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A scene from "Blasted" at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (Handout)
A scene from "Blasted" at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (Handout)

Theatre/dance/opera

Buddies in Bad Times wins big at Dora Mavor Moore Awards Add to ...

Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, This Hour Has 22 Minutes star Gavin Crawford and internationally in-demand director Robert Lepage were a few of the well-known Canadians honoured at the Dora Mavor Moore Awards on Monday night.

But the big winner at Toronto's annual theatre, dance and opera awards was a local theatrical name becoming better known every day: Brendan Healy, the uber-talented new artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times.

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Healy's production of the late British playwright Sarah Kane's Blasted - which opened his inaugural season at Buddies with a bang - grabbed a leading five awards in the general theatre division, including outstanding production and a win for him as best director.

Only in the acting categories did Blasted - a violent and surreal play in which a civil war explodes into a hotel room in the English city of Leeds - fail to detonate.

Beating out its nominated leads David Ferry and Michelle Monteith, Joseph Ziegler was named best actor for his widely acclaimed performance as Willy Loman in Death of Salesman at Soulpepper Theatre Company, while Yanna McIntosh was named best actress for her stirring turn as the owner of a brothel in war-torn Congo in Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Ruined.

Another bordello-based drama, Anusree Roy's Brothel #9 - set among sex traffickers in Calcutta - was named outstanding new play; it had gone into the evening tied with Blasted for the most nominations.

In the musical-theatre division, Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People's production of A Year With Frog and Toad eked out a surprising win over such heavy hitters as Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and Billy Elliot as outstanding production.

But those popular ballet- and bus-themed Broadway musicals did not leave empty-handed. Canadian actress Kate Hennig was named best actress for her ongoing performance as dance instructor Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot, while Britain's Peter Darling won a Dora for choreographing the very dances her character instructs.

Priscilla, a West End smash that passed through Toronto on its way to New York, also picked up two gongs. Australia's Tony Sheldon can now add a best-actor Dora to his résumé for his role as the transsexual Bernadette, while designers Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner added a Dora to their recently awarded Tony for their outrageous drag-queen costumes.

Rufus Wainwright won the Dora for best new musical or opera for Prima Donna, which was presented at the 2010 Luminato festival. The Canadian Opera Company's presentation of Orfeo ed Euridice, however, was named the outstanding opera production of the season and tenor Alan Oke was awarded outstanding performance for his role in the COC's production of Death in Venice.

In the indie theatre division, Sky Gilbert's The Situationists was named best new play - and popular comic Gavin Crawford picked up a gong for his lead performance in it as an uptight French professor.

Two other independent productions garnered a pair of awards each: The Company Theatre's revival of Franz Xavier Kroetz's Through the Leaves was named outstanding production and honoured for John Thompson's set design, while Cahoots Theatre Company's premiere of David Yee's play Paper Series won for Nina Lee Aquino's direction and her husband Richard Lee's sound design.

Quebec-based director Robert Lepage picked up his award for his play The Andersen Project, which was named outstanding touring production after its pit-stop at Canadian Stage last fall. This is the second year running that a production from Lepage's Ex Machina company has won in that category.

Two special awards were also given out at the Doras on Monday. Sound and projection designer Ben Chiasson was named the 2011 recipient of the Pauline McGibbon Award, which is for an artist in the early stages of his or her career, while VideoCabaret co-artistic director Michael Hollingsworth - best known for his cycle of plays The History of the Village of the Small Huts - was given the Silver Ticket Award, honouring his long career and his nurturing of Canadian theatre artists.

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