Jersey Boys…the Movie

In the works is the next stage to screen project.  Look for Jersey Boys to hit movie screens in the future.  The story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, which won the 2006 Tony Award for best musical, is in the hands of John Logan, writer of Martin Scorsese’s latest hit Hugo.  Frankie Valli has signed on to executive produce the film.

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Shatner Goes to Broadway

Just when you thought there was nothing else on his to do list, Montreal-born actor William Shatner will be taking his one-man show to Broadway for a limited run in February.  Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It was tried out on Toronto audiences last November, resulting in the upcoming run at the Music Box Theatre in New York.   This will launch the 80 year old Shatner’s 15-week American tour….boldly going where many have gone before!

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John Neville – Theatrical Legend

The recent death of theatre luminary, John Neville has left Canada’s stage dark.  The English theatre and film actor moved to Canada in 1972 to become the artistic director for Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, which was only the beginning of Neville’s Canadian theatre career.   His achievements as a leading Shakespearean actor with the Old Vic Company in England’s West End, during the 1950’s included roles in Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Richard IINeville performed with the greats: Richard Burton, Dame Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave.

His Canadian career included stints at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre, and most noticeably was his position in 1986 as artistic director of the Stratford Festival of Canada.  Neville’s first year at the Stratford Festival indicated adversity when the Festival was in financial trouble.  As a risk taker, Neville was known for putting three of Shakespeare’s lesser-known romances on the Festival’s main stage as well as introducing musicals to the stage, effectively saving the Stratford Festival from their economic woes.

Neville’s claim to fame was his title role in the 1988 film, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and in the 1990’s was the popular and recurring guest role as the “Well-Manicured Man” on the X-Files.

Neville was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2006 for his extensive work in Canadian theatre and drama.  After devoting his life to the development of live theatre, Neville’s talent and inspiration is admired for what he has accomplished in Canada’s theatrical industry.  Neville passed away recently at the age of 86.

By Kristen Black

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Mary Poppins…Simply Magical!

I had the pleasure of attending the Toronto opening of Mary Poppins, the musical produced by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh…and what a night it was.  Right from the first note it was an enchanting ride with stellar performances by all characters especially Mary and Bert.  In the second act Bert has a gravity defying number that has to be seen to be believed.  It doesn’t matter what your age is…this is production delights and promises to deliver a magical night of theatre.  The show is only in town until January 8 and is playing at the Princess of Wales…

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Ricky Martin returns to Broadway in Evita revival

Singing sensation Ricky Martin will play the role of Che in the upcoming revival of the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber production of Evita.  The opening date and theater have not been confirmed, but look for the revival to open sometime in March 2012.  This production is the re-staging of the recent London production starring Argentinean Elena Roger in the title role.  Martin, known for his pop music, is no stranger to Broadway…he was on stage in the mid nineties in the role of Marius in Les Miserables.

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As previously reported…there were rumblings of a possible Broadway date for the critically acclaimed Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar…and it’s confirmed.  Directed by the festival’s artistic director, Des McAnuff, the Canadian production will head to California’s La Jolla Playhouse for tweaking from Nov. 18 to Dec. 31.  It is Dodger Properties that will present the New York production scheduled to open at the Neil Simon Theatre on March 22nd with previews beginning March 1st.  There is a long and celebrated relationship between Dodger and McNuff...most recently the Tony award winning Jersey Boys.  Is there another Tony Award in McNuff’s future?


Private Lives…a real romp!

The 1930s Noel Coward comedy Private Lives opened recently at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto to excellent reviews.  Canadian stars Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross do not disappoint with their on stage chemistry.  The sets are stunning and inventive…no penny pinching here.  On stage until October 30, this is definitely a great theatre event not to be missed.

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Ballet Doc at TIFF

Look whose got a documentary at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival…

The world’s largest international ballet education initiative –begins its 2011-2012 season with the premiere of its new documentary, “First Position” at the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, September 11th. There will be an additonal screening on Saturday, September 17th.
         “First Position” is a feature length documentary (90 mins) that follows six extremely dedicated young dancers (ages 10 – 19) from North and South America, Asia and Europe as they prepare for the largest youth ballet competition in the world, the YOUTH AMERICA GRAND PRIX (YAGP).  This international ballet competition could transform their futures overnight.  The film is produced by Bess Kargman of First Position Films
         “First Position” takes audiences on this year long journey. From around the world, dancers travel to New York City each year for the chance to compete.  Aran (11) lives in Naples, Italy, with his United States– military family, and travels two hours every morning to practice with his French ballet teacher in Rome. Michaela (14) adopted from an orphanage in Sierra Leone dreams of going to the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. Rebecca (17) is finishing high school, looks like the quintessential classical ballet dancer and hopes to find a paid position with a corps de ballet, even though opportunities are slim. Jules (10) and Miko (12) from a ballet-driven family, train together daily, but differ in their passion and commitment to the art. Joan (16) was born in Colombia, but separated from his family because of training, works tirelessly in the hopes of landing a scholarship with the Royal Ballet School in London.
         Before YAGP was founded in 1999, professional dancers were mainly recruited from the close-knit communities surrounding the most prestigious schools.  Since its formation, YAGP has brought high-level training to local communities around the world, and has changed the way that professional companies and schools recruit.
YOUTH AMERICA GRAND PRIX (YAGP) is the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition.  It was founded in 1999 by two former Bolshoi Ballet dancers, Larissa and Gennadi Saveliev.  Conducted annually throughout the U.S. and abroad (Brazil, Mexico, Japan, and Italy), YAGP is the “internet of the dance world,” a global network of opportunity that connects dancers, teachers, schools and companies all over the globe.  Each year, YAGP conducts regional Semi-Finals throughout the United States and worldwide (Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, Italy, France, and Japan).  Each season culminates with the New York City Finals, where over 950 of the world’s most promising dancers representing 30 countries on five continents compete for scholarships and professional job contracts.  The competition’s closing night Gala, “Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow,” features the top performers from the competition alongside the stars of today’s leading dance companies.
Since its inception, 25,000 young dancers have participated in YOUTH AMERICA GRAND PRIX  worldwide competitions and workshops.  Over $2 million dollars has been awarded in scholarships to the world’s leading dance schools, and over 250 YAGP Alumni are now dancing with some 50 companies around the globe, including American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, and many others.  For more information, please visit WWW.YAGP.ORG.


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Memories of Anthony Quinn

It was sad to learn of the passing of Francesco Quinn recently…it brought back such wonderful memories of his father, the legend, Anthony Quinn.  It was 1985 when Quinn Sr. brought his Zorba the Greek production to Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre.  I had the pleasure of organizing his publicity schedule and got to know the man a bit while ferrying him from interview to interview.  One episode stands out though…an avid fitness person, Anthony or Tony as he liked to be called, rode a bike  on the Martin Goodman Trail…in mid March!  He was so full of life at that time in his mid 70s.  Sad to think his son passed away so young, at 48, of a heart attack.  Check out the photo of Tony and I in the Rogue’s Gallery.

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Are you a Les Miserables Fan?

If you are a fan of Les Miserables like I am, you may want to follow the US tour and the London company on twitter…@lesmisoffcial and @lesmisUSTour .  With the tour you can see when the production will be coming to your city.

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