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Dirty Rats

The Rat Pack Crooners

Review by Gena Fisher

Robin Hewitt and Randy Burrows, from The Rat Pack Crooners.Straight from the bar upstairs, ladies and gentleman, may I introduce the Rat Pack: Fred Santora, Dan Larkin and Sunny Mavis are the cool trio of crooners performing live at Vegas by night, and filming their movie Atlantic 11 by day, if they show up.

This summer Eddie May Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre presents, The Rat Pack Crooners at Piazza Joe's in Charlottetown. Eddie May Mysteries is an evening of whodunit, delicious food, crazy antics and loads of fun. The cast of characters bring you back to the days of glitz and glamour-when everyone wants to party with the coolest, hottest guys in show biz, everyone except director, Larry King Cohn, who is played by Jonathan Stewart. But someone will be swimming with the fishes before the evening is through.

From the time the audience sits down to enjoy the buttery mussels, they find themselves involved with a shady group of characters who seem to be coming out of the woodwork. At first the characters are pleasant and introduce themselves, some even flirt a little, but then, bada-bing bada-boom, all hell breaks loose. A shot is fired, and then there were six.

Detective Eddie May, played by Randy Burrows is quick to the scene and introduces critical evidence. A gun, a script, some love letters, and a few other interesting items are carefully examined by everyone in hopes of uncovering the murderer.

It could have been any one of them. For instance, Cohn's girlfriend, Yva Lavina, played by Robin Hewitt, is a beautiful blond bombshell all the guys love, but there seems to be some hostility between her and Fred Santora's wife, Cindy. Cindy Santora, played by Joscelynne Bordeaux, is the mysterious woman lurking in the background while people sip their wine. She's the quiet type who doesn't want to upstage her husband-the one, the only, womanizing Fred Santora, played by Kirk McKinnon-who she adores. Fred's sidekicks, Sunny and Dan, played by Francois Weber and Craig Ramsay, both with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in another, enjoy picking on people at random. In fact one lady from Mississippi read a letter out loud and Sunny heckled her saying, "Speak in your real voice." (Everybody else loved her pretty accent though.) That's what the Rat Pack is like-cutting everyone up but never themselves. It's no wonder somebody tried to kill them.

After three hours of mystery, served with good food, and just the right amount of Rat Pack humour, the murderer is identified by the great detective Eddie May. But he couldn't have done it alone.


Can't Get Enough

Karaoke at The Alberton Arms

by Gena Fisher

Faye Gutierrez, co-owner of the Alberton Arms, gets the karaoke crowd pumped and participating

 Faye Gutierrez, co-owner of the Alberton Arms, gets the karaoke crowd pumped and participatingKaraoke, those who like it, like it a lot. For those of you who are curious, the word karaoke stems from two Japanese words- "kara"+"oke"-which mean empty orchestra.

Karaoke has become widespread in PEI and it's no surprise. "People like to entertain each other and they like to be part of the show," said Faye Gutierrez. Faye and her partner, Dean, are the proprietors of The Alberton Arms, a popular restaurant and pub in Alberton. On Thursday nights, Faye plugs in her karaoke set and turns up the volume. there's not much to it-a monitor, a mic and a kickin' set of speakers.

Before the patrons begin to arrive, a songbook is placed on every table in the pub. The book contains no less than 400 songs in alphabetical order and everything from blues to rock is listed. In order to take part, all an innocent bystander has to do is writer his or her name down on a piece of paper, jot down a choice of song, place the paper on Faye's table, then wait patiently to hear his or her name called.

The karaoke set includes the music. The vocals of the person who has the mic will be what you hear live, not the professionals. Lyrics for the selected song scroll across the monitor and, if at any time a singer looses his or her place, Faye will appear as if by magic to make everything sound all right.

Faye gets the pub pumped by starting off with a handful of songs she knows will start a chain reaction. Soon, little pieces of paper begin to litter her table and one by one people are called up to sing. Faye passes the mic like the Olympic torch and disappears stage right.

"The way I see it, if you screw up, you can just get up and try it again, " said Derrick Arsenault, a.k.a. Moochy. Moochy's favourite music is country and he loves to entertain an audience. He's become quite popular in the karaoke circle and has won prizes for his performances. "It's fun and you have a good time," he said.

There are those who will wail and whine, "Karaoke no way! I am not going up there. Not me." But they are often the people who, when they've held the mic just once, can't get enough of karaoke and will not get off the stage. Faye has this problem with her barmaid, Maryann.

Francine Fitzpatrick finds karaoke relaxing. "Once you're on stage all your troubles seem to fade away," she said.

Jody Hustler's sensuous voice blends particularly well with her musical choice of Abba and Cher. Jody says karaoke gives her and her friends something to do and she likes being part of the entertainment. "It's better than watching bands all the time," said Jody.

Fay applauds all of those brave enough to rise to the occasion, no matter what they sound like. More often than not, though, the sounds are real good.

While the karaoke singers entertain with their lively renditions, others dance surrounded by bubbles from the machine. "Tiny bubbles, in the wine, make me feel happy, make me feel fine...."

Is this Thing On?

A visit to some Open Mic sessions around Charlottetown

by Gena Fisher

Open Mic is as easy to create as any good house party. Plug in one microphone and include a stage no bigger than your average kitchen. Add one or two hosts plus a whole lot of local talent and you never know what you're going to get.

Traditionally on weekends crowds gravitate to city bars. Wednesday and Thursday nights were usually spent in front of the TV but not any more. People are getting off their couches and venturing out into the cold to see live performers at nearby hot spots.

Although Open Mic may be compared to amateur night, Charlottetown hosts are never surprised by who will show up. Dave Howard, host at Brennan's Open Mic, rocked with the patrons when Big Sugar showed up to jam one night. "They were in town to perform a gig and decided to come in for a beer, the rest was magic," he said.

However, musicians don't rule the stage. Other talented performers have captured audiences too. Exotic belly dancers, rhythmic cloggers, comedians and gifted poets have entertained barroom clientele with their antics.

Dave Nicholson, known as Dr. Dave, loves his job as host of open mic at Baba's Lounge. The host's job is to entertain the audience until someone else wants to take to the stage. Often new performers need a little time before they can get up and captivate a bunch of people they may or may not know. Until then, Dr. Dave plays his guitar and sings just about any request people shout out. "But," says, the doctor, "please don't make me play Brown Eyed girl or American Pie again." "Break-dancing is frowned upon, but anything is possible."

Open Mic hosts at Casey's Lounge Scott MacNeil and Brent Barbrick grin big for the camera.

Casey's Pub combines trivia and open mic all in one night but not all in one sitting. Trivia begins an 8 pm with host Stats and when it ends at 10 pm open mic hosts Scott MacNeil and Brent Barbrick begin. "Casey's is the best kept secret in Charlottetown," said manger Corey MacDonald. MacNeil and Barbrick are a team from Nova Scotia who blend witty wisecracks with tunes ranging from traditional to pop. At all times the upbeat duo encourages crowd participation and dancing, why yes.

Open mic has been popular for years. It can prOpen Mic hosts at Casey's Lounge Scott MacNeil and Brent Barbrick grin big for the camera.ovide an open forum for a new artist to be heard for the first time or it can be a place a professional artists might choose to try out some new material.

Participant Larry Yeo sang and played his guitar before a crowd at Brennan's. "It's the crowd-the feeling you get from the crowd. It grips you," he said. Whether it's comedy, music, poetry or dance, open mic is a good time just as long as you remember you can never be sure what's going to let loose. The hosts are all zany musical men and they all agree with Dr. Dave: "There is enough talent here to sink a ship."

A Circle of Friends

Songwriters circles to be hosted by Scott Parsons

by Gena Fisher

Scott Parsons will host songwriters circles

Charlottetown musician Scott Parsons will be the host of three singer songwriters circles this month featuring guests from home and away. Scott, who recently released his new CD Nice To Wear compiled of all original tracks has taken time out of his busy schedule to sit with friends.

A songwriters circle is defined as a group of musicians sitting in a semi circle presenting their songs to each other and an audience. The beauty of the circle is the artists perform solo, with no band backing them up, so an intimate feeling is created.

Performing at the January song circles is Juno award winner Zappacosta. Born in the small town of Sora, Italy in 1953, Alfie Zappacosta moved to Toronto with his parents when he was six months old. He upon a music career in his teens and at first set his sights upon being a guitarist-until, his vocal prowess was uncovered. His credits range from writing and singing jingles for his own production company, to fronting the rock band Surrender, to going solo on his own label, to recording Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar, then A-Z, the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack, Quick...Don't Ask Any Questions, Innocence Ballet and now-Dark Sided Jewel. Promotional hype bills him a "Chameleon," but really, Zappacosta says all he wants to do, is write and perform his music for lots of people. His new project Dark Sided Jewel demonstrates why Zappacosta is and continues to be one of the most respected voices in this country and beyond.

Island-born but Halifax-based, Patricia Murray will add a Celtic flavour to the venue. Murray won the Silver Pendant Award at the 1997 Royal National Gaelic Mod in Inverness, Scotland.

The circle of musicians promises to be an inspirational ear-full of delicious sounds for the listener. The first stop for the circle will be the Rodd Marina Inn & Suites in Montague on January18. Guests will be Zappacosta, Margie Carmichael and Steve Sharratt. The January 19 line up will be Zappacosta, Patricia Murray, James Philips and Catherine MacLellan at the Landing in Tyne Valley. The last circle is January 20 and the venue will be the Kier Gallery in Charlottetown with guests Zappacosta, Brooke Miller, Alan Rankin and Bonnie Leclair. All performances will be from 8 to 10 pm. Come out and join Scott and his circle of friends.

Events Calendar

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