Thursday, October 29, 2009

2009_10_28 The Bone House

I saw The Bone House many years ago, when it was an Edmonton Fringe play. At that time, I thought it was one of the best plays I have ever seen. Last night, I saw the latest version - and I still think the version I saw 10 years ago is one of the best plays I have ever seen.

Don't get me wrong, The Bone House, in it's current version, is a powerful play. A friend told me afterwards he constantly worked to 'stand aside' from the action, to remember that 'this is just a play', to not get pulled into the story. And I'm sure he is not alone. If you do let yourself be pulled into the play (and I encourage you to do so for the best experience), The Bone House may be overwhelming.

It's hard to talk much about the play, without giving away the details... and I certainly do not want to spoil many of the surprises the play holds for the unsuspecting audience.

So I'll talk instead about the differences. Of course memory if a wonderful, fickle thing. We remember things that were not there - forget things that were there...

I saw this version of The Bone House as very 'multi-media', 'internet savy'. eg. It reaches out to the modern audience. There are gruesome images of dead bodies, plucked I presume from the internet. A 'video' of one of the killings - now that we expect movie cameras to be everywhere.

The version I originally saw had little of that. It was set in a school gymnasium, and the play looked like a sales pitch by a city slicker visiting a small town in the country. Today's version looks like a play a lot of the time, which is unfortunate, because the audience is more aware that this is theatre. One of the strengths of the text and the action, is the crossover between theatre and reality.

I think I remember four killings in the original - as part of the play. I could be wrong? There were two in this version. Giving me the sense of a 'speeded up for television' version (I don't own a television, but I am certainly aware that television avoids most details, to maintain pace and give the viewer lots of action).

I hear stories, and do not doubt, that when the play first opened at the Edmonton Fringe, some members of the audience were physically sick during the performance. The Bone House is not for weak stomachs. People under 15 are not allowed to attend.

If you want to see something that crosses the lines between theatre and reality, and scares the pants off of you, while crossing the line - buy a ticket to The Bone House. And let yourself be sucked into the action. Maybe you should buy two, so you have someone to walk you home. The Bone House will deliver.

And when you leave the theatre? Don't be surprised if you find yourself watching your back.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2009_10_13 Everybody Goes to Mitzi's

Looking for an uplifting night out? Music, dance, drama? Some evenings, especially mid-week, I just want to have a good time. Everybody Goes to Mitzi's is a good time. It's local - Theatro La Quindicina written and performed, with many of our familiar friends - Jocelyn Ahlf, Andrew MacDonald-Smith, Ryan Parker, and of course Leona Brausen. She can light up any stage. We also have a new face - Robyn Wallis as 'Tippi Lala'.

The story is local too. It's in Edmonton, in golden age of dinner and dance supper clubs. eg, looking for an uplifting night out? Music, dance - social drama?

Of course the story is not all fun and games - "you can't have light without a dark to stick it into" (in the immortal words of Arlo). As the story unfolds, and Mitzi loses her betrothed to the lights of Las Vegas, and she descends into darkness and despair, but we know it will all work out in the end. We can easily guess what might happen next, as the story progresses - which makes the evening all the more pleasurable.

And it does. And it is. Mitzi's delivers. The music by Ryan Sigurdson, Tim Milligan and Toscha Turner is always present, but never intrusive. I stopped a few times during the action to listen to 'just the music'. Beautiful - and I could still hear all of the action. The lyrics were fun, interesting - witty and musical themselves. I must confess however, as I drove home, I could not remember a single tune, or phrase other than "everybody goes to Mitzi's". eg. the music was enjoyable, but nothing stood out.

The story seems very predictable, but when you get to the end, you might walk out without realizing that:
- the pretty young girl is still single
- the matriarch will never be a mother
- the life will go on, Mitzi's is trapped in time
- was that play really two hours long? time passed so quickly. (note for the unwary, Mitzi starts at 7:30).

But you will know that:
- you had a good time at Mitzi's!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Woman in Black at the Roxy Theatre

Last week I caught Theatre Network's production of the Woman in Black, at the Roxy. Before the play really got underway, the audience was already tittering with nervous laughter. Maybe due to the 'ghost' shadow created by a large coat tree, that hung imposingly on the right side of the stage. The stage was ingeniously designed for fright - lots of dark shadows, where actors (and ghosts) could appear and disappear without warning. The Roxy is an excellent venue for this play. The old theatre junk scattered about the stage looked like it was left there from a recent performance. The Theatre blends right into the show.

I went, wanting to be scared, and I was not disappointed. The ghost appearances were accompanied by sounds and lighting that shook my bones without warning. There was shock with the appearances, which started mildly enough and grew more imposing and threatening as the performance progressed. It was a bit annoying that some audience members kept laughing -- after they recovered from their fear.

The Woman in Black has all of the traditional elements of a real ghost story, with an interesting perspective - as told by two actors trying to exorcise the ghost.

We learn about the ghost gradually, as a mystery, then as a presence, and finally, as a threat. The pressure builds. And then the play ends.... And of course, being theatre, it ends with a twist - or is it a threat?

Last - as we leave the theatre - the ghost appears again. A delightful conclusion.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sweet Serenity at the Haven

The first time I heard Jesse Dee sing Sweet Serenity, I loved the song and listened closely, trying to hear every word. The first time I pictured Jacquie B, she was hiding her hair and her face under a toque.

Last night everyone danced to Sweet Serenity, and many other original tunes from Jesse Dee and Jacquie B at the Haven, as they started their cross Canada Tour. It was a prom nite - Jacquie asked friends to dress up, and many did so. Jesse in a vest and hat, Jacquie in a dress and heels (well, cowboy boot heels), Pascal and Moses suited up as well (I didn't recognize Moses, nor Jesse when I first saw them in their fancy duds).

I arrived late, catching a bit of the last tune by opener Ory No'man, and enjoyed the witty jazz sounds of Heather Blush and the Upper Cuts while nursing my Trad.

Then Jesse and Jacquie got everyone on their feet. It is hard to sit still when they bring start moving. Jessie's tunes, Jacquie's harmonies - intelligent, musical, beautiful - have evolved to rhythmic, thumping, jumping dance music. This is a group to follow. Their music is growing and changing. Their confidence is growing and their performance skills are in tune. They reach out and grab the audience again and again.

The set was short,or maybe it just seemed short - everyone was moving so fast. It felt warm outside - ?October at 1:00 am? - maybe it was just the energy of the J team.

You can follow Jesse and Jacquie's across Canada at Highway Robbery Tour


Friday, July 17, 2009

2009 Canadian Chess Championship

The 2009 Canadian Chess Championship is in Edmonton this week, round 7 today at 6:00 pm in the Delta hotel. After 6 rounds we have a very close battle, with GM Surya Ganguly in first place, followed by 12 players currently tied in second place. One of the 12 is Edmonton's IM Edward Porper, who drew his game with the highest rated player GM Alexei Shirov by perpetual check. Also tied is GM Mark Bluvshtein, Canada's Chess Player of the year 2009.

Saturday's round starts at 4:00 and then the final round starts on Sunday at noon. It will be a hard fought battle with over 200 players entered. The public is welcome to attend, watch, and event take pictures (no flash, and no SLR cameras after the first 10 minutes of the rounds).

You can also track the progress, and watch live games as the rounds are played at:
Canadian Chess Championship webpage

Photos - click on galleries to view thumbnails, click on thumbnails to see photos

Monday, June 8, 2009

2009_06_06 Glorious! - Shadow Theatre

WOW! I don't often blog theatre - although I do attend a fair bit.... I don't usually get photos. But I caught Glorious! on the weekend, and just had to speak out. What a show.

The play is magical. One of my favorite quotes (not from the play) is "if only the most gifted birds would sing, the forest would be quiet". This play is about Florence Foster Jenkins, who refuses to be quiet, to the point where her 15 plus minues of fame is granted - singing to a full house at Carnegie Hall. It touched a nerve for me. I love listening to singers even if they are not 'fantastic'.

It was wonderful to see Florence get the recognition she deserved. Whether she was a good singer, or not, is immaterial. She sang. She performed. She persevered on in the face of many criticisms. Maybe they were valid criticisms. But she persevered and reached beyond her wildest dreams. Good for you Florence. We all receive criticism - putting it aside is always difficult. Good for you. You did sing!

When Darrin Hagen made his entrance, even though I knew he was in the cast, it took more than a moment to recognize him. Althought there were some occasional divergences to create some spice, for the most part he played it very 'straight'. His piano was a treat, and his attitude was spot on the part.

And Coralie, so versatile, performing as 'all the other women'. Transforming herself from a 'friend of the family', to a lumpy, grumpy, frumpy spanish maid, and then to a fast paced, straight-laced, prune-faced representative of the 'Music Society'. Coralie is always energetic and magical. Even the bent over old maid could not hide her beauty.

But Leona Brausen's singing was so good - it was terrible. So bad, that sometimes I had to close my eyes (missing a bit of the action). I usually close my eyes when the music is beautiful, not often when it is so bad. I wanted to listen and figure out what is really going wrong. I've seen Leona many times over the years - this is one of her best performances.

And the sum of the parts? The performers and performance peaked wonderfully. The audience was lifted off their feet to give a rare (in cold Edmonton) standing ovation - well deserved. See this show!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

2009_05_08 The Haven Social Club

When the Haven opened a while ago, it wasn't long before I heard good things. But I did wonder. It's located out on Stony Plain Road and 150th, not in the downtown, nor Stratchona - where the arts thrive in Edmonton. The club is in a basement - but maybe that's a bit of a tradition for music clubs.

I dropped in last July and had a blast listening to Ken Stead and Mike Ehlers, with lots of friends.

I'm happpy to see that the haven has not only managed to keep alive, but has grown to be one of Edmonton's favorite music haunts, with scheduled shows ranging from up&comers like Joe Nolan, to Juno nominated Souljah Fyah.

Last night, a triple bill, with Matt Epp, Ann Vriend, and the Bop Ensemble. And there was lots of mixing and matching throughout the night. Wykham Porteous, of the Bop Ensemble was also the host and MC. Ann Vriend gave some keyboard support to Matt Epp, Bill Bourne gave some guitar support to Ann Vriend, and by the end of the evening, it seemed everyone had done something with everyone else. And of course there was even a bit of audience participation. To tell you the truth, even with picutres, I sort of lost track of 'who was on first'.

As I edited and posted photos today, Ann's "St. Paul" went viral on me, sticking in my head every time I saw her in a photo. I went over to the Bop Ensemble's web page to remind myself of the beautiful 'Green River Girl' and heard some interesting vocals from Jas that I hadn't heard last night - I missed the second set. Matt Epp got me thinking. Well written, interesting tunes, good stage presence and patter.

And of course there was Bill Bourne, with his guitar and sounding board. Smiling like that cheshire cat. I know Bill has been working with Wykham for a while - it's good to hear the results of that collaboration. A pleasant mix of folk, pop, and just plain good music, mixed up with Jasmine's stage antics, fun to listen and fun to watch as well. And Wykham Porteous, brilliant songwriter having a great time haming it up with the barefoot Jas.

I had planned to drop by some other venues later in the evening, but the Haven held me - the excellent house beer and salted nuts didn't hurt either.

The Haven
Photos Matt Epp Slideshow Ann Vriend Slideshow Bop Ensemble Slideshow

The Bop Ensemble
Ann Vriend
Matt Epp

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jazz at the CopperPot: Dan Skakun Trio

There's a new jazz venue in town. After the closing of Four Rooms, the local restaurant jazz scene has moved over to the CopperPot. I'd heard about it in my travels, but didn't get a chance to visit until last Wednesday. Dropped by for dinner and jazz.

Parking can be a bit of a challenge as it is a busy area of one-way streets. However, without too much hassle, we found our way in and were seated near the music - after saying hello to many friends. hmmm... feels like home already.

The CopperPot sits on the edge of the river valley, a perfect place to watch sunsets as the seasons change. And the Dan Skakun trio, with Jim Head on guitar and Thom Golub on bass, provided a perfect auditory counterpoint to the view. The food was superb, although a tad more expensive than Four Rooms, and the service was excellent. Of course there is a bar, where you can have a drink and a listen if you don't feel like dining.

The CopperPot features jazz on Wednesday evenings. Check out their schedule. Upcoming shows include Jeff Hendrick, Charlie Austin, Chris Andrew and Don Berner.

Photos . Slideshow

Sunday, May 3, 2009

2009_05_03 Pretty Talented at the Blue Chair

Sunday morning brunch at the Blue Chair is generally time for jazz, or classical music. How about a 'Pretty Talented' brother and sister duo, who create their own music on stacked keyboards, vocals and an electric drum kit?

Harold had warned me in advance - these two are worth a listen. Jim Findlay, who often hosts Sunday morning jazz at the Blue Chair, is looking over his shoulder - these kids are coming up fast.

Luke and Tess Pretty live in Edmonton and have played at the Strathcona Farmer's Market, the Carrot Cafe - and now the Blue Chair. What's next?

Luke plays keyboards and sings, Tess on drums (although they to switch over for some tunes). During the break - Luke is outside on the skateboard.

The music was well chosen, suited to the venue and the time of day. The crowd attentive, and the musicians professional. I am looking forward to watching, and hearing - Luke and Tess grow musically as they hit thier teens.

Luke and Tess Pretty
Photos Slideshow
Blue Chair Cafe

Friday, May 1, 2009

2009_04_30 Craig Korth and Friends at CKUA

CKUA, the best radio station in the known, and unknown universes, is currently running their spring fundraising campaign - and you truly never know what might happen next. Last night, Craig Korth brought a bunch of bluegrass buddies into a studio for some live-to-air music and (of course) pun-ishment.

Having visited the studio many times, I was having a hard time visualizing where they were all standing as I drove in to get some photos. And you can see why in the pictures. There is no space. Five musicians standing around a large mike in a studio/CD Library, Lionel Rault at the controls counting down, and let's GO!

David Ward took the bus up from Calgary to provide the vocals. Craig and Lionel exchanged plain (or was it plane) and fancy puns, and let loose with real 'live music' on the radio. The phone room was crowded with volunteers, staff, friends and family giving a listen. The musicians, all solid provided a 'professional' performance, 'off the cuff'. I head David musing earlier in the afternoon that he needed to learn the words to a new song, because they were performing it in the evening.

Have you made your donation to CKUA yet? CKUA is real radio, music provided by real music people, actually get to choose what they play. Radio worth paying for.

Call 1-800-494-2582 to donate, or go to thier website


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2009_04_19 Donna Durand at Second Cup 124 St

Donna Durand, from Red Deer, paired up with Tony Mellor on bass to present some of her own songs, and a few covers on a relaxing Sunday afternoon at the Second Cup on 124th St.

Second Cup cafes in Edmonton seem to be presenting music more often - and it's great to see local and not so local artists have another place to present their music and meet & greet the public.

Donna has a quiet presence, on and off stage. Like listening to someone in your living room. Tony provided excellent non-intrusive rhythm support. Donna's songwriting shows her rural roots, with that familiar 'at home' feeling. I had a very busy Sunday, having just arrived back in Edmonton - and her music helped me to slow down and chill out for a few minutes.

Photos Slideshow

Donna Durand

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2009_04_15 Rubberband Wednesdays at Hulberts

Wednesdays... Midweek.... Evening comes and you are 'over the hump'. Time to PARTY! Why wait for the weekend, do it now!

Rubberband, Wednesdays at Hulberts is a party. Fun and games, singing, dancing, karaoke, trivia.. I arrived late, but the party was still going strong after 10:00 pm. Somehow, Rubberband stretched the closing time at Hulberts.

When is an open stage more than an open stage? When everyone gets into the act. Hulbert's owners were both hatted up and in full spirits - and I even caught one of them singing.

Wednesdays keep coming, and again, and again... check it out. You'll come away smiling.

Photos Slideshow

Thursday, April 23, 2009

2009_04_23 Poetry Festival

Edmonton Poetry Festival's "POFEST" is well underway after a delightful literary pre-evening last night. Six authors read from their newly published works at Talonbooks.

The readings included drama - Kevin Kerr's 'Studies in Motion', to music - "I love you Osama' by Adeena Karasick, to ?what was that? sound musicproesetry by bill bissett and dialogue from 2088 (if memory serves me correctly, I didn't drink too much wine), by Garry Thomas Morse as well as, of course, poetry as well, from rob mclennan.

The readings were enthusiastic and colourful, the setting was warm and intimate. It was a great opportunity to meet some new artists, and greet some old friends.

Today, and the rest of this week, you can catch more poetry at Poetry Central, 11:30 to 1:30 at the Stanley Milner Library in Sir Winston Churchill Square. I dropped in for a few minutes this afternoon to catch a bit of the buzz, pick up the schedule and of course get some photos.

Check out the festival schedule at the Poetry Festival Site, there's soemthing for everyone.

Talonbooks Launch Slideshow
Poetry Central Slideshow

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Emma Cook, Kalsey Kulyk and Chloe Albert at the Blue Chair Cafe

Wednesday nights at the Blue Chair.. Harold serves up a mix of music and musicians. Relax, listen, meet friends and of course the food is great. Even if I do usually have rice and beans. Over time, I've sampled everything on the menu. On Wednesday the feature was rack of lamb... yummmy. And spicy carrot soup, and.... mulligatawny... but it's hard to have two favourite soups before dinner.

Emma Cook, Kalsey Kulyk and Chloe Albert - three young singer-songwriters, three cities and three unique sounds.

Chloe Albert (Edmonton) mixed it up with Honey Bee - trading the guitar for a drum accompaniment on Honey Bee. Chloe is one of those unfortunate artists affected by the 'local talent' syndrome. An artist has to work so much harder to be recognized in her home town. Chloe has a beautiful voice and interesting songs.

Newcomer Kalsey Kulyk (Beaumont) entertained us with songs and stories from her life and family. Kalsey is one of Rhea March's U22 singers - and Rhea has a way of finding, and supporting our emerging talents. Kalsey has a powerful voice and interesting lyrics.

Emma Cook (Ontario) had many of us discussing her voice and her songs - jazzy, with a hint of a young Joni Mitchell. Her voice leaps up and down the scales, from sultry to sailing. Emma is a singer I want to follow as her 'voice' grows and changes.

The Blue Chair is one of those places where you can meet the musicians, listen to their music and talk to them again in the break. My kind of place.

Photos Slideshow

Blue Chair Cafe
Chloe Albert
Emma Cook
Kalsey Kulyk

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rhea's Birthday at Little Flower Open Stage - Fiddler's Roost

I had heard via Facebook that many would be celebrating Rhea March's birthday at the Little Flower's Wednesday night open stage. Wednesday was my first night back in town after almost a year of travelling around the province, country and continent, from Lethbridge and Saskatoon to Buenos Airies and Ottawa.. I made a point of dropping by - although I didn't stay too late -- still on Ottawa's time zone.

I was please to see many new faces, and lots of familiar old faces at Fiddler's Roost. Bernie has re-arranged some of the furniture since I was last there, creating some nice private spaces on one side, and a more open arrangement near the door. It also appears that the stage lighting is improved, making for nicer photos.

The music was eclectic, as always at Little Flower events. Blues, folk, vocals and instrumental. The evening moved slowly - people were visiting friends, exchanging hugs and gifts with Rhea. A very pleasent Wednesday evening, and only two bucks!

Photos Slideshow

Little Flower Open Stage
Fiddler's Roost