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The Culture Club: Halifax’s Cultural Institutions Return

Raoul Bhaneja plays all 17 parts in the Neptune Theatre two-hour solo production of Hamlet.

With Shakespeare, Vivaldi and the hottest young musical innovators, October sees a trio of cultural institutions return to Halifax.

With old favourites and new acts you have yet to hear about, Halifax has plenty to offer music and theatre fans this month. Neptune Theatre on Argyle Street, Atlantic Canada’s largest (and one of its oldest) professional theatres, kicked of its season last month with the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. A smash hit in London, the Victorian musical—by turns comic and macabre—is the tale of a wronged man, returning to London for an imaginative revenge on the judge who stole his wife and family. It runs until October 7.

Up next in Neptune’s Studio Series is a remarkable production of Hamlet. Canadian Raoul Bhaneja plays all 17 parts in the two-hour solo show, bringing Shakespeare’s tragedy to life in an energetic and technically flawless performance. Hamlet runs from October 9 to 21.
Back on Neptune’s mainstage, the month concludes with the latest work from acclaimed Nova Scotian playwright Daniel MacIvor. In Bingo, a group of adults return to their Cape Breton roots for their 30th high-school reunion. It’s a funny, thought-provoking story of friendship and growing up—and the nice guy finally getting the girl. See it from October 16 to November 4.

Music fans are also in for a great month in Halifax. After teasing audiences with small free shows during Symphony Week last month, Symphony Nova Scotia launches its new season with Haydn’s Creation at the Dalhousie Arts Centre on University Avenue. For the first time in more than a decade, the Symphony and the Symphony Nova Scotia Chorus are tackling Haydn’s soaring, triumphant, ambitious composition. See it on October 6, with an encore on October 7.
The Symphony offers more for classical purists on October 14 with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Guest violinist David Stewart, former concertmaster of the Bergen Philharmonic, leads the orchestra through the baroque masterpiece. This show is at Saint Andrew’s United Church on Coburg Road.

Don’t think Symphony Nova Scotia is stuck in the past, though. This month it lends its considerable talents to the Halifax Pop Explosion, an annual festival of alt/indie music, showcasing emerging talents from around the world. On October 19, as part of the festival, West Coast folk-rocker Dan Mangan joins the Symphony for a unique
musical collaboration.

And with 150 bands playing at 18 different venues around the city, the Halifax Pop Explosion has much more to offer music lovers. Other highlights include Gianna Lauren and Al Tuck at The Carleton on October 16, Wintersleep at Olympic Hall on Hunter Street on October 18, and Mardeen at the Seahorse Tavern on Argyle Street October 20.

Hot Entertainment: Gavin Crawford at the YYComedy Festival

Gavin Crawford performs Thursday night in Calgary. Photo: Courtesy: YYComedy Festival.

Gavin Crawford, of This Hour Has 22 Minutes fame, performs at the University Theatre tomorrow—Thursday, September 27—during the YYComedy Festival. Wherespoke with Crawford about what fans can expect from his stand-up show.

Where: Most Canadians know you from This Hour Has 22 Minutes, what can we expect from your stand-up show?

Crawford: Characters. A whole lot of characters. The live stuff I do is a bit edgier than you will see on CBC, not offensive per say but perhaps slightly more real. My live shows are kind of like concerts I guess, only with characters instead of songs. There’s some stuff people may know from 22 Minutes like Mark Jackson or Rufus Wainwright [impressions], but I can go a little deeper with them because the pieces don’t have to be two minutes long. I also get to play other people who don’t fit into the 22landscape. I like to make fun of things through characters, and sometimes impressions, so the show is really a mix of character monologues and impersonations. (more…)



Sara-Jeanne Hosie in A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline

Stage struck

Victoria’s Belfry Theatre sees Red September 11 to October 14, specifically John Logan’s 2010 Tony Award-winner for Best Play. Co-produced with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Red ventures back to 1958 when abstract painter Mark Rothko was engaged to paint murals for the Seagram Building in New York, the most lucrative commission ever. Working with a young apprentice and threatened by a new generation of painters, Rothko must create a series of masterpieces. Red dives deeply into this incredible period when the fierce, uncompromising Rothko, at the height of his power, clashes with fame and commercialism.

Langham Court Theatre opens its 2012-13 season October 3 to 20 with the beloved classic 84, Charing Cross Road, adapted from the book by Jelene Hanff, while Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, Dean Reagan’s ever popular musical A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline runs from October 30 to November 10 with the talented Sara-Jeanne Hosie, recreating her role she has played to great acclaim for both the Vancouver Arts Club and the Chemainus Theatre Festival. Following the country legend’s climb to stardom from her hometown in Virginia to New York’s Carnegie Hall, the show features 20 hits, including Crazy, Walkin’ After Midnight, Sweet Dreams and I Fall to Pieces, this musical stars.


Toopy and Binoo


Fab kid fun

The fabulousness continues! Kid favourites Toopy and Binoo are warming up their funny muscles and stretching their active imaginations in preparation for their live stage show this fall. Toopy and Binoo and the Marshmallow Moon brings to life the two fun-loving and adorable characters, whose antics are driven by their out-of-this-world imaginations – and whose unpredictable adventures inspire children to push their own limits! Take in the fun September 16 at Victoria’s Royal Theatre.

Budding young gardeners will enjoy the second annual Children’s Harvest Festival & Field of Scarecrows, at the Gardens at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific October 6 from 11am to  3pm. Kids, bring your families for a free day of interactive stations on growing your own food, nature and healthy lifestyles!


Celebrate with a case of the Blues

Celebrate the end of summer by rockin’ and groovin’ to live blues, R&B and more at the 18th annual Vancouver Island Blues Bash! Headliners for the ticketed evening performances include Canada’s blues guitar favorite David Gogo (September 1) and Alligator Records’ blues guitarist Joe Louis Walker (September 2).

In addition to the ticketed performances, take in three afternoons of free-admission performances featuring some of Vancouver Island’s best performers, 12 to 5:15pm September 1 to 3.

Historic Events

The Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites throw open their grounds September 11 for  the 18th annual English Car Affair in the Park. At 10am precisely, the skirl of the pipes will herald the start of this popular event featuring more than 100 classic and vintage British automobiles from the Old English Car Club.

Return to the site September 24 for the 10th annual Fort Rodd Hill Lantern Tour, an exclusive, after-dark guided tour of the 19th century site. See the gun batteries by lantern light and eavesdrop on uniformed re-enactors going about the daily activities of garrison life. Take in the sights, sounds and smells of life at the Hill during the period of 1897-1956. There may even be a few surprises along the way! Tours leave every 15 minutes from 7 to 8:45pm. Tickets are $10, in advance only – call 250-478-5849.

Mother Mother

Rifflandia rocks on

Some the rock world’s best and brightest will descend on downtown Victoria for the third annual Rifflandia festival, September 13 to 16. With a who’s who of modern rock taking to local stages, highlights include Mother Mother, Cake, Band of Skulls, Sloan, The Dudes, The Stanfields, and many, many more. What a way to bid farewell to summer!

Cirque comes to the Centre

Everyone loves a circus – especially when the circus in question is the Cirque du Soleil. The renowned troupe brings its critically-acclaimed Quidam to the Save On Foods Memorial Centre September 5 to 9. A favourite since premiering in Montreal in April 1996, the international cast features 52 world-class acrobats, musicians, singers and characters, telling the story of  young Zoé, whose life has lost all meaning. Seeking to fill the void of her existence, she slides into an imaginary world – the world of Quidam – where she meets characters who encourage her to free her soul.


Hot Entertainment: Gotye

Gotye performs Aug 29 at the Stampede Corral. Photo: Courtesy Ticketmaster.

2012 might just be remembered for NASA sending the Curiosity rover to Mars or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations or for Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time. But it will definitely be remembered as the year Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know” wormed its way into our collective consciousness, causing us all to emotionally belt out the breakup anthem’s complete lyrics at its mere mention. (more…)

30 Things We Love This June

3. Mrs. Bridal Boutique

1 People watching on the rooftop patio of Sky Yard, a favourite sipping spot of the city’s hipsters.

2 A peaceful walk through Mount Pleasant Cemetery (375 Mount Pleasant Rd., 416-485-9129).

3 Saying yes to the dress at Mrs. Bridal Boutique.

4 Seeing works by contemporary Canadian artists at the venerable Olga Korper Gallery.

5 Vintage jewellery from the vast estate collection of Van Rijk Jewellers. (more…)

Q&A with Shoshana Sperling of The Monkey Bunch

By Lindsay Shapka

Photo courtesy The Monkey Bunch

The Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival in St. Albert begins on Tuesday, May 29 and runs through June 2. One of the exiting acts swinging onto the main stage, is The Monkey Bunch, a four-piece, Juno-nominated rock ’n’ roll band from Toronto, Ontario. WHERE had the opportunity to chat with spunky, front-woman, Shoshana Sperling, and she spilled the bananas about how the group got started, where their name came from, and what inspires her performances.

According to Sperling, it all began six and a half years ago when she and, now husband, Maury LaFoy were “completely broke” and so wrote and recorded three songs to send to their nieces and nephews as Christmas gifts. To the couple’s surprise, when the kids played the music “their friends went crazy; everyone wanted a copy and then wanted more songs.” Responding to the demand, Sperling and LaFoy asked long-time friends Graham Powell and Lyle Molzan to join them, and it didn’t take long until requests for performances started rolling in from children’s charities, benefits, and folk festivals.

Photo courtesy The Monkey Bunch

Their show is a combination of unique lyrics, quirky comedy, enviro-friendly messaging, and A LOT of energy that will appeal to both kids and their parents. Sperling is determined to empower kids through her music and “let them know that even though they are small, they have a voice and people will listen.” She even let her small fans determine the name of the group! They christened them The Monkey Bunch after a fan-favourite cover they did of the song “No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed!” (more…)

30 Things We Love About Toronto this April

4. Koerner Hall (photo by Neill Sturgess)

1 Exploring self-portraits by noted artists such as Alex Colville and Mary Pratt in a new exhibit at Mira Godard Gallery.

2 Checking out the latest kicks from Converse and Red Wing Shoes at Get Outside.

3 Putting on your detective hat to solve a classic “whodunit” at Mysteriously Yours Mystery Dinner Theatre.

4 The near-perfect acoustics of The Royal Conservatory‘s Koerner Hall.

5 A hot lunch from Food Cabbie, a food truck stationed at Queen Street East and Mutual Street. (more…)

Hot Date: Canadian Music Week Brings in the Bands

The Cat Empire performs as part of Slacker Canadian Music Week

MARCH 21 TO 25 It’s the most tuneful time of the year. Celebrating its 30th edition, Slacker Canadian Music Week brings the biggest movers and shakers in the business to Toronto for a symposium, trade show, film screenings, comedy series, and, mostly importantly, a music festival with more than 900 artists at 60 venues. Some of Canada’s top indie bands—The Trews, for example—are scheduled to perform, along with international heat seekers like Australia’s The Cat Empire and L.A.-based comedian-turned-rapper Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover). Adding extra flavour to this year’s mix are spotlight shows featuring musicians from Latin America, Portugal and Spain, as well as a new jazz series. Festival wristbands $75 to $150; call 905-858-4747 or click here for more information.

30 Things We Love About Toronto in March 2012

1. Bannock (photo by Garrison McArthur Photographers)

1 Connecting with Canada’s culinary heritage with comfort food served up at Bannock.

2 The mix of abstract painting, graffiti and cartoon animation in Pascal Paquette’s mural outside of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.

3 Gussying ourselves up with fashionable finds from Lavish & Squalor.

4 Learning how April showers can make for superior May flowers at Canada Blooms.

5 Listening to the new versions of pop classics performed by Jann Arden at Massey Hall on March 9 and 10. (more…)

Hot Dates: One Night of Tango Pasión

Dancers bring Buenos Aires to Ottawa with Tango Pasión. Photo credit: Jimv McCann.

Feb. 21. If you love powerful music, mesmerizing dances, and beautiful people, you’ll love a performance by the Argentine dance company Tango Pasión. For just one night, the music and dancing of Buenos Aires will take over Ottawa, so you can experience the fancy footwork and sexy beats for yourself in this sizzling spectacle. (Fun fact: 2o12 is the company’s 20th anniversary, and the show returns to Canada for a handful of performances in select cities.) The show weaves together multiple tango stories and features dancers who represent the full range of Argentine society. Don’t miss your chance to see the dance moves that everyone will be talking about when the performers heat up the stage at the National Arts Centre.

Save the Date: The National Ballet of Canada’s 2012/13 Season

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Just as theatre company Mirvish Productions was announcing its upcoming schedule, so too was another of the city’s performing arts institutions, the National Ballet of Canada, presenting its own highly anticipated 2012/13 programming—a selection that promises to thrill and inspire with its diverse mix of celebrated classics and groundbreaking new works.

The fall season opens with a whimsical bang when Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland returns to the Four Seasons Centre stage from November 10 to 25, 2012. Having received rapturous reviews when it premiered at last year’s Luminato festival, this lavish co-production with England’s Royal Ballet reimagines Lewis Carroll’s most beloved work through the grace and lyricism of dance. (more…)

Hot Dates: Get Lucky at the Casino

The gaming floor is a hot spot at the Casino du Lac-Leamy.

Revel in the energy and excitement at the Casino du Lac-Leamy, where there’s more to do than gamble (although there’s plenty of that, too!). In February, take in one of the shows that are on the bill (ABBA Memories, Dance into the Light, or The British Invasion: Beatles Story). Enjoy dinner at the gourmet Le Baccara or one of the other restaurants, have drinks at one of four bars (including a lounge for cigar aficionados), and then hit the large collection of slots and try your luck on the gaming floor, where someone won $1.86 million in November.