Clare In The Cheap Seats

Follow Me Around The World Of Art

2013 Wrap-up

During my search for activities to keep me occupied I came across a great free concert series held by the Canadian Opera Company.  I am always looking to experience live music and as there was no cost involved I thought I would give it a try.  I decided to attend the lunchtime concert being held on Thursday 28 November.  This short concert introduced me to a very talented young lady by the name of Naghmeh Farahmand.

I knew next to nothing about Iranian music and instruments before the show so when Naghmeh took time to explain the history behind the instruments and their meaning I felt more of a connection with her music.  The concert lasted an hour and 6 pieces were performed.  To find out more about this talented young lady please see her official website For a quick taster please watch the clip below.

In November I went to my 3rd and final Play.  The production was Who’s in Bed with the Butler by Theatre Etobicoke.  As with the 2 other Plays I watched during my 9 months in Toronto, this one was very well received, not only by me, but everyone else in the almost sell-out audience.  I am always amazed at the level of talent on show during these amateur plays and for $25, it was an enjoyable and fun way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.  I am hoping to find a similar scene in Québec.

Sport plays a huge part of life in North America and Toronto certainly had enough to keep my sport needs satisfied.  I went to 3 Toronto Raptors games and they lost all 3!!!  Granted they were playing Miami Heat (who went on to win the NBA Title that season), Chicago Bulls & San Antonio Spurs but I was still disappointed not to see a win.  It is so typical that since I went to the Spurs match on Dec 10 the Raptors have been tearing up the opposition.  I was obviously a jinx!  I was less of a jinx to the Toronto Marlies, the feeder team for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  I never went to a Leafs game as the ticket prices were just ridiculous and frankly, the team is crap.  The Marlies on the other hand appreciated my support and won both the games I attended.  Another cheap way for me to watch some hockey was to go to watch the University teams.  Both Toronto University and Ryerson University have teams and I once again brought them luck.  I also found time to watch a new sport, Volleyball and again, finished with a 100% winning record.  There seems to be a pattern:

Overpaid pros: 0/3 — The B Team / Kids: 6/6

My final event in Toronto was Christmas with The Salvation Army at Roy Thomson Hall.  Christmas is not the same without Carols and this evening was a great way to listen to and partake in the singing.  The concert was led by Marjory Watson, a Scottish soloist, and backed by the Toronto Northern Lights Chorus, the reigning Barbershop Harmony Society International Chorus Champions, The Festival Chorus & the Canadian Staff Band. It was a wonderful evening of song and music and a fitting end to my cultural adventures in Toronto.  To cap off the night, it was snowing when I left the theatre 🙂

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Al Pacino & John Cleese – Live In Toronto

Now that my house move and Christmas are out of the way, here, as promised, is my first general update post.  I have gone back a few months as I wanted to start this feature with two very special and memorable events.

First up was film legend Al Pacino at Massey Hall on Tuesday 10 September.

The only thing that spoilt the evening was my rubbish seat.  I bought the cheapest available ($100) and unfortunately, I had a slightly obstructed view, made worse thanks to the lady seated in front.  But I tried to not let that affect me during the few hours we got with Al Pacino.

I will not pretend to be his biggest fan but I have watched (and enjoyed) a few of his films so this was too good an opportunity to pass up seeing him in the flesh.  Over the course of the evening I learnt a few interesting facts about him:

  • He started as a theatre actor.  Given his success, I am almost ashamed that I did not know this.  He mentioned that a reason behind the trend of actors during the 70’s moving from theatre to the big screen was due to Directors/Producers etc going to see the shows, almost like a secret audition.
  • Has won an Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Emmy & Tony awards.  Not too sure if any other actor has these statues in their collection.
  • Scarface shooting had to be shut down for 2 weeks when he picked up a gun after firing off 30 rounds and burnt his hand.
  • Thought he was going to be fired from The Godfather for not being “tough enough”, the scene at Louis’ restaurant saved him.

One of his most famous scenes was played out on stage, minus the gunfire!  A few members of the audience were able to ask questions and a young lady asked him to “do Tony Montana” After much encouragement from the crowd we got the immortal line

“Say hello to my little friends”

A funny story was shared.  After winning Best Actor for Scent of A Woman Al was in an elevator with an un-named actress in front of him.  As you can imagine, it was a little crowded and his Oscar statuette was precariously placed.  When the doors opened and Al was getting out, he thought best to let the lady know “that wasn’t me, it was my Oscar”

His latest project, Salomé, was spoken about with passion and this marked the end of the show.  Before he left the stage a poem by Playwright Oscar Wilde was recited.  I was quick with my iPhone and was able to capture the speech.  Click the link below.  Apologies in advance for the sound quality but he lost his mic at one point and the crowd shouted out. Turning up the volume a little will help.

Next was John Cleese at Winter Garden on Saturday 28 September.

I was so excited when I saw the advert for this show.  I was extra excited when I saw that an extra performance had been scheduled due to demand.  I actually noticed all this just as the tickets went on sale so I got out my credit card and bought myself a ticket then spent an hilarious early evening with this comedy legend.

I have known the work of John Cleese via Monty Python and Fawlty Towers all my life and even today when I think of certain scenes/sketches I can burst out laughing.  This performance has only added to my admiration for someone who once again had me in stitches of laughter.

As with my evening with Al Pacino, I also learnt a good deal about Mr Cheese, yes Mr Cheese, as that was his Father’s real surname.  I also learnt that:

  • Germans really do have a sense of humour as they bombed Weston-Super-Mare during the war.
  • His Mother only wanted thing, her way!
  • Was a solitary child and used humour to keep the bullies at bay.

As I have said, I know the work of John Cleese, what I did not know was all that came before Monty Python.  It all started at the Footlights at Cambridge with Graham Chapman and working with two future Goodies, Bill Oddie & Tim Brooke-Taylor that took in the West End, New Zealand & New York.  Unfortunately the New York Times was not impressed and their show lasted one week.

When I saw this show David Frost had recently passed away and John took a few moments to pay tribute to the man who gave him his “big break”.  This had come in the form of The Frost Report.  From that project came At Last The 1948 Show and the meeting with Connie Booth, his 1st Wife & co-writer and creator of Fawlty Towers.  It was also here and through other projects that the members of Monty Python meet.  In the words of John Cleese, a “crap pitch” was made to Michael Mills, Head of BBC Comedy and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

As all the Pythons were predominately writers the disagreements that arose were not about who would play which part in the sketches but who would write them!  And boy could they write.  So many comedy moments were created by these 6 men and that makes picking a favourite so difficult.

Their personal best was the Fish Slapping Dance.

I don’t actually have a favourite Python sketch but Life of Brian is my favourite film.

Fawlty Towers still makes me break out in giggles 30 years later.  John’s favourite Basil Fawlty sketch is the Fire Drill.

If I had to pick one I would say this

The title of this tour was Last Time To See Me Before I Die, put together to pay his alimony costs from his 3rd divorce.  Whilst the tour was a sell-out success maybe it was not enough to pay the bill as just after my show it was announced that Monty Python are reuniting, obviously minus Graham Chapman who died in 1989.  The show could not pass by without the famous eulogy given by John at the Chapman’s memorial.

That is the story of my two evenings spent in the presence of a legendary actor and one of the funniest men to ever grace a tv screen.  Incidentally, Cleese’s greatest ever comedy actor, Peter Sellers.


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