Life is a cabaret ‘ol friend, come to the cabaret

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What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play!

Another smash hit has reached the stage as curtain’s went up last night on the latest production from the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society: Cabaret.

“The contrast between the over the top musical numbers and the stark reality of the injustices occurring outside the cabaret captivated my attention [years ago] as it still does today,” said Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. “We need to be leaders and speak out in defence of human rights. Cabaret has given us all that opportunity.”

Once again, it’s hard to believe that this is local, community theatre as the entire production, from costumes, set and design, to choreography, acting and live music exceed expectations by leaps and bounds.

Cabaret is not for the light-hearted. The theme is raw with drama and emotion in pre-war Germany. The burlesque-style night club acts are raunchy and lewd. The actors play with your spirits from eccentric to despair, from hopeful to hopeless.

“…There was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany and it was the end of the world…”, wrote lead actor Calder Levine who played the role of of wide-eyed American Cliff Bradshaw. His command performance in portraying his love for the English Berlin nightclub doll, Sally Bowles, played by the extraordinary Jeanne Motulsky, was musical and magical.

Jeanne Motulsky

Speaking of music and magic, the ever so talented Motulsky returns for her sixth show with the CSLDS. The Communications grad from Concordia University is headed towards production in film and television. As I wrote following her stellar performance in last year’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, “her future looks bright.” Motulsky captured the audience with her incredible voice and stage presence, particularly performing “Don’t Tell Mama” and “Cabaret”. Sensational.

The entire show is tied together by the unbelievably talented Craig Dalley who plays The Emcee. Returning for his fourth show with CSLDS, Dalley captivates your attention from the upbeat beginning, singing the well-known, “Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome” opening theme to Cabaret, right to the very end, deep in the darkest places humanity has gone, some 80-plus years ago.

Dalley’s talent, not to mention his sexually provocative leather clothing, profane language and naughty gestures will have you laughing, and then crying. What a job he did with Money Makes the World Go Round! He can sing. He can dance. And he can control the audience and the stage. Fantastic.

Linda Babins (Fraulein Schneider) and John Kovac (Herr Schultz) play an adoring, mature, tentative couple. Babins is a longtime member of the CSLDS team while Kovac returns to theatre after a 40 year hiatus. The two hit it off in song and dance with an air of confidence – she as a stodgy, serious German woman and he as a whimsical, fun-loving older gentleman – a German Jew. You’d never know he stepped off the stage for four decades but thankfully he’s back!

While it was hard to cozy up with Edward Le Vasseur who played the role of red armband toting Nazi, Ernst Ludwig, I’ll admit that he was faithful to his increasingly angry character and the more I despised him the more I realized what a strong actor he was.

Finally, Maria Jimenez deserves praise for her beautiful voice as her back lit profile steamed out from an old fashioned gramophone. Dreamy staging indeed. In the role of Fraulein Kost, a bit of a loose lady (as if any of them was anything less) she was very funny as her many sailor boys sauntered out of her room.

Artistic Director Anisa Cameron with CSL Mayor and CSLDS Founder Mitchell Brownstein

There are so many more praiseworthy cast members who entertained the gala night audience with impressive choreography and delightful musical numbers.

The five-piece live band adds to the experience and really gives the feeling of actually being in a live cabaret. They were great.

A show like this, especially community theatre, doesn’t just come together with a heck of a lot of hard work and incredible talent by the creative and production teams under the direction of the absolutely incredible, dedicated and tremendously talented Anisa Cameron.

(Mini shout-out to backstage crew members Nicole Nashen and Naomi Salama).

“As a theatre director, I felt compelled to produce this show. It seems Cabaret has only become more and more relevant to what is tragically happening in our own province and country, in North America and around the globe. Cabaret stands as a seductive, staggering and stark lesson in the dangers of complacency, denial and willful ignorance in the face of unbridled nationalism and the rise of a fascist tide. Never again is now, said Cameron.

CSLDS partnered with the Montreal Holocaust Museum in providing educational panels to understand the historical context in which Cabaret takes place.

Israeli Consul General David Levy was also instrumental in providing informational panels about diplomats from several countries who went against their orders and laws in doing the “right thing”, in rescuing thousands of Jews from the grips of the Holocaust.

CSLDS’s Cabaret is sure to be another sold-out smash success, worthy of an eventual Montreal English Theatre Award for its production value, quality musical arrangements and its thought-provoking message of using the past to influence the future.

So what good is sitting alone in your room? Come to the Cabaret!!

Cabaret runs through June 16 at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium in Cote Saint-Luc City Hall on Cavendish Boulevard. Tickets and information at CSLDramaticSociety.com.

Not your average housewarming

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Welcome to Montreal Consul General of Israel David Levy

Welcome to Montreal David Levy.

Mr. Levy is the newly installed Consul General of Israel for Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces and Permanent Representative of Israel to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Having arrived only a few weeks ago, one of Mr. Levy’s first official acts was to invite several community leaders to his home to install a new Mezuzah. I was honoured to attend as a representative of the Jewish General Hospital and its West-Central Montreal health network. 

‘This Mezuzah has kept us safe in Africa, Latvia and South Korea,” Mr. Levy said at the informal ceremony. “We bring it with us on our foreign posts and it will keep us safe here in Montreal.”

On the doorposts of traditional Jewish homes (and many not-so-traditional homes!), you will find a small case like the one pictured below. This case is commonly known as a mezuzah (Hebrew for doorpost), because it is placed upon the doorposts of the house. The mezuzah is not, as some suppose, a good-luck charm, nor does it have any connection with the lamb’s blood placed on the doorposts in Egypt. Rather, it is a constant reminder of God’s presence and mitzvot.

Surely, the Consul General Levy will not only stay safe here in beautiful Montreal, but he and his family will be warmly welcomed in one of the diaspora’s most Zionist communities. Where else do you find major airlines in head to head competition with El Al promoting tourism to Israel, bilateral trade agreements being put in place following high level economic missions and the host country’s two major political parties squabbling over which is more in love with Israel?

Rabbi Yossi, of Chabad Westmount, did the honours of affixing the Mezuzah to the entranceway. He noted that not only was it the Festival of Purim, one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar, commemorating a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination, but the act of affixing the Mezuzah is called Chanukah, literally dedication or renewal. Of course, Chanukah is yet another joyous holiday on the Jewish calendar. And so too, was the renewal of Israel’s representation in Montreal a joyous occasion.

Rabbi Yossi and Consul General Levy affix the Mezuzzah

A first generation Israeli, Mr. Levy grew up in the city of Rehovot. At the age of 18, he volunteered with the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) rescue and medical evacuation. His academic background is in law, political science, diplomacy and security.

He joined the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2002 and, since then, his diplomatic career has taken him to Yaoundé, Cameroon (2003-2005), Riga, Latvia (2005-2009) and Seoul, South Korea (2012-2016).

Best of luck in all of your endeavours here in Quebec and in the Atlantic Provinces, Mr. Levy.

Air Transat brings the Israel experience a lot closer

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Celebrating Air Transat service to Tel Aviv with Robert Presser, Glenn J. Nashen and Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman

A whole lot of Quebecers are about to get an incredible experience travelling directly to Israel aboard Air Transat. The Montreal-based airline kicked off its Trudeau to Ben Gurion non-stop service as a sort of birthday bash, marking its 30 years in business and highlighting Montreal’s 375th anniversary. 150 years of Canadian federation, as well as 100 years of Federation CJA.

The event took place in the ultra-modern Montreal Science Centre at the Old Port. There was an interesting mix of politicos, business leaders, young entrepreneurs and community who’s who. English, French and Hebrew-speaking, Kosher or not, young and less young, the audience reflected the multicultural, hip crowd of would-be travelers that Air Transat is targeting.

Airline prez Jean-Marc Eustache, lead off the formalities by saying that they weren’t looking to become mere transporters. The airline’s strategy is to build travel experiences with local partners in Israel to offer excursions, lodging and tours to meet the needs of Quebec couples, families and singles alike. And, publicity will soon begin to promote Montreal and Quebec as a hot tourist destination for Israelis.

Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman was beaming with excitement at the prospect of tens of thousands of Quebecers seeking a taste of Israel. Whether it’s for the food, the wine or the music, for exploring or for religious travel, Israel has it all, said the coolest diplomat Israel has sent to Montreal in modern times. The Israeli Consul for Tourism, Uri Steinberg, said that the relationship between Israel and Air Transat would flourish, like a romance, as they become closer and closer, falling in love with one another. Quebecers will love Israel, he said.

Glenn J. Nashen, Sandy Sparkman and Robert Presser at the Air Transat kickoff of bi-weekly direct service between Montreal to Tel Aviv

Montreal City Councillor and Executive Committee member Lionel Perez said that Montrealers will benefit from being five or six hours closer thanks to the direct flights and that Israelis will come in large numbers to enjoy Montreal’s flair, sites and culture. And we have great religious sites to share with them such as the St. Joseph’s Oratory, the Notre Dame Cathedral and eventually a downtown Expos stadium!

The Transat folks created a true Israeli atmosphere, raffling off two free flights for two to Israel, serving spicy, tasty hors d’ouevres and five kinds of humus provided by Alan Serour of Beso Catering. A 5-piece orchestra belted out Klezmer tunes and Israeli wine flowed freely.

Glenn J. Nashen and CSUQ President Henri Elbaz discussing their next trip to Israel aboard Air Transat

It was great to see my old JGH boss Henri Elbaz and his physician wife Dr. Sandy, CIJA chief Eta Yudin, Senator Marc Gold, Hamsptead Mayor Bill Steinberg and his wife Doris, Outremont City Councillor Mindy Pollak, Israel Day Rally impresario Amos Sochaczevski, Israeli commuter-in-chief Dado Ben Brit, community activists Sandy Sparkman and Robert Presser and former news anchor Pascale Dery. CSL Insurance and Travel Professional Ruth Cohen will be plugging Air Transat service from her Cavendish Mall headquarters,

Good luck to Air Transat in finally bringing back direct service to Ben Gurion airport after a decades long gap. Here’s to falling in love with Israel!

New Israeli Consul General welcomed with open arms

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Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman visits CSL City Hall

Israel’s Consul General Ziv Nevo Kulman, sporting a CSL1903 cap, visits Cote Saint-Luc City Hall

It’s no surprise that the first visit to a local mayor and council by Israel’s new Consul General in Montreal was right here in Cote Saint-Luc. Ziv Nevo Kulman has been installed in Montreal for barely two weeks and was warmly welcomed to Cote Saint-Luc city hall to introduce him to a community staunchly supportive of, and connected to his native land.

Kulman indicated he felt right at home around the council table with the many words of praise for his country and support for his mission across Quebec. “I feel the love,” he said of his reception to the community.

Cote Saint-Luc has a long bond and deep roots with the State of Israel. Some major examples include:

  • Cote Saint-Luc twinned with the coastal municipality of Ashkelon in 1975.
  • The flag of Ashkelon has been displayed alongside the CSL flag in our mayor’s office ever since and is identified with a sign on Cavendish Blvd.
  • Ashkelon Gardens was created behind the CSL Public Library.
  • Ashkelon Crescent was developed in the 1980s.
  • Westminster Park was renamed for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the 1990s.
  • Yad Mordechai Place was developed in the 1990s.
  • Ilan Ramon Crescent was named in memory of the first Israeli astronaut.

The Israeli guest to city hall was not at all what one would expect in a career diplomat. Kulman is dynamic, youthful, hip and cool. As one councillor stated, “Kulman is a real cool man.”

Have a look at the video he produced as an introduction to his new posting. This consul general will be a hit in Montreal and is excited to spread the story of his amazing country to people all over Quebec.

Welcome Ziv. Baruch Habah. You’re always at home in Cote Saint-Luc.

 

Read more on Councillor Mike Cohen’s blog