SMOOTH & DANGEROUS: The Voice of David Michael Moote

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In 2017, David Michael Moote auditioned for OPERUS, a newly-assembled metal band with lush, symphonic overtones. Differing from most groups, Operus is composed of highly trained musicians and they needed someone with particular skills. In Moote, they struck pure gold.

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Operus, the band

With a background in classical music, as well as performing in musical theatre, Moote was welcomed as the lead singer. Soon after he joined the band in March, the group recorded their album, Cenotaph. It premieres worldwide this month, under Dark Star Records, an affiliate of SONY. On October 14, the band makes a special appearance at the Rivoli.

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Born on Valentine’s Day 30 years ago, Moote has the look of a matinee idol. His handsome features and athleticism belies that fact that he’s a gifted artist. At age 6, he began singing lessons, and by the age of 8, he had joined the Amabile Boys’ Choir in London, Ontario. Throughout high school, he appeared in special productions for students at the Grand Theatre, including musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, and The Music Man.

More recently, David Michael Moote appeared in the title role of Jesus in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar at Hart House, at the University of Toronto. The show was a hit and after that, he appeared in Oh Canada, What A Feeling!, a flashy musical review of Canadian pop songs. The show played to big audiences at Caesar’s Palace in Windsor, Ontario, and the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. This past summer, Moote was the lead in a production of the musical Urinetown at the Stephenville Theatre Festival in Newfoundland.

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While a central figure in OPERUS, David Michael Moote plans to continue expanding his versatility as a singer, actor, and performer. Hopefully, it won’t be long before we see him on TV and in the movies. Moote is an accomplished song writer, too, so it would come as no surprise if he winds up writing soundtracks as well.

Sample of the Sound:

Tickets at the Rivoli, Saturday, October 14, 2017

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David Michael Moote

Photos by Burke Campbell

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(Left to Right)
Oscar Rangel (guitar/backing vocals)
Wojciech Sokolowski (bass/backing vocals)    David Michael Moote (vocals)                                                     Robin Howe (cello/backing vocals)
Rob Holden (guitar)
J. J. Tartaglia (drums)

OPERUS could never be considered ordinary. All of its musicians are highly trained, exceptional in their individual talents. The band merges a melodic, symphonic sound with the aggressive drive of metal, embellished with soaring, often haunted vocals.  Key members have knowledge of theatre and performance, and to see OPERUS live on stage, straight up, is electrifying. The band knows all the rules; how to break them all to hell.

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In Cenotaph, the Operus creates a forceful symphony, full of stories, rather like fairy tales, epic in scope.

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The album contains finely controlled music, and lyrics that echo the inner life of those who have conquered, suffered exile, known war, travelled distant lands, found love, and felt its desolation. The songs can be interpreted in many ways, from many different angles. The complex album seems to lie outside of any given epoch or era.

The project began in 2009, as Oscar Rangel’s sought to create new compositions, evading the limits of any particular catagory. From then on, the work morphed in many ways, finally evolving into Cenotaph. For almost a decade, the band added and subtracted core members, until, at present, these men comprise Operus:

David Michael Moote (vocals)
Oscar Rangel (guitar/backing vocals)
Wojciech Sokolowski (bass/backing vocals)
Rob Holden (guitar)
Robin Howe (cello/backing vocals)
J. J. Tartaglia (drums)

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The album is released worldwide on October 13, 2017 via Dark Star Records in Association with MVD Entertainment and Sony Music.
Get an idea of the music here:


Premiere performance in Toronto:


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All photos by Burke Campbell


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The Spaghetti Show, Toronto, 2017. Photo by Burke Campbell


This week, I made my first visit to The Spaghetti Variety Show, a recurring event, staged by Joel Edmiston and his comrades-in-comedy, stand-up comics and actors. The Spaghetti Variety Show is fast developing a cult following and I can understand why. There is something addictive about watching this theatrical lunacy. The show pulls in a young, smart, attractive crowd.

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Sitting in a basement theatre, in trendy Kensington Market, the stage has the look of studied wreckage. A curtain made entirely of cut up garbage bags, held together with duct tape, veils the backstage area. Plastic sheeting covers the stage to protect it from piles of food that will be thrown or rolled around in. The Spaghetti Variety Show is a kind of frat house drama with possible fetishistic overtones, something like a toga party, but without all the bother. For the record, only the audience knows for sure. All I can say is the place was packed.

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On stage, there is free-flowing lineup of stand-up comic acts. The routines are often interrupted, challenged, and merged with another, free-wheeling drama, enacted by a fabulous cast of characters.

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For this show, the separate and parallel storyline had something to do with a mad-shirtless-scientist creating a raccoon with human emotions, a barefoot robot, and Joel Edmiston’s crisis with his golf instructor. The instructor is having a breakdown over his parent’s forthcoming divorce. His mother develops a crush on raccoon-man and the father seems to secretly lust for Joel. I’m not sure I got any of this right, but that really isn’t the point. I mean, it’s hard to concentrate on details when people are enveloped in food. (The costumes have to be seen to be believed.)

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Somehow, all of these antics are funny as hell, and I couldn’t stop laughing. When I first heard about this event, I actually feared going because randomly silly entertainment can rapidly wear thin. But there is something in the very bones of this enterprise that makes for mad fun. The Spaghetti Variety Show makes you feel great, and there is a marvellous after-glow, too. You think, “Wow. I was right. Adulthood is for suckers!”

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Overall, all the stand-ups and actors are terrific, but Joel Edmiston is a great impresario and one could imagine him doing a late-night show. He just LOVES doing this stuff and it shows. The next Spaghetti Variety Show is scheduled for October 14, so don’t miss it.


I am just praying next time they do a shirtless spaghetti wresting match, with primavera sauce. So good!

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Cast of The Spaghetti Variety Show:

Cassidy Furman
Alex Montagnese
Alex Allan
James Kenny
Ben Siapas
Keagan Moore
Rob Davies
Jordan Laffrenier

Merv Hartlen
Tamara Appleton
Camille Côté
Clare Belford
Ashley Moffat

All photos by Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.


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Adam Bonney and Rosemary Doyle in Burke Campbell’s dark comedy The Lady in Shoes from Hell


I wrote my dark, outrageous comedy, The Lady in Shoes from Hell about 30 years ago. But it was not until I showed it to Rosemary Doyle, the Artistic Director of the Red Sandcastle Theatre, was the work to be fully realized, and imaginatively presented.
The Lady in Shoes from Hell is a Texas tale—simple, diabolical, and sexually impure.


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Rosemary Doyle and Adam Bonney in The Lady in Shoes from Hell


It’s the 1950s. While working in a West Texas cafe, located on the side of a desolate highway, a waitress doesn’t like her tip, kills a cowboy, steals his truck, and speeds off on a wild killing spree that decimates the male population of three states. But this is no ordinary serial killer. In the newly-born atomic age, Thelma is a woman awash in a high-octane obsession, on a sensational journey that takes her to the heart of quantum physics, wrenching apart the forces that bind human love. And that’s even before the audience is properly seated!


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Adam Bonney and Rosemary Doyle in The Lady in Shoes from Hell


In The Lady in Shoes from Hell, wit flies like bullets, and the stage is filled with indecent sex scenes, deadly car chases, graphic lingerie and suggestive footwear that illustrate human depravity. This is a comedy with no brakes.


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Rosemary Doyle and Adam Bonney in The Lady in Shoes from Hell


The set—all modular pieces—permits nimble changes in locations, morphing the stage from a restaurant, to bus station, to a hotel room, and into a car racing down the night road, complete with overhead projections. Collectively, those watching the show react like kids on a joyride, cheering at the end of each scene!
Actors Rosemary Doyle and Adam Bonney, and director Robin Haggerty, captured the play’s comic frenzy.


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Rosemary Doyle in The Lady in Shoes from Hell


The Lady in Shoes from Hell is a true “cult drama” with unforgettable characters, compulsions, and bizarre encounters. Hopefully, this play will find its proper home in a small New York City theatre, off-off-off Broadway, where it can run for a hundred years, like other beloved cult classics such as Lesbian Vampires of Sodom or The Rocky Horror Show.


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Audience at a performance of The Lady in Shoes from Hell


Mooney on Theatre Review:
All photos by Burke Campbell
All rights reserved.


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© Burke Campbell 008 - Rosemary Doyle 2016
Coming Up Soon — The 5th Annual 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Event – 2017

Five years ago, I arrived for the first-ever 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Event at the Red Sandcastle Theatre. Convened by the theatre’s Artistic Director, Rosemary Doyle, the event invited registered writers to converge on the theatre, laptops in hand. Settling in for the next 24 hours, we each create a play. Even more exciting, all the plays are given a reading, the following day(s).

This year, The 1000 Monkeys Play Writing Event begins: August 4, Friday, 6:00 pm and runs until August 5, Saturday, 6:00 pm.

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Readings of the newly minted scripts will then be read on August 6, Sunday at 7:00 pm and on August 7, at 2:00 pm. (Actors, please volunteer for this momentous event!)

To keep the playwrights energized, the theatre itself provides mountains of delicious food, all donated by local restaurants. And boy is it good! All of it comes from Leslieville’s finest like The Roy Public House and Braised, and a number of other places. Ed’s Real Scoop provides Internet connectivity to the playwrights. (see links at end)

I had so much fun the first time, I just kept signing up. I created, in this order, these four plays:
1) Perilous Gossip – 2013
2) Beyond Belief – 2014 (which received a full production, 2015, at the Red Sandcastle)
3) The Wooden Sword – 2015
4) Too Many Surprises – 2016
5) ??? (to be created) – 2017

I urge fellow writers and would-be writers to attend. And actors, please volunteer for the script readings. It’s so much fun !

Contributors and supporters of the Event:

Braised Restaurant and Bar

The Roy Public House

Ed’s Real Scoop (Leslieville)

© copyright by Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.

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Alex Dault’s documentary drama, The Five Points, in Barry, Ontario. Photo by Adrienne Callan.

This production of Alex Dault’s play, The Five Points, premieres in the handsome Mady Centre, on a corner of The Five Points, a series of intersecting streets in downtown Barrie, Ontario. Dault created the drama from hundreds of interviews, gathered by him, and by those who perform in the show. Walking mostly about The Five Points in the dead of winter, the theatre artists asked pedestrians questions like, “What do you like about Barrie?” or “What don’t you like about Barrie?” They made recordings of what the people said.

The idea for the work sprang from a local event in which someone placed a sign on a building front, “What happened to Barrie?” The sign was hung on a wire gate intended to block a space where a homeless person had slept, seeking shelter, a niche to call home. Blocking this space off triggered other events, and inspired the writing of the play.

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The Five Points by Alex Dault. Photo by Adrienne Callan.

Out of all collected transcripts springs The Five Points. The play is a mix of actors demonstrating how they got the interviews fresh off the street. This process is combined with scenes of the characters, going about their lives. The set is mostly stark, a white metal bench placed under overhanging traffic lights.  The actors are also integral to the set, using simple props like rope to show the outline of buildings, or their own bodies to create a car. They move so quickly and nimbly about the stage, they form a tapestry of action.

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The Five Points by Alex Dault. Photo by Adrienne Callan.

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The Five Points by Alex Dault. Photo by Adrienne Callan.

I have seen a number of “documentary plays”, based on interviews with “real people”. Most are dreadful because their intent is to “educate” the public or correct some social injustice. Usually, these docudramas confront the audience, and demand they do something about the problem or at least feel guilty if they don’t. Sitting through one is often a cross between going to the dentist while suffering through a tedious sermon.

The Five Points is, thankfully, nothing like that. It’s a cavalcade of characters and hugely entertaining. The play moves along at a clip, and is often screamingly hilarious.  But it also has more somber moments. Holding up a mirror to the citizens of Barrie, it invites discussion as well as self-examination. Alex Dault is too good a playwright to preach, and he’s too wise to supply easy answers. Fortunately, he knows how to write a play that works.


Dault is fortunate in his cast. All the actors are quite wonderful. But I must single out Iain Moggach, who is given a plum of a speech at the end, and he delivers the heart of the work with astonishing skill. Joshua Doerksen’s soundscape is masterful, as always.

The city is in part shaped by geography and weather. In winter, Barrie is pelted by horrendous snowstorms. In summer, it’s heaven on earth, situated on beautiful Kempenfelt Bay. Once a small town, Barrie has grown enormously in the past few years. The citizens are proud of its expansion. But new wealth has brought problems like soaring rents, too many condos, and the homeless. Sadly, many of the homeless drift about, victims of mental issues. There is a growing drug culture, too, which flows from the top down and the bottom up, and seeds the problems of urban living.

The people of Barrie cling to the memory of the place in simpler times. But all they have to do is look around and see how things are not as they were.

Today, the city sits at a crossroads, and you can see it at The Five Points. Right in the middle of The Five Points sits the handsome Mady Centre, but from the windows, one can see drug dealers wandering the streets. (I know because drug dealers do actually dress like dealers, the same as in my neighborhood in Toronto.) And then, a block away is Kempenfelt Bay, where the affluent park their pleasure boats, enjoy a beer, and entertain their guests.

We live in a world where we can now communicate instantly, at every hour. And yet, what we see happening in our cities is the growth of personal isolation; the unravelling of any concept of “neighbourhood” and “community”.  With a deft hand, Alex Dault’s play reminds us that behind all the new buildings, and urban planning, a city must be a community, a gathering place, held together by intertwining stories. The veins and arteries must all connect, or the body does not truly live.

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The Five Points by Alex Dault. Photo by Adrienne Callan.

One last note: I’d just like to say that this kind of drama competes very well with the quality of plays in Toronto, and I hope those in Barrie understand that this level of theatrical enterprise contributes heavily to the tourism. The productions by Theatre by the Bay offer a level of sophistication available in big cities, and it’s nice to see Barrie investing in this valuable resource. Also, I believe this production would be understood in any town or city. It’s specific to Barrie, but it’s such a human tale, and so universal, any audience would identify with it.

The Creative Team:

Alex Dault – Director; Beth Elliot – Production Manager / Technical Director; Rosalind Naccarato – APM; Kathleen Hemsworth – Stage Manager; Julia Duiella – ASM ; Composer / Sound Designer: Joshua Doerksen; Composing Musicians: Corey Dzula, Zach Franchetto, James Laxton, Brandon Davenport; Script Supervisor / Dramaturge / Choreographer: Brandon Crone ;Lighting Designer: Melissa Joakim; Set Designer: Joe Pagnan ;Costume Designer: Abigail Kennedy; Props Master: Vera Oleynikova; Fight Director: Jonathan Langley

Assistant Director & Ensemble: Chloe Payne

Ensemble (Actors):  Iain Moggach, Thomas Williams, Bilal Baig, Joanna Keats, Victoria Urquhart,  Alexandra Simpson, Holly Wyder, Sarah Bransfield, Andrew Cameron, Chloe Payne

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Director/Playwright Alex Dault (in green) giving notes to the cast immediately after a preview of his play, The Five Points. Photo by Burke Campbell



© by Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.


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(Left to right) Kyle Bailey, Alexander Thomas in Stephen Joffe’s Letters to Annabelle. Photo by John Gundy.

Last night, I took in Stephen Joffe’s new play, Letters to Annabelle, at the MAY Cafe, premiering during the Fringe festival. The Fringe offers around 100 theatrical events, all of them  now running at venues across the city. But Letters to Annabelle stands out, for several reasons. When the play starts, you think you are about to watch a sentimental cliché. But rather quickly, conventional characters grow more complex, there are twists and turns, the mood grows darker, and a mature narrative opens seductively, like a poisonous blossom.

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Vanessa Trenton and Kayle Bailey in Letters to Annabelle. Photo by John Gundy


The play is staged in a real bar, so you can order drinks, as well as food. The atmosphere of the MAY Cafe adds beautifully to the ambiance of the work. Even better, lovely dance girls loll about the room in filmy lingerie and negligees, and piano music fills us with cheer. Soon the audience feels part of the play’s fabric.  Director Yehuda Fisher knows pacing and he allows solid actors to listen to their instincts. The work unfolds both briskly and slowly, creating its own rhythm.

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Cast of Letters to Annabelle. (left to right) Vanessa Trenton, Anne van Leeuwen, Alexander Thomas, Kyle Bailey. Photo by John Gundy

As noted,  Letters to Annabelle begins as a familiar story. It’s the end of World War I. A young handsome Canadian soldier, Pt. Liam Crane, well played by Kyle Bailey, returns to a bar in Montreal. There he searches for a girl, the beautiful Annabelle, played by the vivacious Anne van Leeuwen. Although they met only for a short time, Annabelle remains the love of Crane’s life, a treasure in his memory.

In Montreal, Pt. Crane questions the bartender and owner, Louis-Andre, but finds no girl named Annabelle. Louis-Andre is philosophical, gruff; evasive.  The actor Alexander Thomas gives us Louis-Andre, a grand mix of sly negotiator, gentlemanly manners, and a generous heart. As with all in this play, nothing is as it seems, and we begin to see the more sinister aspects of the bartender’s pragmatism. This is one of those noteworthy characters that a gifted actor can awaken, and Alexander Thomas rises to the occasion. He both enchants and repels.

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Anne van Leeuwen in Stephen Joffe’s Letters to Annabelle. Photo by John Gundy.

Pt. Crane’s quest for Annabelle is stalled by his predicament. The soldier has empty pockets, bad memories of the war, and secrets of his own. Louis-Andre supplies him with food, clothes, shelter, and employs him for ‘errands’.  One of the bar’s entertainers, a girl named Maggie May (Vanessa Trenton), in fact, a childhood acquaintance of Crane, tries to help him solve the mystery that surrounds Annabelle. Trenton is very good in this part. She knows how to put on a bright face, while hiding her own heart, information, and obsessions.

Letters to Annabelle is a well-crafted thriller, in fact, a film-noir written for the stage. Playwright Stephen Joffe pays attention to every detail, and as the mystery unfolds, the audience knows they are in the hands of a careful writer. We fall willingly under his spell, as he closes his velvet fist around us.


Joffe is a diverse, interesting, and accomplished artist. He has acted since his youth, is presently the lead singer of a successful band, Birds of Bellswoods, and he writes beautifully. But what makes him unique is that he does all of it with astonishing skill. As an actor, he has the potential for true greatness. And his writing demonstrates an economy and virility that most would not attempt.

Without a doubt, play writing is the most difficult of the literary art forms. Even a small play can have a hundred moving parts and each must coordinate with the other to form a unified story. Information must be delivered seamlessly so that all of it is heard and understood by a live audience. Any good playwright knows it is hard as hell to take a worn out story, make it new, give it depth, and surprise an audience. And that’s what Stephen Joffe has managed to do with Letters for Annabelle. One feels he could easily turn out a screenplay for a movie that would have broad appeal.


I’ve seen Stephen Joffe sing, perform in a band, act in plays, and I’ve attended his plays, performed by other actors. Clearly, Mr. Joffe has an abundance of talent. But even more than that, there is a fascinating perspective that travels through his written work. The playwright operates from a vantage beyond his years. He looks boyish and innocent, but there’s too much experience in his eyes. And what he has observed surfaces in his use of language, its music, and the way he deploys it.

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Stephen Joffe. Photo by Burke Campbell

The author of Letters to Annabelle should be congratulated on his success. It was no easy task to get this drama up and running, and the entire crew should be celebrated. This includes Panfish Productions, Director/Producer Yehuda Fisher; and Assistant Producer Ashley Groves.

Other Members of the Crew:

Lindsay Lowes, Stage Manager; Sydney LaForme, Assistant Director, Assistant Choreographer; Melanie Nablo, Assistant Stage Manager; Danielle Oswald, Choreographer; David Robert Leslie, Fight Choreographer, Knox Harter, Assistant Choreographer; Melanie Garros, Set/Props Designer; Sarah Arrunategui, Costume Designer; Sadie Johnston, Assistant Sound Designer; John Gundy, Photography; Dahlia Katz, Graphic Design; Jesse Fraser, Pianist; Burlesque Performers: Knox Harter, Esther DeVille, Miss Reason.

Special praise to the MAY Cafe for its wonderful hospitality. It’s places like MAY Cafe that make Toronto a great city.

Photos by John Gundy



© copyright by Burke Campbell. All rights reserved.

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