Musical Showoff wraps up a successful season at the Rialto

July 4th, 2014

Musical Show Off (MSO) concluded a fourth successful season on June 22 before a capacity crowd at the beautiful Rialto Theatre,  with boys and girls, aged 11 to 17, once again battling it out in this musical theatre competition for the coveted trophy and a cash prize of $1,400. 
MSO  is much more than lessons in musical theatre. Trained by experienced performers, kids aged eight to 17, learn to sing, dance and act, and get  that  once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform live at the Rialto.
“This is a chance to experience what it is like to be part of a musical production,” says Bronwen Lloyd-Hughes of Productions BronCon
The senior category saw  the  11 to 17 year olds  split into four teams  focusing on the following musicals:  Rock of Ages,  Les Misérables, Charlie Brown and Saturday Night Fever.  They  received a total of 24 hours of coaching  and when it was all said and done Jonathan Patterson’s Charlie Brown group edged out Emilie Josset’s squad performing the medley from Les Mis in the finale.  Nikki Atzori mentored the Rock of Ages kids while Connie Rotella oversaw the Saturday Night fever preparation. A new feature to the event this year enabled members of the audience to vote for the finalists via their smart phones.  This counted for 40 percent of the count. The judges, though, determined the ultimate champions.
A panel of music industry experts in Katee Julien, Renaud Paradis, Rachelle Glait and Rebecca Dewey served as the judges.  Lloyd Hughes, who also served as emcee with CTV’s Nadine Ishak, coached the aged eight to 10 “Rising Stars”  and  they performed an adorable routine from Aladdin.  Voting for the top young performers saw Sienna Mazzone finish first, Emma Giovannitti second and  Alessandro Gabrielli and Brayden Lawrence tied for third.
As Rotella notes, dozens of kids have boosted their confidence, made new friends and gained loads of experience in training with MSO.   “What these amazing kids achieved in such a short space of time was incredible,” said  the other half of  Productions BronCon
 Lloyd-Hughes and Rotella are seasoned professional performers. Each of them boast thousands of hours on stage, combined with experience in television, theatre, telethons, choreography, producing and directing.
The entire evening of this show was extremely well choreographed. It began with a very well put together video showcasing each team. There was also another feature of clips from notable individuals. While in New York City recently, Rotella managed to get the likes of Broadway stars Matthew James Thomas and Patina Miller from Pippin and the legendary Regis Philbin to deliver special messages to the MSO crowd.
If there was an award for outstanding family participation, then it would go to the Marras. Siblings Eliana, Amanda, and Joseph were on three separate teams, making it difficult for their parents to vote.
To learn more about Musical Show Off you can visit the website on or call 514 887-9555. All of the training   takes place in Lasalle at Danse 123. Registration for the May and June 2015 season  is already open.

Native Montrealers and childhood friends Jerome Sable and Eli Batalion will be in town July 5 for the Montreal premiere  and one-night only screening of their new horror musical comedy called Stage Fright at the Fantasia Film Festival. It stars rock star Meat Loaf and Minnie Driver. A snobby musical theater camp is terrorized by a blood-thirsty killer who hates musical theater. It is all about a snobby musical theatre camp which is terrorized by a blood-thirsty killer. The perpetrator hates musical theatre. I saw the trailer and it sure is gory.

Côte Saint-Luc native Ricky Blitt, now a successful Hollywood writer, director  and producer, will be coming back home for the July 23   premiere of his new movie Hit by Lightning starring Jon Cryer, It is part of the Just for  Laughs Festival  at Cinema Excentris . Blitt wrote a  number of Family Guy episodes and has a new TV series called Here’s Your Damn Family in the works. Blitt   describes the movie as a cross between "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" and "Body Heat.” Cryer, the star of  Two and  Half Men,  plays a single fast food manager who finally finds love with the perfect woman, except for the fact she's married and wants him to kill her husband. His character is a real low key individual   who has never even killed a spider. Stephanie Szostak and Will Sasso co-star. Montreal singer Chantal Chamandy is the producer through her Chantal Chamandy Entertainment division.

For decades the team at Côte Saint-Luc Kosher has been proud to provide its customers with the finest in  kosher cuisine, fully prepared meals and the best selection of kosher meats anywhere. “Our customers are loyal to us and we appreciate this immensely,” says Avi Brook, who runs the operation with his mother-in-law, the legendary queen of kosher cuisine Mariana Roth.
Last month Côte Saint-Luc Kosher relocated to a new storefront which better suits their needs in the same strip shopping centre at 5521 Westminster Avenue. Their phone numbers of 514-481-4094 and 514-747-6531 remain the same, as does their reliable staff members clients have come to count on: Billy, Claudia, Joseph, Wing Wah and their supporting cast. Brook is thrilled to announce that a new rotisserie oven has been purchased, with delicious and  fresh and piping hot kosher chickens now available Monday through Fridays. You can log on to to view the menu.

Well I can now report on what happened at the truly unique and perhaps unprecedented Naked Fashion Show presented June 26 by the Sexual Health Network of Quebec (SHNQ) at trendy Galerie 203 in Old Montreal. Chief organizer Frank Mondeose wanted to make a statement by raising funds to promote sex education in high schools, so he recruited 30 ordinary people and convinced them to walk the catwalk completely naked. Frank put his money where his mouth is and stripped down as well. I watched the show with SHNQ president Dr.  Laurie Betito, the host of CJAD’s sex talk show Passion, and got a real play by play as these gutsy men and women aged between 22 and 61  made their courageous walks. More than 100 people were in attendance and they cheered wildly for every person. Later Dr. Laurie did her CJAD talk show live on location. The models she spoke to all agreed that once they got over that natural nervous feeling they felt quite liberated. 
Mondeose, whose mom was in the crowd, is already looking ahead to Stripped II: The Naked Fashion Show 2015. In fact, he expects that the number of models could double as word of mouth spreads. The evening began with hors-d’oeuvres, an open bar, gifts from the sponsors and an art exhibit. Galerie 203, owned by Corinne Asseraf, specializes in nude portraits. Keeping with the theme, Asseraf invited  artist Emile Shamie. Immediately following the fashion show, two beautiful young women came out wearing white bathrobes. Taking direction from Shamie, they removed their coverings and began posing on a nearby couch while others watched respectfully. “I have never done anything like this,” Barbara told me. Shamie immediately donated the paintings for an on the spot auction, which was very successful.
Before the show and fully clothed, Mondeose credited his friend Donna Deluca with actually coming up with the idea for Stripped. He reeled off statistics about the increase in Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and abortions. “We cannot ignore this anymore,” he said. “We have a society which is more and more hyper sexual. Marketing and advertising today looks at women more like sexual objects. The biggest problem is the accessibility of pornography to our youth.”
I had spoken to one of the models, Valerie Claveau,  a week prior to the show. Once it was all over this is what she had to say: “Hours before I had little bit of stage fright, but once it was show time, excitement took over. It felt as if the group was one and we fed off of each other's energy. The spectators were also very giving and generous in their ‘approval’and admiration for what  they were witnessing and it gave me the courage to walk confidently, without fear or restraint. To see so many beautiful people of all age and sizes bare it all for an amazing cause  was a very liberating and humbling experience!
The SHNQ is a registered charity that is affiliated with the  Canadian Federation for Sexual Health. The SHNQ strives to advance sexual health through public education and awareness campaigns, the development of programs and services in Quebec, and the promotion of sexual education, with liaisons to local, regional, national and international organizations. Log on to for more information.

On the eve of  season two of CTV’s The Amazing Race Canada, which debuts  on Tuesday, July 8 (9 p.m.),  I thought it would be fun to check in with our favorite Montreal competitors from last year: Montreal Children’s Hospital pediatricians and husband and wife team Brett Burstein and Pointe Claire’s Holly Agostino.
This year there will actually be a pair of teams from the Montreal area: twin brothers Pierre and Michel Forget from North Shore Terrebonne who run a family meatpacking plant and South Shore St. Hubert couple Alain Chanoine  and Audrey Tousignant-Maurice.  He is an actor and stuntman while she is a realtor.
 The biggest grand prize ever awarded for a Canadian competition series has expanded this season to include “gas for life” from Petro-Canada. In addition, the winning team once again receives a $250,000 cash payout and the opportunity to fly free for a year anywhere Air Canada travels worldwide in Business Class, plus two Chevrolet Silverado High Country Edition Pickup Trucks. Teams are also competing for special pit stop prizes courtesy of Air Canada and Scotiabank, to be revealed during the broadcasts.  More than 3.6 million people watched the final episode last September.
Brett and Holly made it to the seventh round and they were fun to watch. Having met them on a few occasions now, I admire how dedicated they are to their profession and clearly how crazy they are about each other.
“We of course plan on watching this year,” says Brett.  “To be honest, life went back to normal pretty quickly after last season.  We weren't recognized all that frequently, perhaps because there is not quite the same amount of viewer audience in Quebec as the other provinces.  Or we were not well liked. Or a bit of both.”
Above all, the dynamic couple emphasize how pleased they were to use the show as a vehicle to raise nearly $25,000 for the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation.  “I'd be lying if I said that is what makes it all worth it,” Brett notes.  “Losing sucks. We are in frequent contact with the other teams of our season, and we're excited to meet all the new Racers, especially the locals.”

As for Holly, she is also looking forward to the new season.  “I'm purposely avoiding the online spoilers so I can watch it as just a ‘regular viewer’ and I can't wait to see it!” she remarked. “It still feels a bit like a competition of whose cast will be the most entertaining as a whole.”
For Holly, life is definitely back to normal.” Working with teens I still get recognized from time to time,” she says.  “But it is nothing like last year.  I would love to meet up with all the cast of season two. I have no doubt we will be in touch in the future. It's a pretty unique experience and it bonds you to those who have gone through it as well. We are still super close with all our team mates - in fact we are hosting a reunion weekend in August!   Season  two is just the next generation of that same family. We will be cheering for Quebec to bring it home this year!
Encore episodes of the show  will air Saturdays at 8 p.m and Sundays at 5 p.m. on CTV and CTV GO. 

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