Halloween is upon us and in Montreal that means just one thing: fastening your garter belts and doing the Time Warp at the city’s Rocky Horror festivities!

As always there are two events in Montreal to partake in: the Halloween Ball at Cinema Imperial and the live musical play put on at the MainLine Theatre. The Imperial ball involves a costume contest and a screening of the film accompanied by actors miming the show on stage. Audience members are invited to yell out call lines, dance, and throw stuff during strategic points in the show.

With scores of drunken attendees and the risk of being hit with a toilet paper roll, the Halloween Ball is not for everyone. If you want something a little tamer but still very much in the spirit of Rocky Horror and Halloween, Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show at the MainLine Theatre is a sure bet.

This is the original musical play the 1975 film is based on. The actors on stage are all actually singing and dancing and the MainLine’s production contains a few artistic changes that may throw off die-hard fans of the movie and former attendees of the Halloween Ball. Though you are not allowed to throw anything during the play, audience members are invited to do call lines and even heckle as many of the actors give as good as they get.

Elyann Quessy reprises her role as Janet from previous years and it’s a role she does well, maintaining the girlish squeak and feigning unease as she becomes more and more comfortable with her sexuality. Though her singing is pitchy at times, it fits the character perfectly.

Adrian MacDonald also reprises his role as Brad this year and he is a talented singer and performer. Though his portrayal of Brad is never hammy enough for my tastes, MacDonald does an excellent job of portraying the stereotypical cis straight male forced to face alternative forms of sexual and gender expression. In the current political climate here and abroad, perhaps this is the Brad we need.

Cassandra Bluethner is once again Columbia and her portrayal this year is a massive improvement. Unlike last year, she offers a lot more of the squeak and cuteness one would expect from the character. Instead of a teenager in the “I hate everyone” phase, we have a more authentic groupie, in love with Eddie but enamored with Frank N’ Furter and addicted to the drugs the latter offers (shown in the play as sprinklings of glitter).

Sarah Kulaga-Yoskovitz reprises her role of Magenta. This year, though, she doesn’t sing on Science Fiction Double Feature, leaving vocal duties on the opener to Lindsay Miller as the Usherette, complete with skimpy costume and a box slung around her neck. Though her part was a bit smaller, Kulaga-Yoskovitz provided one of the biggest laughs I had during the performance.

Kenny Streule resumes his role as the Narrator – the character fans of the film will know as the Criminologist. It’s a role Streule does well, keeping a straight face in even the harshest heckles.

The true star of the MainLine production is Stephanie McKenna, who reprises her role as Frank/Dr. Frank N’ Furter. Though she’s dropped the English accent of previous years, her snark and strut are on point and her physicality is a sight to behold.

She is the first actor I’ve seen in the role to slip seamlessly from lying down, to a headstand before jumping into a standing position. She is also the first Frank I’ve seen with the physical strength to simulate sex positions most people find difficult.

This year’s production features a few newcomers.

This year the role of Riff Raff was cast gender bent, with Meghan Vera Starling in the part. Her portrayal was good; she had the right amount of creepiness and the BDSM vibe they gave her character explains why Frank beats her during the play.

Unfortunately her singing suffered due to her excessive use of the vibrato in which, on a particular note the singing voice sounds like it is vibrating or pulsing. It’s a vocal style that doesn’t suit the character, making much of Starling’s singing sound more like an American Idol audition than part of a musical number in Rocky Horror.

While in previous years the roles of Eddie and Dr. Scott were played by one actor (Kenny Stein for the past two editions), this year they were split. Eddie was played by Mathieu Samson and Dr. Scott by Nicolas Mancuso. Both were good in their respective roles, but nothing outstanding.

David Hudon is also new to MainLine’s production, taking the role of the beautiful creature Rocky, and he was perfect for it. Of all the past Rockys, he is the first one to come close to the physical type the part calls for and Hudon actually does a few push-ups and takes a few poses. Though Rocky has few lines in the play, Hudon manages to portray the character’s just-been-born naiveté with empty smiles and body language.

One of the stars of the production that deserves mention is the band, led by Katharine Paradis on saxophone. The music was always on point and helped further the play’s jokes along through their strategic use of sound effects.

There were a few changes that threw me off. Though all the songs were included, some scenes were changed that put some of said songs out of context. For example (spoiler alert) in the dinner scene, Rocky comforts Janet, causing Frank to get jealous, thus triggering the song Wise Up Janet Weiss. This version does not feature Janet’s interaction with Rocky, giving no context to Frank’s sudden rage against her.

Despite the difficulties, the MainLine show is worth checking out. It’s sexy, it’s catchy, it’s fun, and you’ll laugh yourself silly, if not from the play itself, then from the audience’s brutal heckling.

Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show runs October 25, 26, 27, 30 and 31 (all shows 8pm) at MainLine Theatre, 3997 St-Laurent. Tickets available at MainLineTheatre.ca

Rocky Horror celebrations are a staple of Halloween festivities in Montreal. Revolving around the musical play, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show and its film adaptation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, every year hundreds of people fasten their garter belts to dance the Time Warp again!

There are generally two Rocky Horror Shows in this town.

There’s the Halloween Ball at the Imperial Theatre on Bleury, which features a costume contest, a screening of the film, actors miming the film on stage – with a few amusing ad libs – and audience participation complete with props and call lines. The other show is the play: Richard O’Brien’s musical playing at the Mainline theatre on St Laurent.

It was the latter show that I had the privilege of enjoying this year. Those who have been to the Halloween Ball but not Mainline’s play are doing themselves a disservice as it is truly something.

The Mainline production features actors that do more than mime. The cast is doing all the singing and dancing and speaking of lines. The only audience participation is the yelling of call lines, something the production openly encourages. The actors give as good as they get from hecklers without missing their stride.

There is no throwing of rice or toilet paper, and no one will squirt you with water. The band is live and the “phantoms” who act as backup singers, dancers, and extras, are clearly all skilled performers.

I was at The Rocky Horror Show this past Saturday night and I was not disappointed. The cast was top notch as ever, the music spectacular, and the ambiance was not that of a play so much as that of avid listeners watching the lively telling of a very fun story.

Elyann Quessy reprised her role this year as Janet, the innocent, newly-engaged virgin who gets corrupted over the course of the play. Her pipes were impressive as ever while maintaining the squeak and squeal her character required. Despite the teal hair suggestive of a more rebellious nature in the actress, she was convincing as the innocent girl seduced.

Adrian MacDonald played her fiancé, Brad, replacing Anthony Schuller of last year’s performance. A regular attendee of Montreal’s Rocky Horror celebrations, I have very particular expectations when it comes to Brad. The Brad I know is a fumbling virginal dork trying to assert the aggressive masculinity he doesn’t have.

MacDonald is a great singer and he can clearly do comedy, but he was too masculine for the part. Rather than a fumbling dork, he came off as an irate but otherwise average guy. Here’s hoping he finds his inner geek and hams it up a little more in future performances.

Franco De Crescentis’ Riff Raff is a sight to behold. He was in the play last year, and in the role he manages to surpass the play’s creator, Richard O’Brien, who played Riff Raff in the film. Riff Raff is an Igor-like butler, but in most portrayals he’s just creepy. De Crescentis gives the character a sexy intensity you do not expect from the character, and it works.

Sarah Kulaga-Yoskovitz reprises her role this year as Magenta. As she did last year, she opened the play by singing Science Fiction Double Feature with one of the phantoms, and Kulaga-Yoskovitz can sing. Magenta’s Eastern European accent was consistent throughout the play as was her chemistry with Riff Raff.

Cassandra Bluethner played Columbia, replacing last year’s Maxine Segalowitz. Segalowitz is a tough act to follow and unfortunately Bluethner’s portrayal didn’t do it for me. Columbia is a groupie and in my experience she’s supposed to be feisty and almost childlike. This year’s portrayal reminded me more of a petulant teenager in that “I hate everybody” phase. Her dancing and singing were good, but I wanted more from the character.

Kenny Streule played the Narrator, whom die-hard Rocky fans will know as the Criminologist. His bits are some of the most heavily heckled, and Streule handled it well despite the fact that English is clearly not his first language.

Not sure whether his costume changes between bits were his idea or that of Director Amy Blackmore, but it did help keep the audience on their toes.

Sam Boucher’s Rocky was good, but once again I found myself wishing to see a portrayal that was a lot more physical.

Dr Scott and Eddie were played by Kenny Stein, who also played the roles last year. His Eddie is always good, but his Dr Scott was even better than last year, channeling Dr. Strangelove in his performance. It’s an addition to the character that makes perfect sense, and Stein does it well.

I’ve saved my review of Frank n’ Furter for last because the character is so important to the film and play. Stephanie McKenna is playing the part again this year and she is great, proving that a woman can play Frank as well as any man. Her replies to heckles were seamless and her physicality was indicative of an above average strength and agility that made her performance acrobatic in all the right ways. The one thing that was disappointing about Frank had to do with wardrobe and makeup.

The Frank n’ Furter I know and love wears loud makeup and costumes reminiscent of 70s and 80s glam rock. Frank’s costumes this year were more conservative and the makeup was lacking the garish androgyny of his signature style. It is McKenna’s sass and strength that saved the character from its otherwise boring look.

The band was amazing and Katharine Paradis on saxophone gave the music a more gritty sound suited to the show’s sexual content. The choreography of Amy Blackmore, Holly Greco, Patrick Lloyd Brennan, and Jessica Rae was almost flawless and the phantoms’ execution of it was a sight to behold.

If you don’t like musicals, heckling, or sexual content that embraces all orientations, stay away. If you’re an open minded soul who can behave at a play, see this show. It’s worth it.

The Mainline Theatre’s production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical is happening from October 19 to 31. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Seniors, students, and members of the Quebec Drama Federation pay less. For more info and tickets go to mainlinetheatre.ca

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back for its last November edition. Take a look at these excellent events if you’re looking for fun and inexpensive things to check out!

As always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message  or leave a comment below.

Beaux Dégâts #45 – Tap Water Jam MTL + Ella Grave showcase

Beaux Dégâts is a time-honoured Montreal tradition that combines improvisation in musical and fine arts to create a unique organic event space. From their Facebook page:

“Beaux Dégâts tries to make a parallel between the reality of street artists and the Fine Arts. It is here to bring back what has been ignored for too long by art institutions and return to the street artist’s reality: the importance of community, sharing, accessibility and uniqueness.

For two hours, six teams of artists will improvise 8ft X 8ft murals on different themes given on the night. Each team will have to research and find visual references to create a production in front of public. All mediums except spray cans are allowed. During the evening, the public will vote for it’s favorite mural using their empty Pabst beer cans. The team that will collect the most cans will win the right to paint over the other artists work if they wish.”

Beaux Dégâts #45: Live Improvised Painting and Music – Wednesday, Nov 30, Foufounes Electriques, 8pm-1am. Entrance: 5$

The Crossing presented by Cinema Politica Concordia

Cinema Politica is a media arts, non-profit network of community and campus locals that screen independent political film and video by Canadian and international artists throughout Canada and abroad. It is volunteer-run and all screenings are by donation.

 

The film that Cinema Politica is screening this Monday, The Crossing, “takes us along on one of the most dangerous journeys of our time with a group of Syrians fleeing war and persecution, crossing a sea, two continents and five countries, searching for a home to rekindle the greatest thing they have lost – Hope.”

The Crossing screening @ Cinema Politica Concordia, 1455 de Maisonneuve Boulevard W, Room H-110, Monday, 7pm. Entrance by Donation

50/50 presented at Mainline Theatre

50/50 is a novel concept; a half-scripted, half-improvised live comedy show! This show was a major hit at Just For Laughs 2016 and will not be back for four months – definitely catch this if you can at the Mainline Theatre.

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Coming off a sellout show at OFF-JFL/Zoofest this past July, 50/50 returns with a new cast blending talented actors and hilarious comedians. In each of the show’s nine scenes, a prepared actor who has learned lines off a real script is paired with an improviser who has no prior knowledge of what the actor has rehearsed.

50/50 @ Mainline Theatre, 3997 boul St-Laurent. Wednesday, November 30th, 8pm. $15 (students/seniors/QDF Members $12)

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

Rocky Horror is my religion.

Every Halloween and during the occasional summer show for the past seventeen years, I’d paint my face and those of my friends, fasten my garter belt and wait in the freezing rain and snow to see the interactive Rocky Horror Picture show.

The interactive show is something every Montrealer should experience at least once. The production doesn’t just show the 1975 movie, but actors also act it out on stage while the audience is invited to yell comments – there are scripts and videos of call lines available online – and throw toilet paper, toast, and playing cards at specific times during the film. There is a costume contest, and prizes are awarded on both the costumes and on what you are willing to do to rile up the crowd. That could mean anything from flashing to doing backflips on stage.

The venues and casts have changed from the Imperial to The Medley to the Rialto and back to the Imperial, but the formula and spirit of the event stays constant. This is a show where you must put any prejudices you have about sexual orientations and gender identities aside. It’s where you have to stuff your prudery and your judgment to celebrate the safe, consensual and fun.

Whether it’s the annual musical play at the Mainline Theatre or the interactive Picture Show at the Imperial, The Rocky Horror shows are not for those who want their intolerances tolerated. It’s for those who believe everyone deserves to feel welcome.

For me the interactive picture show is now sadly a no-go. My health problems make it dangerous for me and anyone with a physical disability as people are regularly bumping and grinding and dancing with each other, and many are drunk.

As a consolation prize to myself, I opted to go to the Mainline Theatre’s production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical. If you can get up the treacherously steep staircase of the theatre, the live musical show is no consolation prize but a gem in and of itself.

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With no background movie to compete with, the actors, musicians and dancers truly shine. The voices you hear are not those of Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, and Tim Curry, but of the Montreal cast.

Sarah Kulaga-Yoskovitz, who played Magenta, opened the show with her rendition of Science Fiction Double Feature, a version a lot sweeter than Richard O’Brien’s scratchy one from the film. The “Phantoms” clad in fishnets and garter belts danced around her and throughout various scenes, keeping the show’s burlesque feel true to form. The dancing, while choreographed by Director/Choreographer Amy Blackmore, never felt overly predictable or plastic.

This is one of the few shows where heckling (within reason) is encouraged. If you know the show’s call lines, you are welcome to yell them and even invent some you feel fit the show. The actors never miss a beat and give as good as they get. When Stephanie McKenna’s Frank delivered the line “even smiling makes my face ache”, one audience member yelled that it was from all the blowjobs. McKenna, never breaking character, replied with:

“No, I don’t give blowjobs like you do.”

Rocky was played by Dane Stewart, who portrayed the character’s infantile naivete and sexual curiosity perfectly. Unfortunately, he seemed unable to do the physical moves the part calls for, but whether this was a mutual decision between him and the director is unclear. Rocky is described in film and play as being all muscle and no brains. When Frank starts singing about press ups and chin ups, I expect the person in the role to at least do a push up, but if Stewart can do them, the audience never got to see it.

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Franco De Crescentis as Riff Raff was a sight to behold, stealing nearly every scene he was in. His portrayal made a character who is supposed to just be creepy sexy and intense. His performance was rivaled only by that of Maxine Segalowitz as Columbia.

Segalowitz’s Columbia was the perfect mix of sass, cuteness, and hysteria. She was also physically remarkable, performing the dance moves in a way that looked at once polished and clumsy, and like all great comedic actors, she clearly knows how to take a fall.

McKenna’s portrayal of Frank was prissier than I expected, but she played the role with all the snark it needed. Her physical strength was especially impressive as she could do lifts and simulate sexual positions many men can’t do.

Kenny Stein portrayed both Dr. Scott and Eddie. While Meatloaf raised the bar incredibly high with his portrayal of Eddie in 1975, Stein can sing and got the job done. His portrayal of Dr. Scott as (by his own admission) an old Jewish guy made the jokes about Dr. Scott being a Nazi especially funny.

Elyann Quessy’s Janet and Anthony Schuller’s Brad were what one would expect: nervous nerdy naivete, but nothing outstanding. As they are a foil for the play’s more interesting characters, that’s all you need.

Perhaps the true stars of the show were the band members, who kept the music on point. Led by Musical Director and former Producer of the show, Shayne Gryn, the timing of the music never faltered, even though the actors struggled with only two microphones and one headset worn by Frank, probably the result of a low budget and feedback issues.

If you love snark, sass, and sex, The Rocky Horror Shows are for you. If want to feel part of the experience and don’t mind being hit in the head with a roll of toilet paper, go to the interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you prefer to sit and watch and see local talent at their best while enjoying great music, go to the Mainline Theatre’s Musical Show. Hell, go to both if you can! They’re amazing!

The Rocky Horror Show Halloween Ball is going on October 28, 29, and 31 with shows at 8 pm and 11 pm. Tickets are $17.95 ( + tx and serv) in advance and $19.95 (+tx and serv.) at the door. For more info and tickets go to www.rockyhorrormontreal.com

The Mainline Theatre’s production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical is happening from October 20 to 31. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Seniors, students, and members of the Quebec Drama Federation pay less. For more info and tickets go to mainlinetheatre.ca

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back with for its Halloween edition! We’ve got some great onstage performances coming up in the city, and as always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message or leave a comment below.

We’ve got two different but wildly entertaining version of Halloween cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show – both are sure to sell out so get there early for last-minute tickets!

Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical

See the sensational play that sparked an international phenomenon. MainLine Theatre presents Richard O’Brien’s musical-theatre masterpiece as camp sci-fi meets sexual exploration, glam-rock, and sensual daydreams to treasure forever. Experience #RockyMainLine up-close-and-personal in an intimate experience with a full live cast, band and dancers!

The show was directed and choreographed by Mainline’s Amy Blackmore with additional choreography by Holly Greco and Patrick Lloyd Brennan. It features Stephanie Mckenna as Dr. Frank N’ Furter.

Oct 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 Boul St-Laurent. Tickets $20 in advance or $25 at the door ($15 for students and seniors + a Quebec Drama Federation discount, please call 514-849-3378 for discounted tickets)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball 

This is the more “traditional” Rocky Horror experience, featuring the original film with live on-stage performances. It will sell out, so get there early!

There is a limit of six tickets per person and all in-person sales are cash only.

There is a student discount of $5 which applies to the October 31st shows only. A valid student ID is required at one of our advance ticket outlets. Limit of two tickets per student. Student discount tickets can also be purchased at the door the night of the show but cannot be purchased online.

Oct 28, 29, 31, Cinéma Impérial, 1432 Bleury.

The Refugee Hotel

Teesri Duniya Theatre’s The Refugee Hotel is a dark comedy about exile, love and the Canadian resettlement experience. Told from the point of view of a young woman looking back on her childhood, Award-winning writer Carmen Aguirre poignantly chronicles the true story of a wave of Chilean refugees who are placed at a hotel in downtown Montreal in 1974, following the aftermath of the brutal Chilean coup d’état, one of the watershed moments of the Cold War.

While chronicling the true story of hundreds of thousands of Chileans who resettled across Canada and around the globe, The Refugee Hotel explores Canada’s ability to accept, support and embrace refugees as new citizens.

The play was written by Carmen Aguirre and is directed by Paulina Abarca. It will be performed in English with Spanish-language subtitles.

The Refugee Hotel Trailer from Chris Wardell on Vimeo.

October 26 – November 13, Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine, Call 514-739-7944 for tickets or purchase them through the Segal online box office

An Illiad

A poet recounts the bloody epic of Achilles and Hector in a sweeping story of rage, violence and grief. Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s An Illiad is an award-winning adaptation of Homer’s classic which has gone viral, from New York to Egypt.

Chocolate Moose Theatre Co. revisits the Canadian premiere that earned them #1 Theatre Company in this year’s Cult MTL poll! The show, which runs again starting next week is directed by Lynn Kozak in collaboration with Shanti Gonzales It features a performance by Martin Law, set design by Mikey and Sarah Schanz Denis and lighting design by Ceci MacDonald.

Runs November 2-13 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 Boul St-Laurent. Tickets: $15 general / $12 students and QDF
Available online through the Mainline Box Office or by calling 514-849-3378

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

It’s like déjà vu. Again we found ourselves at The Mainline Theatre for another OFF-JFL show. Tonight we were lucky enough to see Paul F Tompkins & Friends Real and Imagined.

The show opened up with a refreshing set by host Tompkins. It was funny and had the feel of a southern gentleman entertaining us with anecdotes. His set took the common comic theme of being newly married and gave it a new approach, which was both original and funny.

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Demi Lardner

The first comedian up was Demi Lardner, an Australian comic whose style resembled Mitch Hedberg’s witty remarks. Her set was quick, and fun. The crowd responded well.

After Demi’s set, the host returned, this time decked out in a cape and crown and introduced as Andrew Lloyd Webber. He told us about the highs and lows of musicals. The crowd reacted well to this set but it could have benefited from being a little bit shorter and concise. Dressing up in royal garb and emitting the royalty sometimes associated with Webber is not the most original angle, and this hurt the overall feel of the set.

The next comedian up was Mark Forward. Although I felt Mark’s set was unimpressive and lacked a unifying theme, the crowd enjoyed it. Personally thought the jokes about generation bashing were overused and dry. This lack of originality made the set feel long and slow paced.

Mark made his finally appearance as a unique character, a parody of TLC’s The Cake Boss, but this one had the power to read minds.  The bit had originality and showed off some impressive imporv skill when he called on the crowd to ask him about their future.

Overall Paul F Tompkins & Friends Real and Imagined was a good show. Though there were low points, the comics always found a way to kept the show heading in the right direction.

Paul F Tompkins & Friends Real and Imagined runs until July 26th,. tickets available through hahaha.com

* photos by Chris Zacchia

After catching Stéphanie Morin-Robert at a Confabulation event during Bouge D’ici a few years ago I wrote; “My personal favourite storyteller […] was Stéphanie Morin-Robert […] Morin-Robert had that perfect combination of wit and confidence, and has intrigued this writer to see what she does next.” Turns out what’s next is being a choreographer, working on a podcast, and as the MainLine Theatre‘s artist in residence putting on a one woman show Me, Myself & Eye. Despite being busy preparing her show, which opened yesterday, Morin-Robert was gracious enough to answer a few questions via email.

Stephanie Laughlin: Tell me about yourself.

Stéphanie Morin-Robert: I was born and raised in Timmins, Ontario. I currently work in Montreal as a choreographer, artistic director and administrator for the company For Body and Light . For Body and Light is a collaboration with musician/spoken word artist Ian Ferrier where we create pieces that are intimately inspired by the memory, imagination, strength and fragility of the human body. Recently I also joined the Dirty Feet podcast team as a co-host and producer and I am a collaborating member of the multidisciplinary improvisation collective BODY SLAM directed by Greg Selinger. I’m someone who’s sensitive, emotional and very passionate about everything I do… And oh yeah, I love cats and I have a green glass eye.

SL: Tell me about the artist in residence program at MainLine, and how did you become part of it?

SM-R: I have been artist in residence since September 2013. I am thrilled to be the artist in residence at MainLine because I’ve always had so many projects and ideas to explore, but never had the budget or rehearsal space. My residency has allowed my dance company to host fundraising events and create new work for a tour in 2014, with over 40 performances in Montreal, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver. I have also used this opportunity to develop my own work as a solo performer, for my first one-woman-show Me, Myself & Eye. MainLine is like a second home to me, and the people here are like family.

SL: What makes theatre at the MainLine theater special?

SM-R: Working for the St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE festival for the last 3 years has definitely allowed me to get a taste of the different styles and artists from different theatre communities. That said, our theatre community here in Montreal is accessible, and that’s what makes it special. That’s what makes MainLine special and what made my solo show Me, Myself & Eye possible.

SL: What attracted you to doing a solo show? What makes your show stand out?

SM-R: As Hugh Laurie said; “It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

I did this show because I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to take myself outside of my comfort zone and integrate movement and storytelling by re-connecting with my childhood. Meeting so many amazing artists through the FRINGE has also encouraged me to give it a try. As a choreographer, there is nothing more terrifying then spending time alone in an empty space, and booking Me, Myself & Eye (before the show even existed) left me with no choice, but to push forward and make it happen. No matter how terrified I was, or still am, the show must go on.

Simplicity and honesty is what I bring to the stage. During the show I guide the audience through the multiple transitions experienced while facing self-discovery: innocence, denial, expectations, revenge, and (almost) total control. All of that said, the only thing that might stand out (or pop out) during the show is my glass eye. Beware of the splash zone. (Bad joke)

Me, Myself & Eye is at MainLine Theatre until Saturday, January 25. For a complete schedule and to buy tickets, visit the MainLine Theatre website.

Last friday, Hello Darlin’ Productions presented the launch of The Custom Outfit’s first full length album at the Mainline Theatre on St. Laurent. The Mainline Theatre is a lovely black-box theater venue that lends itself well to intimate shows and events. The lobby is decorated with many a Fringe Festival poster.

I arrived early and had the opportunity to sit down with The Custom Outfit and chat with them before the show. The Custom Outfit is Russell Simco (Fiddle), Derek Harrison (Mandolin, Vox), Kevin Moquin (Guitar, Steel), Dave Dickson (Upright Bass), and Derek Williams (Vox, Guitar).

The name for the band comes from the tradition in Chicago of calling gangs Outfits and so, Derek W. explained, since the group has changed in membership in the vein of customizing sound, The Custom Outfit was thus dubbed. They cite amongst their influences rockabilly, hillbilly, bluegrass and the likes of Steve Earls, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, The Pogues and east coast sounding tunes. Watching them perform was a real treat and these guys pack a talented punch: Kevin Moquin delivers some sweet guitar skills evoking old time rock, Russell “Rusty”’s performance has a touch of jubilance befitting of the fiddle, Derek W.’s suspenders and “this is how it is” vocals deliver just the right amount of grit. Derek H’s tie and mandolin skills are quite colorful, whilst Dave’s black upright bass and smooth rhythms create an air of mystery.

During the show, they played most songs from their debut album “The Dark Side of Town”. Amongst them my favorites were “Goodbye to the Moonshine”, “Bad Chemicals”, and “Hookers and Thieves.” When asked if this album has a theme, Derek W. explained that it was “informed by drinking” and the track titles corroborate this. In terms of getting a good brew (for inspiration), The Custom Outfit name Honey Martins, Barfly and Grumpy’s as their go-to drinking holes. When it comes to rockin’, they name Quais des Brumes, Divan Orange, Grumpy’s and Casa Del Popolo amongst their favorite venues in Montreal.

But they’ve played beyond the Island having recently toured Europe for twenty one days, mostly in Belgium and the Netherlands. During this tour, they played shows at a couple of prisons – a venue one rarely thinks about in terms of touring stops. When asked what the experience was like, Russell wittingly answered: “It’s really a captive audience.” More seriously, Derek W. added that playing shows for prisoners is a strange experience and hard to know what to expect. Dave explained that there was a notable difference between the audiences at maximum security prisons and minimum security prisons: “The minimum security prisoners were acting like punks, they didn’t want to be there. The maximum security prison was just off the wall and every one of those guys thanked us and wished us good luck. That was a good feeling.” Most recently, The Custom Outfit played a show in New York, barely missing Hurricane Sandy, at Trash Bar in Brooklyn: “It was a complete hole, it was great,” said Dave.

Along with being very stylish, these guys were overall a wonderful treat for ears that had longed for some whiskey soaked rockabilly. However, the picture of this lovely evening would not be complete without mentioning the opening act: Sarah Jane Scouten and Her Brilliant String Band. The Custom Outift had personally asked Sarah Jane to open their show and it was a very wise decision indeed. Having just come back from a tour, Sarah Jane was all smiles and stories and her and Her Brilliant String Bad (Sarah Frank on fiddle and vox, Mathieu Lacombe on double bass, and Luke Fraser on mandolin) delivered some fun charming southern vibes. Amongst the most noteworthy were the tunes “Ballad of a Southern Midwife”, “Poverty Wind”, and “My Country”. Hearing these melodies live was a warm delight on a cold fall evening.

*Photos by Pascale Yensen