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Must-see Montreal events in April 2017

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Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for April 2017:

CLASSICAL MUSIC

A pairing generating a lot of buzz is famed British conductor Sir Andrew Davis who will direct pianist Louis Lortie and the OSM in a program that includes Chopin, Piano Concerto no. 1 in E minor, op. 11, and Tchaikovsky, Symphony no. 6 in B minor, op. 74, on April 6 and 8.

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Quebec “Prince of Tenors” Marc Hervieux (Photo: hand out)

The hugely popular all-star OSM Pop Series has under the direction of associate conductor Simon Leclerc adapted the music of everybody from Mika to Blue Rodeo. On April 18, 19 and 20, it is the turn of Jacques Brel, one of the giants of French-language song. Some of the singers taking part in Brel Symphonic include Diane Tell and Quebec’s “Prince of Tenors” Marc Hervieux.

Then Hervieux returns to the Maison Symphonique on April 25 to sing Bel Canto’s best-loved arias for tenor, at the McGill Chamber Orchestra’s Tenorissimo concert.

Also, do not miss sensational French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky who will sing with Les Violons du Roy on April 7 in Salle Bourgie at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts.

THEATRE

The Segal Centre for Performing Arts also presents the Tony-winning jukebox musical Million Dollar Quartet, inspired by the true story of the night four music icons—Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins—came together at Sun Records studios in Memphis on Dec. 4, 1956, for one of the greatest impromptu recording jam sessions in history. Songs include Blue Suede Shoes, Great Balls of Fire, Walk the Line and Hound Dog. Directed by the Segal’s Artistic and Executive Director Lisa Rubin, the Montreal premiere of Million Dollar Quartet runs from April 23 to May 14. The production then moves to the Cinquieme Salle at Place des Arts for six additional performances, from May 17 to May 21.

Over at the Centaur Theatre in Old Montreal, race and real estate take centre stage in Bruce Norris’ biting satire, the Pulitzer-winning Clybourne Park, which travels back to 1959 Chicago to tell the story of a white family upsetting the ‘social order’ of their all-white, middle class neighbourhood by selling their house to a black family. Act II fast-forwards to 2009 when a white couple attempts to buy and tear down the same house—now in an all-black neighbourhood—and is met with equal opposition. The Quebec English-language premiere of Clybourne Park is directed by Canadian theatre legend Ellen David and runs from April 4 to 30.

The Centaur also presents the Quebec premiere of the acclaimed Canadian comedy Bed and Breakfast, a heart-warming play about two gay men (played by Mark Crawford and Paul Dunn) who move from urban Toronto to a tiny tourist town to convert the family residence into a B&B. Playing dozens of male and female characters—from narrow-minded rednecks to awkward high school boys—prejudice tests the couple’s resolve, with some unexpected comical plot twists. Bed and Breakfast runs from April 25 and May 21.

Also, do not miss Harold et Maude, the French-language adaptation of the classic 1971 film about a 19-year-old man and 90-year-old woman who fall in love, at Théatre Jean Duceppe, from April 5 to May 13.

The touring North American production of the blockbuster Broadway musical The Book of Mormon returns to Salle Wilfred-Pelletier for an encore run of eight performances, from April 18 to 23.

Local indie productions of note are The Last Five Years: In Concert, about two New Yorkers who dive headfirst into a marriage, starring Noelle Hannibal and Anton at an ideal venue, La Sala Rossa, for one night only, on April 28; and British playwright Patrick Marber’s acclaimed play Closer (also adapted into a movie directed by Mike Nichols) about four Londoners who trade their partners for lust, April 4 to 9 at Mainline Theatre, the heart of indie theatre in Montreal.

DANCE

Danse Danse brings back the 18-member Ballet BC for their much-loved triple program (16 + a room, Solo Echo and Bill) at Théatre Maisonneuve from April 5 to 8, already expected to be one of the highlights of the Montreal dance season. Also of note, Solo Echo is choreographed by Crystal Pite, who is well-known to Montreal audiences.

ART AND MUSEUMS

The McCord Museum presents a career retrospective of Aislin, the dean of English-Canadian cartoonists, in Aislin: Fifty Years of Cartoons, from April 7 to August 13.

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Over at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, two exhibitions of note: Now Have a Look at This Machine by Québec artist Emanuel Licha features an installation version of his hour-long creative documentary Hotel Machine filmed in five cities—Beirut, Sarajevo, Gaza, Kiev and Belgrade—in five hotels that house war correspondents covering conflicts; and Mundos, the first-ever solo show in Canada by famed Mexican artist Teresa Margolles. Both exhibitions end on May 14.

FILM & TV

The new ICI ARTV reality TV series Ils de Jour, Elles de Nuit, starring six of Montreal’s most popular drag queens – Tracy Trash, Barbada de Barbades, Rita Baga, Gabry-Elle, Lady Poonana and Lady Boom Boom – premieres on April 7 at 7:30 p.m. This series looks like good trashy fun.

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Ils de Jour, Elles de Nuit airs on ICI ARTV

The 2017 documentary film The Last Breath, at the Heart of the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, is about the looming closure of the hospital Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, founded by Jeanne Mance in 1642. The hospital is being folded into the new CHUM super-hospital, and this doc tells the story of the historic hospital’s final occupants. Opens at Cinema du Parc on April 7, same day another terrific documentary opens, Rebels on Pointe, about Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the internationally-acclaimed NYC dance company made up of gay men who perfectly parody classical ballet in drag.

MUSIC

Topping the list, April 10 at the Bell Centre, are the classic line-ups of Def Leppard, Poison and Tesla in an eighties metal triple-bill that will answer the famed Def Leppard (pictured at top) call out, “Do you wanna get rocked?”

Others headliners at the Bell Centre this month include John Mayer (April 1) and the Dixie Chicks (April 15).

Some great names headlining Montreal’s smaller venues include The Franklin Electric (April 1), PJ Harvey (April 14) and metal legends Testament (April 26), all at Metropolis.

The Zombies headline the Imperial

The Zombies headline the Imperial

2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Zombies headline Montreal’s historic Imperial Theatre movie house on April 1 – what an interesting artist / venue combo!

Do not miss British rock royalty Bryan Ferry, former frontman of Roxy Music, at Theatre St-Denis on April 3, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jackson Browne at Theatre Maisonneuve on April 15.

One of my favourite singer-songwriters, Paul Cargnello, launches his Something Dimferent soul-punk-rock-reggae album for kids with a listening party at the Coop La Maison Verte in NDG on April 9 from 3 to 6 pm.

Montreal RnB soul man Fredy V and the Foundation (a.k.a. Fredy Varre) launches Fredy’s new album It Takes a Village with a concert at the Phi Centre in Old Montreal on April 28, while Jamaican reggae sensation Chronixx (April 26) and British grime artist Skepta (April 27) – fresh from his killer appearance at Osheaga 2016 – both headline the Olympia de Montréal.

Billy Bob Productions have booked LeE HARVeY OsMOND (a.k.a. three time Juno award winning singer-songwriter Tom Wilson)  and local legends Mack Mackenzie & Three O’Clock Train (ft. Shane Murphy) for a hotly-anticipated double-bill at the Fairmount Theatre on April 29.

Montreal ska legends The Planet Smashers headline Club Soda on April 21, the same night as the critically-acclaimed Bless Your Purple Heart tribute to Prince – on the first anniversary of his death – headlines the historic Yellow Door Coffeehouse. Get your tickets in advance, the Yellow Door only seats about 50 people.

Montreal rockers The Maxwells‘ debut album Heart Attack was packed with some serious hooks and power chords. I so enjoyed the band I agreed to portray their sleazy manager in the fun music video for their single Give Your Love Away (I make cameos at the beginning and the very end of the clip). The Maxwells headline O Patro Vys on April 28.

LITERATURE

Concordia University welcomes author Michael Moon for the Queer Film Classics book launch of Arabian Nights (Arsenal Pulp Press) which explores the legacy and context of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1974 movie of the same name, at the De Seve Cinema. This is an invitation-based event, so you must fire off a message here to be added to the guest list.

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Pre-eminent American humorist and author David Sedaris – who has published over 40 essays in The New Yorker and whose books have sold over 10 million copies in 25 languages – headlines Théâtre Maisonneuve on April 10.

The 19th annual Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival runs April 24 to 30 and will be, as usual, a star-studded affair. This year’s festival features over 250 events (click here for the full line-up), most of them at the Hotel10 downtown. I am most intrigued by Blue Met’s trail blazing LGBTQ programming, which will feature queer living legend Sky Gilbert in the Never Apart Legends Series on April 27, and at the next instalment of The Violet Hour queer reading series, April 28 at Montreal gay-male strip joint Stock Bar.

VARIOUS

Playmas Montreal Cultural Association presents their second annual Montreal Caribbean Fashion Week, featuring fashion shows, workshops and red-carpet events, mainly at the Grévin Museum, from April 19 to 22.

The April 1 edition of Montreal’s terrific Confabulation storytelling series is called Secret Weapons and Secret Weaknesses: Stories of inner Superheroes and Achilles Heels, at the Phi Centre in Old Montreal. Contributors this month include kickass stand-up comic Tranna Wintour.

Will Tranna Wintour scandalize Confabulation?

Will Tranna Wintour scandalize Confabulation?

One of my favourite venues on the Main, the historic Café Cleopatra strip joint, which has been a showbar since 1895, presents two must-see shows this month: the House of Laureen drag troupe presents their Saturday Morning Cartoons drag cabaret on April 8, and burlesque queen Velma Candyass welcomes some of Montreal’s finest burlesque dancers to her monthly Candyass Club Cabaret, on April 21.

The iconic Harlem Globetrotters basketball team – who now own 15 current Guinness World Records – will thrill kids of all ages at the Bell Centre on April 9. Check out their amazing video below!

Last but not least, the Cirque du Soleil premieres its new touring show Volta under its Big Top in the Old Port beginning on April 20. Volta runs to July 2.

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