Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

k.d. lang at Center in the Square

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Went to see k.d. at CITS last night, and she was in a jaunty mood. First the voice – crikey. She can go from a soft croon to full power in a note and the effect is quite something. Doesn’t hurt that CITS has some pretty great acoustics.

She was playful and humble and genuinely surprised, I think, at the reception she got (she must have been warned that the folks in Kitchener like to sit in their seats and nod politely to the music). A standing ovation before she said or sang a word, one or two in the middle of the concert, and several at the end. Audience members shouted out random “We love you” ‘s and commented on her status as an Order of Canada recipient.

Highlights? They did a really upbeat arrangement of “Constant Craving” that was pretty awesome, and “Helpless” in the encore was amazing (with audience participation, even). But the highlight of the evening, of course, was “Halleluja” . Just. Goosebumps, really. I know for her it probably feels a bit rote sometimes, but she gives it everything and the audience is sitting there stunned into silence and having a very Canadian moment. It’s my earworm right now, and one of the only times I have no desire to change the channel.

Her opening act was pretty impressive as well. She’s a torchy twang singer originally from Toronto named Lindy Ortega. Huge range. Loves Mr Johnny Cash. Far too clever to be in Nashville.

Fantastic show.

And because I can:

Damned fine production

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

A friend and I attended Antoni Cimolino‘s production of Cymbeline at Stratford. This is probably the last play that Shakespeare (and possibly someone else) wrote, but it’s not presented often cuz it’s, well, bizarre to modern sensibilities. It could have been really really wrong, but much to my delight, it was totally entertaining.

Its success is with Cimolino’s direction, the actors and the staging all. Cymbeline has a Shakespeare checklist of plot devices: wronged daughter, star-cross lovers, cross-dressing, deceit, battle, gods, evil queen, and the evil fop. I mean, Jupiter shows up on a freaking great bird that breathes fire. That’s a lot of credulity to stretch.

The standouts were not always the big names. Sure, Yanna McIntosh nails the evil queen. In fact, I think she should play every evil queen. Tom McCamus brought the same malevolent charm of his Valmont to Iachimo, with a dash of Iago thrown in. Geraint Wyn Davies as the title character was solid, but I found his huge swings in mood and oratory to be some of the weakest dialogue in the play (author’s fault, that one).

Mike Shara was an absolute delight as Cloten, the vapid, evil step-son of King Cymbeline and the Queen’s natural son. Every time he was on the stage he stole it. Then when he came to his “end”, the audience gasped – always a sign that the room is enthralled with what’s going on. Cara Ricketts also shone as Innogen, playing her not quite so “sweet girl duped” as might happen with a different characterization.

Graham Abbey, as Posthumus, was a bit Shakespearian in some of his delivery, but in his quiet moments, he was superb. I found his later scenes, when he tries to get himself killed as a capture Roman, to be the most affecting.

Overwhelmingly, this play was FUNNY. Aware of the elements that were overwrought. The lady in front of me laughed so hard she hit her head on my feet. Cimolino got it. Lines that might have been overwrought get a deadpan delivery. Asides to the audience pull them in. Really, the best kind of play in a play.

Well done. Have to say I agree with Richard on this one.

Straightup KW: Tequila!

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

It’s been a while since our last Straightup event (and since my last post), so it was great to get back to it last week. David Yoon is one of the Straightup hosts and he was our tasting guide this time around for tequila.

I don’t know much about tequila, except it pays to pay for the good stuff (as many a girls’ weekend has taught me). But this was the really good stuff, some of which you can’t get in Canada.


Our selections for the evening

Our first bottle was Milagro Reposado. This one smelled the most like “tequila” – a bit of oil, with some vanilla and wood, though, so already I was in different territory. It also had the oiliest mouth feel, but an interesting briny/mineral finish.

Next was Tres Generaciones, an old family recipe of the Sauza family, as the name implies. It was a clear tequila compared to some of the others we tasted, and it is not casked in oak barrels. This one was my favourite of the bunch. Nice taste and very smooth.

Partida Anejo was really interesting. I pegged the aroma of this one as a cactus wearing nail polish, which doesn’t sound good, but it was. Taste was definitely of agave and bourbon with a light wheat colouring and long finish. This one is casked in Jack Daniels and that bourban taste came through for sure.

Then came Riazul Anejo, which is hard to find even in the States. The aroma on this one was of candy canes, or cotton candy or something, which was quite strange for a tequila. And it tasted sweet, which was also quite strange but very pleasant. Like a dessert tequila, should you need one.

It was interesting to hear about Lowland and Highland bottlings and the caskings, just like with whisky, and David assured us that tequila drinkers are happy drunks, so there’s that.

The venue this time around was at Center in the Square and it was perfect for the occasion. Every time we do one, I get excited for the next one. Who knows what’s next – sake?

Sometimes, great things happen to awesome people

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

1 BILLION dollars. That’s the box office so far for Avengers. Joss, for his part, says now he can afford the “fancy coffee” but other than that, he’s gonna work on the projects he already has planned.

Can’t really talk about the movie without spoilerage, but let’s just say that the Jossian moments make it. And Hulk steals the movie. Except, Tony Stark and Joss Whedon? Made for each other. The build-up was a bit slow but the action of the last half was blockbuster in the best way. Loved the alien ships and the big booms and the dialogue.

And like a good little browncoat, I had a squee and a clap when I saw “Directed by Joss Whedon” at the end.

Note to parents: please please please, don’t bring kids under 5 to the movies, unless it’s parent day and it’s a kid’s movie or something.

Or maybe “quirky”

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

The other night, Melle and I attended a lecture by Robert Wittman at KW|AG in support of his book Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures. Wittman is a pretty jovial speaker for a FBI guy and he did a great job of getting in plugs for the gallery, the local police services, and his book, of course.

You could hear the collective gasp of horror when he showed us a priceless wooden tea caddy from the Penn family that was unceremoniously dumped in the river and lost when the “mastermind” asswipe who stole it got nervous and told his girlfriend to dump the goods.

Before I got there, I was playing TV ping-pong between Buffy “Pangs” and the Brier (that’s curling, folks) and was really torn on which thing was more exciting even though I’ve seen “Pangs” about 10 times now. “A bear. You made a bear!” “I didn’t mean to!” Seriously, if you aren’t laughing at that, you are a cold, cold person. Plus, Canadian curling championship which is chess on ice and you won’t tell me different.

It was a 10/10 entertainment experience in one night. If I could have worked in the Perimeter lecture as well, it would be an 11.

Upon sharing my delight at the TV choices, Melle said she worries about me sometimes, but I know she means that in the best possible way ;)

Though if I’m looking at the dating pool, this may be a telling sign as to why I’m single. Not *everyone* would think Buffy, curling and stories about art theft and recovery, with a wishful thought towards a physics lecture makes a good evening, but I think it makes me interesting. Or something like that…


Thursday, January 5th, 2012

I’ve seen Ritchie’s Sherlock (Game of Shadows) and Moffat’s latest Sherlock (A Scandal in Belgravia) in the past couple of weeks. Of course, Ritchie’s Sherlock isn’t really Sherlock; it’s an action movie with cool slow-mo that happens to have the same character names as Sherlock.

Of the two, I much prefer Moffat’s. But I do like the chemistry between Downie and Law and the steampunk bits and bobs in Ritchie’s. Also, Stephen Fry as Mycroft is awesome and he and Downie are totally believable batshit brilliant brothers and Jarred Harris is a better Moriarity. The Irene Adlers are very different. McAdams is more vulnerable and more sweet, but then again she’s not a full-on dominatrix, so I guess I give the edge to Lara Pulver. Both have some awesome comic moments.

Moffat’s high tech contemporary Sherlock really works for me, and the music totally reminds of Firefly which can only mean good things. Though Michael Price is not Greg Edmonson, he’s known for a few other little things (think hobbits).

One wonders what the hell Conan Doyle would be thinking about all this re-imagining.

This is a picture I did not take

Monday, December 26th, 2011

of two men, in Russian mafia tracksuits, walking goats on leashes through the grounds of the local hospital.

Christmas content, stories

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

So I gave you a few Christmas songs to enjoy, and have one to add (courtesy of Cathy at Cultureguru): Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun”.

And I also have some stories to go with the holiday season….

1. Now a holiday classic, I give you David Sedaris and “Six to Eight Black Men”. I dare you not to laugh.

Unlike the jolly, obese American Santa, Saint Nicholas is painfully thin and dresses not unlike the pope, topping his robes with a tall hat resembling an embroidered tea cozy. The outfit, I was told, is a carryover from his former career, when he served as a bishop in Turkey.

2. A little fun from Mr Gaiman with “Hanukkah with bells on“. Trees are pagan, and therefore for all of us.

We were not jealous of friends who got Christmas presents. We were jealous of the friends with Christmas trees.

Bring back the funk

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

He’s small, genius, and a lover of spandex and heels. It’s Prince!

We saw the 2nd concert at the ACC last night and it was fabulous. No openers, just Prince, the backup singers, a drummer, a keyboardist and a bassist (who also came out to do some singing), and his guitar (that he insisted on introducing to us when it was brought on the stage).

Prince with sparkles

Stage is former known as, sparkles falling from the rafters

And you know what? At the age of 54, the man still has the pipes, the moves and the musicianship. It was a totally FUN kind of vibe–he seemed really relaxed and he was very engaged with the audience. Came out swinging with “Purple Rain” right off the top, which got notoriously reticent Toronto butts out of the seats and then kept it going from there.

He played a lot of the hits, and in Princely fashion, reminded us several times that he had a lot of them (174 I think he said :)

The backup singers did a stellar gospel version of “Arms of an Angel” by Sara McLachlan while he was offstage, presumably for a costume change, of which he had many. We wondered if they picked this song for the Canadian tour, and maybe did another one in the States.

There were some amazing guitar solos and drum solos in the middle of songs, and he kind of medleyed up some groups of songs in some really cool arrangements. Also, we got the Prince version of  ”Nothing Compares 2 U”–very gospel funk and very good. He was definitely in a funky mood, in fact–his cover of “Play That Funky Music” was an audience favourite, as was the funk beat in “Controversy”.

However, for MY money, the absolute BESTEST part of the show was the second encore: “When Doves Cry” on the piano, basically him playing and the audience singing the whole song, and then “Kiss” which is my favourite of all Prince songs. He teased us with the riff a few times and I was a little worried that we were only going to get that, but nah, he made my dream come true.

Check this one off the bucket list. If you get a chance, go see him. Definitely a great show.


Women, ambition and the chorus

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Saw Richard III at Stratford this weekend. The “hook” on this production, of course, is that Stratford long-timer Seana McKenna plays the lead. Truth is, though, that you forget about 30 seconds in that he’s a she (except for a few small gestures which I’ll talk about later).

Director Miles Potter went for a very spare set, which is usually a good idea at Tom Patterson, since the audience is pretty much on the stage. A small detail, but one used to great effect, was the clanging of curtain hangers used to punctuate the end of key scenes as various characters disappeared to backstage.

One of the reasons we were interested in this one was the unusual opportunity to see some female powerhouses sharing the stage with McKenna: Martha Henry, Roberta Maxwell and Yanna McIntosh. All of whom I’ve seen many times now.

I didn’t love the play, but it was good. At a runtime of almost 3 hours, it moved at a fast clip and the body count alone is enough to rival any summer blockbuster. Actually, as I was watching it, I was having little moments of insight between this kind of thing and, say, Game of Thrones. If you don’t know much about the play, it’s one of Shakespeare’s earliest, and chronicles the killing spree, ascension and eventual death of Richard III–a man whose obvious deformity was thought to be a manifestation of his inner monster in his own time, and in Shakespeare’s.

McKenna definitely does justice to the role. At times wheedling, always entertaining, her physical delivery (crucial to pulling off the role) is very good and understated for the most part. As I mentioned, there were two little times when my brain went, “It’s a girl, ” not that I was looking to catch her up. One was when she wipes away some tears, and something about the placement of her hand was very feminine. The other was when she smiled, for some reason it seemed very girly.

McIntosh was an overwrought Queen Elizabeth. She seemed more stilted than what I’m used to seeing from her, but I’d say also that the writing is none to subtle in this play, and that possibly had an effect. When Henry first arrived on the stage, the whole audience sat straighter and waiting for her to speak. And since she got to lay a curse on a whole bunch of people straight off, it was quite fun to watch her invective.

Other than Richard, what’s interesting is that most of the men are kind of interchangeable. They plot. They pretend friendship. They call war and jostle for position. Nigel Bennet stood out, as did Sean Arbuckle, whose permanent smirk in service of Richard was probably the most evil part of the play.

Then there’s the ghosts. Again, not sure you can have spoilers on Shakespeare, but basically Richard goes too far and a civil war ensues under Richmond (later Henry Tudor VII). On the eve of the battle, the ghosts of the many people he killed to get the throne (including the “two princes”, sons of his brother the former king) come back to haunt him in his sleep, and aid the other side to kill Richard the next morning.

The battle scene was done in slo-mo, which some critics liked and some didn’t. But I think from a staging perspective, it had to be done that way for the chorus of ghosts to be seen to interact and to make their ghostly emanations. It was short enough to be effective, I thought, but if it went on longer I think it would have lost its impact.

Overall: pretty good.