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Must-See Montreal Events in February 2018

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Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for February 2018:

MUSIC

The live music scene kicks into high gear as Montrealers’ wallets have gotten fatter since the holiday season.

Some of the bigger names headed to town this month are British rock legends Uriah Heep (Corona Theatre on February 10), legendary Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett (Theatre Maisonneuve on February 11), American metalcore band Of Mice and Men (Corona Theatre on February 14), Oasis lead guitarist and co-lead vocalist Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on February 18), California rapper Tyler, The Creator (MTELUS on February 18), American singer-songwriter ZZ Ward (Club Soda on February 20), Canadian rockers Hedley (Place Bell on February 21), Newfoundland’s Great Big Sea lead singer Alan Doyle performing solo (Corona Theatre on February 23); and pioneers of the Irish punk scene, Canadian Irish punk rockers The Mahones (Piranha Bar on February 10).

Over at the MONTREAL EN LUMIERE Festival which runs February 22 to March 4, contemporary jazz vocalist Gregory Porter (pictured at top) headlines the Maison symphonique de Montréal on February 23, touring his latest album Nat King Cole & Me.

Local shows of note: Montreal soul queen and kickass chick Stephane Moraille launches her new album Daiva with a live set at the Phi Centre on February 23. Showtime is 7 pm. Free admission.

Last but not least, cross-promoting their latest album Can’t Stop Losing, Montreal hard rockers The Maxwells headline a homecoming show at Petit Campus on February 24. I love these guys, especially since they asked me to portray their sleazy manager in the 2015 rock video for their really fun track Give Your Love Away, which is packed with some serious hooks and power chords.

CLASSICAL MUSIC

Much buzzed-about shows this month are renowned Montréal soprano Marie-Josée Lord, who will perform her one-woman show Femmes with the Laval Symphony Orchestra at Théatre Maisonneuve, as part of the annual MONTREAL EN LUMIERE Festival on February 27; and Grammy-winning OSM Maestro Kent Nagano will guest-conduct the McGill Symphony Orchestra on February 13 at the Maison symphonique de Montréal. Tip of the hat to Nagano for paying it forward.

ART AND MUSEUMS

Witness the opulent lifestyles of Emperor Napoleon and his court in the blockbuster exhibition Napoleon: Art and Court Life in the Imperial Palace which opens at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts on February 3.

François-Pascal-Simon Gérard, Portrait of Napoleon, Emperor of the French, in Ceremonial Robes, 1805. Château de Fontainebleau-Musée Napoléon Ier. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY / Gérard Blot.

François-Pascal-Simon Gérard, Portrait of Napoleon, Emperor of the French, in Ceremonial Robes, 1805. Château de Fontainebleau-Musée Napoléon Ier. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY / Gérard Blot.

Visit the six departments that made up the “Imperial Household,” whose 3,500 employees were responsible for the daily lives and ceremonies of Napoleon and his family during Napoleon’s reign, from his coronation in 1804 to his exile in 1815.

The exhibition features more than 400 art works and objects from French palaces – paintings, sculptures, furniture, silverware and porcelain, tapestries, silk hangings and court dress – most of them never before been displayed in North America. The splendour of the apartments are also recreated by mapping projections throughout the layout.

Napoleon: Art and Court Life in the Imperial Palace runs to May 6.

Meanwhile, the popular exhibition Passion: Hockey – an entertaining look at the fascinating world of our national winter sport –  runs at Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, until March 11.

Over at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, check out the critically-acclaimed exhibition Leonard Cohen – Une brèche en toute chose / A Crack in Everything which explores the themes that marked Cohen’s life: darkness, light, religion, politics, love, desire, intimacy and poetry. The exhibition runs to April 9.

An interesting gallery show of note: Montreal artist Jeanie Riddle’s solo exhibition Open Letter to The Women runs at Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran until February 10.

THEATRE

Famed producer Cameron Mackintosh presents his new production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Tony-winning musical Les Misérables, direct from an acclaimed two-and-a-half-year return to Broadway. This show features new staging and reimagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo.  There will be nine presentations of Les Miz at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier from February 7 to 11. For more information and tickets, visit evenko.ca.

Then Black Theatre Workshop and Espace Libre co-present Black Boys, a play about the lives of three gay Black men (Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Tawiah Ben-Eben M’Carthy and Thomas Olajide) seeking a deeper understanding of themselves, of each other, and of how they encounter the world. As they explore their unique identities on stage, they subvert the ways in which gender, sexuality and race are performed.

Co-star Jackman-Torkoff recently told me, “I define my queerness not just as sexuality, but a (philosophy) that informs my art and how I see the world.”

Fresh from wowing audiences across Canada, Black Boys plays at Théatre Espace Libre from February 13 to 17.

Over at The Segal Theatre, do not miss the star-studded ensemble cast (stage legends Clare Coulter and Ellen David, Tyrone Benskin and Eloi ArchamBaudoin in his Segal debut) of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize nominated play Marjorie Prime by Jordan Harrison, which explores artificial intelligence as the 85-year-old title character loses her memory. The play runs at The Segal from February 25 to March 18.

At the Centaur Theatre, world-renowned puppeteer provocateur Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre – a hilarious one-man cabaret packed with 40 of the most outrageous characters you’ll ever encounter, such as Canada’s oldest and worst actress Miss Lillian Lunkhead and lounge singer Rosemary Focaccia – runs from February 20 to March 24.

There is also another puppet show of note happening in Montreal this month: Little Charming. Using puppets, poetry and physical theatre, Laurent McCuaig-Pitre crafts a fairy tale that will enchant all ages, about a little boy whose parents are taken away by giant monsters. Little Charming runs at The Freestanding Room from February 8 to 18.

DANCE

Montreal’s top dance series, Danse Danse, continues its superb 2017-2018 season with the Martha Graham Dance Company which will present six works by the iconic choreographer, performed by 16 dancers over three nights at Theatre Maisonneuve, February 22 to 24 at 8 pm nightly.

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal presents the world-renowned Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg who will perform their acclaimed Requiem from February 21 to 25 at Salle Wilfred-pelletier.

FILM AND TV

The Cinema du Parc presents a 150-minute compilation of the 2018 Oscar nominated-shorts in the Animation category, beginning February 9.

Over at Concordia University, Cinema Politica will screen two documentaries – The Caretakers and Water Warriors – about the Indigenous-led resistance against the oil and gas industries in British Columbia and New Brunswick, on February 12 at 7 pm. Suggested donation of $5-10.

LITERATURE

Renowned Montreal writers H. Nigel Thomas, Horace Goddard and Maguy Métellus co-host Lectures Logos Readings, the monthly bilingual reading series of poetry, fiction and spoken word at the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A. Hall at 2741 Notre Dame St. W.) in Little Burgundy, February 12 from 7 to 9 pm. Their readers include award-winning authors and beginning writers. The guest readers this month are Blossom Thom, Clarence Bayne, Maguy Métellus, Michèle Berekyah Desharnais and Michael Primiani — followed by an open mic. The event is free, but a small donation is welcome.

The LGBTQ reading series The Violet Hour – whose goal is to introduce emerging and established LGBTQ writers and artists to a larger audience – this month features Will Aitken (who has just published his new book Antigone Undone: Juliette Binoche, Anne Carson, Ivo van Hove and the Arts of Resistance), Carolyn Boll (Social Dance: A Book of Ballroom Poetry), Shawn Hitchins (A Brief History of Oversharing: One Ginger’s Anthology of Humiliation), Darren Tomalty (Will Morning Ever Come) and John Emil Vincent (Excitement Tax), plus host Christopher DiRaddo. A pair of tickets will also be given away to see the play Black Boys at Théatre Espace Libre from February 13 to 17 (for more about the play, scroll back up to the theatre section). The Violet Hour happens at gay-male strip joint Stock Bar in the Village, February 13 at 7 pm. Admission: $5 (PWYC). Each $5 donation gives you a $5 discount on one of the books for sale.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

The 2018 edition of Black History Month is paying special tribute to Prince, who has a long and storied history in Montreal, where he also performed his third-last concert ever. Following MLK, Mandela and Montreal jazz icon Oliver Jones, it is now Prince’s turn to be the subject of a multidisciplinary exhibition being curated by musicologist Duke Eatmon, at Place des Arts’ Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme, from February 9 to March 3. Then on February 10 at 2 p.m. at Place des Arts’ Place DesChamps, Eatmon will welcome McGill University graduate Susan Rogers, who worked closely with Prince on the classics Purple Rain, Sign O ‘The Times and 1999. Rogers will share memories and anecdotes of her years collaborating with Prince.

To close Black History Month, local R’n’B band The Brooks and their legendary frontman Alan Prater (who used to be the trumpet player for Prince’s musical rival Michael Jackson) – plus their special musical guests such as funkman Fredy V – will headline a special Prince tribute concert at Club Soda on February 28. For tickets, visit thepointofsale.com.

VARIOUS

Montreal female impersonator Jimmy Moore will pay homage to Madonna in a full show accompanied by 12 dancers at Le Gesu on February 17.  Jimmy’s Madonna is so good that no less than  New York drag legend Lady Bunny was blown away as we both watched Jimmy’s drop-dead impersonation of Madonna one night at Cabaret Mado. Lady Bunny leaned into me and said, “Wow, she looks just like Madonna! It’s all in the eyes.”

Madonna’s longtime manager Guy Oseary and Jimmy Moore at Montreal’s Bell Centre (Photo courtesy Jimmy Moore)

Jimmy Moore with Madonna’s longtime manager Guy Oseary at Montreal’s Bell Centre (Photo courtesy Jimmy Moore)

That’s pretty much also what Madonna’s longtime confidante and manager Guy Oseary told Jimmy who was welcomed into Madonna’s VIP gold section when the Material Girl headlined Montreal’s Bell Centre in August 2012.  “I arrived [in Madonna drag] in a limousine, drank champagne, posed for tons of photos with Madonna fans for over an hour and everybody went crazy!” Jimmy told me. Then Madonna’s manager Guy Oseary saw the commotion, came out and told Jimmy, “You look gorgeous!”

See for yourself at Le Gesu on February 17.

Last but not least, the Drag-moi sur Broadway benefit evening for Opéra Outside the Box will feature a cast of singers adding an LGBTQ touch to some of the best-known musical and opera repertoires, hosted by ab-fab drag queen Tracy-Trash at Cabaret Mado on February 15 at 8 pm. Admission: $10. There will also be door prizes.

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