Saturday, March 21, 2009

Enjoyable Experience: The Goldberg Variations in the Sun by: Lezah Williamson

Ballet BC, Feb. 28, Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Following a scathing review on James Kudelka's World Premiere of The Goldberg Variations in The Sun, I went to the ballet with not just a little bit of trepidation. I knew, already, that the company had been through some hard times in recent months, with the almost-going-bankrupt hardship, and then having to cancel Korea Ballet's Swan Lake while restructuring the existing company. But the reviewer in question has been highly critical of Ballet BC before, so I took what was said with a grain of salt.

The crowd at the ballet was nowhere near as big as the crowds we experienced when the shows were at the Ford Centre, but then maybe the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is just that much bigger. Sadly, most of the upper seats were empty. Then artistic director John Alleyne came out just before the start of the performance, and he was noticeably more nervous than I've ever seen him. Usually he is the epitome of calm - cool and collected, but last night he was clearly rattled. However, as is the motto in show biz: the show must go on! And I'm glad it did.

Adam and Eve and Steve (The Goldberg Variations, side 2) was danced to a recording. The trio of Jones Henry, Simone Orlando and Shannon Smith danced to a backdrop of Corps de Ballet. The two groups were quite disparate, stylistically.

Later in the evening, Carmen was danced with Marianne Bauer-Grobbelaar in the lead role. I had seen Carmen about two years ago, but this particular one seemed so much more vibrant. I really enjoyed it.

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Annie: Theatrical Review By Lezah Williamson

Vancouver: The Centre for the Performing Arts, March 5, 2009

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We went to see Annie on March 5th; not being a fan of the original comic strip, I certainly wasn't familiar with it from its print format, and although I will admit to having seen the movie, I must have been on drugs or something, because I had the story completely wrong.

In case you're not familiar with the story, here's a brief overview:
Annie is set in the depression in New York. Annie is a resident in an orphanage, but unlike the other ‘abandoned’ children, Annie was dropped at the door with a note stating that her parents would be back for their darling daughter as soon as they had some money to support the family. The parents left Annie with half a silver locket; the other half would be produced by the parents as proof that Annie was rightfully theirs when they came to claim her. Because of this, Annie was far more independent than the other orphans, and was a frequent runaway. Miss Hannigan, an alcoholic who runs the orphanage, was constantly on the look out for Annie's next escape. Annie does successfully manage to run away, but is caught and returned to the orphanage. Meanwhile, Grace, the assistant to the very rich Daddy Warbucks, has shown up to 'borrow' an orphan for the Christmas holidays. Annie is spotted, and the deal is set. Similar to the Ann of Green Gables story, it was a boy he had in mind, but he begrudgingly agreed to keep the girl - only to decide to adopt her. Complications arise when Annie reveals that she has a 'real' set of parents out there somewhere; further complicating the issue is Miss Hannigan's unscrupulous brother and his girlfriend Lilly, who decide to pretend they are Annie parents in order to get the reward posted by Daddy Warbucks.

Being a story for kids, this has a happy ending. 'Nuff said.

We saw the Broadway production that is currently touring North America. So, understandably, the sets and costumes were very professional looking.

Annie is being played by Madison Kerth, and although she acted well, her voice just grated - alternating between a scream and bellow. On the contrary, AnnaLisa Leaming, who plays Grace, has an absolutely lovely voice. Another standout was Lynn Andrews as Miss Hannigan.

Glowing Review for Vancouver’s Glowbal Grill and Satay Bar By Lezah Williamson

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Glowbal Grill and Satay Bar is a restaurant located in the Yaletown district of Vancouver (1079 Mainland Street).

Situated in an area that had previously been a warehouse district and is now filled with trendy shops, restaurants and luxurious condos, Glowbal is a perfect fit with its neighbourhood.

My friend and I popped in on the last night in February; we had just had snow two days previous, and when the waiter asked if we wanted to sit inside or out, I must admit I looked at him a little askance. However, he led us out onto the patio, and I have to admit, it was the right choice. There was plenty of street ambience, so much so that it took me back to my trip to Paris last year. But unlike Paris, at Glowbal I was warm!

We were there for two full hours, and I was comfortable and warm the whole time - in fact I not only shed my jacket, but also my sweater. (That rarely happens anywhere for me between the months of November and March!) And the outdoor patio was lovely in other ways, too - the decor was upscale casual. Inside, it was a little more nightclubby, and so that patio fit our mood better.

Next came the food: my friend decided she wanted to share appies rather than eat an entrée each, and that suited me fine. We ordered sweet potato fries first - and they weren’t even on the menu, but the chef was kind enough to accommodate us. Next we had a Baby Spinach Salad with warm pancetta vinaigrette ($12), oven-dried tomatoes, saffron egg, buffalo mozzarella and candied pecans. This was not at all overwhelming in size, but it left me feeling very satisfied. The melding of the sweet and the savoury was fantastic. Next up was the lobster mashed potatoes ($10) and the grilled lamb chops ($15), which the waiter brought to us on a long plate for our convenience. While the lobster mashed potatoes was fine, it wasn't something I'd order again; the lamb, on the other hand... I haven't stopped thinking about it!

Between you and me, I haven't eaten lamb since I owned a pet lamb, and I was somewhat reluctant to try this. But it was lovely and tender - absolutely delectable.

Finally, dessert: in keeping with our sharing theme, we chose the Pastry Chef's Dessert Selection (($12), which gave us a pot of creme bruleé (the best I've ever had!), a warm chocolate coffee cake (which I had misread on the menu as a lava cake, so was a bit disappointed with at the time - but I got over that!), and a white chocolate mousse (smooth!! creamy!!). Truly the best restaurant dessert I've had in a long, long time. On top of that, their coffee was great. For me, that's the all-important crux that is missing in many dining establishments.

And for all you single ladies out there: Glowbal has what is undoubtedly the finest stable of male employees I have ever laid eyes on. It looked like they had raided the files of every modelling school out there to come up with their wait staff. These guys are hot! In fact, I don't recall even seeing a female employee there, although I could be mistaken.

The executive chef at Glowbal is John Crooks, and yes, reservations are recommended.

GreenGo readies for April Release ‘Borders’ by Christine Albrecht

Audio Blood Media readies their clients for public consumption.

Here's one for the dance floors. Guelph, Ontario's dance funk band, GreenGo are releasing the GreenGoRemix Project Vol. 1.

Exciting remixes of everyone's favorite Canadian indie rock tracks from Born Ruffians, the Rural Alberta Advantage, Women, Gentlemen Reg and The D'Urbervilles.

Five tracks will be available on their myspace in a couple of weeks.

GreenGo are gearing up for release of their debut full length,Borders, this April/09. 2008 saw them play many gigs and release a 3 song sampler, the Ghosts of the Future EP, which was quick to chart on campuses across Canada.

Although defining their sound isn't the easiest task, it hasn't stopped people from trying. Toronto Star's Ben Rayner was quick to get behind the band,
"Darting funk fretwork and synth-driven anxiousness to keep the adrenaline up throughout...these co-ed cats really start cooking when they betray a bit of a prog fetish and suspend their frantic calls to arms in a spacier shimmer."

Aside from constantly confusing critics, GreenGo have managed to sell out of their self-titled debut EP, headline Steamwhistle's Indie Unsigned showcase, and share stages with the likes of Think About Life, Woodhands, the D'Urbervilles and many more.

Though the stages and the audiences are rapidly expanding with every performance, it will be awhile before GreenGo give up the turf that they tear up best: sweaty, dimly-lit house parties. The Trepid House in Waterloo, 276 Nelson street in Ottawa, and the attic at 447 Woowich in their hometown Guelph are only some of the properties whose residents have risked permanent structural damage in order to host the unparalleled electro-dance implosion. As a live review once suggested, "you might want to bring a change of clothes."

The Art of Racing in the Rain (novel Review) L. Williamson

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What is it about Seattle that breeds both great baristas and writers? Garth Stein is not a native son, but he was raised in Seattle, and still makes his home there; his novel The Art of Racing in the Rain is also set in the Emerald City.

The narrator for this story is a TV-watching dog named Enzo who is almost as obsessed with opposable digits as he is with maintaining the integrity of his family. Although at times frustrated by his limitations in the communication department, Enzo knows his problems are only temporary: he has, throughout his life, educated himself by watching TV, and a documentary on Mongolia has him convinced that he will be reincarnated as a human.

Enzo lives with Denny, a talented race car driver who has had to make many sacrifices in his life. Over the course of the story, the dynamics of Denny and Enzo's family changes. Enzo, however, remains stalwart and loyal to the end, despite every curve that he encounters on the road.

I'm a sucker for a story about animals, and a dog as philosophical as Enzo - well, my heart was stolen! The Art of Racing in the Rain (2006) is now published in 23 languages. I'm sure nothing will be lost in the translation.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Megan Hamilton’s Canadian release of See your Midnight Breath in the Shipyard April 7, 2009 Christine Albrecht

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Toronto sweetheart Megan Hamilton will release her second full length album, See Your Midnight Breath in the Shipyard April 7th, 2009 across Canada. The album will be released on the artist-run Familiar Music, which Hamilton founded with Steve Puchalski, Gary Peter and Shelby Lamb in 2006.

Hamilton plans to release the album in her hometown of Toronto at the Rivoli on April 9th with friends Olenka and the Autumn Lovers. As well, Toronto comedienne Kathleen Phillips will be opening the evening.

She will spend the rest of the Spring and Summer touring with her band, The Volunteer Canola, in Quebec, Ontario and beyond.

SYMBiTS marks the third collaboration between Megan and Mark and was recorded differently than her critically acclaimed Feudal Ladies Club and How We Think About Light EP. Where previously it was a homemade studio, now there was a fully rehearsed band in a professional studio. I

The session players include label mate Steve Puchalski (Deromantic) on keys; Adam White on bass; Andrew Sadoway on drums; and Craig Browne on lead guitar and back-up vocals. Megan played acoustic and electric guitars, some keys and layers of vocals.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Water for Elephants By: Lezah Williamson

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A friend of mine loaned me Water for Elephants by former Vancouverite Sara Gruen. It's a love story filled with animals - what could be better, I ask you?

Set in the Great Depression (I'm a sucker for Depression-era stories), Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob Jankowski, a young man who, a week before he sits his final exams in Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, has the rug pulled out from under him. His life, both as he knew it and as he envisioned it, is gone; in a fit of despair, he runs off and jumps the first train out of town.

Jacob has leapt, unknowingly, into the lion's den. He finds himself hooked up with a second rate circus that criss-crosses the country, looking as much for the next score as for other failed circus outfits to cannibalize. The cast of this ragtag crew is probably more entertaining than the pathetic illusions their circus act offers: Al, the boss, envies Ringling Bros. to the point of obsession; Marlena is the beautiful wife of the alternatively abusive and charming August; Rosie is an elephant who can only understand Polish; Blackie, is a brute whose sole purpose seems to be 'redlighting' employees who have outlived their usefulness; Kinko is a dwarf who puts up walls around him so high that no one can get in; and Camel is an old drunk who paves the way for Jacob.

The story is told from the perspective of Jacob as an old man. Either 90 or 93 years old (what does it matter when you're that age?), he recalls the story while suffering the indignities of old age as they play out in his nursing home. The story explores the bizarre subculture of the circus world, and throughout the book, black and white photos illustrating aspects of the circus world evoke the difficult life those people led.

Water for Elephants was on the NYT Best Sellers list for over 55 weeks. Fox 2000 has acquired the movie rights to the novel, and is said to be fast-tracking the project. Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend) has signed on as director.

Who's Watching the Watchmen? Movie review by Lezah Williamson

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The filmed in Vancouver movie Watchmen broke the 2009 box-office record with a $55.2 million take on opening weekend. This Warner Brothers film, however, cost $100 million to make, so it's got a way to go before any profit is to be had. But, all in all, not bad for a movie that was said to be impossible to film by many.

Based on the award winning cult graphic novel of the same name written by Alan Moore, Watchmen chronicles the lives of a group of free land vigilante super heroes. Set in an alternate 1986, where Richard Nixon is in his fifth term in office and the Coldwar Doomsday Clock is set at five to midnight, the movie shows us, through a series of flashbacks, who the Watchmen were and how they came to be where they are now - outlawed.

The film opens with the death of the nihilistic, misogynistic character, The Comedian (brilliantly played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan). We are then introduced the rest of the cast, including Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), and Adrian Veidt/Ozymandium (Matthew Goode). Unfolding like a murder mystery, the film goes on to examine power and its use in our society. It shows us what type of people choose to hide behind a mask to fight crime, and shows us how far they will go to protect humanity.

Clocking in at 2 3/4 hours, the film is riveting. We made the mistake of going to the midnight show the first night it opened, however - not always a great idea with a film as long as this.

Overall, I give it two thumbs up.

Different photo supplied by editors: (How is this one? ANON:)

WonderCon By: Lezah Williamson

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Dave attended WonderCon down in San Francisco on the weekend of Feb. 27 to March 1. It was held at the Moscone Centre South, which was a great location within walking distance of many of the city's great attractions. This was Dave's first WonderCon, and he came back raving.

WonderCon is the West Coast's second biggest comic/popular culture conference, and featured a wide range of activities. In addition to the usual comics, comics and more comics that you will find at a conference of this sort, he was also able to see a 20 min. preview of the long-awaited Watchmen film that opens later this week. The director was there, and he had exciting news about the Director's cut DVD that will be out later (there's to be a film within a film based on the pirate comic that the boy at the newstand reads throughout the graphic novel).

On top of that,there were a number of celebrities of various sorts present, including Shirley Manson (of the band Garbage), Alec Baldwin (and the rest of the cast of the show Chuck), Summer Glau (of Firefly), Sergio Aragones (of MAD magazine),... and the list goes on. On top of that, there were numerous wares for sale all over the place, and a masquerade on Saturday featuring Super Heroes, goths, and steam punks.

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