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Segal Centre gets season off to a jumpin’ start with Ain’t Misbehavin’

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The joint was jumpin’ last Wednesday night, as the Segal Centre launched its 2013-2014 season with its production of the three-time Tony Award winning musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, which is based on the music of the legendary 1930s jazz age American songwriter/pianist Fats Waller.

 

The show began with an actual vintage recording of Waller playing the show’s title song on the piano, which then merges into the quintet of singer/performers (Kim Richardson, Toya Alexis, Michael-Lamont Lytle, Jonathan Emile and Aiza Ntibarikura) who appear on stage dressed in their early 1940s sartorial best and mesmerize the audience with their outstanding singing and dancing talents, as they perform a repertoire consisting of nearly 30 of Waller’s best known tunes. They range from the familiar (“Ain’t Misbehavin’”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”), to the downright comical (“Fat and Greasy”, “You’re Feet’s Too Big”), to the lively (“The Joint is Jumpin’”), to the poignant (“Black and Blue”).

 

The show deftly brings back the glory days of the Harlem Renaissance, where Waller’s Tin Pan Alley-style of music ruled the clubs, dance halls and juke joints during the 30s and 40s, which has been recognized as a vital part of American popular music way after Waller’s untimely death in 1943. Each cast member compliment each other so well with their vocal and dance talents (plus the live five-piece band led by Chris Barillaro), which is spiced up with plenty of sassy banter between each other in between – and during – each number.

 

“Ain’t Misbehavin’” delivers all the right notes and moves for a great musical nostalgia trip and is a highly entertaining way for the Segal Centre to inaugurate another season of fine theatrical presentations. The show runs until October 20. To get your tickets, call 514-739-7944 or go to www.segalcentre.org.

 

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The first time I saw a performance of Blue Man Group was a TV appearance they did about 25 years ago. The trio of silent, bald blue-faced performers did a musical number by crunching a mouthful of Captain Crunch cereal. Although it was rather out of the ordinary, this unorthodox approach to creating music was somehow effective … and yet very intriguing.

 

Right now, 26 years after its formation, the Blue Man Group is conducting its first ever theatrical tour, and will be making a stop this weekend at Place des Arts for four shows today and tomorrow.

 

“A Blue Man Group show is personal experience, because everyone is watching a different show. Our mission is to create a sense of community with the audience and push a sense of connection with them,” said Ben Forester, who has been performing with Blue Man Group for the past two years, first in New York and then in Las Vegas before he joined the touring company. “The music that we perform in the show is awesome, and it’s great to see everyone in the audience nodding their heads at the same time to the music. No one knows what we’re thinking, and the people thrive from that sense of real connection that sometimes is lacking in their lives. It’s like everyone is in a playground.”

 

In a recent phone interview with the Grapevine, Forester said that the show Blue Man Group is presenting on the tour will be very musically centralized. “It offers an alternative to what we do on Broadway; it’s like a huge, large scale, thumping rock concert experience,” he said. As well, the show will feature a selection of Blue Man Group’s most popular routines, including the Captain Crunch number, the Twinkie Dinner (which involves participation from a selected member of the audience) and their trademark paint drumming routine, in which a splash of colourful paint happens when each member of the group hits the top of their drums with their sticks. “This is not magic, because we practice each routine for hours on end. Sometimes, I just don’t now how we do it,” added Forester.

 

Forester, who is an experienced actor and drummer and is a drama major from New York University, admits that it’s a rigorous, extensive audition process before one puts on the blue face. It involves two short auditions, followed by a two-day audition process. Once a candidate is selected, they go through an eight-week training course in New York, in which they learn all of Blue Man Group’s routines, and as part of the training, is put onstage to perform in front of a live audience during one of the group’s New York shows. When the training course is completed, the successful candidates are given the option to stay with the New York troupe, or join the other sitting shows, which are located in Vegas, Boston, Chicago and Berlin, the Blue Man Group cruise show as part of the Norwegian Cruise Lines, or join the touring company.

 

“It’s quite an extensive process to select who will be part of Blue Man Group. Their #1 criteria is to find someone who is open to a sense of fun and wonder and still have the child inside of them,” said Forester. And why does Blue Man Group never utter a word onstage? “That way, we don’t create a language barrier with the audience,” he replied.

 

“And Blue Man Group has a school in New York, where they are always creating new routines to stay fresh and relevant,” said Forester. “It’s a great, crazy experience to be part of the Blue Man Group family.”

 

Tickets for this weekend’s Blue Man Group shows range from $65 to $94, and can be purchased by calling 514-842-2112 or online at www.placedesarts.com or www.evenko.ca. To find out more about Blue Man Group, go to www.blueman.com.

 

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Get ready for a rather spiritual experience, as Theresa Caputo (aka the “Long Island Medium”) returns to Montreal for one night only at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts this Monday (October7) at 7:30 p.m. The star of her own hit reality series on TLC and author of her newly-released memoir “There’s More to Life Than This”, Ms. Caputo will be giving interactive readings to members of the audience, as well as relate stories of her life as a psychic medium and her unique gifts that go with it. Presented by Just For Laughs and Mills Entertainment, tickets for the Long Island Medium show start at $39.75, and purchasing a ticket does not guarantee a reading with Ms. Caputo. For more information call the Place des Arts box office at 514-842-2112.

 

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If you have an event that you want publicized in the Grapevine, please send the information to my attention at bookbanter@hotmail.com

 

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