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Michael J. Fox, Michael Bublé honoured at Performing Arts gala — with a little help from Joan Jett

The party continued Thursday for the seven new recipients of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards — complete with a little help from rock and roller Joan Jett.

This year’s honourees, which include actors Martin Short, Michael J. Fox and crooner Michael Bublé, were feted with a fancy Colm Feore-hosted gala Thursday at Ottawa’s newly renovated National Arts Centre. It comes a day after the winners received their awards and gave speeches at Rideau Hall.

Other recipients are theatre director Brigitte Haentjens, filmmaker Jean Beaudin, philanthropist William Loewen and theatre artist Yves Sioui Durand.

Jett, perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, was on hand to rock out alongside her friend Fox, just like they did in the 1987 film Light of Day. Vancouver actor Ryan Reynolds also gave Fox kudos in a taped tribute.

“I just want to say what a giving man this person is,” Jett said post-performance. She talked about starring alongside Fox in Light of Day, her acting debut. “He was the most generous, down-to-earth person you’d ever want to meet and you don’t find that a lot in Hollywood.”

“This is a special being you’ve got right here.”

‘He’s the Benjamin Button of show business’

Thursday’s gala was a much more laid-back affair compared to Wednesday’s formal ceremony at Rideau Hall. The honourees (who didn’t speak) were perched in the front row of the art centre’s balcony, sitting in big comfy chairs beside Gov. Gen. David Johnston and his wife, Sharon.

There were tributes, continuous standing ovations and a lot of musical performances.

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Gov. Gen David Johnston and wife Sharon arrive to the Performing Arts Awards gala at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Thursday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Innu singer-songwriter Florent Vollant played for Souri Durand, who was given a lifetime artistic achievement for theatre. Edmonton pop singer Ruth B. covered Bublé’s hit song, Home; Bublé was given the National Arts Centre award.

And to honour Short, comedian Sean Cullen belted out a reworked version of Til Him, a number from The Producers (both starred in the stage versions of the musical). Cullen’s take included lines about some of Short’s most memorable characters.

Short’s comedian colleagues Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin were also on hand to honour him while late-night host Jimmy Kimmel appeared in a video segment. Short was given a lifetime artistic achievement in broadcast.

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Comedian Sean Cullen delivers a tribute to actor Martin Short during the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards gala. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“He hasn’t changed. He’s the Benjamin Button of show business. The older he gets, the younger he appears,” joked Martin.

“No one gives more insightful or compassionate advice. When you talk to him, you feel like the only person in the room.”

Johnston’s last awards 

Bublé was toasted by a somewhat surprising choice: former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

Mulroney explained that in 2000, the struggling singer performed at his daughter Caroline’s wedding, where Bublé met Canadian producer David Foster. Foster ended up signing him to his record label and produced his debut.

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Crooner Michael Bublé smiles as he is recognized during the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards gala at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Thursday. Fellow winner Brigette Haentjens, left, and Governor General David Johnston look on. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

“His first album went platinum,” Mulroney told the crowd. “If I had been his agent, I would have gotten 15 per cent and by god, I wouldn’t be here tonight.”

The performing arts awards, which turn 25 this year, recognize Canadian artists from a host of disciplines like classical and popular music, theatre, dance, film and broadcasting, as well as arts volunteers and philanthropists.

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Colm Feore, left to right, former prime minister Brian Mulroney and his wife Mila give a tribute to crooner Michael Bublé. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Johnston spoke briefly and oversaw the awards, his seventh and final in office.

Highlights from the show will be shown on an hour-long CBC special, airing at 9 p.m. ET Friday on TV and online.

CBC | Arts News