Thursday 30 April 2015

Jennifer Garner arrives in Montreal to shoot movie called Nine Lives

Flying back from a business trip in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon, local pharmaceutical executive Katia Betito was surprised to meet noted American actress Jennifer Garner on her flight.
Jennifer Garner
Kevin Spacey
"I spoke to her," said Katia. "She was gracious, nice, down to earth and beautiful! She's here for a month, or so someone with her  told me."

Garner, who has three young children with her actor husband Ben Affleck, is here solo to star in a movie called Nine Lives,  which also features Kevin Spacey as a workaholic businessman who is transformed into his family's cat.  Wow, as a cat lover I can't wait to see this one! The great Christopher Walken and Flash star Robbie Amell are also part of the cast. 

Katia Betito took this shot of Garner at LAX en route to Montreal.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Impact run shows we are lucky to still have the Big Owe

For decades Olympic Stadium has been somewhat of a laughing stock in this city. The famous cost overruns from the 1976 Summer Olympic Games which never seemed to end; a roof that was supposed to open and close on demand that never quite cut it; and a general feeling that this was a cold, dark and out of the way facility not suited  to host professional sports franchises.

While the Quebec government presently looks into the possibility of removing the roof completely, the Montreal Impact's Cinderella run in the CONCACAF Champions League would not have been possible at home without the "Big Owe."   They made it all the way to the final against the very elite Team America from Mexico, losing 4-2 on April 29 before a more than sell out crowd of 61,004 people. I was fortunate enough to be at the game and having attended virtually every major event ever held at the Big Owe, this ranks right up there on the excitement meter.  The Impact run began in the winter and had Olympic Stadium not existed or the roof had been removed, where would they have played their home games? Toronto? Vancouver?
A look at part of the huge crowd, holding up blue and white squares left at their seats.
Olympic Stadium has served as the home for Alouettes playoff games when they needed a place that had a larger capacity than Molson Stadium and more warmth in November. Major League Baseball may have left town 11 years ago and while every expert says we cannot bring back the Expos unless there is a brand new stadium, the Toronto Blue Jays have come here twice in the last two years and played before four sellout crowds for mere exhibition games.

Next week, Wednesday, May 6 (8 p.m.), the Impact return next door to Saputo Stadium for the start of the 2015-16 Amway Canadian  CONCACAF competition against Toronto FC. Team owner Joey Saputo and his family put their money where their mouths are a few years ago and built this beautiful facility and then renovated it to increase capacity. On a nice night, there is no better place in the city to watch a life sporting event in the company of 20,000 fans.

Action on the pitch.

The finale against Team America sure brought back memories of the former Montreal Manic and to a lesser extent the Montreal Machine, a local franchise in the former World League of American Football. The latter squad sold out most of its games even though fans had no clue who any of the players are. Such is very much the situation with the Impact. Sure, the die hards know the roster clean. But I know of many people who attended the April 29 match simply because it was an "event." When PA announcer Robert Tanguay introduces the starting lineup he calls out the  player's first name which is posted on the scoreboard at the same time. He leaves it to the crowd to finish the intro. And they do.

In my opinion the Impact need to take this fantastic run they just had and try to find a way to get out there in the community better, particularly to the areas of town where there are fans to gain. If they do not you will again start to see Saputo Stadium half or two-thirds full, something Joey Saputo does not consider satisfactory.

The press box at the Big Owe was jam packed for the finale. With the Canadiens resting before their next game in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Impact became "the"  sports story in town. When they got off to a quick 1-0 lead, CBC weather forecaster and soccer expert Frank Cavallaro told me in all seriousness, "if they win I hear there will be a parade in downtown Montreal on Friday."

We are fortunate to have a team like the Impact in our midst. Ditto for the Alouettes. They both deserve our support. We already lost the Expos and I would not like to see soccer and football follow suit.

And folks, let's stop knocking the Big Owe. This city will much the worst without it.

Sunday 26 April 2015

Noelle Hannibal's CHESS in Concert plays before a standing room only crowd

Montreal does not get a lot of really good musical productions. So when I heard that In The Wings Promotions would be presenting Highlights From CHESS In Concert at La Vitrola on St. Laurent Boulevard I was anxious to see (and hear) it in person.

CHESS originated as a 1984 concept album and has spawned many stage renditions over the past three decades – mainly via  concert presentations. The score is by ABBA composers Benny Anderrson and Bjorn Ulvaeus ("Mamma Mia") and lyricist Tim Rice ("Evita") and it tells the  tale of Cold War intrigue, complex romantic entanglements, and cutthroat chess competition. I am most familiar with it from the concert version with Josh Groban, Idina Menzel  and Adam Pascal in 2008, which I have watched more than once on YouTube.

In The Wings promotions is the baby of the talented Noelle Hannibal. She moved here from Los Angeles 14 years ago and resides in West Island Vaudreuil with her husband.

This was a one night only presentation and performed before a standing room only crowd. “It was definitely a lot of work and I am feeling it today,”  Noelle commented the morning after. “It was the first large show I have produced on my own, so it was a risk. My last cabaret at the Segal studio drew in less than half the capacity, so I didn't want to take a chance. I was thrilled that we had standing room only! I wish we could have done more shows.”

With a powerful score blending pop, rock, and operetta, the cult musical CHESS tells the story of two rival chess masters whose antagonism mirrors that of their respective countries. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, American chess champion Freddie Trumper faces Soviet challenger Anatoly Sergievsky for the world title — and the affections of Freddie’s presumed lover and second, Florence Vassy, a Hungarian-born former refugee torn between the two sides. The songs by   Andersson  and Ulvaeus, with lyrics by Rice, include the top-10 dance hit “One Night in Bangkok,” the classic duet “I Know Him So Well,” and the stirring “Anthem.” 
Left to right: Tamara Clark, Kenny Wong, Marc Ducasin, Mike Melino and Noelle Hannibal.
Besides Hannibal (Florence), the cast included established performers along with up-and-coming young talent including   Mike Melino (Freddie), Jonathan Eidelman (Anatoly), Kenny Wong (Molokov), Tammy Clark (Svetlana), Marc Ducusin (Arbiter), Will Fech (Walter), Corey Tomicic (Emsemble) and Ilana Zackon (Ensemble) with musical direction by Ian Baird and directed by Nadia Verrucci.   Hannibal, Melino and Eidelman really exercised their vocal chords on this night, not an easy job.

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.

Founded in 2011, In The Wings has brought such Broadway personalities as Seth Rudetsky and Natalie Weiss to town for a masterclass  series. Past productions include Corner of the Sky: The Music of Stephen Schwartz, Like Breathing: Musical Theatre Songs for a New Generation, Barefoot Broadway's Highlights from "RENT": In Concert, Music Theatre Montreal's "The Birthday Party," Waterworks Company's "Gidion's Knot,"  Music Theatre Montreal's, "Cabaret,"  CETM's  "South Park: Smaller, Shorter and Definitely Cut,", "Broadway Gals" and "The Ghosts of Broadway,"  In Your Face Entertainment's "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,"  The Becket Players' "Gasoline and Matches,"  CETM's "The Sound of Musicals" and "Barefoot Broadway."