By George! Fun at Shaw’s Festival

George Gershwin was unquestionably one of America’s finest popular composers. George Kaufman wrote some of Broadway’s wittiest plays. The confluence of these giant talents at the Festival (at Niagara-on-the-Lake) named for George Bernard Shaw is a serendipitous event worthy of your attention. Kaufman’s Pulitzer-prize winning play, You Can’t Take It With You (written with Moss Hart), offers one of the most delightfully eccentric families ever to grace the elegant Festival Theatre stage.

At the smaller Royal George Theatre, there is A Foggy Day, based on the George (and Ira) Gershwin musical film, Damsel in Distress. It features such memorable songs as A Foggy Day in London Town and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

The show is very loosely based on an old P. G. Wodehouse play called A Damsel in Distress, which in turn served as the basis for the 1937 Astaire musical film of that name. But this lively production leans more heavily on satirizing the stuffy English upper crust of the time and also includes some Gershwin songs from other sources.

The energetic cast is headed by Jeffry Denman and Stephanie McNamara, but special mention shod be made of Todd Waite, as the quintessential silly-ass Brit, who very nearly steals the show.

Denman’s Astaire-like dancing – and William Orlowski’s deft choreography – are also added assets.

As for the Kaufman-Hart play, it’s an absolute gem, loaded with laughs, both spoken and visual. The superb cast is headed by Lewis Gordon, Colombe Demers, Mike Shara and Mary Haney. Director Neil Munro deserves special mention as well, for his flawless staging.

Aura sings Laura
Treat yourself to the marvellous singing of Aura Borealis, whose new CD, I Found Love Again, is also the title of one of the five songs she wrote just for the occasion. The other dozen songs are mostly old favourites, including The Nearness of You, The Way You Look Tonight, Let There Be Love and Laura.

Aura has a remarkable vocal range, admirable control and impeccable taste. Her feeling for jazz is evident on this CD and she includes a little scat singing. But she sings mostly ballads and performs them flawlessly.

She’s backed by a splendid small group headed by her husband, the formidable percussionist Ron Rully. There’s also some unusually sensitive piano and flute work by Bernie Senensky and Michael Stuart, respectively. The rapport between Aura and the group is a musical jewel.

When Ron and Aura appeared with Duke Ellington at Carnegie Hall, the New York Times critic wrote: "Aura made as dramatic and sensational a Carnegie Hall debut as even the fevered mind of an old-time Hollywood script writer could imagine… Dancing across notes way up on the thresholds of the limits of hearing, ending with a high note flourish that brought the packed house to its feet cheering."

Gabereau Live lives
Although it’s in re-runs now, Vicki Gabereau’s lively talk show from Vancouver is set for a second year on CTV. The quirky, irreverent Gabereau made the transition from CBC radio to private television last fall and proved her coast-to-coast appeal when she took her show to Halifax for a week last winter.

I admit to being an unabashed Gabereau fan ever since we worked together on radio back in the 1980s. She has the knack of being able to get even the most reticent guests to talk freely and entertainingly.

Birthday bash
Sorry I didn’t know about it sooner, but there was a mammoth birthday bash in Halifax last May to honour Dutchie Mason on his 60th birthday. The Truro-based Dutchie is known as "the Prime Minister of the Blues," and the party, held at the Halifax Metro Centre, featured entertainment by numerous blues performers based in Nova Scotia.

Thanks to Creelman L. MacArthur of Halifax for sending me this information, and I regret that I couldn’t get it into an earlier column. Anyway, happy birthday, Dutchie.

Old-timers’ show
A tip of the hat to The Jerry-At-Trick Revue, an annual show to aid the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Both audience and performers are mostly seniors. The group call themselves the Mel Lastman Players. Some 30 performers are in the cast of this happy revue and Harry Harding, a veteran of 1950s vocal groups, serves as M.C.and producer/director. Earl Parnes, a long-time colleague of Harry’s, is music director.

This year’s revue will again be at the Fairview Library Theatre starting Sept. 2 and running through Sept. 12. For more information call the theatre at (905) 881-8011 or (416) 665-3934.

Signs of our times
This one is in the window of the Video King in Stouffville: "Customers Wanted. No Experience Necessary."