Gibby’s – Easy to recommend for the consistency – Year after Year

The challenge – come up with a suggestion for family, friends, out-of-towners that want a good meal, in surroundings that say – old Montreal. One easy choice is Gibby’s. The room is so lovely – stone walls, wooden floors, gleaming silver, white tablecloths, and sparkling glasses. It’s beautiful. And so ‘special occasion’ friendly. The free valet parking is handy, and the signature Bloody Caesars never disappoints. We actually once went in Uniforms and dresses that would have been in fashion in 1812. It totally worked.

But cheap it’s not. The meals – which are basically complete – come with your choice of appetizer including a nice size salad, the main course which is short on veggies, but long on Monte Carlo potatoes, and a palate cleaning sorbet. My ‘Gibbys Cut’ Ribsteak was huge. I shared it with my grand-daughter, and even so felt totally stuffed for hours afterwards. A note on sharing at Gibby’s, they charge for the privilege, but they also give you an extra potato, and an empty plate. So it works. My husband had the Single sized Beef Wellington which was delicious.

For dessert my husband ordered the Key Lime Pie – it was very good for a Canadian version – no artificial whip cream and nice and tart. My grand-daughter loved her creme brule – I thought the portion was a bit too large.

Bottom line – choosing Gibby’s is safe. Your out-of-town guests will love being in Old Montreal – and the free parking is a nice bonus. Plus if they aren’t busy, the valets will kindly suggest that you take a walk after dinner – leaving them in charge of the car. Nice.

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Mahalia Jackson Musical – Just Great – Seriously Great

Mahlia Jacson Musical – Segal Centre – Renee Lee Shines in this Gospel Feel good

I totally enjoy watching and listening to Renee Lee. There is something about her willingness to put it all out there that is completely appealing to me. She is a delight. We should be proud that she calls Montreal – home.

I’ve seen her several times over the years, although I did not have the luck to see her in Lady Day. So when I knew she was doing Mahlia Jackson – I was totally going to go. For the Segal Centre – the stage set was relatively bare. A ‘mock’ stained glass window in center stage, that became the statue of Abraham Lincoln for the March, some chairs and tables that stood in for her various homes. Even the supporting parts were minimized – one man to play all the men in her life, one woman to brilliantly play all the women in her life. The big spurge – and to my mind the least capable singers on the stage – were the Gospel Chorus.

My biggest negative about this otherwise top-notch production was the sound. A musical is all about sound – and because we were seated slightly to the left of center stage, the sound seemed to come from behind us when Renee used her microphone. This is quite disturbing, as you can well imagine. A bit like a badly synced movie – the mouth moves, but the sound is delayed. Since hearing Renee sing was probably the number one reason for us all to be in the audience – having sound this dis-jointed was a serious problem.

But Renee’s rendition of Summer Time convinced me that she can overcome anything.

A quick comment on the supporting performers – with the exception of the gospel choir (who really needed to have had more coffee before they walked on stage), they were quite good. The ‘male’ (the always great Tristin D. Lalla) gets to do Martin Luther King’s – “I have a dream” speech, while the scolding female parts were played with a great deal of conviction by a newcomer to me – Adrienne Mei Irving. Since her name is shared with that of my daughter – I’m sure I’m going to remember her in the future.

Bottom line – the Mahalia Jackson Musical is a great vehicle for Renee Lee. I’m really glad I got to see it – and when (not if) it returns – I hope you do too. And Segal – if you read this – FIX THE SOUND SYSTEM.

Just not great – Centaur Theatre does Leonard Cohen – oh dear!

Last night I spent almost 2 hours alternating between – “wow, that’s cool” and “Boring.. Totally boring”

The cause of my bipolar response – Centaur Theatre’s production of “Dance me to the on/off of Love” There were moments of brilliance interspersed with long periods of pointless but beautiful movement which left me wondering what was the point.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Leonard Cohen’s music and poetry. He is capable of flights of ideas that leave his listeners stunned in the wake. But this piece of theatre didn’t build up Leonard’s music and song – it deconstructed it. Tore it apart to create some interesting visual effects, but left me feeling sorry I’d spent the money and time to be there.

First though, let me describe the piece. Set on a completely dark stage, most effects are done by playing with lights and about 30 skulls. Musicians double as the singers, or singers double as musicians, it’s hard to tell because sometimes the music is deliberately performed off-key and breathless. My favorite pieces, and remember that in between I often dozed off (not good, Centaur – not good) were Sisters of Mercy, I’m your Man (performed with stick whips – very neat), Ring The Bell, and ‘the encore’ piece – “Coming Home”. Bottom line – Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris (Mainline) or the Mahalia Jackson Musical with Renee Lee at the Segal Centre are much better bets. There is juist too much filler between the good parts in this peace for me to recommend you going to see it.

A slight disclaimer – the theatre was about 1/2 full – which isn’t good. But of the people there – plenty really seemed to enjoy the piece, including yelling out “Bravo” and giving the performers a standing ovation. Go figure. I guess that’s what makes horse races.