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.

Birnbaum announces a new Liberal government will support relocation, expansion of Montreal Holocaust Museum

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D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum speaks to a group of supporters at the Gelber Conference Centre

D’Arcy-McGee Liberal MNA and candidate David Birnbaum confirmed that a re-elected Liberal government will be a financial partner in the planned relocation and expansion of the Montreal Holocaust Museum. The Museum leadership has already secured a major lead donation and completed a feasibility study for the ambitious project, evaluated at about $45 million. The Museum, Canada’s only one uniquely focused on Holocaust remembrance and human rights education, is recognized the world over for the quality of its exhibits and its outreach programs. It has also long been recognized that the museum needs more space than available at its current location in the Jewish Community Campus on Côte Ste-Catherine Rd.

“I am so proud that the Premier has made this commitment, which is profoundly important to our Jewish community but also significant for all Quebecers,” Birnbaum noted. He first briefed the Premier on the project in late Spring. “The Museum, with the help of courageous survivors, reaches out to schools, in French and English, to ensure that the terrible lessons of the Holocaust are neither forgotten nor repeated.’’ Montreal is home to the third-largest population of Holocaust survivors and children of survivors in the world.

Mr. Couillard, whose own family was deeply implicated in the French resistance, had a brief discussion about the project with Museum Director Alice Herscovitch when he accompanied Mr. Birnbaum for the second time during this mandate to the annual commemorative service on Yom Hashoah at Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Synagogue.

“We are very encouraged by this news,’’ said Alice Herscovitch, Executive Director. “It is deeply important that all Quebecers have access to a modern and accessible museum that embodies messages of courage in the face of inhumanity and helps Quebecers and people the world over understand the importance and responsibility we all have to prevent racism and genocide. Our museum will be so much more able to deliver those messages to schools and adults alike through an expansion.”

Quebec Liberal leader Dr. Philippe Couillard introduces D’Arcy McGee candidate David Birnbaum (2014)

The Museum is seeking a site in downtown Montreal, and the support of all levels of government. Treasury Board President and Mont-Royal-Outremont candidate Pierre Arcand currently serves the territory where the museum is situated. It will find itself in D’Arcy-McGee after the election.

“In my ministerial role, I see and evaluate each day the many difficult and important choices a government must make in allocating public funds. Of course, schools, health care and other services are essential but so are the Quebec institutions that identify and transmit our vision of humanity, of our responsibility to each other and to the wider world. This commitment is a meaningful example of that vision.”

Birnbaum noted that an initial analysis of the Museum project is already underway by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, with the details and modalities of the provincial government partnership still to be determined.

I Want You To Remember… A Childhood Lost

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That was the theme of this year’s Yom Hashoah commemoration held in Cote Saint Luc, organized by the Montreal Holocaust Museum.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard spoke eloquently about his family’s memory of this dark period in the 20th century. His mother came from Grenoble and Couillard recounted how so many stories were told to him as a youngster from his many aunts and uncles in France.
He also recounted with great pride about the first-ever Quebec Economic Mission to Israel last year when he was accompanied by Member of the National Assembly, David Birnbaum. Additionally, Couillard indicated that Quebec was one of the first governments in the world to declare a National Day of Commemoration of the Holocaust, in 1999, when introduced by then MNA Lawrence Bergman.
Newly installed Consul General of Israel, David Levy, spoke about his Parisian mother and their family’s personal experiences of betrayal by the French Nazi sympathizers. He spoke passionately about the large number of family members who never returned home.
Six candles were lit by survivors and their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren in memory of the Six Million Jews who perished.
Each survivor gave a video testimonial recounting in vivid detail their horrific memories of incarceration, deportation, hiding, hunger and terrible loss. Each one, between the ages of 85 and 90, spoke of the loss of their own childhood.
One such Survivor was Zissel Farkas. The 90 year old woman told her story, through her daughter. This brave, courageous and lucky woman is today the matriarch of three children, 26 grandchildren and an incredible 70 great grand-children.
The JPPS choir sung stirring tunes of remembrance from the 1930s and 40s. The solemn and impassioned song, Ani Ma’amin, I Remember,
was reportedly composed in a cattle car en route to the Treblinka concentration camp. The song was sung by many Jews as they marched to the gas chambers in the Nazi death camps.
With the song being hummed in the background the names of Jews murdered by the Nazis were slowly read aloud, along with their place of birth, where they were murdered and their age. Many childrens’ names were read out. Three years old. Six year’s old. One name was that of a baby just months old. In all, more than 1.5 million children were murdered in the Holocaust.
The ‘Partisan Hymn’ was sang out loud by the hundreds in attendance. It is a song written by poet and partisan Hirsch Glick in the Vilna Ghetto and became the anthem of the resistance movement. Today it is considered to be the main anthem of Holocaust Survivors and is sung at Memorial services around the world.
I have attended this commemoration for longer than I can remember. This year, I was joined by my daughter Nicole, who was on the March of the Living one year ago. She traveled to Poland and marched with thousands of students and adults to the death camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, waving the Israeli flag, proclaiming Am Yisrael Chai. The People of Israel Live!  In this way, we are all doing our part in passing the responsibility of never forgetting from one generation to the next.

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Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Commemoration, Sunday, April 23, 7:30 PM

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Holocaust survivors invite Montrealers to participate in the Yom Hashoah commemoration to remember the victims of the Shoah, honour the survivors and consider how we can learn from the Holocaust as we look to the future.

The commemoration will include poems and short readings in English, French, Hebrew and Yiddish, as well as songs performed by a Jewish children’s Choir. This years’ theme is Reflections on the Holocaust – Carrying on the Legacy.