Category Archives: Theatre


Thanks to funny ladies SHANNON McDONOUGH and MAGGIE CASSELLA for inviting me to their final V is for Variety show at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (Toronto) last Friday.  Their V shows will return in the fall but for this last laff-fest before their summer hiatus, the audience was treated to some insanely funny (i.e. f*cking hilarious!!) monologues from Shannon (below) and Maggie (lower pic)….11707424_10155686975205018_8005997095153765894_n maggie… emotional and insightful observations on life presented by my old friend from 1980’s Yuk Yuk’s days, writer & producer of TV & film hits like Miss Congeniality, Family Ties, Desperate Housewives, KATIE FORD (below).  A lot of folks were sniffing and wiping eyes after Katie’s gentle reminder about finding beauty and joy in simple everyday things.KatieEngaging young singer and writer Jennifer Walls also shared a few songs accompanied by Chris Tusjiuchi on piano. Jennifer actually performed her own show, Amazing Women, in the theatre right after the V is For Variety show. Whew…that girl has energy to spare!
One of the show-stopping sketches performed by Shannon & Maggie was an updated version of the great 70’s TV show All in the Family, with Archie & Edith discussing their grandson Joey (below) that had the audience squirming with laughter and recognition of the underlying message of acceptance and love (an eerie premonition of what was to happen within 48hrs in Orlando?!).archie & edithMaggie and Katie recently formed a creative alliance, Ford Cassella Productions, that will be bringing us lots more laughs so I encourage you to follow them @FordCassella on Twitter and Facebook, plus Periscope and Instagram.

Thank you to all the entertainers for a fabulous evening of entertainment, and make sure you catch the next V is for Variety show when it relaunches in September.


Join me for another virtual trip to one of Ontario’s most picturesque and charming historic towns, PORT HOPE, that sits on Lake Ontario, just 50 minutes east of Toronto. With the Ganaraska River flowing through the downtown, it’s a photographer’s delight, as you will soon see here. My PR intern Gabriella Luchetta is a talented young photographer and most of the photos featured here are hers.  So let’s get started….the first stop on any trip to Port Hope is always Queenie’s Bake Shop. The food, the staff and customers all contribute to that warm welcoming “olde worlde” feel and I recommend Queenie’s for all your refreshment needs. Check out the foodie fun Gabs and I enjoyed with master baker, chef and owner Adam Pearson (below) doing his best “meals on wheels” impression!.DSC08217 File 2016-02-04, 7 17 38 PMFile 2016-02-04, 7 16 13 PMFile 2016-02-04, 7 15 13 PMNext, we went next door to visit the king of bling…the god of glitz himself, Kenneth Bell. I can always find something fabulous there and Ken makes everyone feel so welcome. You HAVE to visit his wonderful jewellery and accessories store – you can find something for every taste from Audrey Hepburn to Rihanna – Ken will kit you out perfectly! DSC08224 DSC08227 DSC08239



After Gabriella and I injected a little moolah into Ken’s cash register, we went up the street to visit a few more retail friends of mine….here we are at Bubbles & Gems checking out some cool cushions and their “Purse Gallery”  bubblesandgems.comDSC08255 DSC08256 DSC08259Had a blast playing store clerk with Tammy at Susan Dewhurst Limited, a fab fashion boutique that carries so many stylish yet easy to wear designers….and I always buy a pair of their cute socks each time I drop in. Sadly the store will be closing in the Spring as owner Susan is retiring so get your butt in there soon as the deals are going fast.File 2016-02-04, 7 20 46 PM DSC08271 DSC08267 DSC08263

see my new Buddha socks!

see my new Buddha socks!

Further along Walton Street, we passed the stunning floral display in A.D. Holton Flowers. They always put on a fantastic show in their windows.DSC08278 20160204_134153Diane, owner of Joie de Vivre, the sweet smelling bodycare and aromatherapy shop, welcomed us and told us that she’s in the process of moving into a larger store further down the street (45 Walton) in the Spring. The product lines she carries are so lovely and luxurious (see below), and I wish her continued success as she moves into the new space.DSC08288 DSC08287 DSC08290

We decided to stick our heads in the gorgeous old Capitol Theatre (, an historic building that rivals Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre. This year’s calendar of shows and concerts include Broadway hits like The Wizard of Oz, Mamma Mia, Crazy For You, August: Osage County and they welcome many professional touring companies. We were greeted by Lynn (with me below) who gave us a tour of the lobby bar and popcorn concession as well as the beautifully decorated theatre itself.DSC08205 DSC08206 20160204_120615 20160204_120636File 2016-02-04, 7 14 55 PMNow it was time to drop in on Teri who runs G. Facey’s, one of the coolest fashion boutiques in PH…they carry both men’s and women’s fashion-fwd clothing and accessories and it was so nice to be welcomed in such a warm fashion (Gabs, you really shouldn’t photograph me from behind…argh!) DSC08300 DSC08301We then wandered the streets checking out the sights and signs of the town….DSC08220 DSC08292 DSC08294 20160204_140405Now this sign in the window made us giggle way too much. A couple of locals walked by and gave us a wide berth as Gabs and I were making suggestive comments about how we need to experience “a handful of fun”…haaa haaa haaa20160204_140145We headed down to the Ganaraska River to take the obligatory “touristy” shots like these…20160204_140427 DSC08318 DSC08319and here’s my “touristy” video of the fast-flowing river.

By now, it was time for afternoon tea so back to Queenie’s we went for some sustenance before we hit the beach then home to T’rona!File 2016-02-04, 7 23 38 PM DSC08317 File 2016-02-04, 7 23 27 PMJust time for a few more snaps before we left….DSC08251 DSC08252DSC08324You can check out our visit to the Port Hope beach in the previous blog – what a fun day and both Gabriella and I look fwd to the next visit when we can check out other stores, the B&Bs and maybe the nature trail & boardwalk once the weather gets a little warmer. See you soon, Port Hope!File 2016-02-04, 7 26 10 PM




After 20 years of producing and performing in Toronto’s favourite family holiday musicals, Ross Petty will hang up his Spanx and take his final boo as Captain Hook in a brand new production of PETER PAN, The 20th Anniversary Family Musical PANto-monium now playing at the Elgin Theatre in downtown Toronto.  While Petty will continue to produce the annual family holiday musical, this year will be his final stage appearance as a notorious evil-doer and the last opportunity for the exquisitely twisted form of love he revels in as ‘the man who must be booed.’peter-pan139-e1432559389141Joining Ross for his “glorious goodbye” are Panto stalwarts Eddie Glen (TweedleDum/Smee) who has appeared in 12 of the 20 productions; and Dan Chameroy (Tinkerbum) who starred in the first panto production at the Elgin Theatre in 1996 as the titular Robin (2)Yes, this is the story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up and his evil nemesis Hook. The title role of PETER PAN is played by the super cute Anthony MacPherson, a brilliant singer, dancer and actor. The hilarious (and glamorous) Jessica Holmes (below) plays the very frisky Queen of HeartsJordan Clark is Alice and Steffi DiDomenicantonio plays Wendy. The dapper Mad Hatter is played by Lamar Johnson and the ever-smiling Cheshire Cat is purrformed (!) by Taveeta Szymanowitcz.Jessica Holmes as the Queen of HeartsWhile I was unable to attend this glorious extravaganza of the absurd (whew, what a mouthful!) myself, my friend Ayda (9yrs old) who lives down the hall went on my behalf with her mum and dad and she came home with her head filled with wonder and a whole list of great things to say about the show. Here is what she told me:

The mixture of scenery, costumes, make-up and dancing made the prefect onstage cake. Mmmm, yum…just the right amount of each ingredient (you can tell Ayda loves to cook, eh?).   The costumes were amazing, especially the Queen of Hearts who was dressed in a big poofy red sparkly gown. The Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat looked awesome, too.  The stage was designed with lots of colourful scenery and made me feel like I could actually be in Wonderland. The actors and actresses all did a good job and I loved it when the Queen of Hearts called Peter “Fwying Pan” in her weird accent. Haa haa haa. All of us in the audience could sing along with the songs which were re-written with new lyrics to match what was happening on stage. My parents and I danced in our seats to a special version of “Uptown Funk”. Yes, I loved Peter Pan in (3)So take the hint from Ayda and take your family to see this traditional Christmas show that is so much a part of the British theatre heritage. I myself performed in several Christmas panto’s back in the UK in the early 70’s when I was a bright young actress in the Cheltenham Rep. Company – my fave role was playing Puss in Boots in brown tights, plunging neckline and thigh-high highheeled leather lace-up boots. I think my Puss was a bit more Benny Hill than Mother Goose!!

Tickets are on sale now for PETER PAN, The 20th Anniversary Family Musical PANto-monium, running at the historic Elgin Theatre (below) from now until January 3, 2016.  Follow this link to purchase your tkts: thank-you to FLIP Publicity for my media passes and although I really wanted to go myself (post-surgery aches, pains and fuzzy-headedness prevented me from attending), I know young Ayda was given a real appreciation for actors and live shows; she’s a true theatre convert now.



Award-winning writer/director Dan Spurgeon‘s hilarious homage to 70’s grindhouse movies, THE BABY, debuted live on stage at the Storefront Theatre tonight and if the enthusiastic preview audience is any indication, the play’s gonna be a BIG HIT!20151015_212740The talented cast of local actors bring “high camp” to a whole new level, delivering lines in a manner Benny Hill would envy! New York actor Frank Blocker (below) reprises the role of Mama he made famous in LA when the play premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2013, winning numerous awards as well as critical acclaim. 20151009_222104Jeanie Calleja sparkles as the seemingly good-hearted social worker, Ms. Gentry, but things turn decidedly dark when she meets Baby (below) and the whole Wadsworth family. Jeff Dingle‘s portrayal of Baby the man-child is sweet, hysterically funny and poignant, and he chews up the scenery…including the carpet, the stuffed toys…even his hotsie-totsie babysitter, played by Olivia Marshman!

Photo: John Gundy

Photo: John Gundy

Photo: John Gundy

Photo: John Gundy

Baby’s sisters are over-the-top, wildly funny and played to perfection by Alicia Richardson as Alba, the ultimate wicked yet sexy villainess (below left) and Claire Burns (below right) as Germaine…think Ellie-May Clampett meets Ann Margaret!20151009_213835Winner of Best of Hollywood Fringeand “Top 10 LA Theatre Production” honours in 2013

What the LA Critics said about The Baby:
“Gleefully perverse with a delicious campiness!”  Paul Birchall, LA Weekly
“The most fun I’ve had at a play in a long time!”  Andrew Moore, Mad Theatrics
and my favourite…..   “That was fuckin’ funny!”  Ron Jeremy, adult film legend

But don’t take their word for it….come enjoy this raucous, vulgar, naughty, high camp entertainment yourself.
THE BABY runs now until Nov. 1, 2015 at The Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Showtimes: Tues. thru Sat. @ 8pm & Sun. @ 2pm
Tickets: $20-$25 available from or at the theatre box office.logoCongratulations to the cast and crew…take your well-deserved bows!20151015_212736

“THE BABY” opens in Toronto Oct. 15th – Meet the man who plays Mama

Starting October 15th,  writer/director Dan Spurgeon brings his award-winning hit play THE BABY to Toronto audiences and leading the cast on stage is NY Drama Desk Award nominee FRANK BLOCKER (pictured above)  The multi-talented New York-based actor is making his Toronto theatre debut reprising his celebrated tour-de-force portrayal of Mama Wadsworth, the family matriarch of the play who keeps many secrets. Frank’s off-Broadway appearances include the Drama Desk-nominated Southern Gothic Novel, The Deep Throat Sex Scandal, Fall of the House of Usher, and Obie-winning West/East Village Fragments.  Frank is also a playwright (Southern Gothic Novel; Stabilized Not Controlled; Eula Mae’s Beauty, Bait & Tackle; Patient Number; Suite Atlanta; The Wisconsinners; Good Jew; The Call of Cthulhu).

I recently spoke with Frank who shared his thoughts on reprising his now-famous role of Mama for Toronto audiences, as well as his career on stage and screen.

Frank, you played Mama Wadsworth in the award-winning L.A. production of The Baby – are you eager to present Mama to Toronto audiences?
Excited and yet cautious.  She’s terribly misunderstood. To be honest, I do not want my first role in any town to be “drag” – and it’s really not…so there’s that.  You get labeled for such roles.  Fortunately, I am so unrecognizable in the poster, when my sister saw it on Facebook, she asked if I was involved in the show in some way. mama-wailing-smYou’re also a playwright yourself, so how collaborative was the process for creating this larger-than-life character – how closely did you work with writer/director Dan Spurgeon?
Well, there wasn’t a lot of time – we were in a bit of a rush and there’s 11 people on stage – doing a LOT.  But his direction was pretty clear: that we had to fit into the style and world he wanted.  We’re a B-movie on stage.  You want “bad acting” so to speak, but you don’t want it to BE bad.  To put on the proper veneer for the role – I decided I wasn’t playing the role.  Someone else was.  I play an actress who is playing a part:  a b-movie, has-been, aging actress had found herself cast in a tiny theatrical role amidst actors with varying experience levels.  My “actress” would try to put a positive spin on it – if she didn’t have a positive attitude she wouldn’t have survived in this biz… She had a great role in this “Mama Wadsworth”, one of Shakespearean magnitude.  A tragedy!!  This story (to the “actress) is all about Mama…willing to do anything to save her family and yet, like an Elizabethan play, must die trying.  Suddenly, I had the veneer, but the performance was still real and passionate.  And yes, I use every Shakespearean ‘thing’ I ever learned—more so in this than actual Shakespeare.  Enunciation, projection, dissecting each sentence for pace …it sure wasn’t just throwing on 10 outfits for laughs.  Although that’s pretty dang funny.charlies-angels-smAs an actor, there was the same collaboration as normal but as a playwright, well, there wasn’t much to do, say or help Dan with…When Dan asked me to read it, it worked well, in my opinion.  I had seen the movie many years earlier, and I have worked with lots and lots of playwrights, but in this case all I could offer Dan was, “Don’t change anything—maybe punch up a line here or there but you’ll know when you need that.”  It was a smart and fun adaptation in its first draft.  You don’t mess with someone if you think they found gold…I have seen WAY too many people jump into that type of situation, want so bad to be an affecting part of the art, and they ruin the stew.   The best thing I could do for Dan as a fellow playwright was encourage, then shut up.

You’ve enjoyed much success in comedic roles, in particular edgy outrageous characters – do you prefer more serious dramatic roles or do you relish the more outlandish characters?
When I was working in NYC, I found that my “street cred” friends—the ones I literally did street theatre with—thought it disturbing that my off-Broadway playwriting debut was for something like Eula Mae’s Beauty, Bait & Tackle…in their eyes, it lessened me.   And of course, the street performers and the comedy folk had a hard time understanding that I was classically trained and even like to do that sort of stuff (sometimes).  Then, when I would go to work and do all that smarty-pants-computer-stuff, they would express shock that I got up on stage at all.  What I prefer is a deep, rich character that I think I can bring something to—particularly the “evil” ones.  Again, horribly misunderstood.  In the evil one’s mind, he/she is desperately trying to make what they think is important change—they are a hero.  Outlandish can be fun—chewing scenery is fun—but it always has to be real in the end or you don’t get a single laugh, a single tear, nor a single care from the audience.  I love this role because unlike many comedic parts, it can become rote and/or just plain easy.  This one requires the utmost attention because with 11 people on stage, things just happen.  Truly, I relish the most impossible roles—or whatever someone thinks cannot be done.  Dan and I talked about this role before he put up the audition notice the first time—we were pretty sure it would work this way, but I know we both had some concerns.SNC_JPAbsolute favorite roles of all time – Usher in The Fall of the House of Usher (absolutely nothing funny in that one) and it was incredibly presentational and artsy; Don Quixote going insane in the Don Quixote Project; and all the characters in Southern Gothic Novel…which is funny, outlandish, and very very physically exhausting.  But yes, Mama is probably up there with them…when will I ever get to say, “You’ve got your fucking tit in his mouth and you call that nothing?” again?

You have also appeared in films and on episodic TV (please feel free to share which ones) – how do approach on-camera roles as opposed to live stage performances? 
Not much on-camera, unless you count all those darned short films.  I was in a Law & Order: SVU episode, I’m at the 3:00 mark in a movie called Thanks for Sharing—at a sex addiction meeting, and I show up in the middle of Tales of Halloween (opens in a few weeks) looking devilish and creepy…as if Satan showed up to watch a nasty fight.  I approached that role like most—had the director tell me what he wanted me to do and did what I could to fit the vision.  Worked well in that case—after editing, the role came out differently on film than what the day’s goal was when we filmed it.  But because I trusted the director, he knew what to do in the editing room and actually made my part shine more than it would have originally.  Also, make your director happy in film or you will end up on the cutting room floor.
But on-camera being different?  Only in that you are being photographed instead of watched by live persons, daily.  In film, show up knowing those lines like the back of your hand because EVERYTHING will distract you.  Plus, when it comes time to actually speak them, it takes all of 2 seconds and a crew of a gazillion people are waiting for you…to do it right and with as little extra takes as possible…because they spent all day and night setting up all that shit! AND you have to be able to do it again, exactly, several times over in case multi-shots are needed, or Murphy’s Law is proving itself with the technical aspects.  You do not want to be the actor who F-ed up the consistency or caused the crew to go home even later to their families.  Efficiency and preparedness makes them all much happier.Cthulhu photo verticalAs you played Mama before, how does this run differ from the LA production – do you plan on bringing anything new, special, crazier to your characterization?
I’m not bringing it…Dan is … He wants me to do a song…
That’s the only change.  Of course, the rehearsal process is needed so I can rebuild familial relationships with each of my “children”—they are all very different and it’s very important for the final product…but changing things or ratcheting up the performance would be selfish and would be a disservice to the show.  I get plenty of focus wearing those outfits and saying what I (get to) say—trying to get more would be criminal—and boring as heck to the audience.  We’re a team on this show and have to be one—and every part is truly a lead, down to the single-line party guest asking a simple question.

The only newness I would like to bring is that of already having done it … the “new” thing would be my previous experience with it and that I can back up Dan should anyone wonder, “does this or that work.”  Cuz trust me, it’s sometimes hard to believe we’re doing this show…it is WHACKED.Baby-in-crib-sm judith-axe-smIs this your first time in Toronto? And if so, any touristy sites or extra-curricular activities you plan to experience?
I plan to take a ferry to Toronto Island tomorrow.  I want to see Lake Ontario in person instead of from the plane (though that was nice).  Dan & Drew aren’t much the nature types and I love that stuff…and without a car, that seems like something I can easily get to and transport myself on foot, bus, train, streetcar and/or boat—a simple yet pleasant adventure.  No, I’ve never been to Canada at all.  Have great friends FROM Canada.  And boy, am I still freakin’ PISSED about Sale and Pelltier and it’s been … what?…. 13 years.  There should have been one gold medal team and it sure wasn’t the Russians!  DAMMIT.  Sorry but that one just gets to me….

Any other comments/funny stories or anecdotes you’d like to share?
I’m 50 and I’ve been doing theatre since I was in high school, so yes, plenty of stories: star run-ins, crazy audience members, totally insane theatre producers, certifiably insane artists…BUT specific to this show:  a full year after we closed it, we were at a party thrown by the Ann character.  One of her friends started talking about THE BABY and asked me if I’d seen it.  I said, “You know, actually, I never did get a chance to see it.”  And they went on and on about it—praising Jana Wimer’s (Ann) performance and ‘that guy’ who played the mother.  They quoted a few lines, and then I said one of the lines.  Took ‘em a few minutes, but finally one went, “Wait.  OMIGOD IT’S YOU! (pokes his friend) it’s him…Her…I mean, Mama.  It’s him…her…shit!  … YOU played Mama, didn’t you?”
After the first few rehearsals here for me the sense of joy and passion from the Toronto cast is very exciting.  That makes this show soar.  And these guys are taking to it like ducks to water.Baby-logo-web-banner

About the Show:
A love letter to the sleazy grindhouse cinema of the ’70s, THE BABY follows social worker Ann Gentry as she finds herself with a very unusual case – the Wadsworth family, whose youngest member, Baby, is an adult man who sleeps in a crib and acts like an infant.  Is Ann on the case to help the disabled Baby escape his abusive mother and sisters, or is her interest in him more… special?  Part bizarre love story, part twisted fairy tale, part mystery thriller and all outrageous and offensive, the ’70s cult film comes to the stage with a story so strange and shocking, you won’t believe it’s happening right in front of you!

What the LA Critics said about The Baby:
“Gleefully perverse with a delicious campiness!”  Paul Birchall, LA Weekly
“The most fun I’ve had at a play in a long time!”  Andrew Moore, Mad Theatrics
and our favourite….. “That was fuckin’ funny!”  Ron Jeremy, adult film legend

Show runs: Oct. 15 to Nov. 1, 2015
The Storefront Theatre, 955 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Showtimes: Tues. thru Sat. @ 8pm & Sun. @ 2pm
Tickets: $20-$25 available from