City Something July 26-Aug.1

Monday's Top Picks for arts and entertainment in Victoria for July 26-Aug. 1

Jackie Richardson stars in the Belfry Theatre's production of Big Mama! The Willie Mae Thornton Story, opening Thursday, July 26.

Jackie Richardson stars in the Belfry Theatre's production of Big Mama! The Willie Mae Thornton Story, opening Thursday, July 26.

Big Mama! The Willie Mae Thornton Story


The Belfry Theatre is kicking off its new season by filling the former baptist church with the sounds of soulful blues.

A co-production with the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Big Mama! The Willie Mae Thornton Story brings Canadian jazz powerhouse and award-winning actress Jackie Richardson to the Belfry stage for the first time in the starring role.

Richardson’s commanding voice and exceptional charisma are a perfect fit for Thornton, the originator of such hits as “Ball ’n’ Chain” and “Hound dog.”

Big Mama! takes a glimpse into the life of this legendary female musician working in a man’s world on Chirstmas Eve in the early ’70s, complete with a full band featuring local Juno-nominated bluesman Bill Johnson (guitar), Andy Graffiti (drums) and music director Ron Casat (keys).

Big Mama opens Thursday, July 26 at 8pm and runs Tuesday to Sunday until Aug. 19. Matinees Wednesdays (1pm) and Sundays (2pm). Tickets at or 250-385-6815. M


Night Birds

East coast surf punk maniacs Night Birds (New Jersey/New York) are coming to Logan’s Pub on their first ever West Coast tour. They blend a distinct shimmering surf guitar sound over a searing early 80’s hardcore back beat.

B-Movies, horror stories and post apocalyptic nightmare images are the lyrical order of the day.

They are bringing their friends Big Eyes (Seattle) along for the ride. Big Eyes exude a sound that leans more to the pop side of punk rock. Catchy and fun.

Calgary’s Sheglank’d Shoulders are flying into Victoria just to play this show (they love Night Birds that much!).

Opening it all up are local buffet punks The Hoosegow. Continuing to celebrate their tenth anniversary with a string of great shows, this is the shining jewel in the crown. The punk rock show of the summer!

Tues., July 31 at 9pm. Tickets are $12 in advance (Talk’s Cheap, Ditch Records and Absolute Underground) or $15 at the door.  M

—By Ty Stranglehold


Mamma Mia!

“You’re too young for Broadway,” is what Alison Ewing heard when she first auditioned for the role of Tanya in the hit Mamma Mia! Ewing was 28 at the time, and it took her 10 more years to land the role.

The producers thought she had talent, but couldn’t cast her as a 40-year-old cougar on her first audition.

“I was amazed that they had me on file for so long, but they looked at my resume and said ‘OK maybe she is the right age now?’” said Ewing. “I got the part finally.”

Mamma Mia!  has been a hit with audiences all over North America thanks to its North American tour and the popularity of the 2008 movie starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried.

“A big blockbuster hit, like the movie, really caused a lot of non-theatre goers to come see our play. People tell us that the movie is wonderful, but that it is much more amazing to see it in person,” says Ewing.

In the world of theatre, a show tends to last no more than five years on tour, but Mamma Mia! has managed to double that.

“It’s been ten years and it’s still selling out. I give a lot of credit to the movie, which made that resurgence happen,” says Ewing.

Many people assume that Mamma Mia! is the theatre’s equivalent of a chick flick, however, Ewing ensures “it is a fun musical for people of all ages. A lot of men have been dragged along that ended up saying, ‘That was my favourite musical.’ ”

Ewing also enjoys how different she is from the high maintenance Tanya.  A self-described, down-to-earth girl, she is the complete opposite of diamond-clad, Louis-Vuitton-totting Tanya. “When I walk out of the stage door, people don’t recognize who I am because I look so different on stage,” says Ewing.

Mamma Mia! will appear at the Royal Theatre from July 31- Aug. 5. Tickets can be purchased at the McPherson Box Office and online at If you attend the show be sure to stay past curtain call as the audience is encouraged to dance and clap along with the cast after the final bow.

—By Clare Walton


Duke & The Robobabes

Looking for a little fusion that is sure to delight your ear buds, tickle your soul and keep you dancing all night long?

Check out Duke & The Robobabes, a modern indie band that combines folk and rock ‘n’ roll to crate a unique sound all of its own. Their music is versatile and draws in the young and old, the hipster and the cowboy.

Featuring Wesley Scott, Stephan Butler, Kyle Hagen, Steve Letts and Emily Coldwell, Duke & The Robobabes came together a year ago.

Butler and Scott both previously played  with hard rock bands, Butler with Rock, Paper, Satan and Scott with the Rodney King Orchestra.

“We wanted to experiment with fusing folk music and rock ‘n’ roll, where [Butler] was on ukulele and I on guitar, working together with harmonizing vocals. I called up my old friend and jazz drummer Kyle Hagen, and he had a cool bass-playing roommate named Steve Letts, so we all got together and put together some decent tunes over time. More recently we’ve added a female vocalist, Emily Coldwell, into the mix with hopes of adding to the dynamic of things,” says Scott.

Stephan and Wes collaborate on the initial stages of song writing, but ultimately everyone in the band comes together and has their input.

“A lot of our music is about love or heartache, but we have songs that tell stories of astronauts, cowboys, the mafia – it is pretty diverse and interesting. The topics will probably change as we do, improving as we do as a band, but ultimately matters of the heart will always be relevant,” says Scott.

As their band as evolved their sound has developed to where they are, “Definitely more interested in harmonies and obtaining a full sound now. Its not just about doing a cutesy acoustic set anymore, but also about making the best sounding music we can, so we like to incorporate a wide range of styles and sounds.”

The members are very passionate about what they do and have been tirelessly working at perfecting their sound. They are not a bunch of musicians who get together for a jam, then play a show. They are artists who come together to create art for all to enjoy. Their music is versatile and draws in the young to old, the hipster to the cowboy.

Butler says: “A cowboy told me our music was toe tappin’ and he was going to see us play again. A COWBOY! Neat!”

Duke & The Robobabes has spent their time writing furiously, practicing regularly, recording new demos and performing gigs around Vancouver Island. They have been playing at Hanks Angel’s Open Mic Monday at Bart’s for the last while and are currently in the studio recording a three-track EP of their songs, “Robot’s Mind,” “We Don’t Have To,” and “Clementine.”

Scott says they are hoping to release the EP later this year  and “ultimately we’d love to make a full length album and take over the nation with a cross-country tour. One step at a time for now though.”

More information about the band can be found on their website,

Check out their unique sound at Duke’s Big Cambie Music Party with Hawk & Steel, and The New Colors. Saturday, July 28 at 8pm at the Cambie (856 Esquimalt). $10.

— By Sheena Graham