski's reflex,'" he says.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Habs play by play announcer update: winning candidate to be revealed before season opener

TSN 690 Radio Program Director Chris Bury is not tipping his hat as to who will replace John Bartlett as the new play by play man for Montreal Canadiens broadcasts.

Bartlett left his post very recently to accept a job with Rogers Sportsnet TV, where he will call the plays for regional Canadiens telecasts.

Bury seems to have been using the Habs pre-season games as a chance to evaluate the talent.

Veteran Rick Moffat should be at the front of the line. He's done the job before and only stepped away when CJAD lost the rights to the Habs to TSN. Of course now they are part of the same family. Moffat already worked with colour commentator Sergio Momesso and it has been great listening to them during the exhibition season.

These days Moffat has a full plate. He is part of the TSN 690 morning team, does the sportscasts on the Andrew Carter Morning Show on CJAD and also does play by play for the Alouettes and the Impact.  While Bartlett only worked play by play, the thing I always admired about Moffat is how he would call the plays for a night game and be on the sports desk the following morning. Another plus to Moffat getting the gig would mean Conor McKenna finally getting a permanent spot on the roster. He fills in for Moffat when he is away, spells Mitch Melnick and does the Habs intermission and post game shows. Elliott Price and Brian Wilde could handle the Als and Impact duties.

Price should not be counted out as a candidate either. He was, after all, Bartlett's backup the last few years and has decades of experience with baseball, hockey, football and soccer.

AJ Jakubec from Ottawa's TSN 1200 Radio already has the experience calling games for the Ottawa Senators, Ottawa RedBlacks, Ottawa Fury, Ottawa 67's
AJ Jakubec
and CIS basketball. He has sounded good during his Habs stint.  The other new voice we have heard is Dan Robertson, a polished  play caller from the Maritimes who has been behind the mic for countless university basketball, hockey and football events.  He too did nit seem out of place during his so-called TSN 690 audition.

Bury said that the identity of Bartlett's successor will be announced in time for the face off at the Habs opening game against Toronto on October 8.

"I’ve received a lot of applications from people with all levels of experience and strong resumes," Bury shared with me. "We’re in a good position and excited."