Stop Press – My picks of cool upcoming “Don’t miss” Experiences” in Toronto

Of course this is not an exhaustive list (you’d need to read “Now” cover to cover for weeks for that sort of detail) and doesn’t include the Stratford,& Shaw Festivals and summer contenders like Caribana, Canadian Stage Shakespeare in High Park etc. The following is stuff that is either upcoming, doesn’t fit a particular genre or which maybe a little out of the ball park.

Going going gone – Until Saturday June 1 at the Yonge centre “Video Cabaret” perform this incredibly original interpretation of the “War of 1812”. One chapter in Michael Hollingsworth’s epic 21-part play-cycle, “The History of the Village of the Small Huts” this has to be seen even if you are not into Canadian History. A cross between Punch and Judy, Spitting Image and a Restoration comedy you will be blown away by this intimate theatrical production

Agatha Christies -“The Mousetrap”
Originally commissioned by the BBC in 1952 to celebrate Queen Mary’s 80th birthday- Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap is the longest running play in the history of live theatre. Celebrating over 60 years of continuous performance it is currently playing at Lower Ossington theatre till June 19
Phone: 416-915-6747

“The Sonnet Show” at Montgomery’s Inn
Montgomery’s Inn is the century old Inn that is home to the Humber River Shakespeare Co.
14 lines – A Shakespeare sonnet serves as an inspiration for a new play
14 days – A writer to write the play
14 minutes – each new play will run 14 minutes
Different eh?
Everything we’ve seen these guys do has been a blast so this should be no exception.
May 24

The Scriptease show is coming to the Tank House theatre in June. Both Naomi Sniekus and Matt Baram (collectively The National Theatre of the World) are seasoned improv artists and Second City alumni.
They do a progressive improv show at the John Candybox Theatre on Peter Street on Friday nights where beside their own brand of brilliant “seat of your pants” comedy they showcase new and promising acts.
The Scriptease show has been running for a few years on and off in some of Toronto’s most interesting theatre spaces such as “Passe Muraille” and the now defunct “Bread & Circus” stage.
Here’s how it works: they ask ten well known playwrights to write the first two pages of a play. They do a cold reading of the two pages and then improvise the rest of the play. They are in costume and there’s a set.

“Book of Mormon”
Currently playing, this irreverently witty, camp and gobsmackingly politically incorrect stage show is a collaboration between South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez (so you get the picture right?) playing at the Princess of Wales theatre until June 9.
Look out for the welcoming committee of suited and booted young Mormons recruiting outside the theatre before each show!…/thebookofmormon

The Tall Ships are visiting Toronto Harbour in June
To see our modern skyline vying with the jumble of masts from tall ships berthed on Toronto Harbour is unforgettable!
Don’t miss the official launch of the TALL SHIPS® 1812 Tour. 20-23 June 2013.
Toronto will be the only port to host the full fleet of ships as they travel throughout Ontario during this pan-provincial event to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812. .
For more info See my blog “The Tall Ships have left Toronto harbour written after their last visit in July 2010.

Free Movies at Yonge/Dundas Square
One of Toronto’s many free outdoor summer movie pop-ups opens at City Yonge Dundas Square end June through August.
Edward Scissorhands/ Napoleon Dynamite, Anchorman and other off the wall movies
Free start at 9pm Tuesdays

Oh and if you’re into ZeppelinTribute band Zeppelinesque play Yonge Dundas square on July 19 as part of Indiefest

Summer Music Series at “Casa Loma”
The wonderful homegrown ballad -maker Jesse Pitcher pitches up on June 25 at Casa Loma as part of their Summer Music series
Oh and for Fathers Day how about becoming a Knight for the day? – also at Casa Loma
Plus you can also learn archery, bee keeping, or track ghosts there this summer
Just sayin…….
See website for details

The Warplane Heritage Museum – Hamilton
It’s “fly in a WW2 plane” experience begins in June. There are around 16 warplanes that you can book a flight on, with the iconic Lancaster bomber being at the top of the tree. For a cool $2800 or so (with tax receipt) you can have an hour’s flight on the only passenger operating Lancaster in the world!!
She and the other aircraft start flying June 1 but a warning: the Lancaster’s flying days are numbered – she is almost at her sell-by date. For more info visit my blog on the museum “Bombs Away” 18 September 2012 or visit

Coming in October at the Yonge Centre – “The Norman Conquest trilogy”
This Alan Ayckbourne trilogy (written in 1973) has lost none of its freshness and appeal because it’s subject matter – the human condition remains unchanged no matter which century.
6 characters take the stage in three different plays that take place on the same weekend in different parts of the house and garden
Each play “Table Manners”, “Living Together” and “Round and Round the Garden” – is self-contained, and may be watched in any order, some of the scenes overlap, and on occasion a character’s exit from one play corresponds with his/her entrance in another.

Oh and for any “I Love Lucy fans, some of the antics of the feisty red-headed iconic heroine are being showcased in the upcoming “I Love Lucy” stage show in November

Over and Out




Maritimes – express tour

Having been to Nova Scotia/Cape Breton/Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland in the past and badly in need of a sea “fix” we organized a last-minute whistlestop tour around select Maritime destinations:
Halifax – 4 nights
Saint Johns, New Brunswick – 2 nights
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island – 2 nights

Word of warning if you are thinking about visiting the Maritimes in October – the “shoulder” season – no matter what the guide book says – businesses, especially those outside of the cities shut when they please.
The big maritime cities in these provinces however are in the swing of Fall Cruise season so when the ship is in port the shops and major attractions are open. The major Hotel chains, many of the bigger Inns and the restaurants and bars in these cities are also open for business.

Downside of traveling in the Maritimes in the down season is that once off the beaten track it is virtually impossible to find somewhere picturesque to enjoy a cup of tea and slice of fruit cake (ha-ha). However it is possible to capture — unimpeded by fellow tourists – the very essence of the fabled north American Fall colours during this time.

Another advantage is that whilst the National and Provincial Parks visitor and interpretive centres are all clised from mid October, you can still enter the parks’ spectacular scenic road systems and enjoy fabulous views for free.
Check websites for seasonal hours.

Just take a great guidebook and/or print off some website information to take with you and have your own self-guided experience.

Other upsides of shoulder-season travel is the “low-season accommodation rates and if an Inn/Hotel doesn’t quote these, ask for a reduced rate when booking.

Express Nova Scotia
Hours for most attractions are 9-5 except on Sundays when many museums open at midday.
Keep a look out for the Halifax “Nocturne” event which happens mid October for one night only when major attractions, museums and art installations are “open” till midnight and free

Must see:
The Maritime Museum which houses – notably – a Titanic exhibition (by dint of its proximity to the disaster site Halifax became the last resting place or transit site of the victims and many are buried here. Also hugely interesting is the “Halifax explosion” exhibit. Outside of Hiroshima the great 1917 Halifax explosion was the largest man originated explosion the world has ever experienced!
The museum ticket also includes a visit aboard both “HMCS Sackville a WW2 corvette and a tall ship, the HMCS Acadia.

Pier 7 is especially worth a visit if any of your relatives emigrated and entered Canada through Halifax. A sort of mini New York “Ellis Island” equivalent.
Whilst down that end of the shore drop in for a tasting session at the Garrison craft brewery AND visit the new site of the Halifax Farmers market.

The Citadel spanning the high ground atop the city is a must if only for the amazing views. If possible try to time your visit this time of year to the truncated opening hours of the interpretive centre in order to visit the barracks and watch a firing demonstration etc.
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is also worth a few hours exploration and an especially good diversion for a rainy day.
A cluster of original and well preserved properties constitutes the “Historic” area at the southern end of the boardwalked waterfront and houses a number of bars, restaurants and shops.

A couple of hours west of Halifax is the highly photogenic though much over -rated Lighthouse and enclave of “Peggy’s Cove”. Try to get here either very early in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid the masses of coach-ridden, camera snapping tourists in need of a leg stretch, a pee and a picture (in that order) They will for sure ruin the wild and rugged picture perfect illusion you are trying to capture of this accessible lighthouse perched upon swathes of grey lichen punctuated wave-carved rockscape.
Travel on through Mahone – cutesy gift shops and tea rooms- to Lunenberg – cutesy gift shops and tea rooms ( most closed in the shoulder season)
Both the above very colorful especially Lunenberg, home of thr world Famous tall ship “The Bluenose II”, with its historic shingled houses clinging to the steep coastline in primary coloured layers. Get your hiking boots on if you want to explore each strata of this community.

To get to Saint Johns New Brunswick you can either drive north and east around Nova Scotia or take a very scenic ferry ride direct from Digby on the north coast.
Saint Johns is famous as being the gateway city to The Bay of Fundy which has the highest tidal range in the world. It also has something called The Reversing Falls where the tides meet and churn violently at tide turning. You can view from the bridge or take a jet boat ride right into it.
Saint Johns has a tiny downtown core full of handsome buildings – a vestige of the days when it was the third most important port (based on tonnage) in the world and one of the worlds foremost ship-building cities.
Check out the “Big Tide” brewing company for craft beer and authentic warehouse style ambiance.
Saint Johns also has a “skyway” walk through it’s buildings and malls which at it’s northernmost point culminates at the tiny cute market (longest continually running market in North America)

On the way out of New Brunswick and eastbound check out Fundy National Park and a little further eastward Hopewell Rocks. Hopewell Rocks – when visiting at low tide you can walk out on the sand to view the stem like base of these flowerpots formations carved by the tremendous tidal forces in operation at this neck of the inlet. Check the tide tables to make sure you visit at low tide otherwise you will simply see some rocks sticking out of the sea and the point of this visit will have eluded you (I speak from experience here)
Drive over the miracle of engineering that is the 8 mile “Confederation Bridge” and onto Prince Edward Island. At this time of year the Island is “closed” with the exception of Charlottetown.
Again you can pick up great hotel deals and stay at the best historic inns at much reduced rates. We loved both “The Great George Inn” and the “Fairhome Historic Inn” both downtown.
Visit Confederation House -site if the signing of; ; do the whole “Anne of Green Gables” stint if you feel so inclined or simply toad-trip it along the empty roads taking in the gloriously gentle and pastoral scenery. Best for me was Greenwich Provincial Park on the north of the island with it’s boardwalks, miles of deserted beach and sand dunes.
At Souris just below the north east tip of the island is Souris lighthouse with it’s tiny gift shop (open when all else was closed) and lovely gift shop staff who specially opened the lighthouse up for us to visit.
Best fish lunch ever and again one of the only places open was the – at first glance -uninspiring looking “Sheltered Harbour” Cafe right opposite the lighthouse and Souris Port and Ferry Terminal ( for ferries to Isles de la Madeleine).

Take a ferry back to Nova Scotia from Wood Island to Caribou and continue the two hour or so journey to Halifax.

And there you have it – 8 days of Fall touring possibilities in a tiny circular tour of three Maritime Provinces.

Over and out




The Carnegie Hall show at the Bread & Circus

Bread & Circus

Image by fortinbras via Flickr

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages,

Roll up, Roll up to the Bread & Circus, host to the Carnegie Hall show  – the “Greatest little Show on Earth!”

I give you the most Audaciousssssss

The most Outrageousssssss

The most Sensory challenging, Mind boggling and Dangerous display of Wit, Verve and Mental agility you will EVER encounter.

I give you the National Theatre of the World wiiiIIIIIIIIIIith “The Carnegie Hall” show.

Let the show begin!”

You may think you’ve seen it all before when it comes to improv and yes Toronto abounds with this sort of entertainment, but if you only do one nice thing for yourself next week, go and watch this lot.

Not as “slick” or as commercial as the big-ticket, big name, improv shows such as the recent “An Evening with Colin and Brad” (see post before last). this wonderful, fun and vibe-infused show in the artsy and bohemian setting of the tiny Bread and Circus stage makes the big shows seem almost sterile, formula-driven  and by comparison lacking in any of the intimacy of last evening’s performance.

Juggling the general premise of the show, with audience suggestions and the mostly unpredictable interactions of fellow cast members, the intrepid performers of the National Theatre of the World, stick their heads into the proverbial lions mouth of audience anticipation and expectation on a regular basis. The core ensemble perform weekly and monthly in three separately branded Toronto-based improvisation shows – as detailed below.

With spin-off sideshows segued into the regular schedule; tours; workshops; voice-over and script writing gigs; these guys run rings around the rest of us. This has to be life in the fast lane. I’ve said this before when addressing the subject of improvisation comedy, I am gobsmacked by the talent. When I can’t even remember the end of any given sentence I start these days, these guys are up there like trapeze artists flying by the seat of their pants and with only the safety net of the collective cast, giving up to the minute, verbally acrobatic,  fresh, original and funny performances – and of course all under the dual glare of the spotlight and an audience who in this genre are not averse to heckling. Through imagination, mental recall , visual cues, and team work; employing razor-sharp synapses to make split second strategic connections both verbally and in terms of plot direction and humour , these guys are truly living life in the moment.

As with the ethos of the original Carnegie Hall in New York which was to become one of the world’s most important stages—not only for great music, but also for theatre, dance, and the exchange of ideas, it appears that this company has incorporated the spirit of this philosophy into their Bread & Circus based show. The inclusion of a number of singing and dancing guest slots amidst their two part improv show, coupled with the fact that the whole cast were dressed to the nines in evening dress (we’re talking tuxedos and boa’s), infused the show with old world vaudeville atmosphere as the anachronistic backdrop to a very up the minute setting of contemporary improvisation.

The first part of this show works with audience suggestion and the second section features an improvised radio play again using suggestions from the audience. The whole show  – and this is what makes it a little different from your average improv show – performs with the non-stop and jaw droppingly appropriate piano accompaniment of the incredibly talented Waylen Miki who second guesses the mood and direction of the various segments brilliantly.

The core performers of the company consist of Second City alumni Matt Baram and Naomi Snieckus,  Ron Pederson ( MAd Tv)  who are all co artistic directors of the “National theatre of the World” company along with perpetual guest Chris Gibbs and pianist Waylan Miki.

Carnegie Hall Show  – Wednesday nights at 9pm –  Bread & Circus Theatre

Tickets pay what you think – after the show.

 Impromptu Splendor  – Last Sunday of the month – Theatre Passe Muraille – 16 Ryerson Avenue.

Tickets $12 at the door – includes play reading and discussion that takes place at 7.30 – show starts at 9pm.

Show premise: The cast improvise a brand new one-act play in the style of a playwright. For instance last Sunday (27 March), they took on Sam Shepard (True West, Fool for Love etc). Prior to each show – which starts at 9pm – they run a “Reading series” which contextualizes the playwright of the evening and presents scenes from the plays they have written (as always unrehearsed).

The Soaps  – Monday nights @8pm At the Comedy Bar – 945 Bloor Street W, Toronto.

Tickets are pay what you can.

Show premise: “It’s the town of Utopia. For many years this sleepy provincial hamlet has been the humble home to the world famous Réchérché soap making empire. But tragedy strikes Utopia, and when the famous family’s patriarch  – Richard Réchérché –  suspiciously dies, everyone and their slippery cousin seems to come out of the woodwork to lay their hands on a piece of the soap”

Bread & Circus, 299 Augusta Avenue
Toronto, ON M5T 2M2
(416) 925-8898

100 Mousetraps, 2 Men, No script

Brad Sherwood after an improv show with Colin ...

Image via Wikipedia

Wanna make big bucks as part of an improv duo, for travelling all over North America appearing on stage. Minimal preparation and props needed. Will open many opportunities for Voice-over, advertizing and television work.
Required attributes:
  • An ability to; use diverse story telling genres/act/dance/sing and mime
  • You MUSTbe funny
  • Have a stock of material (moves) for adaptation, whatever the scenario
  • Vulcan mind reading skills
  • The ability work with a trusted well-rehearsed partner/group of performers who are quick to pick up on direction changes;
  • You must know your partner’s/group’s  strengths and play to them
  • Be prepared to spend hours and hours practising by playing theatre games and doing improvisational exercises.
  • Feet with skin as thick as that of a rhinoceros;
  • You MUST be funny
  • Skin as thick as a rhinoceros – Tabloid press ruthless
  • At least 20 years experience on stage.
  • You MUST be funny; funny; funny……………….
Cue Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood
For anyone who’s ever enjoyed either the British or US version of “Whose Line is it anyway”, “An Evening with Colin and Brad” (Sounds a bit dubious in the context of this sentence doesn’t it?) is a must. Like the television series, this show runs along the same lines in that it is an audience participation show and as  such relies totally on improvisation. If you don’t want to “perform” on stage then don’t sit anywhere near the front. Fortunately the only “off-stage” action was to be had by the back row of our section so we were bypassed completely. The audience had to create the sound effects for one particular skit with one volunteer going up on stage to be the sound effects “guy” for Colin Mochrie. Each member of the back row had to in turn create the appropriate sound effect for Brad’s “story”. In these instances quick-witted audience members are a valuable comedic resource especially as they exceed expectations when they appear to “throw” the duo on stage.
Whilst I was totally gob smacked throughout the show by the couple’s ability to instantly respond/perform /react to the audience suggestions, there are – as alluded to in the “job requirements” listed above  – a lot of tricks these guys can use in order to “be” spontaneous and with these two having about 50 years of “improve” experience between them, it’s not difficult to see how they make it seem so effortless. There are no cuts, out-takes or film trickery in these shows, these guys really are flying by the seat of their pants all evening long and obviously having a laugh doing it.
I’ve seen it likened to playing a team sport; it’s not enough to know what you’re going to do, you have to be completely relaxed and prepared for what your partners’/team mates are going to do, and that’s where practice counts. i.e when any sports team goes into play, they have no idea how the game is going to go, but they do have a bunch of  moves worked out; they know each player’s strengths and they know how to “play” off each other. Improv works the same way.
I can only imagine that when they finish, they are both exhilarated and totally exhausted, experience aside. neither are spring chickens.

 Regrettably the show has moved on from Toronto, although they are touring this same show – (I use the word “same” in its loosest form of course) as below. Bear in mind though that Colin Mochrie as a native of Toronto is often to be found on stage here in some guise or other so maybe they’ll be back soon.

April 1 2011 –  Hanover Theater Worcester MA
April 2 –  McCarter Theatre Princeton NJ
April 9 –  Reynolds Performance Hall Conway AR
November 18 –  Eastern Kentucky University’s Center for Performing Arts Richmond KY
Best skit of the evening; definitely the one starring 100 mouse traps with Colin and Brad in blacked out ski goggles and bare feet spinning a tale – in this instance – about a serious crime whereby a trader’s rotten eggs had been stolen; in the style of Shakespeare. It was inspired…………
Go take a look at  www.colin& The promotional stuff on the site is hilarious, with mocked up ‘National Enquirer” and National Geographic style front covers
Oh by the way fabulous Hxxx, this photo is especially for you