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Streaming the Sumptuous Phantom of the Opera from Royal Albert Hall



It truly is astounding, this production. This streamed Phantom is “past the point of no return”, in the best of possible ways. It was created to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, and the determined Cameron Mackintosh found the exact, most perfect way, to produce this new and unique, spectacular staging of the musical on a scale worthy of the celebration. It is grand and opulent, matching the sumptuous Victorian splendor of London’s legendary Royal Albert Hall where it was held on October 2nd, 2011. Inspired by the original staging by Hal Prince and Gillian Lynne, this lavish, fully-staged production was first meant to be a concert celebration, much like the one done for Les Miserables, but Mackintosh had other ideas. And for that, we can be truly thankful, especially on this weekend of continued self-isolation, staying safe against a virus creating havoc around the world. Entertainment is one of the things we need the most, and featuring a cast and orchestra of over 200, this streaming sumptuous gift from Andrew Lloyd Webber on his ‘The Shows Must Go On” YouTube channel is the perfect antidote.

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It was the fall of 1986 when I first made my way to London, and at some point during my six months there working at the Limelight Nightclub, I went to see a performance of Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End. I, of course, did not have a lot of money for theatre at the time, nor did I know very much about the show, but I knew somehow that it was a ‘must-see’ before I left London for my summer jaunt around Europe. I arrived early in the morning and waited most patiently in the cancellation line. It was going to be a long day, but it was the only way that it would happen. Luckily, I was third in line, and over the next few hours, the line grew and grew.  I felt optimistic, but as the clock ticked towards the moment they might start giving out tickets, I grew more and more nervous. It was a charity performance, they said, on the day I chose to go, so the pickings, we were told, might be pretty slim, but I waited and held my breath. I believe, as I write this out, that I wasn’t going to have many other opportunities before I left London for Europe, so I’m guessing I was feeling the pressure, and the dread.

Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman.

I waited and waited. And then it happened. They ended up giving out exactly three tickets that night, and I, thankfully, was the third.  I felt bad for the couple behind me who had waited just as long as I had, but maybe they would have another opportunity. I got in, though, and funny enough, I was seated in the front row of the Royal Circle, the exact place I normally love to sit, so basically, my frontmezzjunkie status was solidified that day. I remember being overwhelmed and amazed. It’s a ridiculous and over-the-top melodrama, I admit, but with Michael Crawford starring in the title role and the impressive Sarah Brightman as Christine and Steve Barton as Raoul, I ate it up like everyone else in that excited audience. It was delicious, and by no means was it an “infection that poisons” my love for theatre or Andrew Lloyd Webber. His face, his mask, was just the right kind of drama for that young 22-year-old theatre junkie, and I devoured it. 

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Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo. Phantom of the Opera – 25th Anniversary production at Royal Albert Hall.

I never really wanted to return, I must admit. It was a glorious moment, that one time because even then, it felt a bit too flamboyant and far-fetched for my tastes. Based on the French novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux, and with the creative team of Andrew Lloyd Webber (book and music), Charles Hart (lyrics) and Richard Stilgoe (book), Phantom of the Opera flourished at Her Majesty’s Theatrein London’s West End, and by 2011, the dramatic tale has been seen by over 130 million people in 145 cities across 27 countries. So it seems fitting to want to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this show with a staging that is as huge of an extravaganza as the show itself, and the Royal Albert Hall seems to be the perfect matched venue for this opulently directed staging by Laurence Connor. With musical staging and choreography by Gillian Lynne, set design by Matt Kinley, costume design by Maria Björnson, lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe, and sound design by Mick Potter, the production feels like the perfect grand fit, pulling off a sumptuous spectacle at every turn for our senses to take in. The fantastic CGI projections illuminate the setting for the performers creating a spectacle that is absolutely astounding, filling the arena-size space with ease and with power. The cast of 135 (Wow, is all that can be said), including corps de ballet of 20 with a magnificent athletic turn by ballet star Sergei Polunin, not to mention an impressive-sounding orchestra of 45 that just adds to the grandeur. The team finds the perfect balance of story-telling and spectacle that this show deserves, without negating the original. It couldn’t have been easy, fitting this solidly structured show into this expansive space, but the Phantom of the Opera is epic in size, so the formula flourishes in the Royal Albert.

It all begins as I remember. Paris, 1905 with an auction taking place center stage at the Opéra Populaire. There are some special pieces of memorabilia that are to be sold, and the public is there, attending the auction, including the wheel-chair bound Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, perfectly embodied by the handsome Hadley Fraser (Palace Theatre/Queen’s Theatre’s Les Misérables), who is determined to buy certain items, such as a paper-mâché music box that reminds him of a time long past. It finally is time for Lot 666, a broken chandelier from a time long ago, a magnificent piece of glass and light, hanging over the crowd, that is connected, as we are told by the auctioneer, to “the strange affair of the Phantom of the Opera”. The music swells, and we are pulled dramatically in, just like I was so many years ago, transported back to 1881 where a rehearsal is taking place. Shivers of excitement is about all I can add. Surprisingly.

Wendy Ferguson, Barry James, and Sierra Boggess. Phantom of the Opera – 25th Anniversary production at Royal Albert Hall.

I can remember almost every word spoken and sung. Watching the excellent cast deliver this musical forward in celebration reminds me of its power. I had dismissed the musical many times as being “dusty” (an old BF’s favorite term) and “old fashioned“, and maybe it is, but in its core, when performed with such energy and grace, there is a beating heart that can’t be denied. Wendy Ferguson’s Carlotta, the Opéra’s resident soprano prima donna demands our attention, and her talent deserves it. She frames the character solidly well even on that huge wide stage. The opera house’s new owners, Barry James’s Monsieur Richard Firmin, and Gareth Snook’s Monsieur Gilles André are playful and perfect, taking in and dismissing the cast’s mumblings about the dreaded ‘Phantom’ with a grin. But the show’s blood lies in the beautifully voiced chorus girl, Christine Daaé, played most excellently by the glorious Sierra Boggess (Broadway’s School of Rock). She doesn’t miss an emotive note, and delivers a performance worthy of our adoration. Her counterpart, the “Angel of Music”  portrayed with power and glory by the fantastic Ramin Karimloo (Broadway Center Stage’s Chess) matches her at every turn. His “Music of the Night” is “crazy good“, as my fellow streaming buddy stated with delight that night we watched in unison, even though separated by many miles. The night that Christine takes to the stage and makes a triumphant début as the star soprano we applaud as excitedly as the opera house’s audience would, joining in with Fraser’s wonderfully gallant Raoul, who can’t help himself but fall once again madly in love with his childhood friend, Christine. His perfectly tuned performance is about as perfect as any Raoul could be, and I feel for him as easily as I was falling in love with this streamed version gifted to us this weekend in isolation.

Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser. Phantom of the Opera – 25th Anniversary production at Royal Albert Hall. Photo Credit: Alistar Muir/Getty Images & NBC/Universal.

The chemistry between the three leads is completely electric, and the voices ring magnificently true and perfect. I can’t remember better renditions of all the classic songs that this show brings forth and watching this show online only elevates the piece to greater heights. This Phantom of the Opera is determinedly staged with cameras in mind and delivers the visual spectacle with a clear vision, finding the timelessness of the tale while maintaining the essence of the piece. It’s melodramatic, that is for sure and may feel a bit stoggy and emotionally incomprehensible, but it’s a history lesson in musical theatre that one can’t deny. Phantom, along with Les Mis, changed musical theatre forever, and my youthful connection to that time in London when I saw both these epic shows remains intrinsically part of my theatrical DNA. Thank you again, Andrew Lloyd Webber, for taking me back, and entertaining me in the present.

The show is streaming via Universal’s free YouTube channel, ‘The Shows Must Go On’, the 25th Anniversary version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011.

Theatre fans will be able to access the show from 7.00pm BT Friday April 17th, free of charge, however, in the UK the show will only be available via the channel for 24hrs whereas, in Canada and the States, it is available for 48hrs. But remember that’s 48hours from 7pm BT, which is 2pm ET, so don’t expect to watch it Sunday late afternoon. You’ll be too late.
VIEW HERE for free – The Shows Must Go On!

Phantom of the Opera – 25th Anniversary production at Royal Albert Hall.
Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford, Sierra Boggess (Christine Daae) and Ramin Karimloo (The Phantom of the Opera) during the curtain call for the 25th anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall, London, England on October 2nd, 2011. (Photo Credit: Dan Wooller/

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to


The Glorious Corner



G.H. Harding

RASCALS AT SONY HALL — The Rascals long-awaited return to NYC proved to be a sensational evening of music. Their 16-song set, backed up by a terrific band -including bassist John Billings from Micky Dolenz’s band- was rocking from the start with their “Do You Feel It” and “”Beautiful Morning.” Felix Cavaliere’s vibrant vocals were just a joy. Face it, for people of a certain age, we grew up with this voice … just magical.

Micky Dolenz

Their cover of the Jackie Wilson-chestnut “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) High” set the SRO crowd afire.

Felix then brought his daughter Aria out for two selections. Clearly, she’s inherited by father’s dynamic vocal prowess. She was just terrific and a nice surprise.

Cavaliere then brought out guitarist Gene Cornish who was just wonderful. Gene has had some health issues, but his presence brought the show to a magnificent high-point.

Oddly, there was no mention of the rumored “My Hawaii” from Cavaliere with vocals from Dolly Parton. He mentioned it in a recent interview with Medium, but was mum about it on last Monday’s WOR-interview with Len Berman and Michael Riedel. I hear that the release has been held up several times. Sad … can’t wait to hear it.

The show ended with their signature classics “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “People Got To Be Free” and Good Lovin’.” The Rascals’ music is ingrained and it was a joy to hear it once again. Truth be told, it sounded better than ever!

Seated in a corner booth by the stage was none other than Bill Murray – a huge fan. Great night sensational set. Also, there were Rascals-PR man David Salidor; Dan Zelinski; Billy Amendola; Magda Katz from Times Square Chronicles; and Susan Nuzzi Russo. Thanks to SONY Hall’s Peter Abraham for his assistance.

David Sanborn

DAVID SANBORN — We don’t usually re-print tributes, but this, from David Sanborn’s wife Alice Soyer was so heartfelt.  Take a read:

Dave, my love, my warrior, my soulmate, my unique bird, my everything. I cannot believe what I’m writing right now but what I know is that you changed my life, because of you I know what true love is, I had and have it all. I have it all. Although I’m going to miss you every single minute of my life, I know that the pain you were enduring was not right, those pains are now released and you are completely free. You are and will be in every note, in every breath, in every sound that touches the soul, in every sun beam, in every cloud, in every beat of my heart. Dave you are an inspiration. Your courage to be yourself, to reveal this true voice screaming from inside, oh my love you are a true warrior, a pure artist, an extraordinary being.I will honor you every step on the way, I will represent you, us. I love you madly.

Dave forever

Don Grolnick

SHORT TAKES — First off, I left off one very important member when I referenced The Brecker Brothers last time: keyboardist-genius Don Grolnick: terrifically talented and much-missed …

George Harrison

One of the best parts of watching Let It Be(again!) was seeing John & Yoko dancing to George Harrison’s stunningly-beautiful “I Me Mine.” Awesome…  From Roger Friedman’s SHOWBIZ 411:Barbra Streisand just released a new a beautiful new single called “Love Will Survive,” for the closing credits of the upcoming series “The Tattooist of Auschwitz.” It’s maybe Streisand’s best new vocal in years thanks to producers Walter Afanasieff (Mariah Carey’s classics) and Peter Asher (Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor classics). So now I’m told Streisand has booked the producing duo for her next album of duets. Barbra has a couple of these under her belt over her six decade career. But this one sounds like a powerhouse … Great interview with Micky Dolenz in advance of his Surf Ballroom show Friday in Clear Lake, Iowa:

Francis Ford Coppola

With this year’s Cannes  Film Festival underway, the first big movie screened was Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis and it generated some of the craziest reviews I’ve ever seen.

Mostly positive. Coppola’s a genius, so you know to expect the unexpected. I think my favorite was from the UK’s Daily Telegraph which gave the movie four stars, saying, “Coppola’s latest is like Succession crossed with Batman Forever and a lava lamp… Aubrey Plaza is fantastic in this full-body sensory bath movie which follows a struggle for power among the elites of New Rome.” Me? I can’t wait to see it. The guy’s a bloody genius … 17-year-old wunderkind Kjersti Long -co writer of Vanessa Williams’ current return to music “Legs (Keep Dancing)”- heads to NYC for the Tribeca Festival in 2 weeks … And Apple TV’s Sugar -with Colin Farrell- ended its run. The first few episodes were great; very LA Confidential, but then, it turned into a sci-fi adventure. Odd? You bet. The ending left room for a second season, but I highly doubt it. Farell was great, but the topsy-turvy plot twist was brutal.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — August Darnell; Coati Mundi; Jeff Vogel; Kent Kotal; Bruce Grakal; Ringo Starr; Danny Fried; China Club; Tony King; Peter Brown; Mark Bego; Kent & Laura Denmark Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Peter Abraham; Peter Lubin; Steve Plotnicki; Profile Records; Joe Cocker; Lush Ice; Anthony Pomes; Terry Jastrow; and BELLA!

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Amy Winehouse



Back to Black is a biopic based on the life of British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, played by Marisa Abela. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and written by Matt Greenhalgh, the film also stars Jack O’Connell, Eddie Marsan, and Lesley Manville.

After the death of Winehouse in 2011, filmmakers attempted to create a feature biopic with various projects. In October 2018, it was announced that Winehouse’s estate had signed a deal to make a biopic about her life and career. In July 2022, Deadline Hollywood reported that StudioCanal was moving forward with a feature film entitled Back to Black. Sam Taylor-Johnson directed from a script by Matt Greenhalgh. Alison Owen and Debra Hayward produced under their Monumental Pictures banner, alongside Nicky Kentish-Barnes.

The film was released theatrically in Australia in April 2024, and was released in the United Kingdom shortly after. Focus Features released the film in the United States on May 17 2024.

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The Glorious Corner



G.H. Harding

SANBORN RIP — I was absolutely devastated to loss another friend Monday, musician David Sanborn. Still reeling from the loss of Sam Rubin, I just could not believe the news when I heard it.

I first met David when he played with The Brecker Brothers band (brothers Michael and Randy, Will Lee, Steve Khan, Don Grolnick, Chris Parker) and we immediately hit it off and became fast-running buddies. David, who had already played with the Paul Butterfield, was on his way to super-stardom: playing with everyone from Stevie Wonder to David Bowie, with his superb sax work. When you heard his work, you immediately knew it was him. Listen to his work on Bowie’s “Young Americans.” Just stunning.

His solo work with equally as stellar. His first solo-album Taking Off was just great. His signature “Chicago Song” was sensational too. I’ll never forget his great work on Lorne Michael’s Night Music show – especially the time he paired up Eric Clapton and Robert Cray. If you’ve never seen this, take a look here:

He also worked with the late-Michael Kamen (and sting) on the Lethal Weapon soundtrack with Sting. Just exemplary work.

Check out his work with the Letterman band on a show in Vegas with Sammy Davis, Jr.: Sammy Davis Jr. on Late Night With David Letterman in Las Vegas (1987)

He was a lot of fun to hang with. I’ll miss his company – no question. Tremendous loss for sure.

David Salidor and Gene Cornish Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images

SHORTS TAKES — The Rascals’ “Good Lovin'” is in Jerry Seinfeld’s Unfrosted Netflix movie. Unfortunately, the movie’s taking a heavy beating in the media. I don’t think I’ll tune in, but a great music selection for sure … The first full-trailer for Coppola’s Megalopolis has just been released. Its rather sensational. Take a look here from Roger Friedman’s Showbiz 411:

Alicia Keys announced the album for her play Hell’s Kitchen (13 TONY noms) will be out June 7. Interesting that she said album. Good for her … MTV has canceled their movie awards presentation for 2024. Low ratings the case? I’d bet on it. Also, parent-company Paramount might have a new owner or new owners. Check this out:

I started watching the original Let It Be film on Disney and loved it, just as I did when I originally saw it in 1970. As I’ve said before, this original (from director Michael Lindsay-Hogg) would never have come out again if there wasn’t a demand for it. What Peter Jackson did was great, but it wasn’t what The Beatles and Apple wanted. I loved it. Check this terrific article out on it: … Happy BDay Crispin Cioe ; Jane Blunkell and Gene Cornish.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Savannah Guthrie; Carson Daly; Paul Pesco;Alicia Keys; Tony Mandich; Judy Libow; Amanda Naylor; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Len Berman; Michael Riedel; Bob Feiden; Sam Rubin; Paul Cooper; Anthony Noto; Ed Steinberg; Richard Johnson; Steve Carrel; Matt Damon; Matt Drudge; Bobby Orlando; Mark Berry; Marissa Armstrong; Heather Moore; and CHIP!

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New Look At The Wicked Movie



Wicked just dropped a new trailer that shows Elphaba (Cynthia Erivo) and Glinda (Ariana Grande) and what looks to be a spectacular film.

The film is directed by Jon M. Chu, who previously directed Crazy Rich Asians and In the Heights, and is written by Winnie Holzman, who also wrote the stage musical.

In the trailer both Erivo and Grande find out they got the roles.Erivo saw Wicked when she was 25 years old and felt like she “was floating on air” and she’d never seen anything like it.“There’s sort of this innate understanding of what it feels like to be someone who’s different,” it’s been a really long journey, and I’m really grateful for it.”  Grande a Broadway baby saw the original cast when she was 10.

We also see Fiyero (Jonathan Bailey) and Glinda in a slice of “Dancing Through Life”. Fiyero and Elphaba are also seen in a sniper of  “As Long As You’re Mine”.

We see Jeff Goldblum, as the Wizard, Michelle Yeoh as Madame Morrible, Ethan Slater as Boq and  Marissa Bode as Nessarose. Also in the cast is Peter Dinklage, Keala Settle, Bowen Yang, Bronwyn James,  and more.

Thanksgiving never looked so good.

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The Glorious Corner



G.H. Harding

SAM RUBIN — KTLA’s Sam Rubin passed on Friday. I first met Sam in 1986 while introducing a new artist around the LA scene, Sam immediately struck me as not only a terrific reporter, but a caring one and we immediately struck up a friendship that continued until last week. Sam was the type of guy who would ask the hard questions, but also gifted with a terrific sense of humor. If you saw him on the press-line, you’d go to him first. He wasn’t snarky; wasn’t unkind; wasn’t sneaky … just an honest-to-God good guy.

He was one of the few entertainment reports who would go onto question Mel Gibson about his off-screen antics. I always admired him for that.

I actually spoke to him earlier last week about an exciting new project and he was immediately entranced and even gave me some intriguing suggestions. Stand-up guy? No question. He will be missed greatly by not only his KTLA staff, but by the whole of Hollywood.

We’ve lost one of the good guys!

Read Roger Friedman’s take on Sam:

YOUNG SHELDON — I’ve been a big fan of TV’s The Big Bang Theory and when it went off (after 12 seasons), Young Sheldon appeared in its place; about the early-life of lead-character Sheldon Cooper. After 7 seasons, it’s coming to a close and I have to say that although it hasn’t generated the same sort of fervor as BBT did, it’s been just a sensational show in every way.

The cast, led by Iain Armitage (Big little Lies) has just been spot on; and last week was the penultimate episode where Sheldon’s father George (Lance Barber), suffers a heart attack and passes. It was foretold in BBT and everyone -from the cast on- knew it was coming, but it was handled so well and off-screen, that it immediately became the show’s shining moment.

Talk about the little show that could, that was Young Sheldon. Beautifully done in every way. Bravo!

SHORT TAKES — Apple TV’s Constellation has been canceled. No real surprise here as it looked great, but the story was terrifically hard to follow. Actually, we’re waiting for the channel’s Invasion to return … Cassidy Wixom ( a great piece on 17-year-old wunderkind Kjersti Long, who’s “Legs (Keep Dancing)” song from Vanessa Williams, hit #3 on the Billboard Dance Charts. Check it out here:

Robert Funaro

The Soprano’s Robert Funaro was a guest on NYC’s PIX11 and talked his new projects. Check it out here: Catching up with ‘The Sopranos’ Robert Funaro (

David Kramer

Check out Zach Martin’s session with Director David Kramer on his Jimi Hendrix: The Documentary:

Felix Cavaliere

Felix Cavaliere on WOR this morning with Len Berman and Michael Riedel. He and Gene Cornish are at SONY Hall Friday. It’ll be Gene’s 80th Bday … Happy Bday Denise Lopez … RIP Roger Corman (

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Zach Martin; Greg Porto; Kimberly Cornell; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Asha Puthli; Jim Burgess; Glenn Friscia; Richard Johnson; David Sanborn; Paul Butterfield; Eppy; Mitch Kanner; Bruce Schindler; Anthony Pomes; Terry Jastrow; Crimshaw; Peter Abraham; Dan Zelinski; Donna Quinter; Wayne Avers; Anthony Pomes; Peter Abraham; Dan Zelinski; and Sadie!

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