Wednesday 7 May 2014

Media Experts-Joey Elias Comedy gala raises almost $46,000 for On Our Own

On Our Own is one of those lower profile non-profit organizations you don't hear a lot about, yet its mission to provide critical support services and affordable transitional housing for young parents wishing to develop the skills they need to live independently in the community is an important one. I became aware of their good work a few years ago via the English Montreal School Board as many of their clients - parents and students - attend our schools and adult education centres.

Thanks to Mark Sherman, Ian MacLean and the team at independent media services agency Media Experts and comic extraordinaire Joey Elias, On Our Own has found a vehicle which helps raise about 40 percent of their operating cost in one evening. The third annual Joey Elias and Friends Evening of Comedy raised $45,975 at the Club Soda. Single tickets were sold in lieu of donations made online to the Canadian charitable organization, GIVGroups. Folks only had to show their tax receipt for a minimum of $40 to get into the room. The organizers recruited a number of corporate sponsors and CBC donated two tickets to the fourth game of the Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins series for a raffle, which turned out to be very successful as well.

Elias put together the comedy lineup, each of whom worked for free. Lenny Lighter of Moishe's Steakhouse did step in and provide gift certificates to the performers. Elias was presented with a gift by Sherman that he said nobody would want - a Bruins shirt with the number 33 and  the name "Chara" on the back.

Ian MacLean, Jay Farrar, Joey Elias, Chantal Desjardins and David Pryde backstage after the show.

Besides Elias, who closed out the show with his usual spectacular program, the crowd was treated to routines by the dazzling Chantal Desjardins, David Pryde, Jeff Shouela and  newcomer Chris Venditto. The latter, only 23 years of age, is  a name we should watch out for. Jay Farrar, the brother of Andrew "Annakin Slayd" Farrar, did a standout job as emcee. 

Congrats to all involved in this terrific initiative!

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Kenny Stein sings the role of Jean Valjean in French in local Les Mis

Productions Coracole and l’Orchestre Philharmonique Équitable are presenting the songs from Les Misérables, along with music from the Romantic era. Montreal area theatergoers can enjoy this treat throughout the month of May, in English and French, in three different locales: Ville Saint-Laurent, Laval and Saint-Léonard. This exciting collaboration marks the 5th anniversary of both companies. In Romance and Revolution: Music from LesMisérables & More, audiences will enjoy the creativity of Conductor, André Gauthier; Stage Director, Coralie Heiler; Vocal Director, Marc Deslandes; and Vocal Ensemble Director, Frédéric VogelThe show plays in English on May 11 and 24 and in French on May 25. This is a great idea for Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 11 at 3pm. Throughout the run, proceeds benefit Kids Help Phone/ Jeunesse, J’écoute, offering 24-hour, anonymous phone and web counselling.

The story of Les Misérables takes place in the Romantic period; an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that was in part, a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. Here we find themes of persistence, compassion, dreams, hope, sacrifice and love. Set in early 19th-century France, Les Misérables is the story of peasant Jean Valjean and his quest for redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving nephew. Along the way, he and numerous characters are swept up into a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young idealists make their last stand at a street barricade. Rounding out the show are orchestra pieces written in the Romantic era, including Alexander Glazunov's 'Le Petit Adagio' from The Seasons, recognizable in Quebec as the theme song from Radio-Canada’s Un homme et son péché and Les Belles Histoires des pays d'en hautThis unique project will present a full orchestra on stage, contrary to most local musical theatre productions which use pre-recorded tracks. Here, audiences will enjoy a wall of sound and vision produced by 100 dedicated, passionate and skilled artists on stage, including beautiful costumes and video projections.

For Stage Director Coralie Heiler, who plays Cosette in the French version of the show and is the Artistic Director of Productions Coracole, this is a dream come true, “Working with a live orchestra has always been a dream of mine and this is the perfect project. I adore the music and the story of Les Misérables. These songs are treasured, and the fundamental narrative of adversity, passion and justice, is as recognizable today as in the time of Victor Hugo’s novel.”

Besides being impassioned by the music, Vocal Director Marc Deslandes, who has worked with Productions Coracole on other shows as musical director, was inspired by the colossal challenge ahead of him, “I have wanted to work on a project of this scale for a long time, encompassing all aspects of a production at once; song and musical interpretation, directing, and acting. Productions Coracole pushes me to be very versatile and I love it.” For him, this music is an orchestral masterpiece, “The contemporary music, written for orchestra and voice by Claude-Michel Schonberg, showcases a variety of slow and fast movements, as well as a range of sounds including strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, guitars, piano, voice and choir.” Deslandes can’t hide his enthusiasm, “Though I have been working non-stop on this huge piece of music, teaching thirty people to sing in two languages, I am more motivated than ever.”

André Gauthier, conductor for l’Orchestre Philharmonique Équitable (OPÉ), was drawn to the music, an equal balance ofromantic-era ballads and military styles- glorious, stirring and emotional. Gauthier would like audiences to be touched by Javert’s transformation, “If someone as closed-minded as him could change, then to some extent, anyone could. The characters’ evolution throughout the story line resonates strongly for me.” Concertmaster Jessyca Pitt, who is also the president of OPÉ, is proud of the orchestra’s collective efforts, “Every musician has something demanding to play and has risen to our ambitious goals.”

 Kenny Stein and David Dolan (Javert).

Cast members are excited to be part of this productionKenny Stein, singing the role of Valjean in French, feels as though he has been preparing for this show his whole life. For him, the artistic collaboration between Anglophones and Francophones is so important in the context of our current political climate, “Our cast is a 50/50 mix of the two languages, and the majority of us are cast in both versions, which means we spend rehearsals together. We have also made an extra effort to socialize outside of rehearsal. The time we spend getting to know each other as individuals directly contributes to the fight against intolerance; it cultivates understanding and acceptance of each other.” Alisha Ruiss, playing Fantine in the English version, hopes people leave the theatre wanting to be better citizens, “I would like audiences to think about sacrificing for the sake of others, like Fantine, Valjean, Eponine and many other characters.”

Kenny Stein was born and raised in Cote St. Luc. He sings Jean Valjean in the French version of the production. He has this to say about being involved in the show:

 On being involved with this company:

Artistic and cultural collaboration between Anglophones and Francophones is so important in the context of our current political climate.  Our cast is about a 50/50 mix of the two, and the majority of us are cast in both version (the two Valjeans are the exception), which means we all spend our rehearsals together.  The cast has also made an extra effort to socialize together outside of rehearsal.  I believe the time we spend getting to know each other as individuals directly contributes to the fight against intolerance and the cultivation of understanding and acceptance for each other as a population.

On being involved with this show:

Les Miserables is my favorite musical; I have been singing it since I was 8 years old.  I feel as though I have been preparing for this show my whole life. 

On the themes:

I strongly relate to the character of Jean Valjean; his will to believe in himself even when authority says he is wrong, and his conviction that the power of love saves Iwould like audiences to experience shivers on their arms during the solo songs, and exhilaration during the group numbers! This show is all about evoking emotion in the audience at every moment.

I'm involved in the Yiddish Community through my participation with the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre and the group Urban I've worked at the Segal Centre, Ometz, CBB, Shaare Zion synagogue. I received a Jewish education at JPPS elementary school and attended Camp Kinneret for many years.  I went on Birthright Israel. I also play bass guitar in a band called Kol Kesser - it's a Jewish music band, playing together for 7 years, primarily gigging at senior residences around Montreal.  

For reservations: (514) 685-5093 or the box office page online at