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Gowan and Collins looking forward to Festival Hall gala

By Ryan Paulsen, The Daily Observer

Larry Gowan of Styx performs at Rock the Park 2013. The piano virtuoso will be headlining this week's Festival Hall Red Carpet Celebrity Gala on Thursday. (QMI Agency file photo)

Larry Gowan of Styx performs at Rock the Park 2013. The piano virtuoso will be headlining this week's Festival Hall Red Carpet Celebrity Gala on Thursday. (QMI Agency file photo)

Festival Hall in Pembroke is gearing up for its first ever Red Carpet Celebrity Gala event, and the only people who may be looking forward to the star-studded event than the fans eagerly scooping up tickets may be the stars themselves.

"I'm really looking forward to it," says headliner Gowan, a force in the Canadian music scene for decades who joined the ranks of superstar rock band Styx in 1999, of his upcoming solo appearance on the Pembroke stage. "The great thing about a solo show is the interaction with the audience. It's intimate, even if it's 500 people or so. There's a much more profound connection, because it's a bit more of a tour-de-force, because a one-man-show always has to completely embrace the audience and can't get by without really being in the room with them, so to speak."

While obviously no stranger to huge stadiums, world tours and spectacular stage set-ups, Gowan's Pembroke performance will be one of only a few truly solo endeavours in this phase of the 2016 touring schedule.

"It's just me and a piano, with a couple of songs on acoustic guitar," he says.

Although the Pembroke show falls in a five-stop solo tour sandwiched amid a sprawling Styx tour of North America, the change-up from huge to small venues poses no problem for the superstar.

"The size of the venue and the size of the audience is not really a factor, to be quite honest. I enjoy small venues, and I've enjoyed playing the Super Bowl. Whatever the numbers that are there, I just want to see smiles on the faces at the end of the night. That's the real payoff, especially at this point now where I'm fortunate enough that I've been doing this long enough that I do it because I love it."

In fact, the smaller shows offer their own unique challenges.

"Honestly, I think that the small shows are sometimes more daunting, because you really are as exposed as you can possibly be while still within the limits of the law," he laughs. "I have to make sure I can deliver the goods."

The scaled-down nature of the gala show is one of the appealing elements that drew Canadian stand-up comedy sensation Carla Collins back to her home and native land from the sunny realm of Los Angeles.

"It's pretty amazing to get to watch Gowan in such an intimate setting," she says, "because with those bands, it's usually in the Staples Centre or other big arena."
The small venue is also a draw for her own performing, says Collins, who has been friends with Festival Hall director Rick Wharton since they were both working the comedy circuit in Toronto.

"Rick and I are buds from back in Toronto. I've done a couple of shows for him, and I've really wanted to play Festival Hall since he took over, so I guess when this came up and they were having their first gala event, he called and told me the date. And I'm a big Gowan fan, so I'm coming to Pembroke!"

Collins has worked in almost every media imaginable, starting out at The Weather Network in the early '90s, then moving to CFTO and then CTV. She also worked as an on-air personality at Mix 99.9 for several years, and also had roles in a number of movies. One of her main reasons for changing gears to full-time stand-up comedy several years ago was the draw of the stage.

"I really love performing comedy in theatres," says Collins, who also expressed a hope to return to Festival Hall to perform a full show at some point in the future. "It's really a nice luxury. I've done a lot of television, lots of radio, but nothing really beats live."

Before making landfall in Pembroke, Collins will be spending April 19 and 20 performing her material at Yuk-Yuks in Ottawa.

The inaugural Festival Hall Red Carpet Celebrity Gala opens its doors at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, with the show starting at 7:30. Tickets for the event, which also features sampling of wine and local food and beer, cost $75 for VIP seating, $50 for floor seats and $40 for seats in the (unlicensed) balcony area.

For more information, or to order tickets, visit or call 613-735-2182.

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