Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for July and August 2017:
CLASSICAL MUSIC & OPERA
This summer the OSM will continue Montreal’s 375th anniversary party when it joins forces with the Orchestre Métropolitain and the McGill Symphony Orchestra to present the free outdoor concert Montréal Symphonique on August 19. Presented at the foot of Mount Royal, the massive concert will feature more than 350 musicians, special guest pop artists and choral singers, all under the direction of Simon Leclerc, complete with special projections evoking the city and its inhabitants. Showtime is at 9 pm.
The OSM will end its summer with its hugely popular annual festival OSM Classical Spree (better known by locals by its French name, La Virée Classique), which this year runs from August 10 to 13. There are many ticketed indoor concerts, including Journey to the Mediterannean on August 12, which will feature Nagano conducting the OSM and American Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin playing the famous Zorba’s Dance by composer Mikis Theodorakis.
In addition, the OSM kicks off the festival each year with a big free outdoor concert for tens of thousands of classical-music lovers on the esplanade outside Olympic Stadium. This year’s August 10 opener features Nagano conducting the OSM and soprano Marie-Josée Lord as Bess in a 90-minute concert version of Porgy and Bess. Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…
For more info and tickets, visit vireeclassique.osm.ca.
Juste Pour Rire presents their crowd-pleasing French-language adaptation of the smash Broadway musical Footloose at Théatre St-Denis until (so far) August 5.
Over at The Segal Centre for Performing Arts, don’t miss What’s in a Name?, the Montreal English-language premiere of Michael Mackenzie’s worldwide sensation Le Prénom: When Vincent (played with great zeal by Andrew Shaver) reveals what he and his wife plan to name their unborn son, the shocking moniker causes an uproar during a raucous dinner party. But what could be so offensive about a simple name, you ask? Just wait!
Plenty of twists and turns in this funny, lighthearted comedy produced in collaboration with Just For Laughs as part of the Montreal 375th anniversary celebrations.
What’s in a Name? runs until July 30.
Meanwhile, the mother of all street-theatre festivals, A Nous la rue! (a.k.a We’re Acting Out!) showcases 51 of the best street theatre troupes from eight countries in the world who will present 800 free outdoor performances throughout the city, notably the “Veles e vents” pyrotechnical show by Xarxa Theatre (Spain) at Place des Festivals on July 15. We’re Acting Out! runs until July 30. The major shows are listed here.
Last but not least, Repercussion Theatre presents its annual summertime Shakespeare in the Park series. This summer a wonderful cast of 11 actors (including Quincy Armorer, Holly Gauthier-Frankel and Dean Patrick Fleming) co-star in Shakespeare’s tragic romantic comedy, Much Ado About Nothing.
The characters in this dark love story learn that real love requires unmasked vulnerability. Says director Amanda Kellock, “This play involves good people making bad choices, hurting those they care about and their actions are so extreme it’s hard to imagine any form of reconciliation.”
Shakespeare in the Park runs from July 13 to August 15. Click here for a local park performance nearest you. All shows start at 7 pm.
DANCE AND DJs
Montreal’s electronic music scene is renowned worldwide thanks in no small part to Piknic Électronik Montréal, the outdoor electronic music event that will be held every Sunday to September 24 at Parc Jean-Drapeau. For this year’s 15th edition, Piknic is back showcasing local and international DJs.
“When it comes to Piknic, I would say explore the grounds, especially this year since it is a new site,” Piknic Électronik Montréal festival programming coordinator Patrick Meloche recently told me. “It’s not just, ‘Have a drink, dance and leave.’ Piknic is more about living the experience, the kind of environment where you can sit down and have a picnic during a relaxing Sunday afternoon!”
For more info about DJs and to purchase tickets, visit piknicelectronik.com.
ART AND MUSEUMS
If you’re a baseball fan, then there are two-must-see exhibitions in Montreal this summer:
First, at Montreal City Hall, do not miss the comprehensive Montréal à coup sûr! Une histoire de baseball (Montreal is a Hit!) exhibition chronicling the history of amateur and professional baseball in Montreal, beginning in 1860 and celebrating 20th century heroes Jackie Robinson and Gary Carter. In all, there are some 120 precious artifacts on display. The exhibition is open weekdays from 8 am to 5 pm, and Saturdays from noon to 6 pm. Free admission.
Over at the Grévin Montreal wax museum, baseball fans will wax emotional when they see the superb replica of Montreal Expos icon Gary Carter, the centrepiece of a fantastic and new immersive 2,000 square foot environment, Montreal, City of Baseball, which runs to September 24. The exhibition features tons of Montreal Expos memorabilia on loan from the private collection of Montrealer Perry Giannias, whose extensive Expos memorabilia collection is also part of the Montreal is a Hit! exhibition at city hall. For more info and tickets, visit grevin-montreal.com.
Side note: The Carter family attended the official launch of Montreal, City of Baseball, and when they watched Montreal performer Annakin Slade’s poignant music-video tribute to The Kid, the whole family teared up. Watch the video here:
Over at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the new Revolution exhibition curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, takes visitors on a trip through time, exploring the ideals of the late 1960s as expressed in music, film, fashion and design, as well as through activism. Wander through the exhibition while listening to a time-tripping greatest-hits soundtrack of the era.
The title of this musical exhibition refers to the words of the Beatles’ song Revolution, composed by John Lennon in 1968 in response to several violent political protests that took place that year, including the May 68 protests in Paris.
The exhibition explores the context for the transformations in Western society, driven by young people with a deep desire for change and freedom. From Flower Power to the Black Panthers, miniskirts to the first man on the moon, from Expo 67 to Woodstock, it recreates the cultural, social, artistic and technological “explosion” that occurred between 1966 and 1970, the repercussions of which are still being felt today.
The centrepiece is without question the massive multi-media Woodstock room which features a drum set used by Keith Moon of The Who, as well as outfits worn by Jimi Hendrix.
In all, there are more than 700 works and documents – clothing, designs, posters, album covers, publications, works of art, photos, archival documents, film clips and music – revealing the lifestyle, dreams and protest movements of a generation.
Revolution continues until October 9. For more info, visit mbam.qc.ca.
FILM AND TV
The 2017 edition of Montreal’s acclaimed Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13 to August 2. An influential leader on the genre film scene, one title that sticks out is the documentary Abu, which chronicles the migration of a conservative Pakistani family to Canada by their Montreal gay filmmaker son Arshad Khan. The doc screens July 16 at 2 pm. For more festival info, visit fantasiafestival.com.
Over at Cinéma du Parc, check out their loving throwback to 1970s midnight-movie screenings, with their really fun Minuit au Parc (Parc at Midnight) series which will screen film classics at 11:30 pm on Friday and Saturday nights throughout July and August, including Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese, Blue Velvet by David Lynch and The Thing by John Carpenter. Other films include Kill, Baby … Kill! by Mario Bava and Donnie Darko by Richard Kelly. For full listings, visit cinemaduparc.com.
The Bell Centre has booked several top acts in July and August, notably Queen with Adam Lambert (July 17), Ed Sheeren (July 19), Hans Zimmer (July 30), Coldplay (August 8 and 9), Linkin Park (August 10), One Republic (August 11), country star Keith Urban (August 12), teen sensation Shawn Mendes (August 14), Kendrick Lamar (August 24) and Bruno Mars (August 29 and 30).
In addition to Osheaga (August 4-5-6), Parc Jean Drapeau will also host Metallica (July 19) and the reunited Guns N’ Roses (August 19). Interesting trivia: A riot broke out when Metallica and Guns N’ Roses co-headlined Olympic Stadium back in August 1992 on an ill-fated tour.
Notable shows this month include Montreal punk legends Ripcordz at Piranha bar (July 25), Echo and The Bunnymen at the Corona Theatre (August 12), Australian rock icons Midnight Oil at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier at Place des Arts (August 23); and classic rockers Styx headline the Strangers in the Night charity benefit at Fairview Pointe Claire (August 25).
The 31st annual Festival International Nuits d’Afrique runs from July 11 to 23. Highlights include Grammy-nominated Amadou et Mariam — icons in their home country of Mali — at Metropolis (July 13); one of Jamaica’s “Reggae Revival” leaders, Jesse Royal, headlines Théâtre Fairmount (July 14); and hotly-anticipated Seun Kuti (son of late, great Afrobeat king Fela, and younger brother of Femi Kuti) and his band Egypt 80 from Nigeria headline a big outdoor free show on the Parterre of Quartier des spectacles (July 19 at 9:30 pm). For more information, visit festivalnuitsdafrique.com.
Last but not least, after the tremendous success of last summer’s free outdoor concert by The Jacksons at Just For Laughs – “That was a really exciting show, especially to have such big attendance like that,” Jermaine Jackson told me recently – the comedy festival is bringing in two beloved music bands to headline two free outdoor shows at the Place des Festivals: The Village People (pictured at top) on July 17, and Kool & the Gang on July 30.
Authors in Undies will, uh, showcase six English and French writers who will read from their work in their underwear, onstage at Montreal’s famed Stock Bar gay-male strip joint (but everybody is welcome), on August 18 at 5:30 pm. Invited authors include Jeffrey Luscombe, Brian Peters, Mylene St. Pierre and Thomas Waugh, and the literary evening will be hosted by the inimitable VassyLyne Towers.
Before there was RuPaul, there was Lady Bunny. The global drag icon brings her latest show Trans-Jester@ – which my buddy Michael Musto calls “the most screamingly gratifying, crap-your-pants funny show in town” – to Cabaret Mado on July 20. Buy your tickets here.
If you’re looking for more hilarity, Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival runs from July 12 to 31. Some of the headliners making their way to our city’s famed yuk-fest are the Jerry Seinfeld & Gad Elmaleh double bill, Kevin Hart, Trevor Noah, Judd Apatow, Ali Wong, Sugar Sammy, David Spade and Howie Mandel.
Craig Ferguson also returns for one night only, two shows on Saturday, July 29, at the Monument-National. And Laverne Cox of Orange Is the New Black hosts The Laverne Cox Gala on July 29 at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier.
“I love Montreal, it’s beautiful,” Laverne told me. “I tried speaking French but they knew from my accent that I was American. I love Montreal. And I’m really excited about hosting my gala. I am thrilled that Just For Laughs – which I watch in airplanes when I’m flying around the world – invited me! I think laughter heals, and our world is really troubled right now and we need more laughter.”
Not to be upstaged on their 35th birthday, Just For Laughs will dish the dirt on its hometown in honour of Montreal’s 375th anniversary at the Montreal: An Intervention Gala on July 31, featuring Jay Baruchel, Corey Hart, Brittany LeBorgne, Rachid Badouri, Caroline Rhea, Jimmy Carr, Alonzo Bodden, Mark Critch and DeAnne Smith.
The Just For Laughs Festival runs from July 12 to 31. For more information and tickets, visit www.hahaha.com.
Montréal will host the inaugural Fierté Canada Pride parade and festival from August 10 to 20. Modelled on EuroPride and WorldPride, Canada Pride Montréal 2017 will feature a sports tournament, two international LGBTQ human rights conferences, as well as a wild choice of over 200 activities, including DJ sets and free large-scale concerts every night.
Some 80 Pride organizations from across Canada will also take part in the August 20 Pride parade.
Entertainment highlights include a concert by Canadian pop icon Nelly Furtado on August 18; Montréal is proud, presented by Sirius XM Canada, with Gregory Charles and Marie-Mai on August 11; Supernovas with rock stars David Usher and Jonas on August 16; Drag Superstars starring 12 contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race – including 2017 winner Sasha Velour – on August 17; Québec drag icon Mado Lamotte’s 30th anniversary celebration on August 12; Montréal drag legend Michel Dorion hosts her annual Illusion drag extravaganza showcasing drag stars from across Canada – including the 85-year-old Canadian doyenne of drag, Michelle DuBarry – on August 19; and the post-parade Mega T-Dance on August 20 kicks off at 1 p.m.
These free outdoor shows will be presented at Parc des Faubourgs, the festival’s new principal outdoor venue at the Eastern end of Montréal’s Gay Village, which can accommodate 30,000 spectators. The second site for performances and dancing remains at Place Émilie-Gamelin, located at the Western end of Montréal’s Gay Village.