NSTF: Family, community, music & lots of love in the entertaining, heartwarming Tita Jokes

Alia Rasul, Ellie Posadas, Isabel Kanaan, Maricris Rivera, Ann Paula Bautista & Belinda Corpuz. Photo by Martin Nicolas. Cathleen Jayne Calica, stylist.

 

The Tita Collective invites us into Filipin* kitchens, living rooms and lives with its Next Stage Theatre Festival production of its hilariously entertaining sold-out Toronto Fringe 2019 hit Tita Jokes. Created and performed by the Collective and directed by Tricia Hagoriles, the show features music direction and piano accompaniment by Ayaka Kinugawa, choreography by Chantelle Mostacho and animation by Solis Animation. Part Spice Girls-inspired concert, part sketch comedy and all love letter to Titas—aunts in both the familial sense and broader sense of beloved, respected Filipina elders—the ensemble sings, dances gossips and riffs on Filipin* family and community. Tita Jokes is currently running in the Factory Theatre Mainspace.

Playing characters inspired by the Spice Girls (instead of X Spice, it’s Tita X), the Collective—Ann Paula Bautista, Belinda Corpuz, Isabel Kanaan, Ellie Posadas, Alia Rasul and Maricris Rivera—frame the show as a farewell concert. With choreography that incorporates traditional Philippine fan dance, and music that borrows from pop, R&B and musical theatre, the Collective sings, dances and performs hilariously insightful, satirical sketch comedy bits that speak to the heart of Filipin* family and community, with a particular shout-out to the Titas.

The energetic, multi-talented ensemble takes us on and entertaining, often moving, ride as they weave song and dance with sketch comedy bits. Filipin* folks will especially enjoy the in-jokes, but you don’t have to be Filipin* to have a blast and laugh along with this peek into the lives, loves and experiences of the community. Highlights include a kitchen table scene between a mother and her two daughters; church ladies gossip and strut their stuff; navigating queer and gender identity in the Filipin* community; and Tita superheroes come to the rescue in a mystery/action adventure story. And even music director Ayaka Kinugawa, supplying live piano accompaniment, gets in on the act!

Tita Jokes is jam-packed with love, family, community and Tita power—and loaded with LOLs and ‘Now you know’ moments.

Tita Jokes continues in the Factory Theatre Mainspace until January 19. You have a few more chances to catch the show during this Next Stage run; check the show page for exact dates, times and advance ticket purchase. Yesterday’s show was so packed, they had to open the balcony—so advance booking is strongly recommended.

Emily Mac’s California daydreamin’ in her first single “California This Winter”

EmilyMac-StairsSinger/songwriter Emily Mac released her first single earlier this week: “California This Winter,” available for download/purchase on iTunes and viewing on YouTube.

Featuring Mac’s powerful and soulful vocals, the arrangement inspired by the R&B, gospel-infused sounds of Motown, “California This Winter” is not just a lament for the season, but one of the heart and soul. The opening lines of the chorus say it all:

I can’t stand the cold of these winters no more                                                                        I can’t stand them getting right deep into my bones                                                                I can’t stand the ice that forms ’round my heart with every break…

The video features some chilly, grey scenes of late fall and winter in Toronto, the orange of the autumn leaves overwhelmed by bare branches and bleak skies in the semi-darkness, followed later by the even bleaker and chillier atmosphere of the light snow flurry on the waterfront.

But fear not, it’s not all icy gloom in this ballad – this dream of escape from a geographic and romantic freeze – there are hints of warmth, light and joy, both lyrical and visual in “California This Winter.” But you’ll just have to watch the video and see for yourself:

You can connect with Emily Mac and her music via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reverbnation and her YouTube channel.

Everything Begins with Love @ Arlene Paculan CD launch

Singer/songwriter Arlene Paculan celebrated the launch of her first full-length CD Everything Begins with Love in a packed room at Gallery 345, Toronto last night.

Super-energized comic pop performer Kat Leonard kicked the evening off, opening with a set of fun, poignant originals and Kat-branded covers, starting with her Johnny Depp ode “Jockstrap” (from her one-woman show/CD A Depper Kind of Love). Mixing her own tunes up with “These Foolish Games” and “Born This Way” (very fitting as Pride Week starts in T.O.), and giving special attention to birthday boy singer/songwriter Matt Gerber, Leonard wrapped it up with her hilarious, self-deprecating tribute to personal foibles “Asshole” (first checking to see if any minors were present – there weren’t yet).

Before Leonard introduced Arlene Paculan and her band, the audience was treated to a screening of Paculan’s recently released video for “Right Behind You”:

Always vibrating with warmth and positive energy, Paculan performed songs from Everything Begins with Love, a follow-up to her I’m Worth It EP, along with some mash-up covers from the likes of Britney Spears and Our Lady Peace. The new CD is a collection of original, sexy – and sometimes edgy – love songs. “If I Only Knew Your Name” speaks to a missed opportunity in a brief, passing moment; “Just Another Guy” is an ode to Iron Man’s Tony Stark; “Nightmare” (which Leonard joined in on back-up vocals) is a warning of romantic revenge, delivered with an acid-dripping smirk; and “Right Behind You” has a subtle edge of desire and desperation behind the driving beat, a craving for reunion with a lost love. “Running” is one of my personal faves – a haunting, longing for love and hanging onto dreams, but needing to let go of fear and stand still to find it.

Paculan’s band included a line-up of excellent musicians: Peter Linseman (guitar, he was also the producer on this project), Sarah Giles (modern upright bass, who folks may recognize from Angela Saini’s band The Residence) and Miquelon “Mickey” Rodriguez (drums), with Paculan on a sweet baby grand. With her sultry, soulful vocals, moving lyrics and passionate, rhythmic arrangements (co-arranged by Linseman, Paculan and Rodriguez), Paculan is both polished and naturally at ease on stage. And she’s a pleasure to watch.

It was a fun and inspiring evening of music, friends, family and fans – complete with a post-concert buffet courtesy of Paculan’s mom – and Gallery 345 is a great venue. “Everything Begins with Love” could also be a fitting description for the vibe in the room last night.

If you missed the CD launch, you can catch Paculan next at Habits Gastropub on Friday June 28 at 8:30 p.m. in a line-up that includes Aynsley Saxe, Bryan Pickell and Roveena.

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Kat Leonard performs.
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Kat Leonard gives birthday boy Matt Gerber some attention. Happy birthday, Matt!
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The evening’s main attraction, Arlene Paculan.
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Arlene Paculan works a gorgeous dress and a sweet piano as she performs at her “Everything Begins with Love” CD launch.
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Sarah Giles, with Arlene Paculan in the background.
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Mickey Rodriguez
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Peter Linseman
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Arlene Paculan, moving us with sexy, soulful R&B.
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Kat Leonard joins Arlene Paculan on “Nightmare” – do not piss these ladies off.

Big love & a joyful noise @ Tania Joy “I’ll Be Around” CD launch

The Melody Bar at the Gladstone Hotel was packed last night, all in celebration of the release of Tania Joy’s EP I’ll Be Around. And what a celebration it was!

MC Shannon Paterson, a long-time friend of of Tania Joy’s – from their days as six-year-old figure skating pals to modern-day wing men in the dating scene – ushered the evening’s festivities, including opening acts Arlene Paculan and Candice Sand.

Arlene Paculan got things going with some R&B and pop goodness – a set of originals and covers, on keys with Mickey Rodriguez on drums.  From the slow groove of “My Plea” to her love song to Tony Stark and awesome Green Day mash-up to “Running” – a soulful ballad with a sometimes haunting piano arrangement (and a personal fave) – it’s always a pleasure to wrap my ears around Paculan’s sounds. Coming up for Paculan: the Beaches Jazz Festival, the release of her debut full-length CD Everything Begins with Love (June 21 @ Gallery 345, Toronto) and WonderFest West (August 14 @ Celebration Square, Mississauga). Drop by her website for details and keep an eye out for her upcoming gigs.

Candice Sand showed us she’s got this, bringing it with a bluesy acoustic set, with Neil Whitford backing her up on guitar. Shifting from cheeky fun on a cover of Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Way I Am,” then a couple of songs later into the slow, sexy “Maybe I’m Crazy” and the soulful, strong groovin’ yet vulnerable “I Got This” (her recent release) to audience participation like on her slow groove cover of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” it was a pleasure to see Sand perform live (I’d missed her set at a WonderFest event a while back). Definitely an artist to watch out for.

The main event, Tania Joy, took to the stage with a full band backing her: “The Groove Doctor” (Dave McMorrow) on keys, Rick Joudrey on bass, Jeff Haynes on guitar, Richard Greenspoon on drums (he also engineered the record), and the lovely and talented Arlene Paculan and Candice Sand on back-up vocals.

Opening with “I Push You Pull,” an R&B-infused ballad, with the organ/keys and back-up vocal arrangements bringing some gospel Tania Joy delivered a set of originals from her I’ll Be Around EP, peppered with some covers of songs by the likes of John Fogerty and The Allman Brothers. Singing of connections and relationship, with a mix of folk, blues and gospel on “Gypsy Heart (Back To Me)” and taking us to the church of the joyful noise on “Shine Your Light,” this is a deep, rich and resonant voice singing catchy and soulful lyrics. The moving R&B/gospel sound returned on “I’ll Be Around” and “I Won’t Quit,” the title track inspired by and dedicated to the memory of her cousin Dana Rene Gibson. Bee Gees cover “To Love Somebody” had folks singing along (I was one of them, on harmony) and the reggae rhythm of original “New Ending” got folks up dancing in front of the stage. And the whole room was feeling Tania Joy’s cover of “People Get Ready.”

Tania Joy’s warmth and enthusiasm is contagious – and was matched by that coming from the audience. Friends, family, fellow singers and musicians brought a whole lotta love and support – the room was vibrating with excitement and positive energy. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for this talented lady. In the meantime, drop on by Tania Joy’s Soundcloud and YouTube pages.

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Arlene Paculan, with Mickey Rodriguez on drums.
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Arlene Paculan opens for Tania Joy at the “I’ll Be Around” EP launch.
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Candice Sand, with Neil Whitford on guitar.
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Candice Sand at Tania Joy’s “I’ll Be Around” EP release.
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Tania Joy (right), with Candice Sand (left) and Arlene Paculan (centre) on back-up vocals.
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Tania Joy on guitar at her “I’ll Be Around” EP launch.
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Tania Joy brings it powerful and soulful at her EP launch.
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Tania Joy and event MC Shannon Paterson.
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The energized, enthusiastic crowd kept Tania Joy busy with autograph requests after the show.