Tuesday, October 6, 2015


No, this is not a review of the Spike Lee film, Mo Better Blues

It is a review of Motown the Musical.

I think in the past I made a distinction between a stage musical and musical review. (Were you paying attention? Clearly I was not, otherwise I would remember) A stage musical is a story told in music and dance, usually original music and dance, like Les Miz or Chicago or Kinky Boots

A musical review is a showcase of established songs strung together with minimal story telling. The stage version of Buddy Holly was like that, the second act was pretty much a Buddy Holly tribute concert

I would never see Rain, the long running Beatles tribute but I very much enjoyed Backbeat, a musical that the Stu Sutcliffe story with, of course, Beatles songs It was a musical, Rain is a musical review

When I first heard about Motown the Musical I very much feared that it would be a musical review. It is not, it is a musical, and overall an effective one. But it poses some challenges.

First of all there's the music itself. Iconic, classic, so well known most of it, these days, provide the backdrop for TV commercials. We all know this music, every song, every melody

Then there are the artists. Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Jackson Five: Icons, legends, voices still heard sometimes decades after their deaths

Take for instance the Temptations, a group of guys with perfect harmony and slickly developed dance moves whose musical style continuously morphed over time. Get up there, sing those iconic songs and dance your ass off ... yeh, no challenge there

Overall the actors of Motown the Musical are up to the challenge. The Temptations were, indeed, very effective. As was Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye. Besides capturing that voice, Muse was given to meat to work with as Gaye attempted to sell Motown's first protest album, the now classic What's Going On. His apace version of Mercy Me raised the hair on my arms.

As Diana Ross, Allison Semmes has the entire diva attitude nailed perfectly, even as the teenage Diana she allows you to see the strength and determination that would, in time, morph into a kind of stubborn bitchiness. Diana's is a difficult voice to capture in a stage production, at first hearing fragile and whips but capable of soaring power. Overall, Semmes is able to capture it though when fronting the Supremes it sometimes gets lost

Special mention must be made of Nathaniel Cullors; a very young man who is tasked with performing the young Stevie Wonder and the young Michael Jackson. Yeh, no big deal at ... well it wasn't for Mr Cullors. His Jackson is a show stealer, he has the voice down perfectly and his dancing left me exhausted just watching

The show's best voice, though, ironically belongs to the character who was not a singer. Josh Tower's Barry Gordy is the heart of the story. We first meet the founder of Motown Records in 1985 as ABC is preparing to air a live concert event commemorating the 25th anniversary of his record company. He does want to attend and through flashbacks we learn his story and the story of Motown

Barry Gordy was a songwriter and early on he sings some classics-to-be and we first here Tower's voice. It is a superb musical theatre voice, capable of expressing the nuances of emotion in the song. Besides Motown standards, the Gordy character sings original songs to motivate the story.

There's a bit of rub here: In a show filled with classic songs we are now treated to originals. Such was the case in the stage version of Wizard of Oz, sandwiched around Over the Rainbow and Yellow Brick Road we had several original tunes whose duty was to move along the story. It comes across as being a bit awkward. In Motown, Tower's voice and performance are strong enough to make it work

The story of Motown is a fascinating one and not just as a tale of a man with no musical background who built up one of the greatest musical entities of all time. As time goes on and the society of the US begins to change, as race relations and the war in Vietnam fill the evening news, Motown had to change with it. The play does not shy away from these issues. A group of Black Power protesters serve up Edwin Starr's War (What is it good for) and it is indeed a spine tingling moment

There is a lot of story here that lifts it above the musical revue category: Barry's relationship with Diana Ross, his struggle to keep the artists whose careers when built from leaving the company, the pressure place upon him as one of the most successful black businessmen of his time. Through it all, through most of it, Smokey Robinson is Barry's right hand man, as powerful a relationship as the one he has with Ross

Like a musical revue the show ends with a concert, the Motown Anniversary show. It works though, the entire story leads us up to this point as Gordy is acknowledged not only by the artists he helped make into superstars but also buy a public who, at that point, probably were not truly aware of who this man was and what he had created

So, the show is indeed Mo, as in Motown. Is it better? Better than the original? No, of course it isn't how could it be. The music that came out of Motown was some of the greatest popular music ever created. Sitting there I did not think that I was actually watching Stevie Wonder and Mary Wells but I was still very very happy to watch the actors portraying them

Friday, September 18, 2015


Welcome to Toronto, lots of people, lots of traffic, lots of things to do.

Weather can vary from extremely hot to unpleasantly cold but lately, the climate around here, it's been a little shooty

Shooty and blue. Blue uniform that is. As in, the police

Last year here we had a cop standing in the middle of an intersection in Cabbagetown shooting at a coyote. He missed, by the way. Then we had the cop who emptied his pistol and his tazer at a kid on a stopped streetcar. Unfortunately, tragically, he did not miss

Yeh, our cops sure do like to shoot. When faced with the reality that during encounters with mentally stable and lightly armed (ie a knife or a hammer) people, a study found that the TO constabulary used just a tad too much deadly force.The cops came up with a solution: Let's find things that we can shoot that may not be quite as deadly But hey, we still want to shoot

But I don't want to be unfair here, the police in my city are not all about shooting their Glocks. They also love to drive their cars. Really fast. And chase shit

A few years back when we lived on Hillmount St in our nice quiet Jewish hood, some young punks robbed somebody and drove away. Huzzah said the cops and gave chase. They chased so fast and ardently that the bad guys mounted a curb on the sidewalk about 40 feet west of our house, slid sideways right past our lawn and breached their SUV on the other side of the house, crashing into our neighbour as he pulled out of his driveway. Neighbour was shook up but OK. But the scumbags bailed and took off on foot. Oh, huzzah and tally ho! Cops gave chase on foot and now we had a bunch of people running through the back yards with guns in their hands

Shooty shooty

Earlier this year a couple of hoods did a little smash and grab, mounted their getaway vehicles and sped off through Regent Park. And you guessed it .. tally ho! Only, the cops were huaazhing in their cruisers and the bad guys? Um they were on bikes. Not Harleys. Bikes. Bicycles. Chains, gears, little metal bells. Homeboys tried to elude the cars by rolling across a brand new community basketball court. Cops stayed in their cars, busted through a chain link fence and went all Audy Murphy (in Hell Bent for Leather) across the basketball court, fucking it up


Where is all this coming from? Well, from yesterday actually. I have a client dog down in the Distillery District. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Distillery District is, well, an old distillery dating from Toronto's Victorian past, a huge complex of cobble stone lanes, red brick Gothic buildings and black shuttered limestone edifices. It's quite elaborate and quite beautiful. And unlike most of Toronto's history it was not paved over into a parking lot or immediately filled with terribly banal condo high rises

The Distillery has been preserved as public space with shops, pubs, bakeries and a theatre; concerts and events of all kinds are staged there. It is indeed surrounded by coma inducing condo's but the bones and the heart of the place has been maintained for us to enjoy

And lots of people enjoy it. It is a major tourist attraction, south of Front Street, not far from the Lake. Recently it was right beside the Athlete's Village (the ugliest of all condo's in the cities, as if Ugly Condo was a Pan Am event) for the Pan Am Games

It always seems to be busy but naturaly it is teeming on a hot summer day. As it was the other day. My client dog Gracie lives right beside the main entrance to the Distillery, on Mill St, a short block away from Parliment

That intersection itself is always busy. There are parking lots there where people park to walk across the street into the district. There is a school there, its fenced playground looking towards the Victorian structures. I enter Mill Street from Trinity, looking down towards Parliment; and what I saw that day was the yellow caution tape fluttering in the balmy breeze

I had just missed, by about 30 minutes, a very chasey shooty day in my city.

Some dude stole a car. The cops somehow actually got on to him as he sped along in his little grey Toyota. Huzzah! Tally ho! Several cruisers gave chase. Right up Parliment; teeming, pedestrian laden Parliment. Lots of cars here too, and a lane cut off by road work. And kids playing over there in the school yard

Perfect place, the cops seem to conclude, to block in the stolen car and force him up against the curb. I missed the event itself but I've seen the video. Two, perhaps three cruisers jam the car in, wedging it between the two cop cars Cops jump out, pistols in hand

Home boy's car is not moving, it ain't going nowhere. And there are three cops, two right by the driver door. So huzzah you motherfuckers, Cop Three jumps over to the front of the car, staring at the windshield and what does our fine constable do? Aims his semi auto at the hood of the stolen car and empties the mag into it

Yeh he shoots the car. Pop pop pop. Ten or more rounds into the hood of the car. Yes, these are soft nosed 9 mm rounds, less likely to ricochet but there are people all over the street. There are kids fleeing across the school yard. And there are his fellow officers right there by the passenger door

Shooty shooty

The official explaination for this is that the cop wanted to disable the stolen vehicle. Two points. One, that car wasn't going anywhere. And two, many many mechanics have agreed that where the cop was shooting was not going to "disable" that car. Probably he shot up the battery

But you can see him, crouched in the classic Weaver stance, two hands on the gun, just blasting away. As the other cops yanked open the driver's door, Dirty Harry is actually ejecting his expended clip and slapping in a fresh one

Yeh. There's a Sequeway parked over there. Never know when you may to shoot that too

So, a gorgeous hot sultry sunny September day, one of Toronto's most quaint tourist locations, locals and tourists alike enjoying the light breeze skirling off of the Lake ...

But the weather suddenly changed. Dark blue skies, with a high degree of shootiness

Monday, September 14, 2015


The water is on fire. The ripples on the inlet catching the reflections of the setting sun, yellow and gold and tinges of auburn spreading across the otherwise dark water. Look up and see the ruddy orb caught on the crenelated barbs of the pine trees. The sun is setting on the Georgian Bay

Here in the inlet the sun seems constrained, caught on the trees, rubbing hard against the great shoulders of the Canadian Shield. Let's go now, let's load up the boat and go find it, let's chase the sunset on this still summer night

Dennis runs the boats down the narrow inlets on our way to the open bay, channels forged by the alchemy of water and time, deep through the smooth hulking rocks where the obdurate trees find purchase and life in the stone, bowed by the winds but twisting up towards the sun, the spiny branches glowing in the sunset

We come out into the bay, the water still calm but the wind bringing us the breath of the deep open water, whipping back our hair. Dennis takes us around to the Pointe au Baril lighthouse, an unassuming wooden structure that at one point served a powerful purpose, warning vessels off the rocks and shoals that lurk here, hidden and dangerous in the deep dark water

Past the lighthouse, out where the necklace of rocky islands has spread into random clumps of darkness, we can see it now; the sun, a glowing hole in the sky and a ruddy smear of light across the water

Come chase the sunset with us

Chasing the Sunset Georgian Bay from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Here's the question I ask myself (well I ask myself lots of questions but most of them, if publicly expressed would see me end up in some form of national instituion) when we go on holiday with the dogs, is the holiday for us, for for the them?

Terra always loves going up to Springhaven Lodge but this would be Panda's first trip. It would also be the first time we've had her on any water. All of our border collies have enjoyed playing in the water; Terra does not enjoy it, she basically grows gills and tries to live in the lake. Panda was an unknown quantity, but no longer. In the words of Collette's brother Dennis "She's a fish"

So, success. Our newest BC is following the path of those who came before her "Yeh, this lodge place with this big ass lake, it's pretty good"

Perhaps Panda enjoyed the lake a little much. Play play play, swim swim swim. The weather was perfect when we were there, hot air temps and balmy water temps but an old girl has a tendency to overdo things. And when an old girl gets a little too chilly, well she earns up some pampering

Needless to say, Terra also enjoyed herself, she always does. I don't think dogs actually look forward to things but if she could, I'm sure she was looking forward to one of her favorite pastimes, froggin, splashing around trying to make the frogs jump

And yeh, there was some frisbee catching to be done

And in between all the playing, there is ... waiting to be playing

And for Panda, there is stealth waiting to be playing. "Yeh, don't look over here, there's not a Panda over here, there's just a rock with nothing behind it, so if you were to throw that ball over here, it wouldn't be caught by a border collie, not at all ..."

Sneaky sneaky border collies. Here's the video
A Dog's Life On the Georgian Bay from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


The sky is different here: Huge and pale and striped with clouds soft as feathers.

The air is different here: Even on this warm sunny day you can feel the coolness to it, an edge to it, as if it has come from some place far away, from some place beyond the horizon, some place where winter dreams even in the summer

The water is different here: Clear as it eddies around the rocks but even in the shallows you can sense its power, its depth, its cold power; even sedate and quiet you are aware of its strength, sleeping now but capable of a terrible strength when awakened

The rock is different here: Ancient and stained and carved by the wind and the water and time. The great rocks push up out of the water, like the backs of giant turtles, to form these islands on which we walk

The is the Georgian Bay

An Afteroon On Georgian Bay from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Look! Up in the sky! Is a bird? Is it a plane? Um, yeh it's a plane

Lots and lots of planes

It's the CNE Air Show

Lots and lots of jets in this year's show. Private jet teams have become more and more popular and this year the Breitling team came over from France. They bill themselves as the world's largest private performing jet teams, flying Czech built L-39C Albatros training jets. That's not unusual in the private jet team universe, teams flying planes made in the former Soviet bloc

More than just jets of course. One of my favorite returning performers to the show is acrobatic pilot Mike Wiskus. He flies a custom made Pitts biplane and the things that he does with it, well, those old WW I pilots would be half envious and half "what the fuck did he just do"

Another stunt pilot was was Dave Mathieson, who flies a monowing MX2. If you watch the TV series Air Show you will better know him as Super Dave. He also showed up another series, Dangerous Flights, about the guys who ferry planes around the world

More jets of course, including the the F/A 28C Hornet from the US Navy. They were going to fly the Canadian navy's hottest plane, but the damn rubber band snapped

Every year the Air Show features what it calls the Heritage Flight, where they combine a contemporary military plane with a vintage one. This year it was an F-16 flying alongside one of my favorite WW II planes, the P-51 Mustang. I'm always impressed how planes so dissimilar, a modern jet and a classic prop plane, can match speeds and fly so effortlessly together

This was not the show's only combination of jet and propeller propulsion. John Klatt brought another biplane to the show, a very special one that he calls the Screamin Sasquatch Jet Waco. The basis of it is a barnstorming style Taperwing biplane but he added a little something something .. that being a jet engine. Along side the propeller engine. Yeh, kind of a schizo aircraft

The usual suspects were there, from the Cadet gliding demonstration (the pulse pounding spectacle of a glider being towed by a plane, I know I know, almost too much to bear) but the way more fun Sea King helicopter doing a demo with a rescue diver

And of course, it can't be the Air Show without the Snowbirds. I've seen the Snowbirds well over a dozen times, both at the CNE and in other places. Really, their act has not changed that much over time and I keep thinking I will tire of it. But when you see that precision flying, the perfect symmetry of their flying patterns, well it's always impressive

All of the photo's above are, of course, Collette's. The video below is mine .. with more of her photo's. I ain't no dummy

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Consider this a tease

You know, something that starts slowly, showing you a little something, just a little, revealing it slowly, methodically, drawing it out, capturing your attention, making you want it, making you hate to wait, making you lean forward for you can see just a little bit more ...

Holy crap what's wrong with you? Where was your head just then? Do you need a moment, to smoke a cigarette, maybe a tissue?

Not that kind of tease. For that, you'd have to pay


Collette and I were able to spend several days up at Springhaven Lodge, something we rarely get to do during the summer. Among other things it was the first time we had both dogs, together, on the water and it seemed to go rather well

But more on that later. While there we were lucky have to have Dennis take us out on two different boat trips, one to a rock island in the open bay and one where we chased the sunset

More on that later as well. See how that works, the whole teasing thing?

I shot a lot of footage and Collette took a lot of pics and I realized I probably had a couple of different videos and supporting posts in all of that. I have a busy few weeks ahead with some other video projects including the CNE Airshow so it may be a little while before I can get the Nares Inlet stuff done

So you will have to suffice with this little teaser video No not THAT kind of video. For god's sake, put the tissues away

Nares Inlet, Georgian Bay - Preview from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.
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