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Michael Burgess performs at The Evergreen Ball

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Michael Burgess of Les Miserables fame performs at The Evergreen Ball, Saturday at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.


One of the holiday movies Michael Burgess is excited about seeing is Les Miserables, the film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical.
It will certainly be familiar to him. He played the lead role in over 1,300 performances on the Toronto stage.

"I can't wait to see it. I've heard really good things about it," Burgess said in a phone interview as he prepares for an appearance at Penticton's Evergreen Ball.

"I know it was shot live and in sequence and it has a wonderful cast. I know (stage producer) Cameron Mackintosh had wanted to do this for a long time. There were a number of situations on the table but it never happened because Cameron was not pleased with what he saw. It was kind of like Rocky, for lack of a better example, in that the creator (Sylvester Stallone) wanted it right."

Burgess has been invited to an advanced media screening of Les Miserables, which is already drawing Oscar buzz for its stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried as well as the director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech).
Burgess is a fan of movie musicals, noting that Chicago, Gypsy and Camelot are among a long list of his favourites.

"The stage of course is the ultimate experience. Seeing it live — that's a rock concert," he said. "But you can look at all the great film musicals such as the (Fred) Astaire movies and we'd be missing something without those. They had great music and they were so well done."
Even though he starred in Les Miserables in over 1,300 performances, each performance was challenging.

"For me, nothing was ever as big as Les Miserables. It was a challenge that never stopped. If I'm remembered for only one role, that's not a bad one to have. I also played Don Quiote and it was great to play in two of the greatest works in the history of literature which were made into musicals."
Burgess has a lot of fun when he chooses his set list for concerts.
He often picks songs from his own musicals, but the ones he did not sing.

"Standing behind the curtain night after night and hearing some wonderful songs sung by wonderful performers was magical in itself. A great song is a great song and I've been known to give those a try and I'll cross genders whether the song is by a male or female character."
As much as Burgess loves music and the stage, he's also a huge sports fan. His renditions of O Canada are legendary. He was the first person to ever sing the anthem at a Toronto Maple Leafs game (former owner Harold Ballard always had it taped) and he was the last singer to perform the anthem at Maple Leaf Gardens. He's sung at the World Series, NBA games, Grey Cups and the Olympics. As well as Canada's anthem, he's sung many others including the American national anthem.
While the Star Spangled Banner is notorious as a difficult song to sing, Burgess said O Canada also has its share of challenges.

"O Canada was written as a hymn. The American anthem is a battle cry. O Canada is a beautiful piece but there's some traps in it. If you slow it down it becomes dreary. When you're standing in front of 20,000 people... that makes it tough."
He shares the frustration of his fellow hockey fans during the present labour turmoil.

"I miss hockey as all fans do and on some levels it doesn't make any sense. A deal has expired and they have to make a new one and for some reason it's been difficult. It's hard on everyone and I'd hate for them to lose the season."
Most recently Burgess has been touring with Rebecca Cain, the original Christine in Phantom of the Opera.
He's working on several new CDs with his latest being A Place in the Sun as well as a holiday album, Angels in the Snow.
He's previously performed at The Evergreen Ball and this past summer he headlined the Sunshine Cabaret series at Gyro Park.

"You know Judy (Sentes)," when asked what brings him back to Penticton. "I've known her for a number of years and she told me this would be her last Evergreen Ball as executive director. How could I say no? I love Penticton and almost feel like I'm part of the community. They've had great audiences."
The 18th annual Evergreen Ball will be held Saturday at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. In addition to a set by Burgess, the musical entertainment includes the William Leggott Group, Peter Juric and the Continentals and the childrens' choir from Holy Cross School.
Tickets are $125 which includes a $50 tax receipt. Other highlights include a chance to win a $6,000 prize from Gold Dust Jewellers, wine on each table from Ruby Blues as well as fresh cut Christmas trees from Art Knapps. 

The Ramada Inn is providing $69 overnight packages and the Princess Margaret School Dry Grad committee is also offering rides home.
The event benefits the OSNS Child Development Centre.
OSNS executive director Judy Sentes said the event typically raises between $25,000 and $30,000. The gourmet meal is catered by Ovations and Sentes said the chefs received a standing ovation at last year's event.

Rush tickets are available today by calling 250-492-0295 or 250-490-6446.


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