Plenty of holiday fun this December

Girls, guns and gags

No tradition is too sacred for Tracy Atin and her band of jesters at Windsor’s Korda Productions.
For their annual December panto they’ve cooked up a clever concoction titled Annie of Green Gables Get Your Gun!!!
It’ll be a truly western experience for that darling of the Maritimes, Anne of Green Gables.
So slap some leather and head down to the Kordazone Korral, 2520 Seminole St., Dec. 7-17. But you’ll have to check your sidearms at the door.
For details, go to kordazone.com.

 

The winter of love

St. Clair College’s supremely talented group of music theatre performance and entertainment technology students have put together Merry Christmas 1967 for their annual holiday revue and dinner show, Dec. 14-16, at St. Clair Centre for the Arts’ Chrysler Theatre.
Earlier in 1967, it was the Summer of Love. But several top stars got into the holiday spirit with new releases in early December: The Royal Guardsmen offered Snoopy’s Christmas, while Stevie Wonder put a Motown spin on Someday at Christmas and Roger Miller sang Old Toy Trains.
The chart-topper the first week of December 1967 was The Monkees’ Daydream Believer. Favourite toys that year included Easy Bake Ovens and G.I. Joes.
Go to chryslertheatre.com for more, or call 519-252-6579.

 

Rock This Town

New York City-based Rock This Town Orchestra brings its swinging sound to the Chrysler Theatre, Dec. 17. The show is billed as a Christmas Spectacular, as well as a tribute to the music of the Brian Setzer Orchestra and The Stray Cats. There’s even a dash of Luis Prima to spice things up.
Tickets are $25 plus taxes and fees at the Chrysler box office or online at chryslertheatre.com.

 

Mighty Messiah

Handel’s choral masterpiece will be performed Dec. 9 at Leamington United Mennonite Church; and Dec. 10 at Tecumseh’s Ste. Anne’s Church, both starting at 7:30 p.m.
The Windsor Symphony Orchestra under Peter Wiebe will be accompanied by soloists and the WSO Chorus.
Tickets for both performances are $14-$35, at tickets.vendini.com, or at the Capitol Theatre box office.

 

Holiday Pops with WSO

If you’re looking for something a little more frothy than Handel, there are three Windsor Symphony pops shows, Dec. 15-17, at the Capitol’s Pentastar Theatre. Tickets range from $13 to $64.

The program includes a visit from Santa and a recitation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Tickets are available at tickets.vendini.com.

 

The S’aints are marching in

That group of local rockers who band together for food bank charities every year is back at it, Dec. 22 at 7 p.m., at the Colosseum at Casino Windsor.

A musical, a rhapsody and a piano

 

Two of Windsor’s leading cultural organizations – Windsor Light Music Theatre and the Windsor Symphony Orchestra – shared the spotlight at sold-out events over last weekend.

Mamma Mia!, Windsor Light’s fall production – its 136th since 1948 – opened at the Chrysler Theatre to packed houses, and continues with four more shows this Friday through Sunday, Nov. 24-26.

Windsor Symphony unveiled its newest acquisition, a Steinway grand piano, last Saturday at the Capitol Theatre.
Guest pianist Alain Lefevre delivered a flawless performance of Rhapsodie Romantique by the late Quebec composer, Andre Mathieu.

This is a work that has been largely ignored since Mathieu’s death in the 1960s. But Lefevre has been championing it in performances during Canada’s 150th anniversary year. It’s a marvellous melange of colourful musical language that requires virtuoso playing from both the soloist and the orchestra.

While he was compared favourably with Rachmaninoff in his lifetime, Mathieu was all but forgotten until Lefevre took up his cause in recent years.

The new Steinway, with its resonance and shimmering clarity, was the ideal vehicle, and Lefevre, who is one of Canada’s pre-eminent soloists, captured every nuance of the work.

As for Windsor Light’s Mamma Mia!, the audience had to brave cold and wet weather over the weekend, but they were warmed quickly by the familiar music of ABBA.

Under director Chris Hickman, the cast responded with blue-sky enthusiasm.

Janet Dixon-Snaden, as Donna, the Mamma of the title, is a standout in her third appearance with Windsor Light. Her rendition of The Winner Takes It All in the second act, particularly, brought tears to many in the audience last Saturday.

Also outstanding are Elena Holowitz as Sophie and Brian Yeomans as Sam.

Windsor Light has added an extra matinee performance on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 2 p.m., due to high ticket demand. But tickets may still be hard to come by. Check out windsorlight.com just in case.

Stidworthy’s “postcard” paintings at AGW are a must-see

 

A guided tour through Stan Bergeron’s Windsor home is like a door to the past.

Every available space on the walls is occupied by a painting by LaSalle native, William F. Stidworthy (1889-1977). Bergeron, 77, has assembled the world’s largest collection of Stidworthy works. His dedication to Stidworthy matches the artist’s lifelong obsession with capturing the scenes of his local community.

You can now view many of Stidworthy’s paintings in a long-overdue exhibit at the Art Gallery of Windsor, 401 Riverside Dr. W., through Jan. 28, 2018. Some of the works were previously displayed at Amherstburg’s Gibson Gallery in 2013.

Prior to that exhibit, Bergeron told me he first encountered Stidworthy’s work in 1970 when he received a painting of his neighbour’s house as a birthday present. That launched him on a 47-year, international quest to track down other Stidworthy works. He now owns more than 130 oils and water colours.

The works, which display life along River Canard and elsewhere in western Essex County, have a charming, nostalgic quality that depict the every day world around us. Some of his subjects may no longer exist, or have changed dramatically over the years. Others will be familiar to those who grew up in Windsor and Essex County.

Bergeron calls them the postcards of his past.

Curator Jaclyn Meloche has co-ordinated her Stidworthy exhibit with two others that draw on the local community: Downtown/s — Urban Renewals Today for Tomorrow; and Isabelle Hayeur: Corps etranger/Foreign body.

Along with the David Milne exhibit of prints and photographs, Blazes Along the Trail, curated by Chris Finn, the works invite us to alter our perspectives and intensify our understanding of our surroundings.

All the displays reflect the artistic appreciation of Canadian art in this, our 150th anniversary year.

AGW’s annual fall fundraiser, Perfect Pairings, will be held Friday, Nov. 17, at 6:30 p.m. The fee of $75 a person includes wine and food from Windsor’s Bistro 42 and North 42 Degrees Estate Winery. A sale of local art will also be featured.

To learn more about any of AGW’s events, go to www.agw.ca, or call 519-977-0013.

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana

 

The most successful Windsor International Film Festival yet has just wrapped up, and some 22,000 ticket holders are holding their breath until WIFF 2018.

There were 99 titles and more than 110 showtimes. That’s an average of about 200 people per show.

It also meant thousands of people downtown who, at any other time, might not have had a reason to be there. My wife and I had dinner a few times during the week and each restaurant reported a spike in business. One place reported four seatings on an evening.

Has the festival explored the idea of dinner-and-a-movie packages with some downtown restaurants? It wasn’t successful when the Windsor Symphony tried it, but we’re talking far more people in the core than on a single symphony night. Perhaps the downtown business association could get involved in promoting it among the businesses.

How about asking restaurateurs to provide discounts for pass holders? It might be an enticement to buy a pass.

I heard from several regular patrons that a mid-price pass might be a good idea. Not everyone can afford or has the time to commit to the $195 pass, for which the break-even point is 14 features. What about a “six-pack” for $75?

I spoke with some previous festival-goers who declined to buy passes this year because in the past they found some of the films sold out. That’s unfortunate because this year the festival held back tickets to ensure pass holders would have access to all titles regardless of popularity. It’s a smart policy.

Some tweaking is still necessary, however. The pass does not include the Opening Night Gala or the Closing Night feature. Why? If someone forks over $195 for the week, wouldn’t it be a selling point to include one or both of the galas?

I don’t know what the attendance was like for the script readings, but this seems to me to be a little too academic or specious for a popular festival like WIFF.

The headline for this blog is a quote from The Trip to Spain, a hilarious buddy-cum-road-cum-foodie feature from two brilliant British comics and actors, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. They play themselves in a fictionalized, eye-catching trip through Spain and many of its eateries. It was one of the sheer delights of the 17 films I took in.

The first film my wife and I saw was Loving Vincent, and it turned out to be my favourite. The stunning beauty and incredible craftsmanship of this movie takes it beyond the sphere of cinema and into high art. Like a painting by Van Gogh, it belongs in a gallery.

Django was another inspirational experience, a wonderful and true story of endurance for the sake of one’s art, not to mention a magnificent soundtrack. Manifesto was the shock of the festival for me – Cate Blanchett deserves 12 best-actor nominations for her multiple performances.

Other titles that stood out included Call Me By Your Name, The Square, The Journey, Tulip Fever, and The King’s Choice. 12th and Clairmount was a standout for its retelling of a significant event in late-20th century Detroit history.

WIFF plans to bring back some of the more popular titles in a mid-winter series. Hopefully that will include Loving Vincent and 12th and Clairmount.

At one point during the week, my wife, Carlinda, remarked that attending WIFF is like taking a week’s vacation and not leaving town. You buy a pass, attend 20 or so movies, maybe have a dinner or two, then head back to your room, which isn’t at a $200-a-night hotel, but in the comfort of your own home.

Next year, take the week off. You won’t find a better vacation deal anywhere.